Premier League winners and losers: Arsenal, Bowen brilliant, Ten Hag and Postecoglou talking nonsense

Matt Stead
Tottenham keeper Guglielmo Vicario, Arsenal defender William Saliba, West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen, Liverpool midfielder Alexis Mac Allister and Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag
The business end of the Premier League season is proving to be fun

Arsenal have exorcised their April demons, while Bowen, Dyche and Bournemouth are brilliant. But Ten Hag, De Zerbi and Postecoglou are chatting nonsense.


Premier League winners

Erling Haaland
It is weird to point out the current Golden Boot leader and overwhelming favourite to retain that particular individual honour might be quite good at scoring goals. But what a time for Haaland to underscore how invaluable he is to the Manchester City cause.

The champions were on the ropes against Nottingham Forest, struggling to create much of anything to increase a precarious lead and labouring to keep their opponents at bay at the other end. The title pressure being put on by Arsenal was evident. Then Haaland was introduced and within nine minutes he settled both their nerves and the game.

Haaland’s mere presence still makes them the favourites; as Roy Keane knows, he will rip up the Championship.


Mikel Arteta could not ask for a better sign of Arsenal’s measurable and monumental progress than their approach to this Premier League run-in. It was important to show that last season’s challenge was no fluke and that box was ticked some time ago. But beyond that, avoiding another April collapse was imperative.

That was where campaigns disintegrated in each of Arteta’s full seasons in charge. In the penultimate month of 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23, Arsenal’s Premier League record was a risible P14 W4 D4 L6, with something tangible on the line each time.

In 2023/24, up against a relentless juggernaut with form for uncompromising sprint finishes in title races, Arsenal have won five games in April – more than in each of the previous three seasons combined – to keep up the chase. Even that solitary blip in defeat to Aston Villa has highlighted their evolution with such an emphatic response when many believed all was lost.

It might still all be for nought and the familiar critics can pretend drawing one game and losing another from January onwards constitutes a bottling. But Arteta will know, trophy or not, that clear advancements have been made this season in many ways.

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Sean Dyche
Everton have confirmed their Premier League survival with 1-0 home wins courtesy of a goal from a midfielder in consecutive seasons. The details were slightly different – Brentford instead of Bournemouth and Idrissa Gueye in the place of Abdoulaye Doucoure – but fair play because that is an excellent bit.

And to the Dyche-ometer we must go. That is 89 wins as a Premier League manager, of which 35 have been 1-0 (39.3%). The high mark of Tony Pulis (41.8%) remains a bar the Everton coach might forever be striving to reach, but only because they made the obvious mistake of winning by a more comfortable margin against Nottingham Forest and Liverpool.

Dyche has more Premier League victories than Roberto De Zerbi this season, and far less VO5 gel in his hair. One of those men is the favourite to become the next Chelsea boss and it isn’t the right one.


Jarrod Bowen
Jurgen Klopp called Bowen “probably my favourite player besides my players” in December and it is a sentiment surely shared throughout the country, if not further afield.

It is also one the West Ham forward seems intent on reinforcing in the particular case of the departing Liverpool manager. The Hammers have scored four goals in three winless games against the Reds this season and Bowen has scored or assisted each of them.

No West Ham player has ever scored more goals in a Premier League season. Somehow, no player has scored more headed goals in the entire division than the 5ft 9ins Bowen, whose game continues to evolve and bears no obvious weakness.

The role of David Moyes cannot be overlooked in that, nor can the importance of moving the Scot on this summer and showing enough ambition when appointing his replacement. This has the makings of a wonderful West Ham squad, particularly in attack, but Bowen, Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta will not waste their elite talents at a club outside European competition for too long.

It is a miserable way to look at the game, through the constant prism of wondering which overachieving players can make the step up to a team higher in the league. There is no suggestion whatsoever that Bowen wants to leave a club which cherishes him, and with whom he shares some incredible memories. But it is imperative West Ham show they are worth settling down with.

With all that said, Bowen answering a question about how he will celebrate the first 20-goal season from a West Ham player in the Premier League era by saying he will be playing an edition of Championship Manager 2008 he bought for 50p solidifies him as an eternal neutral fan favourite, never mind someone admired so deeply by opposition coaches.


The confirmation of a record Premier League points total, with a best top-flight finish – currently ninth in 2016/17 – not out of the question for the top-half Cherries.

The time to properly assess this quietly excellent season will come when those achievements are crystallised. But Bournemouth beating Brighton 3-0 and it being widely accepted says plenty about their progress. They have won as many league games to nil as Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain this season. It doesn’t feel like they need to be particularly careful what they wish for anymore.


Perhaps not too surprising a result – Burnley have won more Premier League points since the start of March (11) than Manchester United (10) – but a welcome draw for the team with all the momentum in the relegation battle regardless.

The most shocking aspect of this unexpected Burnley push for survival might be their away form. In their first 13 games on the road this season, the Clarets won two, drew two, scored 12 and conceded 26 for a haul of eight points. In their last five trips, they have won one, drawn three, lost one, scored nine and conceded seven for a haul of six points.

That includes matches at the London Stadium, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, with their only remaining away game coming against Tottenham in two weeks. Those are not quite as daunting journeys as they should be, but absolutely not matches from which Burnley should really be getting anything and still are.

As ever, the remit will be to remain within touching distance of Nottingham Forest ahead of their meeting on the final day, considering Burnley’s inferior goal difference. That draw leave the gap at a tantalising two points.

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Boubacar Traore
In five Premier League starts this season, Traore has only lost to Arsenal – twice. But perhaps more pertinently, he has been used in completely different midfield configurations each time: in a two with Tommy Doyle, Mario Lemina or Joao Gomes, or as part of a three with Gomes and Lemina or Doyle and Jeanricner Bellegarde.

That underlines the selection issues Gary O’Neil and his shallow Wolves squad have faced this season. But it bodes well for the development of Traore, whose ball-winning midfield aggression looks like a natural fit under this manager.

Gomes (4.17) is one of only three Premier League players – alongside Joao Palhinha (5.11) and Vini Souza (4.4) – to make more tackles per 90 minutes than Traore (3.97) of those who have played at least as much as the Malian, who can expect more opportunities next season.

“I’m really excited by what he could be, I’ve said it a few times and especially to my staff, in a few of his performances I was really impressed with him,” O’Neil said last month. It will require no little patience and work but the makings of an excellent player are there.


Crystal Palace
There are a handful of imperceptible differences between the philosophies of Roy Hodgson and Oliver Glasner if one looks close enough – Nathaniel Clyne should cancel all summer plans if he hasn’t already because England have found their new starting centre-half for the Euros – but their respective approaches to injuries make for a stark contrast.

Hodgson threw on a half-fit Michael Olise, in part because “he told me” he could play, at 3-0 down to Brighton in February, then was forced to take the Frenchman off 11 minutes later when his issue was aggravated.

Glasner explained that while Eberechi Eze had made himself available for the Fulham game, the manager personally took the decision to omit him from the squad with an eye on the Manchester United match nine days later.

That is as much about having a system and style not so cripplingly dependent on the individual brilliance of one or two players as it is sensible player management. And Palace are all the better for both changes.

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Dan Burn
It says an uncomfortably revealing amount about Newcastle that their most important player in a four-goal home victory which condemned their feckless opponents to relegation was the centre-half who produced two critical blocks when the game was in the balance.

Alexander Isak and Bruno Guimaraes dominated the headlines as they tend to, but Burn was the thankless sub working behind the scenes to correct the abundant errors.

For all his flaws which have been exposed at times in this difficult season, Burn has proven himself to be separate from the group of Eddie Howe loyalists Newcastle must try to cut loose this summer as they take the next tentative step in their evolution.

There is absolutely a place for him in this team. It still isn’t as a regular left-back, but there is a place.


Moises Caicedo
Having a teammate who can actually run probably helped, and the outlay made on Enzo Fernandez and Caicedo means that must form part of Chelsea’s future midfield plan.

But in tandem with Conor Gallagher and an inverting Marc Cucurella, Caicedo showed he can eventually – with the right plan and structure in place to accentuate his strengths rather than highlighting his weaknesses – be a crucial part of this Chelsea team.

That is the minimum expectation for a club-record signing but the plight of Caicedo this season has shown how a player cannot be judged solely on what a team pays for them, particularly if they are incapable of supporting them properly.

Caicedo, with more help in the second half especially, proved his worth against Aston Villa. Not £115m of it, but that was definitely a promising start with his best performance yet – in late April.


Nottingham Forest
The fourth team to beat Manchester City on xG in the Premier League this season. Forest have actually won seven of their last eight games on xG and should be seventh in the table by that metric.

Shame about the Mark Clattenburg stuff really, because they can be a very good team indeed.


Premier League losers

Manchester United
Erik ten Hag’s reimagining of this Manchester United side as one in apparent transition and being built from the ground up on the foundation of youth – and thus one whose inconsistency and volatility must be accepted – is curious.

First, because it is so sudden. Before the Burnley draw the manager had discussed the importance of trusting teenagers in Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo, but it is difficult to recall him ever demanding “patience” because the entire team “needs experience”.

Garnacho, Mainoo and Rasmus Hojlund were the only players under 23 in the starting line-up against Burnley. There were as many aged 30 or over. That omits veterans like Bruno Fernandes and Andre Onana. A team containing Harry Maguire, Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cannot be described in terms which implies they are in any way unseasoned; the average age of Burnley’s starting line-up was more than two years younger.

Second, because his comparison to another developing Manchester United team, the 2004/05 iteration which would soon become English, European and world champions, is a nonsense.

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“They also didn’t play that great football” is obviously damning when Ten Hag has spent most of the season pretending Manchester United are playing well. But also in 2004/05 they won 22 games, lost only five, scored 58 goals and conceded 26 while progressing from their Champions League group. This version has won 16 games, lost 12, scored 52, conceded 51 and categorically failed in Europe, with the manager having spent more than £375m in under two years.

Third, because it is a hilariously naked attempt at convincing the new hierarchy that Ten Hag is masterfully overseeing some sort of complex project which must not be interrupted, rather than a reversion to the miserable Manchester United mean after what increasingly looks like the anomaly of last season.

Ten Hag might well be alone in pretending this is a particularly young Manchester United team. He is definitely unique in thinking he remains the best manager for them.

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Roberto De Zerbi
In a Premier League table of results from the date of Brighton’s first Europa League game on September 21, the Seagulls are 15th with more points than only the current bottom five. Brentford, despite fighting relegation until recently, have won more games in that time.

The injury caveats and rotational excuses have long since expired, because this is close to Championship-worthy form and De Zerbi is proving entirely incapable of arresting it.

A penny for the thoughts of this squad, too. “Motivation is 80 per cent of our work. In my time every game was challenge with a target but now we are too many points from Europe and we are working without a clear target,” the Italian said after the Bournemouth defeat, putting much of their recent struggles down to their Europa League exit and the Premier League drop-off which made another continental qualification unlikely.

But “motivation” works both ways, particularly for a manager whose public posturing for either more backing, ambition and control at Brighton or a simply a move to a ‘bigger’ club has been entirely undermined by the performances and results he has overseen. If anyone has taken their eye off the ball, it is him. And the players can hardly be blamed if they have noticed and followed suit.

This summer, De Zerbi might find his job prospects considerably diminished in comparison to the avenues which seemed open in September. In seven short months, Brighton might even have been given cause to consider themselves the one settling in a relationship which no longer seems quite so perfect.


Ange Postecoglou
As admirable as his unyielding loyalty to his overall way of playing is, it is bizarre for Postecoglou to be so apparently against the idea of employing a specialist set-piece coach at Spurs.

“I always think it’s better if that’s somebody who’s a part of the coaching staff because then that’s an extension of how we play our football. I don’t separate set-pieces from everything else we do, in terms of the team we want to be. It all hopefully links in,” is a lovely sentiment but an entirely idealistic view. Set-pieces are separate by their very nature; they cannot be an extension of a team when so many sides prepare for them individually now instead of dismissing them as a legitimate marginal gain.

“If I thought fixing defensive set pieces was the answer to us bridging the gap then I’d put all of my time and effort into that,” he said after a defeat to a team which has harnessed their importance so obviously to help their journey from Champions League qualification hopefuls to title challengers.

Manchester City and Arsenal have conceded the fewest goals from set-pieces this season; only five teams have allowed more from those situations than Spurs. Having Mile Jedinak and Ryan Mason divvy out marking responsibilities no longer really cuts it at the highest level and it is disappointing for Postecoglou to dismiss that idea so freely. Not sure that is sack-worthy but still.


A necessary reaction after consecutive 5-1 defeats nevertheless resulted in another loss. While far more indicative of the Luton side the Premier League has become accustomed to – scoring late in a game settled by a single goal either way – they resemble a team “fighting until the very, very end” in the words of Rob Edwards, but also entirely running out of steam.

The Sky Sports highlights package summed things up. “Luton still have a chance, and this Carlton Morris goal has given them a lifeline. There could be a grandstand finish at Molineux,” the commentator said. The video immediately ended there, betraying how the Hatters could not harness that momentum for another famous comeback.

Their schedule offers hope with home games against Everton and Fulham and a trip to West Ham, none of whom have any realistic objectives left to play for. But Luton have six points from a possible 42 from February onwards and that sort of form is difficult to shift in the right direction.


The existential angst currently felt by every Liverpool supporter could not have been embodied more appropriately than by the two individuals perhaps most responsible for the club’s recent magnificence clashing on the sideline while they were in the process of conceding on the pitch.

Arne Slot will inherit a good Liverpool team, but not a great one. A necessary revision of the quality of and the flaws in this squad which have been evident even at the Quadruple-chasing height of this season is no bad thing, even if the misery which has consumed these past few weeks will take time to shift.

The suggestion is that of the two individuals trying to come to terms with the end of an era on the London Stadium touchline, only Klopp will depart Liverpool this summer. If the Reds are honest, it would be in the best interests of everyone involved for Salah to follow him into the sunset.

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The wait for a clean sheet without Tosin goes on, stretching back ten games to September. With the centre-half confirmed to be leaving upon the expiration of his contract in the summer, Marco Silva has justifiably sought to move on early by dropping him. And in truth, conceding only to a Jeffrey Schlupp scorcher from range was not particularly damning of prospective new pairing Calvin Bassey and Issa Diop.

But both had moments of obvious vulnerability against that Crystal Palace press and particularly in the air. Fulham won 38.5% of their aerial duels at Craven Cottage; in only four games this season have they fared worse, and Adarabioyo has missed two of them.

Tosin is human; to replace him is difficult.


Douglas Luiz
The impact of Boubacar Kamara’s absence continues to be felt most keenly by Luiz, who is yet to adjust to a more reduced role. Unable to deal with the press, it was he who ceded possession on the edge of the Aston Villa area before Chelsea’s first goal and he who otherwise had barely any influence on the game: no shots, no chances created, no dribbles, no tackles, no through balls, no long balls and really, no positive input.

Luiz was taken off before the Chelsea equaliser – in itself noteworthy as Unai Emery had barely substituted the Brazilian all season up until a similarly poor performance against Manchester City – but the damage was largely done. After beating Arsenal and Bournemouth with him out of the squad, Luiz returned to lower the standard against Chelsea.


Ivan Toney
Four goals in five games upon his return has seamlessly transitioned into none in nine, with that majesty to assist a late equaliser against Manchester United the only telling contribution Toney has provided to the Brentford cause in recent weeks.

The Bees scored ten goals in three games against Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Luton, with Toney playing nine cameo minutes in the first match and missing the second two – both wins – altogether. Yoane Wissa and Bryan Mbeumo formed a destructive partnership in that time and Toney did not prove he was worth breaking it up for at Goodison Park.

That supposed £100m stock will have fallen drastically by the summer, but Brentford should cash in whatever they can for Toney to help their necessary rebuild of the rest of this squad. It might be recency bias but they look considerably better without their most saleable asset.


Sheffield United
There was no more fitting way to confirm Sheffield United’s relegation than with a thorough thrashing which featured an own goal, a penalty and Wes Foderingham conceding five goals while still probably being their best player.

They will be missed. Mainly by Newcastle.

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