Assessing the Top Statistical Performances from Premier League Week 1
Love them or hate them, statistics are becoming increasingly entwined in football with every passing season, frequently used by clubs, journalists and fans in various capacities.
In an exploratory series, we're going to take a weekly look at the best performance in several categories over the Premier League season.
At times, these articles will serve as a platform to laud some individual brilliance, but it's also a chance to gauge exactly how relevant each number is.
Will the players championed for standout performances be the same players leading the way statistically? It's time to find out.
Here's a look at who led the way numerically in Week 1 of the 2014/15 Premier League season.
All statistics via WhoScored.com.
Statistics can occasionally change slightly upon further analysis post-match. The numbers in this article are compiled immediately after the final whistle.
Defensive Leaders: McGregor, Mignolet, Chester, Skrtel
Most Saves: 5—Allan McGregor, Simon Mignolet
Starting at the back of the field, with goal prevention, Allan McGregor and Simon Mignolet both managed five saves in their team's respective opening-day wins.
McGregor kept a clean sheet, facing the most shots of any goalkeeper in Week 1 and crucially kept out Charlie Austin's penalty. He also needed Andrew Robertson's goal-line clearance to preserve the shutout.
Most Clearances: 19—Martin Skrtel
In terms of defensive contributions, we move to the categories where players are repelling the danger. As Southampton pressed for an equaliser, Liverpool's Martin Skrtel was regularly seen diverting crosses, making more clearances than any player in Week 1.
This was an area the centre-back also excelled in last season, posting 410 clearances, 71 more than any other Premier League player.
Most Blocked Shots: 3—James Chester
James Chester was praised by Steve Bruce, per BBC Sport, after Hull's win over QPR and the defender put in more blocks than any other player.
Flying in with your body on the line seems an automatic way of generating acclaim, and it will be interesting to see if leaders in this category are regular standouts at the back.
Judging by the players to appear in this slide, the numbers suggest Hull and Liverpool had to work hardest for their wins in Week 1.
Their goalkeepers and defenders were regularly called into action and had to produce more than anyone else in their position, as both sides hung onto a lead.
Being a statistical leader isn't always a good thing. There are unwanted categories to excel in, such as dribbled past, where a player is comprehensively beaten by an opponent.
In Week 1, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Morgan Schneiderlin and Dean Marney were all bypassed four times, leaving their defence temporarily exposed.
Possession Leaders: Van Aanholt, Jedinak, Wanyama, Traore
Most Tackles: 9—Victor Wanyama and Mile Jedinak
It's near impossible to argue defensive ability on pure numbers alone, such is the importance of marking, positioning, awareness and so on. Nevertheless, any time a player wins the ball is key.
Victor Wanyama and Mile Jedinak both excelled in this department, recording nine tackles in Week 1 defeats for their respective clubs.
As with Skrtel and clearances, Jedinak may well become a regular on this page. The Australian led the way in tackles last season with 133, 12 more than any other Premier League player.
Most Interceptions: 8—Patrick van Aanholt
Another way of breaking up attacks and picking up possession is interceptions, a category led by Sunderland's Patrick van Aanholt in Week 1.
His tally shows impressive anticipation, but the defender was guilty of allowing Saido Berahino in to score West Brom's second, which tainted his overall performance.
Most Aerial Duels Won: 11—Armand Traore
In the air, a surprise leader from Week 1 was QPR's Armand Traore, who recorded 11 successful headers.
This isn't an area many full-backs will thrive in over the season, which suggests he was targeted by some long Hull City diagonals.
When possession attempts go wrong, it's often a foul. The most eyebrow-raising stat of Week 1 is Marouane Chamakh's foul count of 11, some six more than any other player.
The Moroccan was praised in many newspapers, including the Daily Mail, but was clearly a little overzealous in his efforts. His tactical fouling certainly stifled Arsenal for long periods, and quite how he remained on the pitch is a mystery.
Passing Leaders: Ramsey, Courtois, Blackett, Noble, Downing
Most Passes: 106—Aaron Ramsey
Passing isn't necessarily a way to gauge a players' ability—all players can pass sideways with close to 100 percent accuracy—but it is a good method of understanding style, approach and which players dictate the play.
Aaron Ramsey was one of only two players to record over 100 passes in Week 1, the other being his central midfield team-mate, Mikel Arteta.
The Welshman won Arsenal three points with his last-minute strike and seemingly influenced a vast amount of their play.
This also shows Arsenal's preference of passing an opponent to death, along with Crystal Palace's (and very much former boss Tony Pulis') willingness to surrender possession and challenge an opponent to play through them.
Most (accurate) Long Balls: 13—Thibaut Courtois and Tyler Blackett
By recording the most accurate long balls, style can again be assessed, as well as a player's range of passing.
Thibaut Courtois' and Tyler Blackett's appearance suggest their teams were eager to bypass midfield and go straight to the final third.
Manchester United were chasing the game against Swansea, while Courtois was presumably looking for Diego Costa, who would then find attacking midfielders swarming past him.
Most (accurate) Crosses: 4—Mark Noble and Stewart Downing
Crossing is another difficult category to praise on its own, given the way good deliveries can often count as an inaccurate cross.
It is, though, another good measure of style, and the fact West Ham own both of Week 1's leading crossers isn't a surprise.
The Hammers produced the second most crosses in the Premier League last season, and these numbers suggest a continuation of that style as well as their game situation. Tottenham were down to 10 men for the majority of their Week 1 clash and, as things got a little desperate, West Ham resorted to crosses.
Creative Leaders: Barton, Hazard, Fabregas, Jovetic
Most Chances Created: 6—Joey Barton
Moving towards the business end of the field, with creativity, Joey Barton is perhaps a surprise name to lead the way in Week 1.
The central midfielder does, however, take charge of most dead-ball situations, giving him a good platform to supply QPR's forwards.
His appearance here, along with McGregor's and Chester's, show QPR's persistent attacks in their loss against Hull. The Hoops failed to score but fired in 19 shots, more than any Premier League side in Week 1.
Most Successful Dribbles: 9—Eden Hazard
Any time a player is dribbled past, a defence is in trouble. Another player must quickly leave their position to cover him, creating extra space for an attacking team to penetrate.
This is a category Eden Hazard dominated last season, recording 132 successful dribbles—an impressive 29 more than any other Premier League player.
Unsurprisingly, the explosive Belgian is off to a fast start again this year.
Most Through Balls: 2—Cesc Fabregas and Stevan Jovetic
Another good number for creative players is through balls, a statistic that generally presents a striker with a one-on-one chance.
Cesc Fabregas and Stevan Jovetic were the only players to record two this week, with Fabregas especially praised, via The Telegraph, for his creative powers during Chelsea's win over Burnley.
Most Turnovers: 6—Adnan Januzaj; Most Dispossessed: 7—Saido Berahino
When creativity—or mainly dribbling—goes wrong, players turn over possession through a lack of control or a tackle.
Two youngsters lead the way in Week 1, with Adnan Januzaj and Saido Berahino at times guilty of trying too much for their sides.
The fact Januzaj was only on the pitch for 27 minutes but was guilty of six turnovers is another of the more surprising Week 1 statistics.
Attacking Leaders: Berahino, Fabregas, Rooney
Most Goals: 2—Saido Berahino
Finally, we finish with some end product. Saido Berahino grabbed the only brace of Week 1, helping Alan Irvine's new regime off to a decent start at West Brom.
The 21-year-old opened his account with a penalty and raced in at the far post to tap in his second. He is already just three short of his overall Premier League tally of five goals from last season.
Most Assists: 2—Cesc Fabregas
As mentioned, Cesc Fabregas shone on his return to English football, masterminding Chelsea's comeback win over Burnley.
The former Arsenal man played chief creator, recording two assists, including a wonderful ball for Andre Schurrle's goal.
Most Shots: 6—Wayne Rooney
As Manchester United pressed for a winner against Swansea, Wayne Rooney was the man found most often at the end of a move.
While he scored, he will be unhappy with his conversion rate, as five other attempts failed to hit the back of the net.
His six shots surpassed the entire team totals of two sides from Week 1 (Swansea and Crystal Palace).