De Bruyne delivers, Fernandes takes Man Utd and Salah stars to the champions – Premier League re

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Around the world, nations are welcoming 2021 and saying goodbye to what has been a tumultuous year.

Much has changed in 2020, and as the coronavirus pandemic continues, football has at least made a comeback, albeit in a very different way than what happened before.

The Premier League was suspended for three months between March and June, but after a successful project restart, 2020-21 is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable campaigns in recent history.

With 2020 drawing to a close and 2021 promising signs of improvement, we used Opta data to review the Premier League year.


Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling Manchester City squad from 2017 to 2019 may well be a thing of the past, but it looks like defensive lapses are too.

While they often run wild in attack, City could be at the back, as Liverpool generally managed to expose in meetings between the two title contenders.

Perhaps with the league almost stitched in Liverpool’s favor in early 2020, however, Guardiola seems to have found the tonic for City’s problems on defense.

The City has kept 17 clean sheets in 2020, three more than anywhere else. Seven of them have arrived this season, while the John Stones resurgence in recent weeks has been a great success story.

The Stones has made six league appearances, all as starts, and has helped City keep a clean sheet five times, while forming a good partnership with Ruben Dias, meaning Aymeric Laporte has been left out of game.

City’s improved defense has come at a cost, with their goal tally falling to 69, six behind Liverpool, who scored 75 times in 2020, and a drop of 26 from their total of 95 in 2019.

However, Guardiola’s team continues to control possession as much as before, making 20,237 successful passes in 2020.

In fact, midfielder Rodri completed the most passes of any player in the Premier League, while his pass completion rate of 92.4 percent was also the highest of any midfielder.

DYNAMIC PLAYERS top the charts

Although James Rodríguez has made it to the Premier League and had a strong impact on Everton, creating 25 chances, including three assists, and scoring three times in 10 appearances for Carlo Ancelotti’s team, they are the most dynamic playmakers and tenacity those that have impressed the most up to 2020.

Kevin De Bruyne, last season’s PFA Premier League Player of the Year, was the main creator.

He was the only player to create more than 100 chances in the Premier League in 2020, while also leading all players in opportunities created from open play (83). Bruyne’s 15-assist tally was also more than double that of any of his City teammates.

Another standout is Bruno Fernandes, who has seemingly transformed the fortunes of Manchester United since joining in January.

Fernandes was involved in 32 Premier League goals in 29 games in 2020 (18 goals, 14 assists). The 26-year-old is one of two players to have appeared in 30 or more Premier League games in a calendar year, after Luis Suárez in 2013.

However, topping the charts of opportunities created for this campaign is Jack Grealish. The Villa captain generated 93 chances in total throughout the year, second only to De Bruyne, and 51 of those came from 14 appearances this period, an average of 3.64 per game.

The 10 great opportunities created by Grealish are at the height of Fernandes, while only De Bruyne (11) has done more.

However, the key attribute that sets Grealish apart is his ability to carry the ball. After accumulating 8,634.99 meters, he leads the league, ahead of Harry Maguire (7,462.14), Adama Traore (6,912.35) and Andrew Robertson (6,882.03).

De Bruyne and Fernandes are no strangers to picking up the ball and diving forward, though their opportunity creation relies more on a precise cross and skillful passing.


It’s no surprise to see Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool top the year-long distance traveled metrics. In total, the Reds ran 3,854.8 meters, 20.1 more than runner-up Sheffield United, though Chris Wilder’s men won’t get the much-needed points just because they outrun rivals.

West Ham (3820.2m), Brighton and Hove Albion (3804.1m) and Chelsea (3722.4m) round out the top five, with Southampton a surprise omission as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team is famous for its pressure system.

However, Saints captain James Ward-Prowse leads the way in the distance covered, totaling just under 396 km over the course of 3,060 minutes (the equivalent of nine and a half marathons).

In addition to being a tireless worker, Ward-Prowse is a set pieces specialist, scoring four goals on free throws.

In fact, those goals contributed to Southampton’s record of 15 goals from outside the league, leading the league, with Danny Ings scoring five long-range efforts and Stuart Armstrong adding four.

While Grealish has carried the ball further than any other player, the Wolves’ Traore recorded the most dribbling, racking up 142-46 more than any other player.

In January, Traore completed 14 dribbles in a game against Watford, the most by a player in a Premier League game since 2003-04, when Opta began recording.


In 2020 a total of 112 penalties were awarded: 13 of them were for Leicester City, while 10 were for United, Chelsea and City respectively.

Fernandes converted eight times from the penalty spot, while Leicester’s Jamie Vardy scored seven, one ahead of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

West Brom is the only team not to receive a Premier League penalty, with Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Burnley, much to Sean Dyche’s chagrin, winning two each.

While Leicester won the most fouls inside the box, it was Grealish who was knocked down the most overall, averaging at least one foul in all 32 appearances.


Rounding out our review are the Premier League’s top shooters. Salah (23) and Fernandes (18) top the score tables.

Salah’s 23 goals came from 33 appearances, while Fernandes made four fewer, although most of his goals came from penalties.

Evergreen Vardy, with 17 goals, is next on the list, tied with Tottenham star Son Heung-min, who participated in 18 open play sequences that ended in goals, more than any other player.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has enjoyed a brilliant career since Ancelotti took over at Everton, scoring 16 goals in 2020, with 11 this season.

Calvert-Lewin had 93 total attempts, ranking second in the league, though that’s 31 fewer than Salah’s, and his attacks, along with the forceful contributions of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino and the creative forces of Robertson ( 12 assists) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (seven assists), helped Liverpool to their first Premier League title.

Harry Kane’s seemingly telepathic association with Son has proved fruitful for the Spurs, with the England captain scoring 16 times during the year in 25 appearances, recording 10 assists.

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