3 eye-catching stats: Palace pair cast as surprise botherers

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Despite the firecracker that was Liverpool’s trip to Arsenal, the opening weekend’s Premier League fixtures were tight affairs.

Just one match was decided by more than a single goal and only two of the nine contained more than three strikes.

Nevertheless there were still plenty of intriguing elements to digest beyond Manchester City’s inverted full-backs. Here, we pick out three statistical nuggets:

Crystal Palace tacklers

Yannick Bolasie started on the bench for the Eagles against West Brom. Alan Pardew claimed tactics were the reason, rather than any proposed move to Everton.

That may have initially looked like a pre-match media cop out from the silver-haired boss, but the numbers backed up his theory.

Wilfried Zaha made more tackles than any other player in the opening Premier League weekend, with seven, while Andros Townsend was one of a gang of players that shared second spot with six. Bolasie averaged 1.1 per 90 minutes last season.

If the aim was to win the ball high up the pitch, then the foundation was certainly in place with the pair of England internationals.

In the end though Crystal Palace’s foibles in front of goal – which Bolasie contributes greatly to – cost them, as the visitors returned to the Midlands with a set-piece inspired 1-0 win.

Ill-disciplined Xhaka debut

Amid the many frustrating elements of Arsenal’s 4-3 defeat to Liverpool was the fact that many of their squad were declared undercooked because of Euro 2016.

While Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud weren’t even allowed a spot on the bench, the club’s £30m summer signing, Granit Xhaka, was.

The Swiss was thrown on for the final 23 minutes in north London and made an impact. It just wasn’t the right kind.

Eight players made four fouls each on the opening weekend, but none played fewer minutes than Xhaka, who committed more offences in his cameo than he had tackles, interceptions, dribbles and shots combined.

Surging Stoke runs

The Potters playing lump-it football is an old wives’ tale these days. Mark Hughes’ men continued in their technically-proficient approach against Middlesbrough by making a league-high 16 dribbles at the Riverside.

Showing the way was centre-midfielder Giannelli Imbula, who made six successful runs over the 90 minutes. That put him in a share for top spot in the division. However, the Frenchman is the only player on the list that doesn’t play in a forward position.

If Stoke want to pack the midfield in certain matches – with Joe Allen and Glenn Whelan alongside the former Porto player – then Imbula’s Yaya Toure-esque runs will be key to help break the lines.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.