Teemu Pukki and Ashley Barnes exceeding expectations among Premier League's early pace setters

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Pukki has made an instant impact in the Premier League.

Teemu Pukki and Ashley Barnes are among the players making waves early in the Premier League season – but can they be counted on to maintain their goalscoring form?

Pukki, who scored 29 goals as Norwich were promoted from the Championship last season, has five in just three games this term to match Raheem Sterling as the Premier League’s top scorer.

Barnes is alongside Sterling’s Manchester City team-mate Sergio Aguero on four, making this only the second Premier League season with four players at better than a goal a game for the first three games. In 2010-11, Chelsea pair Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda were on four apiece along with Theo Walcott, then at Arsenal, and Newcastle’s Andy Carroll.

Only Edin Dzeko, for champions Manchester City in 2011-12, has ever scored six in the first three games, with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney that same season and Robbie Fowler for Liverpool in 1994-95 matching Sterling and Pukki with five.

In all, 24 players prior to this season had notched four or more by this stage – the most recent being Riyad Mahrez in Leicester’s title-winning 2015-16 campaign.

The 24 players went on to score an average of 15.83 goals over the full season, ranging from Rooney’s 27 down to nine, Walcott’s final total as well as that of Teddy Sheringham for Portsmouth in 2003-04.

Teemu Pukki

The benchmark, then, would effectively be 16 goals – but there are reasons to believe most of this season’s fast starters can exceed that expectation.

Aguero has scored at least 20 in each of the last five seasons while the previous players with five or more through three games have averaged 22 for the season. Fowler finished with 25, two fewer than Rooney, though Dzeko managed only 14. Sterling has notched 18 and 17 in the last two seasons, while Pukki has shown no sign of his second-tier form deserting him.

Burnley striker Barnes is a harder case to judge – he was not a prolific Premier League goalscorer until midway through last season but has been a constant threat in 2019. Nine of his 12 goals last season came from New Year onwards, meaning he already has 13 this calendar year compared to 23 previously in the top flight.

There were two 10-goal seasons and four of 11 goals – the most frequent final tally, along with 18. Six players, or one out of every four, reached 20 or more for their respective seasons – Andy Cole the same season as Fowler, Dwight Yorke in 1999-2000 and Robin Van Persie the season after Rooney, all with United, and then Diego Costa for Chelsea in 2014-15.

Some of the lower-scoring seasons in years past show how a hot start can fall away – Walcott, for example, hit a hat-trick against minnows Blackpool and netted at Blackburn before the end of August but then did not score again before Christmas.

Carroll’s 13-goal season was perhaps the strangest of all. Starting with a hat-trick against Aston Villa, he had 11 by Boxing Day for Newcastle but after his big-money January move to Liverpool he scored only twice more – both in a 3-0 win over Manchester City on April 11.

Provided by Press Association Sports

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Fantasy Premier League tips: Captain Man City's Raheem Sterling, get Todd Cantwell and other GW4 picks

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Each week, Sport360 will bring you tips for the English Premier League’s official fantasy football game. Fancy pitting your wits against us? You can join “Sport360 Fans League” using the code: zj04s8

The Fantasy Premier League season continues to give us plenty to ponder. Clean sheets were a premium in Gameweek 3 with only Aston Villa, Southampton and Newcastle United able to keep their opponents at bay.

An average score of 44 was just three better than GW2 while Raheem Sterling and Teemu Pukki continued to their fine start to the Premier League campaign. Sergio Aguero also got in on the act though while Mohamed Salah was the top-scorer with 16 points.

This weekend, Manchester United and Liverpool face tricky trips to Southampton and Burnley respectively while Chelsea host Norwich. Manchester City have the most appealing fixture as they play Brighton at the Etihad.

The clash of the round takes place at the Emirates though where Tottenham take on Arsenal in the north London derby.

Here are a few tips to help guide you.

CAPTAIN – RAHEEM STERLING | MANCHESTER CITY | 12.2M

Having been a consistent threat this season, there’s no reason to doubt Sterling. He’s just one point behind top-scorer Pukki so far and boasts an ICT Index (Influence Creativity Threat) of 50.8 which is the highest in the game.

With five goals already, Sterling looks well on course for another superb season and at home to Brighton is just the kind of game where he could yield massive returns. He’s had 10 shots from inside the box which is exactly the kind of volume you want to see from an attacker.

In the last six home games, Sterling has managed six goals and an assist – better returns than any other City player.

Raheem Sterling.

Raheem Sterling.

ALTERNATIVES

TEEMU PUKKI (7.0m) is no longer a ‘bold’ pick. He’s a legitimate captain candidate. With 35 points so far, he’s the top-scoring player in the game. Only Ashley Barnes has had more shots than his 12 this season and all of those efforts have come from inside the box with nine of them on target. He faces West Ham who have conceded 13 big chances so far, more than anyone else in the league. The Pukki party continues!

SERGIO AGUERO (12.0m) is something of a differential at the moment with an ownership of less than 20 per cent at the time of writing. He’s scored in each of the opening three games this season and really came alive with a brace at Bournemouth in GW3. Gabriel Jesus’ injury saw him play the full 90 minutes and with the Brazilian still out of action, that could well happen again.

BOLD CHOICE

JAMES MADDISON (7.0m) is continuing to be one of the best creative forces in the Premier League. He’s a bold pick though because of Leicester’s midweek excursions in the League Cup where they defeated Newcastle on penalties. That said, Maddison did score from a free-kick and converted during the shootout with a panenka.

James Maddison

ONE TO GET

TODD CANTWELL | NORWICH CITY | 4.7M

Only Sterling, Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Mason Mount have scored more points from midfield than Todd Cantwell. He was our bargain buy last week and delivered with a goal against Chelsea to add to his two assists so far. He’s made eight key passes this season and faces the Hammers this time around who are proving to have a weak defence.

Todd Cantwell

ONE TO AVOID

GYLFI SIGURDSSON | EVERTON | 7.8M

Everton have some superb attacking options on paper but Marco Silva is struggling to fit all the pieces together at the moment. Gylfi Sigurdsson is clearly the central figure in that number 10 role but hasn’t been effective.

He’s struggled to create chances and Everton as a whole haven’t looked threatening going forward. It’s time to get rid of the Iceland international as he’s losing value fast. The midfielder has dropped by 0.2m already and there are far too many good options within his price range to consider keeping patience.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

BARGAIN BUY

MARTIN KELLY | CRYSTAL PALACE | 4.1M

The value of a 4.0m defender playing every week can’t be overstated. Martin Kelly has surprisingly proved to be just that. Even with Gary Cahill coming into the side in GW3, Kelly kept his place and has seen his price rise to 4.1m.

He’s still great value and a means to an end when it comes to bolstering your squad in other areas. He’ll pick up his share of clean sheets as well so provided you use him wisely, he could deliver some decent returns even though that’s not what he’s there for.

Martin Kelly

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Watford manager Javi Gracia knows Danny Welbeck is still some way off his best

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Watford manager Javi Gracia was pleased to be able to give Danny Welbeck his first Watford start, but knows the striker is still some way off his best.

Gracia named the former Arsenal man in his starting XI for the first time in the 3-0 Carabao Cup win against Coventry and he got 90 minutes under his belt.

It was his first start since breaking his leg playing for the Gunners in November and the game time will be invaluable.

The Hornets won through goals from Ismaila Sarr, Daryl Janmaat and Adalberto Penaranda to give them a first success of the season on a night where only a Welbeck goal would have made it better.

Gracia was just pleased to get him out on the pitch.

“He needs to compete, he needs to play,” he said. “In my opinion he is not in his best condition and he needs time like players like Roberto Pereyra, Sarr.

“They all need time to improve and the best way is not only training but playing as well. When we have this opportunity we have to do it.”

Welbeck’s inclusion was one of 11 changes made by Gracia, who says all of his squad will have a chance to impress this season.

He added: “We played on Saturday and all of my players are ready to compete in different competitions we have.

“We did it last season as well. They deserve the chance to play in different competitions. All of the squad is ready to do it.

“I can choose different players during the season, I try to do it properly and try to know when some of them are in a better moment than others.

“It is something they have to show me in games like today and training sessions. But they are ready because they are good professionals.”

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