Premier League winners and losers: Arteta and Arsenal target Pickford praised; Hojlund, Villa signing slammed

Matt Stead
Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, Crystal Palace manager Oliver Glasner and Manchester United striker Rasmus Hojlund
One of these things is not like the others

Arsenal are overachieving and might be even better once they sign Jordan Pickford. David Moyes is praised. Ivan Toney and Manchester United are slammed.


Premier League winners

A deeply unconvincing victory which still underlines how far Arsenal have come. Not since September 2006 had they won at Old Trafford in the Premier League in front of fans. Not since they last won the Premier League have they taken a title race into the final day. As Mikel Arteta said, it’s “not progress” but “history” that him and his team are making.

Whether that is backed up by a trophy or not remains to be seen, but Arsenal setting a new club record for most wins in a Premier League season and improving their points tally for a fourth consecutive campaign under Arteta are significant milestones worthy of commendation. And if Manchester City do pip them, those who will – and should because that’s football – scoff at Arsenal cannot honestly pretend they expected them to make it this close. This is overachievement, title or not.

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Manchester City
The two longest winning streaks in the Premier League this season neatly overlap, and might well come to decide who wins the title.

Arsenal put together a run of eight straight victories from late January to early March, which remains the high bar at least for now; that came to an end in the goalless draw at the Etihad, since which Manchester City have won seven on the bounce.

The debate will continue as to whether Arsenal should have tried harder to stamp their authority on champions who looked vulnerable at the time, as if holding Manchester City to an away draw represented a poor result. Pep Guardiola’s side so often reduce these races to margins so ridiculously small that all perspective is lost.

As the Spaniard said after the Fulham stroll, “we know if we draw or lose a game, it’s over”. The way he and his players have dealt with that is neither unexpected nor unprecedented, but that makes it no less ludicrously, boringly impressive each time they do it.

Those seven consecutive wins after the Arsenal draw have each been by at least two clear goals, the longest such run in their history. If they are feeling the pressure, it is not particularly obvious while their left-back is rejecting hat-trick opportunities in a touch-tight title race.


David Moyes
For all the nonsense spoken about his impending departure, Moyes offered one of the more sensible assessments of the situation when the dust had settled. If he himself says “it’s the right decision for both parties” to “go our separate ways having had a really good four-and-a-half years,” the vacuous be-careful-what-you-wish-for stuff can stop.

And while West Ham will take all the flak for how it has played out, Moyes was given the send-off he richly deserved and supporters had a chance to show their gratitude, free of any prejudices over the club’s future direction. The Scot did a brilliant job in laying foundations that another manager can now hope to benefit from, and that is absolutely fine.


Crystal Palace
From the date of Oliver Glasner’s first game in charge, only Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea have collected more points than Crystal Palace, just those four teams and Newcastle have scored more goals than the Eagles, and only Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal have conceded fewer.

Bayern Munich want, at the very least, Palace’s manager and midfielder and that is not normal. If recent reports are to be believed then the Eagles requested €100m in compensation for Glasner when the German giants approached them in desperation recently. Add Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze and Adam Wharton – and Jean-Philippe Mateta on current form – and they have a fair few assets worth about that much to them. After years of clutching at the Wilfried Zaha comfort blanket, that must feel liberating.


Jordan Pickford
No goalkeeper has taken close to as many touches in the middle third in the Premier League this season as Pickford (139), who leads Mark Flekken (74) and James Trafford (72) by a healthy margin while keeping more clean sheets than anyone bar David Raya. The Everton No.1 also completed one dribble past Cameron Archer early in the second half; perhaps those Arsenal transfer rumours are not all that outlandish.

You’re here for the Sean Dyche update, aren’t you? That’s 90 Premier League wins as a manager, of which 36 have been 1-0 (40%). Tony Pulis (41.8%) had better shine that trophy up real nice for next season.

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Raheem Sterling
A first Premier League goal as a substitute since August 2021, in a 5-0 Manchester City crushing of Norwich, points to a future many perhaps overlooked for Sterling as at the very least a viable option in this burgeoning attack.

His seven goals and four assists this season – both one more than in 2022/23, as Mauricio Pochettino was at pains to point out – have, much like the player himself, been lost in the shuffle of an ever-changing Chelsea cast. But for all the millions spent and promising young forwards bought, none can replicate either the experience or skillset Sterling brings, even if Reece James was the headline act.


Bryan Mbeumo
Only Cole Palmer, Heung min-Son, Ollie Watkins and Mo Salah have both scored and assisted in the same game more often in the Premier League this season than Mbeumo, who has missed a huge chunk of the campaign with injury and still belongs in that conversation with players towards the top of the table while shining for a team at the other end.

Brentford have a tremendously effective forward whose brilliance has already proven to be scalable from the Championship to the top flight and it feels as though he can go much higher; a player who clubs should be fighting to sign this summer. It just isn’t who everyone assumed it was.


One of three clubs, alongside Arsenal and Manchester City, with a perfect record against the bottom four. There is plenty to be said for that.

The whole Spursy thing is undeniably overplayed at this point but also: they’re going to beat City in midweek before losing to Sheffield United on the final day, aren’t they?


Callum Hudson-Odoi
Has probably broken the Premier League record for most goals scored in a season by cutting in from the left and curling one in. You’d think Chelsea would know to counter that move but he did leave in September so the entire squad has probably changed since.


Joel Veltman
His imminent hat-tricks against Chelsea and Manchester United will be heart-breaking, because Veltman has now scored exactly one goal and provided precisely one assist in four consecutive Premier League seasons and that is truly sublime.


Premier League losers

The proper evaluation of their season in full will come, but as a microcosm that was a fine way to confirm relegation: a relatively promising but ultimately flawed performance which petered out horribly into more dropped points from a winning position, some amateurish defending and another booking for Vincent Kompany.

They are in a far better place than when they last went down, but lessons which were painfully obvious early in the season had still not been learned by the penultimate game and another stroll in the Championship will ultimately do little for their development as a Premier League team, nor Kompany as a top-flight manager.

He ought to be thanking Sheffield United for their service, because the Blades have done as much as anyone to mask how poor Burnley have been.


Cameron Archer
As many shots as completed passes and unsuccessful dribbles (four) in 80 minutes, while being dispossessed three times, including by the opposition keeper in a presentable position.

Chris Wilder’s pre-match comments were striking. After noting how Ben Brereton Diaz “doesn’t look like he’s a loan player; he looks as if he’s playing like a Sheffield United player,” he went on to explain the issues inherent in a squad comprised of so many players borrowed from other clubs.

We’ve got a lot of loan players and the problem sometimes with loan players is that when it’s going well, it’s brilliant. And when it isn’t, I think it’s an easy one just to look elsewhere and think: ‘Well, I might be back at my parent club pretty soon and I can just get on with my career’. So that doesn’t really help us either.

It is a bracket Archer falls into because of the clause which apparently exists in his £18m deal that obligates Aston Villa to buy him back due to Sheffield United’s relegation. After a bright start, the 22-year-old has looked decidedly more Championship than Champions League.


Ivan Toney
Not to labour the point too much because his inclusion as a loser in this column has become awkwardly frequent recently, but that weekend could not have gone much worse.

Toney played no part in either of the Brentford goals, with Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa’s partnership blossoming beautifully. Dominic Solanke scored a delightful header to pull further clear of his rival for an England squad place at the Euros. And Toney now has as many yellow cards as he has goals (four) in his last 12 Premier League games.

Gareth Southgate will at least thank Thomas Frank for setting the bar impossibly low as far as justifications for calling up Toney go. “Sometimes players are scoring a lot of goals but can’t perform in the Euros because they are exhausted,” the Brentford manager said, explaining why he would still pick his striker ahead of Solanke, who has presumably knackered himself out scoring so often while Toney is wisely staying fresh.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Should Ivan Toney make England’s Euros squad? Join the debate here.


In 2021/22, Wolves were pushing towards European qualification before fading after sitting seventh as late as mid-March. They won just one of their last nine matches as the disruption caused by long-term injuries contributed to a finish of 10th. Their last game was away at Liverpool.

Bruno Lage spent the final weeks of that campaign warning that Wolves needed to “increase the quality and number of players in our squad” in a pivotal summer, while accepting that it came down to the whims of chairman Jeff Shi.

In 2023/24, Wolves were pushing towards European qualification before fading after sitting eighth as late as early March. They have won just one of their last nine matches as the disruption caused by long-term injuries has led them down to 13th. Their last game is away at Liverpool.

Gary O’Neil is now speaking in hushed tones about how he has identified where “I think we can improve and areas that will help us next season and put less strain on the squad,” while admitting that it would ultimately depend on an upcoming meeting with the ownership group to “see exactly what can and can’t be done”.

With the manager in between them literally leaving due to broken promises over investment and finances at Wolves, it does feel a little bit like history is repeating somewhat.


It does not feel particularly coincidental that the three clubs who have lost at least as often as they have won when in front in the Premier League this season are those almost certain to return to the Championship at the first time of asking.

Sheffield United have won three and lost five of the 12 games they have led. Burnley have won and lost five games each of the 16 they have led. And Luton have six wins and six draws from the 14 games they have led.

The Hatters have brought no shame on themselves but that second-half collapse was particularly stark. In the 39 minutes before Ross Barkley’s injury-enforced substitution, they had 47% possession, three shots to nine and scored one goal. In 51 minutes without him, they had 38.7% possession, one shot to 15 and conceded three goals.


Rasmus Hojlund
An inexhaustive list of players with more shots in the Premier League this season than Hojlund (36 in 28 games): Ryan Christie, Gus Hamer, Mario Lemina, Ivan Toney, James Garner, Sean Longstaff, Virgil van Dijk, Neal Maupay, Antony, Scott McTominay and Casemiro.

It is certainly not entirely the fault of a striker apparently sacrificed to stop Bukayo Saka in a ‘baffling tactical tweak’ which did not exist, but it leads to the snatching of those chances that do fall to him – like the one which came his way in the early stages against Arsenal, and is damning of a laughable number of aspects in the Manchester United set-up, from training ground to recruitment team.


After confirming their mathematical Premier League safety with a 2-0 win over West Ham on April 13, Fulham have drawn two and lost two of their next four games. It’s difficult to begrudge them their flip-flops and kites with that level of respect for On The Beach discourse. Luton need to overhaul a goal differential of 12 on the final day and they genuinely might at home to the holidaying Cottagers.


Fulham have lost only two Premier League games by four or more goals this season. Both of them were to Manchester City. Arsenal dropped four points to a team their closest rivals comfortably hit for six.


Miguel Almiron
Who gets booked for simulation in 2024? Grow up.