Premier League winners and losers: Everton, Forest shine while Wolves, Leeds disintegrate

Ian King
Taiwo Awoniyi scores for Nottingham Forest against Liverpool

There are big wins for Forest, Villa and Leicester, but Liverpool remain shorn of confidence and Wolves and Leeds are both in a right mess.


Manchester City
At the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Manchester City put in an expectedly accomplished performance in beating Brighton 3-1. Erling Haaland scored twice, Kevin De Bruyne completed the win with a stunning goal and while there was a 20-minute period in the second half during which they only led by a narrow margin and things might have gotten tense, they ended up with a routine victory.

But City sit at the top of this list because so many of the other teams near the summit of the table dropped points. Arsenal could only draw at Southampton. Chelsea and Manchester United drew with each other. Spurs reminded us all of why betting on them to do anything beyond disappointing is a fool’s errand. City stay second in the Premier League table with their Brighton win, but Arsenal’s precarious lead has now been trimmed to just two points.

Arsenal have done really well to maintain their position at the top until the last week in October, but their wins against Leeds and PSV and their draw at Southampton have been a little laboured and there remains an air of inevitability about the well-oiled machine replacing them in the fullness of time. This weekend’s results took us a step closer to that moment.


Dominic Calvert-Lewin
In his post-match interview with Gary Lineker following Everton’s 3-0 trouncing of Crystal Palace, Frank Lampard summed up the Dominic Calvert-Lewin dilemma fairly neatly.

“I think the only thing really that Dominic has to show, which is the priority for me as well, is how good and fresh he is for Everton,” he said.

Calvert-Lewin has had horrendous luck with injuries, which robbed him of the first half of last season and had done the same for the whole of this campaign so far, but against Palace his all-round performance told the story of why Everton and Lampard put so much stock in him in the first place.

Everton went into this game on the back of three straight defeats, and afternoons like these at Goodison Park have been known to turn sour in the past. But on this occasion there were no such concerns. Everton sparkled against an out-of-sorts Palace team and Calvert-Lewin, making only his second start of the season, chipped in with the opening goal after just 11 minutes.

It’s probably a little too late for him to be able to force his way into the England squad for the upcoming World Cup, but he has given Gareth Southgate something to think about and his performance settled Evertonian nerves after those three losses.

Considering his own admissions of his struggles with mental health and the horrendous online abuse he’s suffered in the past, it’s impossible not be pleased to see him back among the Premier League goals. Now, all he has to do is stay fit, because if he can do that and keep turning in performances like this one he has a bright future, regardless of whether he can get back into the national team.


Miguel Almiron
Miguel Almiron signed for Newcastle United in January 2019. In his previous three-and-a-half seasons with the club he had scored nine Premier League goals. His excellent strike against Spurs was his sixth in 12 league games this season, another sign of the extent to which Eddie Howe is improving players right the way through his team.

Newcastle are now up to 4th in the Premier League table and have managed this without Alexander Isak, who injured himself during the international break after playing just three games. It now seems that Isak won’t be back until after the World Cup, and the prospect of him linking up with Almiron in the new year makes that possibility of nabbing a Champions League spot start to feel like a genuine possibility.


Aaron Danks
With his name like a knock-off Bad Boy of Brexit, we could all have been forgiven for not knowing who Aaron Danks was prior to Aston Villa’s game against Brentford on Sunday. Indeed, with no manager’s column in the match day programme and his name not even on the pre-match teamsheet, it felt a little like Aston Villa might not even have been completely sure themselves.

With a career that has already taken in the academies at Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, the England under-21s, and a spell as the assistant to Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht, he was the second-hand man to both Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard before being thrust into the caretaker-manager’s job. While the likelihood of him getting this gig on a permanent basis remains low, he couldn’t have had a much more successful start if he feels that he can stake a claim for it and has reportedly now been told that he will also now be in charge for their next game against Newcastle.


Brendan Rodgers
If a week can be a long time in politics – and last week was definitely a long time – then it can feel like an eternity in the Premier League.

Calls for Rodgers to go from The King Power Stadium had reached a crescendo following a defeat at Bournemouth and a lifeless goalless draw with Crystal Palace, but two straight wins with six scored and none conceded may have repaid the Leicester owners for their patience in not heeding the calls for him to be jettisoned at the earliest available opportunity.

Leicester remain some distance short of safe, but they’re now out of the relegation places for the first time since the middle of August and Rodgers can take considerable satisfaction from having done enough to keep the wolves from the door, in more than one sense.


Aleksandar Mitrovic
One of the more tantalising questions of the recent history of the Premier League has been that of what might happen to Fulham should Aleksandar Mitrovic finally get into the habit of scoring goals in the top flight. Well we’re starting to get an answer now. Mitrovic has scored nine goals in 11 games for Fulham so far this season and chipped in with another at Leeds on Sunday afternoon, bringing his team level just six minutes after falling behind.

This win lifted Fulham to the nosebleed-inducing heights of 7th, with pre-season fears that they may repeat their disastrous last attempt to stay in the top flight already starting to feel like a distant memory. And when we factor in the 43 goals he scored for them in the Championship last season, Mitrovic will be heading to the World Cup with Serbia next month in arguably the best form of his career.


Taiwo Awoniyi
FSV Frankfurt, NEC Nijmegen, Royal Excel Mouscron, KAA Gent (twice), Mainz 05 and Union Berlin.

That’s the list of clubs Liverpool loaned Taiwo Awoniyi out to over the six years that he was under contract at Anfield. He never made a single appearance for his actual employers, so it’s not difficult to imagine how enormously satisfying it must have been to score the winning goal against them in a Premier League match.



Hugo Lloris
At 35 years old and with 138 caps for the international team with whom he has won both the World Cup and the Nations League, the occasional brain-melts of Hugo Lloris remain one of Spurs’ greatest frustrations. On this occasion against Newcastle United, he raced out his penalty area to clear a long ball, misjudged the pace of it and then ran into Callum Wilson before falling over and claiming a foul that was never going to be given as Wilson hooked the ball into an empty goal to give Newcastle the lead.

It set the tone for an afternoon of pathetic fallacy at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The case for giving Fraser Forster a run out before the international break seems pretty strong, even though Lloris is the current Spurs club captain.


Steven Gerrard
It’s probably fair to say that Aston Villa’s players have moved on from Steven Gerrard. Indeed, the way in which Villa came out of the traps against Brentford, scoring three times in the opening quarter of an hour and eventually running up a 4-0 win, doesn’t say much for Gerrard’s man-management skills.

The way in which he handled the Tyrone Mings captaincy saga before the start of this season looks increasingly like the canary in the coalmine for the way Villa’s season started. Their reaction to his departure puts him in a particularly tricky spot with regard to his ongoing managerial aspirations. Where, exactly, does he fit into the landscape of football management now? Because for all the success that he had in Scotland with Rangers, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be in England.


Jeff Shi, Jorge Mendes… Wolves, just Wolves
As Wolverhampton Wanderers capitulated to a 4-0 home thumping at the hands of Leicester City, it was difficult not to form the opinion that while removing manager Bruno Lage might have been the right decision, the problems at Molineux may run far wider.

Steve Davis, a lifelong Wolves supporter, was handed the poisoned chalice for this game and it’s difficult to lay too much of the blame solely at his door. This is a club that is looking as though it may be starting to unravel. Although with him having been confirmed as the team’s manager until the start of next year he will likely also get caught in the crossfire should results not start to improve – and quickly.

But as Leicester ran riot, Wolves supporters turned their ire towards technical director Scott Sellars and chairman Jeff Shi, and when fans start to focus their attentions on people elsewhere in a club’s hierarchy it’s a sure sign that the rot runs deeper than any one individual.

Wolves are now only separated from the bottom of the Premier League by goal difference, and with Forest, Leicester and Villa all having won at the weekend it now feels like only a matter of time before they’re propping up the rest.

With Julen Loptegui and Michael Beale both having rejected them, their slump is now starting to resemble a tailspin from which recovery may prove very difficult indeed.


Roberto de Zerbi
Saying this after losing to Manchester City – where any result better than a complete and utter humping may be considered a success of sorts – feels a little harsh, but Roberto de Zerbi has now been in charge of Brighton for five games is still chasing his first win.

The performance against Liverpool in his first game was good and Brighton put up a decent enough fight at The Etihad Stadium, but three games without a goal between those have rather raised the question of how badly Albion have been affected by the departure of Graham Potter and his entire backroom staff.

Their next game is against Chelsea at the Amex and the atmosphere for that may well be prickly. They may not be expected to take much from it – though how satisfying would it be to claim the first win of the De Zerbi era against them? – but it’s starting to feel as though the new manager really needs a win. Their final two Premier League matches before the World Cup are against Wolves and Aston Villa, and Brighton nerves will surely need settling with a positive result.


Jesse Marsch
The rumour mill is suggesting that Leeds United intend to stand by Jesse Marsch, but their performance against Fulham offered fairly substantial proof of why this may not be the wisest idea.

It’s not difficult to have a degree of sympathy for Marsch. Succeeding Marcelo Bielsa always made it likely that he was on a hiding to nothing, and in keeping Leeds in the Premier League at the end of last season he met the minimum target required for his opening months as manager.

As at Wolves, there has been anger growing at those who run Leeds United of late, but whereas Wolves have already spun – or are still spinning – the change of manager roulette wheel, Leeds have failed to do so yet. And while a degree of determination to stick with a plan in choppy waters is admirable in its own way, there does come a point at which that listing becomes a full-blown Titanic, and leaving that change too late would be far more damaging to Leeds than pulling the trigger a shade prematurely.

Marsch has started to look tactically inflexible this season, and opposing teams have been letting them run themselves out of steam before picking them off at will. The harsh truth is that this season’s Leeds looks little better than last season’s, and with this campaign’s Premier League not having a Watford or Norwich to occupy those two bottom places, that leaves them in considerable danger.

For how much longer can the Leeds board continue to deny the reality of what they’re seeing every week?


Virgil van Dijk
There’s a lot to be said for confidence, and a sign of the extent to which that may be in low supply at Anfield was on display in three moments involving Virgil van Dijk at The City Ground on Saturday lunchtime.

Van Dijk is an excellent header of the ball, but twice against Nottingham Forest, when presented with opportunities from which he could have scored, that little glimmer of doubt crept in and he tried to play the ball across the goal rather than having the confidence to finish.

In stoppage-time came a last-gasp opportunity to salvage a point, but while his downward header from seven yards brought an outstanding save from Dean Henderson, it was also true that Van Dijk was unmarked and had a clear header that he should have put away. With the whole of the goal to aim at, he should have scored.

Liverpool’s 1-0 win against Manchester City a week earlier was proof of what they have in them when they really apply themselves. Van Dijk’s hat-trick of spurned opportunities was a counterpoint to that: that rebuilding brittle confidence can take time.

The end result is that Liverpool remain as far from the top of the table as ever, despite the fact that four of the six teams that started the weekend above them in the Premier League table failed to win.


Nottingham Forest fans
Not all Nottingham Forest fans, of course. Just those singing grotesquely offensive songs during the match against Liverpool.

Perhaps it’s a sign of how long ago April 1989 is, that supporters of the other club who saw the horrors of Hillsborough first hand that day should choose to sing songs of this nature. So, a quick reminder:

On the days of both the 1988 and 1989 FA Cup semi-finals between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, Forest were given the Kop end of Hillsborough while Liverpool were allocated the packed pens and rusted crush barriers of the death-trap Leppings Lane end despite having the larger support and the fact that the Leppings Lane end is on the south side of Hillsborough while the Kop is on the north side.

To put it another way, it might very easily have been almost 100 Forest fans killed on April 15, 1989.

They should be ashamed of themselves, and talk of that ‘fantastic City Ground atmosphere’ carries an asterisk as a result of this sort of behaviour.

It should be added that the Hillsborough Survivors’ Support Alliance highlighted a number of Forest supporters at the stadium who stood in solidarity over the tragedy, including a supportive banner in the home end, while when the clubs met in the FA Cup last season Forest covered 97 seats as a memorial to those who lost their lives.

But the fact that many should consider this banterworthy is a substantial stain on a day that brought an excellent performance from the actual Forest team themselves.