Premier League winners and losers: Forest torn to shreds but Raya, Pickford and no Salah impress

Matt Stead
West Ham manager David Moyes, Nottingham Forest player Ryan Yates and Everton keeper Jordan Pickford
We warned the editor that the writer is a Mansfield Town fan before the weekend and they didn't change him

David Raya, Jordan Pickford, Oliver Glasner, Brentford and Liverpool without Mo Salah had brilliant weekends. But good god what are Nottingham Forest doing?



It feels pointless discussing Burnley with any pretence of authority, having long since consigned them to a relegation they have taken a sudden and admirable but perhaps too late detour away from.

But here they are, with their last seven games accounting for 43.5% of their entire season’s points total, and their matches against the rest of the bottom four responsible for 47.8% of that overall points tally and 35.1% of all their goals.

If nothing else, it suggests relegation would merely be a presumption of last campaign’s second-tier domination; rarely before has an entire team captured the essence of the ‘too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premier League’ tag generally preserved for fair-weather strikers.

It would be glorious if that three-point gap to 17th place is able to be bridged without their shoddy goal difference being a factor on the final day at home to Nottingham Forest. PGMOL will be investigating the potential Burnley proclivities of any and all officials as we speak.

UNIQUE TO F365: Mediawatch | Mailbox | Winners & Losers | Bespoke PL tables

David Raya
For a compelling example of how well Mikel Arteta’s big gamble for the season has gone, consider that no cameras cut to Aaron Ramsdale after the Spaniard’s excellent save from Joao Gomes in the first half against Wolves, with the game still goalless.

It is no longer a debate; Raya is quantifiably the best keeper in the league on current form, never mind at Arsenal.

Arteta said that “the numbers are proof of that” and an imminent Golden Glove, as well as a run of six consecutive away clean sheets which is one game from equalling an Edwin van der Sar record in the Premier League, makes for a difficult case to argue against.

The defensive solidity upon which Arsenal have built what could yet be a successful title challenge has been credited far more widely to the availability, superiority and physicality of Benjamin White, William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes. Wonderful as they have been, without Raya behind them it would not work half as well.

And this is one for Erik ten Hag, who will not let that game at the Emirates in September go: Arsenal have now allowed six shots or fewer in as many games as Manchester United have conceded 20 or more this season (15 each). Both of those teams think they are defending well.


While Plan B was scoring yet another crucial goal, Plan A was floating a dangerous free-kick into touch in the final minute of an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and reducing Thiago Silva to tears.

Not enough is made of how Arsenal absolutely nailed that transfer situation.


Jordan Pickford
The point-blank save from Chris Wood was phenomenal but turning around to celebrate in front of the fans while the ball was still in play and Nottingham Forest were attacking, before catching Ola Aina’s cross, rallying the crowd again and finally motioning for calm, was an incredible bit.

Everton must be enjoying the Forest stuff. Remember when Clatts explained that he wasn’t allowed to referee the Toffees for years because he officiated a Merseyside derby so badly? Sent two Everton players off, didn’t he? Gave Liverpool two spot-kicks, booked Dirk Kuyt for a hilariously high two-footed tackle and ignored a stoppage-time penalty shout when Jamie Carragher dragged Joleon Lescott down in the area.

“Everything went against Everton. You don’t sometimes see it when you are in the game,” he later said. Quite.


Aston Villa post-Europe
Aston Villa’s record in Premier League games played straight after Europa League fixtures in midweek is enviable: P12 W7 D3 L2. Even that December turnaround between matches against Arsenal and Manchester City suggested that the three-day grind need carry no fear for the club heading into a probable Champions League campaign under Unai Emery.

There have been a couple of aberrations. Those post-Europe defeats were heavy, losing by three to Liverpool and four to Spurs. But while others instinctively lean on a loaded schedule as a crutch or excuse for poor form, Villa are showing that precarious plates can be spun if balanced properly.


Liverpool without Mo Salah
In games Salah has either missed entirely or played less than 30 minutes of this season, Liverpool have won 12, drawn two and lost only to Arsenal at the Emirates. They have scored 38 goals in those 15 matches.

There really need be no fear of life without him. Salah is a sensational player and rejecting those unlimited Saudi funds last summer was not necessarily a mistake; he has helped hold together a team in transition and drag them far beyond expectations this season. But the exit of Jurgen Klopp should prompt serious deliberation from player and club as to whether a fresh start for both would be best.

If Cody Gakpo can replicate that level of performance, Diogo Jota can avoid injury, Luis Diaz finds an unexpectedly impactful home on the right of that attack and Darwin Nunez can chaotically pitch in, Salah should no longer be deemed untouchable.

👉 Alexander-Arnold runs the show as Liverpool do what’s needed in rare supporting role
👉 Liverpool still biggest mentality monsters – but Manchester City are quietly closing that gap


Oliver Glasner
It is always a pleasure to see which players a new coach revitalises. Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze are obviously brilliant but their talent is translatable to every sort of manager, with individual quality which will shine in any system.

Crystal Palace supporters will be more energised by the midfield excellence of Adam Wharton, the prolific streak of Jean-Philippe Mateta, the aggression of Chris Richards and a system and approach which can shine even when Nathaniel Clyne is deployed at centre-half in a back three.

The team goal for the fourth was, much like at Anfield, intoxicating proof of what Palace are capable of when harnessed properly. It still depends on that same hard work and defensive solidity – 39 tackles is at least six more than they’ve made in any Premier League game since 2016/17, when such numbers are readily available – but the focus is on winning rather than not losing. A small tweak has made a significant change.


Bryan Mbeumo
The biggest sign that Brentford are back, baby. Not the two assists or general ravaging of a rapidly disintegrating Luton defence, but the glorious first-time curler from just inside the area which rattled the crossbar in the first half.

In that moment, Mbeumo pulled clear of John Carew, Matty Taylor, Charles N’Zogbia, Obafemi Martins and Ryan Giggs for most times hitting the woodwork in the Premier League (11). There are only 63 players ahead of him and each of them ought to be concerned.


The battle for 14th
Sod the title race and relegation fight; the scrap for about £2.2m extra prize money is so on in the entirely safe middle of the bottom half.

Crystal Palace and Brentford both scored five goals – for the first time ever as a Premier League club in the latter’s case – in ruthlessly dispatching laughably inferior opposition. The Bees moved up a spot after securing consecutive league wins for the first time since November, while the wait for the Eagles had been just over a year as they recovered their position.

How Brentford might come to rue that defeat at Selhurst Park in December. They have bottled 14th place thus far.



Nottingham Forest
‘We warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him,’ was a spectacular sentence to commit to history, along with ‘NFFC will now consider its options’.

But fair play to Nottingham Forest for stepping back, appreciating a bar they themselves set so ludicrously high, and still trying to clear it in the aftermath of very publicly soiling themselves.

The Mark Clattenburg column was a strong start, condemning a ‘hat-trick of howlers’ and continuing to imply an innate bias against Nottingham Forest, while not only failing to disclose his status as an actual paid employee of the club but writing about them in the third person to actively obfuscate that very role.

Well-connected Forest journalist Daniel Taylor has also noted that Clattenburg ‘told Howard Webb he didn’t have a problem with’ PGMOL’s VAR appointment, so it might serve the club well to at least get on the same childish page.

Nuno Espirito Santo pretending Forest “have tried to ignore it” was also laughable, considering the relentless cry-arsing they have indulged in over perceived injustices all season.

His response to a question about whether he blamed Ashley Young was remarkable: “Never, never, never. We are professionals and reasonable people. We had a problem but then it’s finished, the game is finished. We go home like gentlemen, like we should be. This is football, but more important is life and our behaviour to people.”

Such an astonishing lack of self-awareness from a club and manager who would literally use the word “conspiracy” in a later interview, because the importance of “our behaviour to people” obviously doesn’t extend to referees who are now being specifically set up for abuse by entire clubs playing to the most dangerous elements of any fanbase.

Why would the Premier League collude to try and relegate Nottingham Forest?

Why would they prefer to keep Luton in the division instead?

Why would that nefarious plot extend to a Luton-supporting VAR being appointed to a game in which the best result for the Hatters was probably a draw, considering they still have to play Everton who were only a point clear of Forest before kick-off?

Why does Evangelos Marinakis attract such dreadful officiating against his teams, the sort which once landed him a five-month ban for verbally abusing a referee, and that also led to his Olympiacos side issuing a statement withdrawing its confidence in the head of the country’s referees in September 2020, accusing him of, among numerous other things, ‘talking to the media all the time’?

Just wait until Forest find out who that obviously corrupt individual works for n…oh.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Forest’s reaction… understandable, or off their t*ts? Join the debate

David Moyes
It is destined to be the ‘Careful What You Wish For’ summer but that really is for the best. Moyes has been chiefly responsible for some astonishing achievements in recent seasons but with no European campaign to fall back on next season, West Ham could not have asked for a cleaner, more mutually beneficial cut-off point.

He can take this squad no further. Certainly not with the way he has constructed it, asking too much of too few players. Michail Antonio has started four consecutive games at centre-forward across 11 days at the age of 34; Kurt Zouma was the youngest member of a defence breached five times, and which was reenergised by the half-time introduction of Aaron Cresswell; and right-back Ben Johnson has become the go-to ‘attacking’ substitution.

Moyes himself called it “the worst defeat” of his reign but a) they lost 6-0 at home to Arsenal 70 days before, b) they lost 5-0 to Fulham 64 days before that, and c) it should be one of the last. Neither he nor they stand to gain anything whatsoever from extending a marriage which is making no-one happy and being fuelled purely by memories of a distant past.


How much longer can Luton depend on their supporters being appointed as VAR for Nottingham Forest games to maintain their evaporating hopes of survival?

Even with the weight of The Cabal behind them obviously conspiring to protect the interests of the 2014 Skrill Premier champions over the two-time European Cup winners, Luton are failing to hold up their end of a corrupt bargain. Injuries have been a factor recently but with players returning to the starting line-up, a home game against Brentford represented perhaps their best chance of another win for the rest of the season.

Instead, the Hatters conceded five goals for the second consecutive game, having previously gone the entire season not losing a single match by four goals or more.

“For the first time really this season it just looked like we lacked a bit of belief in that second half,” Rob Edwards said after a crushing defeat and abysmal run which has come at the most inopportune time. A phenomenal effort over the season, but six points from a possible 39 unfortunately only leads one way.


Chris Wilder
“There is the narrative of Sheffield United being the worst team in the world. Burnley, we are all waiting for them to kick in and everything happens with them,” said Wilder in early March. No-one can say the Blades have not done their utmost in pushing their promoted brethren on across two games in which they have conceded nine goals scored by eight different players.

Wilder “won’t name names” but wanted us to know that “there were a few players out there that wanted to get out of there pretty quickly after the fourth went in” at home to the Clarets.

There were more defamatory, damaging comments made over the weekend yet one of the worst managers in Premier League history is in no place to throw around such accusations. It is no way to gain trust in a squad ahead of a Championship season, particularly considering he has failed miserably in his last two assignments at that level.

The Blades have strolled past the Derby points mark but are within touching distance of another long-standing Rams record: the most goals conceded in a 38-game Premier League season (89). All they need is a clean sheet in each of their remaining five games to avoid equalling it. How unfortunate that as fast as Sheffield United are going down, Ivo Grbic takes an absolute age to accomplish the same feat.


At around 2pm on March 16, Wolves were on the brink of a phenomenal season. Leading in the closing stages of their FA Cup quarter-final against Coventry, they were also ninth in the Premier League and within a few points of European qualification.

They lost the FA Cup game to two stoppage-time goals and are without a win in five Premier League matches, with a top-half finish the absolute limit of their ambitions.

Wolves were excellent against Arsenal but injuries have combined with a neglected squad to bring it all crashing down. They have conceded at least two goals in five of their last six games and this is their longest winless run in a single season since May 2022. It’s a cause for disappointment rather than concern.


Only four clubs (Arsenal, Manchester City, Spurs and Liverpool) have led more Premier League games than Bournemouth (22) this season. That is testament to Andoni Iraola’s more aggressive and ambitious approach.

The next stage will be learning how to better protect those leads; the Cherries rank second for points dropped from winning positions, best summed up by being ahead in each of their last three games before drawing one and losing the other two.


Joao Palhinha
Needs one more yellow card to equal a record he jointly holds along with six other players for most bookings in a single Premier League season (14). Four games left. Big push, fella. This does not slip. Unless it is recklessly into Diogo Jota or any other opponent.


Manchester City
Started the weekend top and ended it third, the big bottlers.


Ashley Young
Hope he’s proud of himself.

More: Nottingham Forest | Liverpool | Arsenal