Premier League stats: Zaha, Milner, 100% starts and long waits

By Harry PooleBBC Sport
Wilfried Zaha
Wilfried Zaha became Crystal Palace's top scorer in Premier League history last weekend, netting his 24th top-flight goal against Watford

Is it always unfair to say a side is a "one-man team"? Perhaps not.

Crystal Palace desperately need their star man, Tottenham boast the league's best runner and Jose Mourinho needs to stop being so picky.

BBC Sport takes a look at the key stats from the Premier League weekend...

Palace REALLY need Zaha

To the detriment of fantasy football managers across the country, Wilfried Zaha was a surprise omission for Crystal Palace on Saturday as Roy Hodgson's side lost a third consecutive Premier League game.

The Ivory Coast international picked up a groin strain in training, and to say Palace miss him when he's unavailable is a little bit of an understatement.

The south London side have now lost all 10 Premier League games without Zaha since the start of last season, and the stats suggest they really cannot do without him.

Here's the startling effect the 25-year-old has had on Palace's Premier League record since the start of last season:

When Zaha starts...When Zaha does not start...
44 (1.4)Goals for (average)4 (0.4)
36 (1.2)Goals against (average)25 (2.3)
38.7%Win percentage0%
1.5Points per game0

Milner matches Beckham

Liverpool's unsung hero James Milner covered an exhausting 12.39km against Leicester on Saturday, at an average speed of 7.69 km/h - meaning he ran further and, on average, faster than anyone else on the pitch as Jurgen Klopp's men maintained their winning start.

In fact, only Bournemouth's Dan Gosling could match Milner's legs this weekend, the Cherries midfielder covering 12.57km as his side chased a result against Chelsea - though without any reward.

And Milner now ranks fourth among Premier League players for total distance covered so far this season, but would you have guessed who comes in at number one?

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen - running 49.56 km in all - lays claim to being the Premier League's very own Mo Farah after four games, ahead of Gosling, Chelsea's summer signing Jorginho, Milner and N'Golo Kante.

Not just an engine in Liverpool's midfield, however, Milner has now registered 80 Premier League assists after his corner was converted by Roberto Firmino - taking him level with Manchester United legend David Beckham.

Only six players have bettered that tally, but can you name the top 20 assist makers in the competition?

Can you name the Premier League's all-time top 20 assist makers in four minutes?

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Stop being so choosey, Jose!

Manchester United returned to winning ways against Burnley on Sunday, so did Jose Mourinho finally stumble across his strongest starting XI?

The United boss has used 22 different players during their stuttering start to the Premier League - that's a league-high figure matched only by Huddersfield.

Most players used:

  • 22 - Huddersfield, Manchester United
  • 21 - Tottenham
  • 20 - Newcastle, West Ham

This could also be where Newcastle and West Ham have gone wrong so far this season - though fourth-place Tottenham appear an anomaly here despite their defeat by Watford.

Fewest players used:

  • 15 - Wolves
  • 16 - Chelsea, Liverpool, Watford

Interestingly, Chelsea, Liverpool and Watford - the only sides to record four straight victories in the competition - have called upon just 16 individuals.

Only promoted side Wolves, who have enjoyed a steady start, have used fewer than this.

0% and 100% records - what do they actually mean?

West Ham's miserable start to the campaign continued as Wolves inflicted a fourth consecutive league defeat on Manuel Pellegrini's men.

It's only the second time in Hammers history this has happened and, on the other occasion, they were relegated in 2010-11 after manager Avram Grant endured the same opening run.

But they still have a bit to go before it becomes the worst ever start to a Premier League season...

Most opening defeats: Portsmouth (2009-10) 7, Crystal Palace (2017-18) 7, Southampton (1998-99) 5, Sunderland (2005-06) 5 Swindon (1993-94) 4, Aston Villa (1997-98) 4, Middlesbrough (2001-02) 4, Southampton (2012-13) 4, Bournemouth (2017-18) 4, West Ham (2010-11, 2018-19( 4
The record for the longest wait for a first Premier League point of the season is seven games, set by Portsmouth in 2009 and equalled by Crystal Palace last season.

But are they doomed? Not necessarily.

Of the 10 teams to lose their first four games, four have gone on to be relegated - though that does include West Ham.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, just three sides still boast perfect starts after four games - a feat that has been achieved on 18 occasions across the Premier League's 26 editions.

And, crucially, on seven of those occasions that side has gone on to claim the all-important title.

Arsenal's Invincibles managed it in 2003, Manchester United in 2006 and Manchester City in 2011 - but Chelsea trump them all, succeeding in 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2014.

This is actually the sixth time Chelsea have won their first four games of a Premier League season, and the first time since 2014-15 under Mourinho.

Could they be about to do it again? Only 34 matches to go.

A long, long wait for Ward

A week is a long time in football - never mind nine years.

But against Arsenal on Sunday, Cardiff striker Danny Ward made his first Premier League start - 3,305 days after making his debut in the competition.

Remarkably, despite making his first appearance for Bolton Wanderers back in August 2009, two other players have endured longer waits between their first Premier League appearance and first start than Ward...

PlayerFirst Appearance (club & date)First start (club & date)Total days between
Erik NevlandManchester United 19-01-98Fulham 03-02-083,667
Gary CaldwellNewcastle United 04-11-00Wigan Athletic 16-01-103,360
Danny WardBolton Wanderers 15-08-09Cardiff City 02-09-183,305
Gary McSheffreyCoventry City 27-02-99Birmingham City 12-08-073,088
Chris WoodWest Brom 11-04-09Burnley 10-09-173,074

And finally, on the matter of long waits, in a week that saw Saido Berahino end his two-and-a-half-year goal drought, Crystal Palace forward Christian Benteke extended his wait for a top-flight goal from open play - last doing so on January 30, 214 days ago.

Since the start of last season, Benteke has played 2,564 minutes but, with three goals from 73 shots in that period, the Belgian currently has a measly conversion rate of just 4%.


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