Welcome to a new series on Opta Analyst, where each week we’ll use the Opta Player Ratings to review the top-performing players from each Premier League matchday.

The Opta Player Ratings are something we introduced this summer. For a quick primer on how they’re calculated, you can check our explainer here.

In short, the Opta Player Ratings take into account over 100 different metrics for every player to provide an accurate measure of performance for a player over a single match, specific period or whole season. Those metrics power six subcomponents for each player – categories like shooting, passing and defending. Then, those subcomponents are combined to calculate a total score (from 20-100) according to a player’s position in the match.

With that out the way, here are the top performers from MD 1 in the Premier League.

1. Alexander Isak – 97.5 (NEWCASTLE vs. Aston Villa)

Newcastle’s scintillating 5-1 home win over Aston Villa on Saturday took them to the top of the Premier League table after MD 1. Central to their impressive performance was Alexander Isak, who scored twice in front of a raucous St. James’ Park.

His first, and Newcastle’s second, came from an efficient finish inside the Aston Villa box after Sven Botman squared the ball across the face of goal. He then punished an Ezri Konsa mistake to delightfully lift the ball over Emiliano Martínez to make it 3-1.

Isak looked like a menace in behind the Aston Villa defence all day and ended the day with eight touches in the Villa box – more than any other player.

With his brace, the Swede became the first player to score twice in Newcastle’s opening match in a Premier League campaign since Obafemi Martins against Bolton in 2007-08.

Despite playing just 68 minutes, Isak’s performance saw him register a huge Opta Player Rating score of 97.5 out of a possible 100.

Isak xG shot map - Newcastle v Villa

2. Erling Haaland – 96.6 (Burnley vs. MANCHESTER CITY)

With a brace in his opening game of the season, Erling Haaland has started this season where he left off, as he tries to break his own record for the most goals scored in a Premier League campaign.

Three minutes and four seconds into the start of the 2023-24 Premier League season – and with his first touch of the ball – Haaland put Manchester City ahead. It was the fastest opening goal of a Premier League campaign since 2018-19, when Paul Pogba netted for Manchester United against Leicester on August 10th 2018 (2 mins, 23 secs).

It was a classic Haaland goal, as he came alive inside the six-yard box to beat his marker to the ball and sweep home from close range.

His second was also a first-time strike from inside the box and also came from his left foot. But that’s where the comparisons end. While his opener was a classic poacher’s goal, this was an exquisite finish, curling a shot off the underside of James Trafford’s crossbar.

Haaland has now scored 100 goals in Europe’s top five leagues (63 for Borussia Dortmund, 37 for Manchester City), with only Robert Lewandowski (114) netting more since the Norwegian’s debut in January 2020.

Don’t be surprised to see his name appear regularly in this column.

3. Rodri – 96.2 (Burnley vs. MANCHESTER CITY)

Rodri’s Opta Player Rating score of 96.2 sees him finish in third place behind teammate Haaland.

As is now standard practice, the Spaniard had more touches of the ball (125) and completed more passes (107) than anyone else on the pitch against Burnley. But as well as dictating the tempo in the middle of the park, Rodri was also hugely impactful at the attacking end of the pitch for City.

He assisted Haaland’s first goal before crashing in from close range to score City’s third. This was the first time he’s ever scored and assisted in the same game in the big five European leagues, in what was his 236th appearance.

Rodri all touches against Burnley MD1

=4. Bukayo Saka – 95.8 (ARSENAL vs. Nottingham Forest)

Bukayo Saka, fresh off the back of his best goalscoring season to date, scored a brilliant goal as Arsenal saw off Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the Emirates.

Saka registered career-highs for goals (14) and assists (11) in the Premier League last season and opened his account for 2023-24 with a fine curling effort from outside the box.

The Englishman was a constant threat on the right for Arsenal, frequently drifting inside to link with teammates or threaten on goal. No player registered more shots (3) or more touches in the opposition box (7) in this game, while no one created more chances than Saka (3).   

=4. Bernd Leno – 95.8 (Everton vs. FULHAM)

Bernd Leno’s fine goalkeeping performance in Fulham’s opening match against Everton sees him tie Saka’s Opta Player Ratings score of 95.8.

The German had to be at his best to thwart Everton, making nine saves in total, which was more than any goalkeeper on the opening Premier League matchday. In fact, Leno has never made more saves in a Premier League game than he did at Goodison Park last weekend.

This game was just the third time on record (since 2003-04) that Everton had as many as nine shots on target in a Premier League game without scoring (10 vs. Wolves in March 2010 and 9 vs. Sunderland in December 2013). That shows just how much Fulham can thank their goalkeeper for their clean sheet.

Over the course of this game, Leno prevented shots worth a total of 3.3 expected goals, as Everton’s inefficiencies at the sharp of the pitch were once again laid bare.

Bernd Leno goals prevented vs Everton MD1

Best Performing Debutants

MD 1 of the season saw Premier League debuts being handed out all over the place.

Here were the top-performing debutants across the opening set of fixtures according to our rating system.

  1. Harvey Barnes – 93.6 (NEWCASTLE vs. Aston Villa)
  2. André Onana – 88.5 (MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Wolves)
  3. James Maddison – 85.5 (Brentford vs. TOTTENHAM)
  4. Sandro Tonali – 83.1 (NEWCASTLE vs. Aston Villa)
  5. Moussa Diaby – 80.0 (Newcastle vs. ASTON VILLA)

Enjoy this? Subscribe to our mailing list to receive exclusive weekly content. And follow us on Twitter too.