Premier League winners and losers: Liverpool hero, ‘classic’ Newcastle shine as Forest, Ten Hag embarrass themselves

Matt Stead
Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis against Liverpool, Fulham manager Marco Silva and Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell
One of these men reckon paying Mark Clattenburg money proves their point

Alexis Mac Allister, Newcastle, Marco Silva and Morgan Rogers all impressed but Nottingham Forest, Erik ten Hag and Ben Chilwell continue to struggle.


Pep Guardiola
That Neil Custis tweet remains absolutely hilarious but it is important to remember that it was a product of the time – and he was far from alone in expressing the sentiment.

The panic and concern around Foden’s development looked foolish then and seems downright ludicrous now. Guardiola was always the best coach to handle and harness that hype and his patience is paying off in spades.

More than five years and one contract extension on from Foden ‘agreeing to sit on the bench for six years’, he is spearheading another Treble charge heading into a Euros in which he should thrive. There are different points to make regarding Manchester City’s progression of academy players but Foden has been managed perfectly.

READ MORE16 Conclusions on Manchester City 3-1 Man Utd… Ten Hag sack, phenomenal Foden, rubbish Rashford


Marco Silva
Before visiting Old Trafford last week, Fulham had not played a single Premier League game since their most recent promotion without at least one of Tim Ream, Joao Palhinha and Willian starting. Silva has leaned heavily on their quality and experience, forming a solid mid-table spine around them.

The seamless transition from Aleksandar Mitrovic to Rodrigo Muniz this season had already offered a glimpse of Silva’s underrated ability to adapt and adjust what was ostensibly a settled team. But in recording only their second set of consecutive Premier League victories this campaign, this time against two European qualifiers above them in the table, Fulham showed an even brighter future.

Calvin Bassey has been excellent after a gruelling start. Sasa Lukic has emerged as a fine midfield option. Harry Wilson has long teased growing into his own. At 24, 27 and 26, they are proving themselves to be adequate stand-ins, if not outright competition, for two 30-somethings and the in-demand Palhinha.

Silva himself ought to be attracting far more attention for his work, but he will be content with beating Manchester United and then getting one over on perhaps the league’s most coveted manager.

Marco Silva acknowledges the fans after a match.
Marco Silva acknowledges the fans after a match.


Alphonse Areola
Before this season, Areola had not appeared in a Premier League win since Scott Parker’s Fulham beat Liverpool in March 2021. Almost three years and one proving ground of a European trophy run later, the Frenchman provided his definitive performance in England so far.

The summer switch between Lukasz Fabianski and Areola was not quite seamless but it is comfortably the best call David Moyes has made in a mixed season. “I just felt that we’ve also got to look towards the future and see what we’ve got,” the manager said in August, praising “two goalkeepers who could easily be number one” and hoping his decision would prompt some “really good competition”.

But those roles have been immutably changed and while Fabianski is thriving as the cup keeper, he has been successfully supplanted by his Premier League superior. Areola has been excellent and West Ham deserve credit for asking to be kept abreast of his situation when he left PSG.


Alexis Mac Allister
How fitting that a Wataru Endo tackle provided the platform for MacAllister’s moment of game-changing brilliance. That midfield pair had rarely been used in tandem until the win over Burnley earlier this month, but Endo’s defensive proclivities have helped unlock Mac Allister’s telling contributions in the attacking third when Liverpool have needed them most.

With his weak-footed and inch-perfect stoppage-time cross for Darwin Nunez, Mac Allister has now either scored or assisted in three consecutive league games for the first time in his entire career. After scoring at a crucial time in the win over Brentford and helping inspire the comeback against Luton by setting up the first two goals, his most telling impact yet was felt at the City Ground.

Jurgen Klopp hailed “the calmest guy on the whole pitch” and the composure and skill needed to make sense of the madness was exemplary. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Taiwo Awoniyi trying to dribble the ball out of their own box, less so.

READ MORELiverpool and Klopp are winning the bloody lot and there is nothing we can do about it


Eddie Howe felt it “was never going to be a classic Newcastle performance,” but that was certainly as close to the manager’s vintage Magpies as we have seen this season.

From being “cute in certain situations” with their usual time-draining tactics, to playing to their advantage and focusing on those quick transitions which make them so very dangerous, Newcastle exhibited a rare level of control over proceedings rather than simply letting the game happen to them.

The return of Joe Willock was key, and so too the form of Martin Dubravka in keeping Newcastle’s first Premier League clean sheet in 10 games. Perhaps playing home matches more like the away side is key: of the 10 games at St James’ Park in which they have had the lowest amount of possession this season, they have lost only once (to Manchester City in stoppage-time in January). Wolves had 44% of the ball, but fewer shots and much less of the game than they would care to admit.


Brennan Johnson
Only two players have scored or assisted more Premier League goals from the bench this season than Johnson, and both Joao Pedro and Leon Bailey have been on the pitch for considerably longer as substitutes.

Johnson has contributed five goals in 170 minutes across seven cameos, while both Pedro and Bailey have been brought on in 11 games and played 403 and 365 minutes respectively, contributing six goals each.

Not since Roman Pavlyuchenko in 2010/11 (four goals and one assist in 275 minutes) have Spurs had a substitute option quite so prolific or productive. It is not the ideal position for a £50m signing to be in, but particularly considering the backlash Johnson has received from some quarters of the support, it is a promising sign of how effective he can be when the circumstances suit.


Morgan Rogers
Emi Martinez and Ollie Watkins provided more obvious and inevitable excellence in an impressive and hard-fought win but Rogers deserves these flowers. Having spent almost the entire season in the Championship’s mid-table, Villa’s only first-team January signing was thrown into the deep end at Luton and did well against the tide.

Rogers became the latest in the list of 13 unlucky players to be substituted on and off in the same Premier League game this season, but should be consoled by two factors: his ignominious cameo was the longest of any of those, and Unai Emery has already inflicted that apparent shame on Philippe Coutinho and Bailey this season.

Before this weekend, Rogers’ entire Premier League career comprised nine minutes of a Sheffield United thrashing and a few seconds in victory over Nottingham Forest; he had seven combined touches in those games but handled the pressure of his 50 minutes against Luton admirably.

Emery might even have been most impressed with his reaction to being taken off in that quadruple substitution after Luton’s equaliser. Rogers had replaced the injured Jacob Ramsey after half an hour but accepted his sacrifice so the team could change their shape and earn the eventual equaliser. That is the sort of attitude Villa need to help make this season special.


Only Arsenal, Manchester City, Spurs (all 3) and Liverpool (2.17) have a better points-per-game record against the current bottom four than Bournemouth (2.6).

A win over Burnley in October sparked by far their best run of form this season; Andoni Iraola will hope history repeats itself after a first clean sheet since Boxing Day.



Nottingham Forest
There is an element of sympathy for Nottingham Forest, whose list of perceived refereeing injustices is, much like every other professional football club across the country, far longer and much more irrefutable proof of conspiracy than anyone else’s. The machine was designed to keep Evangelos Marinakis down and that is becoming clearer by the week.

But any compassion towards the Forest cause has been entirely eradicated and completely undermined by the shameful sideshow deployment of a standard-upholding lobbyist who has spent much of his retirement bragging about how bad a referee he could be.

Nottingham Forest are a wholly unserious institution if they reckon getting Viper’s nemesis to split his Saturday teatime duties to represent them is in any way a constructive thing to do, instead of it simply pandering to and baiting the lowest common denominator.

They sometimes have a point in raging about refereeing decisions, but they are kidding themselves if they think they are alone in keeping a catalogue of complaints, and they are absolute jokes for believing getting Mark Clattenburg on board legitimises their stance. It is embarrassing and frankly immediate relegation would not be punishment enough. Grow up, complain and collect your PGMOL apologies like everyone else.


Erik ten Hag
The default explanation for those habitual Premier League away defeats has become “really small margins”, yet still this expensively-assembled Manchester United side devises their tactical plans solely around those same margins falling in their favour for an entire 90 minutes.

As much as that might work briefly, sometimes even for a whole half, it is a completely unsustainable approach and one pathetically at odds with what Manchester United should be. Demanding unerring perfection from sub-standard players for an hour and a half, not to mention incredible luck, is asking for defeat.

Ten Hag can pretend the gap between his side and Manchester City is “not that big”, but the champions had more shots (27) than Manchester United had percentage of possession (26) and the most damning thing is that the manager’s plan seemed to specifically account for that inferiority.

MAILBOXMan Utd like ‘a fish on a bike’ as Liverpool’s Forest fallout continues…


Thomas Frank
Brentford earned a point on a weekend when none of the five teams below them could claim the same, yet still the overriding feeling is one of negativity and a potential crossroads this summer.

Events over the past few days have made Frank the fifth-longest-serving manager in the entire Premier and Football League; Klopp’s imminent departure will bump the Dane up that list further soon. But this eminently difficult season and one of the first signs of outright fan dissent – albeit on a minor scale – may prompt some difficult questions over the coming months.

“I would like to personally speak to the ones who boo. Is that support?” he said after the game, and it is not tough to understand his frustrations. There are legitimate grievances to be had over the club’s recent haphazard recruitment but most Brentford supporters must find it ludicrous for that to spill over into even mild jeers when losing to Chelsea at half-time.

It is precisely the sort of friction Brentford do not need in a relegation battle not yet won. Frank was “very proud” of his players, particularly after their response to the West Ham surrender, but will be disappointed that that is not the focus from what was ostensibly a positive round of games.


Ben Chilwell
A tough week, starting with suggesting the Carabao Cup final was potentially more important than Chelsea’s 2021 Champions League win, before proving his point by trying to scrap with Liverpool’s academy in defeat. Then he was really quite bad against Brentford, who targeted the left flank specifically – although the cross to Ivan Toney which Chilwell bizarrely ducked under in the 10th minute did come from Chelsea’s right side.

All this while Ian Maatsen was scoring important goals in the Champions League qualification race in the Bundesliga.

Chilwell is playing himself back in from a long-term hamstring injury and was deployed at left wing-back in a modified system, but Chelsea cannot afford for their designated drivers to be passengers. It was interesting to see their captain and oldest starter by two years endorse Nicolas Jackson’s shushing of the Brentford supporters after scoring, only for Conor Gallagher to be the responsible one and immediately pull the forward’s hand down because it was 1-sodding-nil in the 35th sodding minute.

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There’s no such word as can’t. With that said, Sean Dyche “can’t say every week about xGs because it’s through the roof again” and “can’t keep standing here and talking about xG,” while Everton “can’t keep creating chances and not killing a game off”. And James Tarkowski reckons “we can’t say the goalkeeper is playing well” either.

It is fundamentally hilarious that the three best statistical keeper performances in the Premier League this season all came against Everton at Goodison Park (Alphonse Areola, as well as both Bernd Leno and Jose Sa in August). It is also fairly comical to remember Dyche described himself as “not that big a believer in” xG after that opening defeat to Fulham, yet it has become the crutch on which Everton have leaned throughout the campaign.

There is a certain irony in Everton using xG as a sort of comfort while acknowledging, in Tarkowski’s words, “we have to take ownership,” considering the majority of this campaign has been played under a cloud of having fewer points than they have earned on the pitch. The Toffees found clarity in that deduction-fuelled uncertainty to record four straight victories to nil in December, but have embarked on this season’s joint-longest run without a win since, matching Sheffield United’s 10 games.

Dyche, Tarkowski and Everton are entirely right in that they cannot keep pointing to these positive metrics, those underlying numbers which indicate things will even themselves out eventually. But that is increasingly becoming the only thing they can cling to as they continue to fall short of expectations in more ways than one.

Everton are fifth in the Premier League xG table, mind.


Evan Ferguson
That September hat-trick against Newcastle continues to do much of the heavy lifting for Brighton and Ferguson. That victory sparked the club’s last run of consecutive Premier League wins, and those goals account for half of the striker’s seasonal total.

Since then, Ferguson has as many yellow cards as goals (two each) in 28 games. With a lucrative six-year contract signed in between, there are certain connotations, however unfair or otherwise.

Roberto De Zerbi recently pleaded for a return of Ferguson “at 100% of his physical and mental condition,” but the growing pains of a 19-year-old trying to make his way in the Premier League, as well as an increased competition for places, has inevitably affected his rhythm.

Only four players younger than Ferguson across the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue Un have played more league minutes than him this season. Guillaume Restes is a goalkeeper, Leny Yoro a defender, Warren Zaire-Emery a midfielder and Lamine Yamal a wide forward. It is fine company for Ferguson to keep but he is carrying an almost unique burden in centre-forward terms and it is showing.

READ MORE: Ferguson makes the worst Premier League XI of the weekend


Gary O’Neil is far from alone in relying on a core group of players in terms of not only quality but availability. Six have started at least 24 Premier League games for Wolves this season and it was telling that only half of those finished the game against Newcastle.

Max Kilman, Craig Dawson and Nelson Semedo are still barely walking among the wounded, but Jose Sa was lost to injury at half-time, Mario Lemina had played the full 90 minutes in nine straight games but was substituted before full-time, and Matheus Cunha remains sidelined.

Hwang Hee-chan’s injury, Joao Gomes’ absence and Pedro Neto’s removal at half-time only continue to chip away at what was already one of the shallowest squads in the Premier League. Some clubs have used fewer starters than Wolves’ 22 this season, but that number includes three players in Matheus Nunes, Sasa Kalajdzic and Fabio Silva who have long since left; it will soon likely pull in entirely unseasoned youngsters in Nathan Fraser and Tawanda Chirewa, but perhaps not 15-year-old bench-dweller Wesley Okoduwa.

Newcastle, who have endured similar problems throughout this season, simply looked fitter and sharper and the concession of three deeply avoidable, error-strewn goals made it one of those days for Wolves. The concern is that with their mounting selection problems, ‘those days’ might occur with a little more frequency until the summer.


Vincent Kompany
The only man on whom the irony of bemoaning that Burnley often “end up with the junior referees” officiating their matches is not lost, even when the Clarets defend with all the experience and nous of expelled schoolchildren.

David Coote, the 41-year-old six-year Premier League veteran referee, appreciates the sentiment either way. But Kompany genuinely trying to frame a haul of 13 points from 27 games – and an 11th defeat in 14 home matches – as the result of some wider refereeing injustice is laughable.


Another commendable fight but Luton have now conceded winning goals at Kenilworth Road in the 85th (Burnley), 87th (Villa), 95th (Liverpool) and 97th (Arsenal) minutes this season. Being four points and two goals worse off than 17th-placed Nottingham Forest does not soften those compounding blows. Those home collapses are currently the difference between survival and relegation.


Joachim Andersen
Back to keeper if you need next time, pal.