Premier League winners and losers: Dyche, Arsenal midfield praised as City, Liverpool criticised

Matt Stead
West Ham players Lucas Paqueta and Mohammed Kudus, Burnley manager Vincent Kompany and Everton boss Sean Dyche, and Fulham striker Raul Jimenez
One of these men tackled another with their actual arse this weekend

Sean Dyche engineered another win to nil at Turf Moor, that Arsenal midfield is cooking, David Moyes can spend money well and Gary O’Neil hates his squad.



Sean Dyche
You can reluctantly sack the man but you can’t kill the idea, especially when he comes back armed with three former players and the most potent siege mentality seen this side of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

Dyche soaked in the adulation of both sets of supporters before engineering his latest win at Turf Moor, aided by an assist from Dwight McNeil and Michael Keane’s goal, two of his former Claret charges.

Not since November 2002 have Everton won four straight league games to nil and it is no coincidence that the spirit at Goodison Park has been described as positively Moyesian; there are few brands of football as effective as theirs right now.

Only Manchester City and Liverpool have embarked on a longer sequence of consecutive wins this season and without that points deduction Everton would be contemplating European qualification. With it, they are the bottom-half outlier with more wins than Brighton and Chelsea.

And that quote from April 2022 while Burnley manager – that Everton “don’t know how to win a game away from home” – remains a testament to Dyche’s brilliance: no team has won more away games this season than the Toffees.

The Royal Dyche pub in Burnley
The Royal Dyche pub in Burnley


Leon Bailey
After scoring against Bournemouth and Manchester City, Bailey has provided match-turning assists against Arsenal and Brentford in a quietly brilliant December. He is among the 10 Premier League players to have reached double figures for combined goals and assists, managing the feat in (booyaka, booyaka) 619 minutes – almost half that of the next man on that list in terms of playing time, Hwang Hee-chan (1,227 minutes).

In terms of Europe’s big five leagues, the extensive list of players with more than a couple of league starts and a better rate of goals and assists per 90 minutes than Bailey (1.36) is down to Deniz Undav (1.43), Serhou Guirassy (1.75) and Harry Kane (1.83). Shame Emi Martinez saved that late shot really. Great awareness to spot him off his line.


Aston Villa
Only two teams have procured more points from losing positions. Every other side has dropped at least three points from winning positions but Aston Villa remain flawless in that regard. Only Manchester City have more Premier League points and wins in 2023.

This is exactly as many goals (37) and points (38) as Villa managed in the entire 2011/12 Premier League season. They have 21 games left to overcome that clear psychological hurdle. None of this is normal but it is incredible fun.


Arsenal’s midfield
It did cost more than £200m to assemble the three composite parts so the minimum expectation would be that it functions at least competently, but that Havertz-Rice-Odegaard axis is looking imposing.

With Odegaard at his imaginative best – peaking with that sumptuous curled pass to Bukayo Saka – Declan Rice on constant patrol and Havertz as the burgeoning wildcard, Arsenal have creativity and control with a dash of necessary chaos in the middle. It is a delightful recipe which is only improving the longer it cooks.

READ MOREArsenal earn title boost by beating bogey team Brighton as Arteta gets redemption for May defeat


West Ham
The David Moyes Hokey Cokey remix continues unabated, with the Scot very much in after the chorus of ‘out’ that greeted the heavy defeat to Fulham.

That merry dance is likely to keep going all the way through to the expiration of the manager’s contract in the summer but if Moyes does depart, he will leave behind quite the squad.

His transfer business – never the strongest card in Moyes’ deck, particularly with more extravagant budgets – was impeccable this summer as part of a new structure most assumed the manager would resist. The sale of Declan Rice necessitated a precarious balance which West Ham absolutely nailed by strengthening their core and depth.

There was a time when the two most expensive signings of Moyes’ entire career were both Marouane Fellaini. A couple of sore thumbs still stick out for West Ham as a club – namely Manuel Pellegrini signings Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson – but almost all of the bigger recent deals have been absolutely nailed. Watching that combination between Mohammed Kudus and Lucas Paqueta blossom should be particularly fun.


Erik ten Hag
Liverpool can, will and have do the same sneering shtick of suggesting only one team wanted to win at Anfield but again, Manchester United were within one wonderfully-crafted chance of enacting the perfect gameplan.

The move which delivered Rasmus Hojlund the chance to shoot at Alisson was brilliant, almost entirely vindicating their decision to keep playing out from the back despite the continued howls of derision in the first half. Varane to Onana, then Evans clipping the ball to Antony’s chest for the control to Hojlund, before McTominay and Antony collaborated to play Hojlund in. Liverpool had 34 shots but in those 17 seconds Manchester United constructed by far the best move of the entire game.

There is an element of damning with faint praise considering the billions spent to reach a stage where goalless draws are hailed, but with the injuries Ten Hag is battling, he coaxed a very good display.

READ: 16 Conclusions on Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United: Nunez, Varane, Neville, Onana, Dalot’s red


Crystal Palace against Manchester City, but mainly in the winter
A 0-0 draw in December 2017. A 3-2 win in December 2018. A 2-2 draw in January 2020. A 2-0 win in October 2021. A 2-2 draw in December 2023.

It is no wonder Roy Hodgson could not contain himself, because that record is bordering on witchcraft considering the varying states Crystal Palace have been in over that period. Manchester City went on to win the title in each of those completed seasons, but not without a stumble against the Eagles first.

Hodgson’s clumsy public comments and Palace’s dreadful form pointed to a parting before season’s end but that was a performance which at least proved the players are on side. And fair play to a conservative manager who favours experience for chucking on three attacking substitutes all under the age of 25 to chase and deliver a famous result.


Emil Krafth
The headlines were justifiably reserved for Lewis Miley and Bruno Guimaraes, more obvious poster boys of this knackered Newcastle revolution. But the true strength in Eddie Howe’s coaching at St James’ Park has been in improving those he inherited; the manager has undoubtedly honed his Krafth.

The latest cab off an increasingly threadbare rank was called upon when Fabian Schar pulled up in the first half with a hamstring problem. Krafth had played seven minutes across four Premier League appearances since May 2022 due to a serious knee injury but was excellent when needed for an hour and a quarter against Fulham.

It might have been a home assignment against 10 men but it is testament to Krafth’s fortitude that he was even able to help Newcastle out at all when they were scrambling. “He never, ever lets you down,” Howe said after the game, and while the manager is in absolutely no position to be picky he might be considering extending Kieran Trippier’s absence a little longer, just to ensure those ropey performances are out of his system. Krafth is a worthy stand-in.


Ben Davies
Mauricio Pochettino praised him as “a fantastic professional and boy” who “deserves all the credit to keep fighting to keep up the level of the squad”. Jose Mourinho hailed a “good professional, a man, a team player”. Antonio Conte lauded his “reliability” and “commitment” as the hallmarks of a player who is “vital for every manager”. Nuno Espirito Santo did not have a great deal of positive things to say about a defender he ostracised and who played an apparent part in his demise, but if anything that strengthen Davies’ case as a standard-setter who puts the team above all else.

Ange Postecoglou made sure his celebration of the Welshman could not be interpreted as satisfaction with his defensive options heading into January, stressing that Davies “is not a centre-back”. Yet the fact the manager felt the need to point that out underlines how enduringly excellent the 30-year-old has been not just in the adverse circumstances of this season, but for almost a decade through typical Tottenham turmoil.


Djordje Petrovic
Cole Palmer is good and all, but it’s time to give flowers to a goalkeeper with as many Premier League clean sheets as Paul Rachubka, Rami Shaaban and Adam Bogdan despite making just a single start in the competition.

Petrovic did only have one actual save to make – and routine it was from a Gus Hamer free-kick – but his distribution was very good and reports that Chelsea will resist signing a replacement for the injured Robert Sanchez in the winter are a welcome show of faith ahead of tougher assignments.


Lyle Foster
Welcome back, fella.



Manchester City
It should come as little surprise that no team has made fewer substitutions (48) than Manchester City this season. Guardiola explained his preference for working with a smaller pool of players in September, saying that “to be effective, you have to be starting regularly,” adding: “That’s why you when you recruit you have to look for players can play in two or three positions.”

One only has to glance at the Spaniard’s list of trophies to see whether it works, but even he seems to have embarked on too grand a squad churn this summer. The individual losses of Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez, Aymeric Laporte and Cole Palmer could be absorbed but together, fused with ongoing injury problems, the upheaval has been too much.

Of the 10 players to feature most often for Manchester City in their Treble season, Gundogan and Mahrez were both offloaded, Kevin De Bruyne is yet to feature in this campaign due to injury, and those who could previously be relied upon to play almost every game – Rodri and Erling Haaland – have been sidelined for various reasons.

That does not explain how Manchester City have dropped eight points in four of the last five games they have led – the idea of complacency and poor game management creeping in is becoming more difficult to ignore – but it does suggest Guardiola’s delicate squad balancing act has finally backfired again.

The only two players to start every Premier League game for Manchester City this season are a) the 33-year-old who almost left in the summer, and b) their most-used substitute from last campaign. Something doesn’t add up there.

READ MOREEverything crossed for Tom Lockyer, Man City careless yet again, Jimenez offers Newcastle a helping hand


Liverpool’s forwards
Liverpool’s last seven league goals have each been scored by different players, and while sharing the burden is never necessarily a bad thing it underlines the weight of expectation on Mo Salah that he is the only forward among that group.

They need Diogo Jota back. They need to take fewer shots from distance (only Sheffield United and Fulham are shooting from further away on average). They need Darwin Nunez not to be in any conversations about the worst finishers in the league.


Nottingham Forest without Taiwo Awoniyi
Of the eight Premier League games Awoniyi has started this season, Nottingham Forest have won three, drawn two and scored 11 goals. They are yet to win any of the nine matches he has not started, in which they have scored six times (including one Awoniyi goal as a substitute).

This is Awoniyi’s second sustained spell on the sidelines with a groin injury of 2023 yet the only two Premier League fixtures Forest have won without the Nigerian came against clubs who went on to be relegated. Leicester and Leeds were vanquished in January and February respectively but Steve Cooper remains some way from discovering a solution to an established problem.


The Nottingham Forest goalkeeper battle
On a similar note, Matt Turner and Odysseas Vlachodimos trying to facilitate the return of Wayne Hennessey to the top flight is not helping. In an empirical ranking of Premier League goalkeepers so far this season, they are 29th and 32nd out of 34.


Gary O’Neil
For a manager who has spoken so excellently at points throughout the season, it felt like a slight misstep to pinpoint a virus in the squad as part of the reason for a 3-0 defeat in which the only changes made to the starting line-up were Jose Sa dropping out due to an injury sustained in training, and Hugo Bueno making way for the returning Jeanricner Bellegarde.

“It was a late call to remove him,” O’Neil said of Sa, “and same with the lads that weren’t feeling well. It was flagged that they struggled through the night. Mario, Cunha and Daws were all ill overnight in the hotel but put themselves forward to play.”

Lemina played 80 minutes and the other two stricken players completed the full game. That is quite the message to send to those on the periphery of the squad. Sasa Kalajdzic has more Premier League goals than starts this season but was not deemed worthy of a single minute in London and Tommy Doyle somehow didn’t turn the game around when introduced at 3-0 down for the final 10 minutes.


Raul Jimenez
In his defence, until Jimenez scored four goals in his previous five games the forward had spent the prior 18 months being told he just needed one to go in off his arse. A simple misunderstanding led to poor Sean Longstaff getting clattered.

Fulham had scored three goals in each of their last four games before defeat to Newcastle, including doling out consecutive 5-0 thrashings. Yet they still probably need a new centre-forward in January, if only for reliability. Phenomenal club.

READ: Man Utd winger and in-demand striker feature in Premier League weekend worst XI


Roberto De Zerbi could do little more than accept defeat to a far superior side as Brighton set a new club record for most league games without a clean sheet (21), while the fourth-longest run in Premier League history of scoring in consecutive games was halted at 32.

Things might have been different if Pascal Gross had converted that Kaoru Mitoma centre but Brighton were dominated at the Emirates in a way they have not become accustomed to.

It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the Seagulls have won only one of their six league games played immediately after midweek European excursions. And the Bournemouth victory in September came after their first match in the group, the only one they lost. Since then, positive results on the continent have been juxtaposed with draws against Liverpool, Fulham and Sheffield United, as well as defeats to Chelsea and Arsenal.

With no more Europa in the schedule until March, perhaps things can pick up again for Brighton; two wins in 11 league games is not optimal form.


There can be no accounting for Ben Mee’s first straight red card in 440 senior career games, nor an increasingly dire injury situation and aggravating refereeing performance. But Brentford have dropped more Premier League points from winning positions than any other team this season, and more than they did in the entirety of last campaign.

Against Manchester United, Brighton and Aston Villa they have now led and lost. Only once in two full Premier League seasons were Brentford beaten after going ahead (Newcastle in April). There are mitigating circumstances but that trademark resilience has dissipated.


No side has conceded more set-piece goals (eight) and only two have won a lower percentage of their aerial duels (46.3%). Those are not the strengths of this Burnley team and thus not the yardsticks they necessarily ought to be measured by but is difficult not to highlight them in the aftermath of a game in which their former manager exploited those weaknesses so thoroughly.

Tough as it must be to bump into an ex and see them thriving during a rocky time in your own marriage, Dyche did take Burnley up from the Championship in his first full season and back down again in his debut Premier League campaign before establishing his brilliant blueprint. The hope is that Vincent Kompany can follow a similar path, even if that seems to be based on little more than blind faith.


Oli McBurnie
Behold, the man with the most Premier League minutes this season without appearing in a single win. Injured for the Wolves victory in November and stupidly suspended against Brentford, McBurnie returned to win all of the headers and throw all of the elbows but do precious little else at Stamford Bridge.