Premier League winners and losers: Liverpool and Newcastle subs shine; Phillips, Man Utd and Dyche slammed

Matt Stead
Liverpool players Virgil van Dijk and Jarell Quansah, Man Utd midfielder Bruno Fernandes and Kalvin Phillips and David Moyes of West Ham
Jarell Quansah had a better weekend than Kalvin Phillips

There will surely be a summer of managerial upheaval at Man Utd and Everton, but Kalvin Phillips was the true weekend loser. Liverpool and Burnley had fun.


The speed with which Liverpool’s form has simply been accepted as the norm despite them missing their starting goalkeeper, right-back, left-back and one of their centre-halves is astonishing. But also testament to the power and quality of the squad Jurgen Klopp feels content leaving behind.

Their unique spirit is evident. Only four teams in Premier League history have ever earned more points from losing positions (26) in a season and if Liverpool were judged on that metric alone while every other top-flight side retained their current overall tallies, the Reds would still be above Everton and the rest of the bottom five.

It almost feels like conceding the opening goal has been written into their tactical fabric, luring teams either into a false sense of security or imbuing them with an impending doom that becomes unavoidable. Liverpool will come back because Liverpool do come back. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Alexis Mac Allister justifiably takes the plaudits on this occasion for another wonderful display unlocked by Wataru Endo, but the normalisation of Jarell Quansah’s brilliance is funny. A 21-year-old centre-half thrust into an excellent team has taken the pace entirely in his stride and remains unbeaten in the Premier League, with the Manchester City draw the only points dropped when he has played.

It has been readily accepted and even disregarded but take a step back to properly appreciate the magnitude of that, because neither he nor this Liverpool team as a whole are doing things conventionally and they are still top of the league with theoretically the most presentable run-in.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates a goal.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates a goal.


Newcastle’s subs
No team has scored more substitute goals than Newcastle this season: 12 off the bench from nine different players. Some might argue that West Ham’s mid-game changes played an even bigger part in shifting momentum and ultimately changing the result at St James’ Park, but to do so would be to neglect Eddie Howe’s impact. But to do so is also funny.

Harvey Barnes had the obvious headline part to play in Newcastle’s comeback, but Elliot Anderson and particularly Lewis Hall were equally important in terms of wrestling back the initiative. In almost an hour before they were introduced, the shot count was 13-8 in favour of the hosts. In the half-hour or so after, it was 11-2. And those two West Ham shots came in stoppage time against 10 men when they suddenly found themselves behind.

“We always say internally how important everybody is within the squad, and to have a bench that you can turn to and have total faith in the ability of the players is massive,” Howe said after a triple substitution of Barnes, Miguel Almiron and Lewis Miley similarly helped turn the tide against Wolves, adding that “the balance wasn’t right” before with “a bench full of defenders”. Newcastle will need that depth and trust for as long as the injury witches have cursed them, so fair play for establishing it as a core strength.


After seven straight seasons finishing bottom of the mini league also involving Liverpool and Manchester City, Arsenal are distant leaders in terms of those results. What impact that has on this title race remains to be seen but that is a stunning transformation in fortunes.

“Sometimes it’s what you want to do as a coach and sometimes it’s what you are allowed to do with the levels of players and performances that top teams can do against you,” Mikel Arteta said in September 2020 ahead of a visit to Liverpool which delivered yet another harmful defeat. He stressed that his players might sometimes have to adjust to “defend deeper than we would like to” and react to the situation. Arsenal have mastered that compromise.

READ MORE: 16 Conclusions on Man City 0-0 Arsenal: Rodri, Rice, ‘League Two’ Haaland, Liverpool and Pulis the big winners


Fair play to unbeaten Premier League manager Craig Bellamy. The suspicion remains that Burnley’s season might have turned out differently if Aro Muric had been trusted either earlier or from the start, and if Josh Cullen was similarly given more opportunities. But this team is imbued with far more fight than was previously assumed.

Two draws and a win might not sound significant but Burnley’s longest unbeaten run before this was one game. A nine-point gap to 17th place three matches ago now stands at four points, albeit with a terrible goal difference, for a team already consigned by most to relegation.

Being able to theoretically overhaul that in remaining fixtures against direct rivals in Everton, Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest is a remarkable and hitherto unforeseen boost. And claiming only their second point from a losing position this season – their first away – suggests they might suddenly have enough about them to take advantage.


Brennan Johnson
It is not unusual for his impact to be characterised merely as the inevitable consequence of the introduction of “fresh legs”, but that really does do a monumental disservice to Johnson’s emergence as Tottenham’s transformative, fail-safe super-sub.

“We have mentioned many times that the game will change when somebody comes on with fresh legs, which is what Brennan did on Saturday,” Spurs captain Heung-min Son said after the Luton win. “I told him before the game: ‘You will change the game – just make sure you are prepared well’.”

That confidence comes from repetition. Four of Tottenham’s last five Premier League wins have involved game-changing appearances off the bench from Johnson, who scored from the start in the other. It asks plenty of awkward questions about why Ange Postecoglou has come to lean so heavily on those cameos, but if they can be harnessed long enough to deliver Champions League qualification they have an entire summer to find feasible answers.


None of the eight players to have featured most often for Bournemouth in the Premier League this season have filled in at full-back. Adam Smith and Max Aarons have helped cover the right between them, while duties on the left have been shared by Milos Kerkez, Lloyd Kelly, Dango Ouattara and James Hill. But it has been a revolving door of injuries on either side.

Andoni Iraola spoke of the “strong competition” and “difficult decisions” he can come to expect with the full complement finally available for the first time this campaign. Smith making his 200th Premier League appearance and Kelly providing an assist within a minute of coming on bodes well.


Ben Brereton Diaz
There was a point when Sheffield United were somehow contemplating a similar situation. Doomed long ago, Oli McBurnie had just scored his second goal to establish a 4-1 lead over Fulham while Nottingham Forest trailed to Crystal Palace. A four-point gap to Nuno’s side with a game in hand was extinguished almost as quickly as it appeared with a VAR check, a Cottagers comeback and Premier League teams still struggling to deal with Chris Wood being quite tall.

The disappointment at that opportunity being squandered is only natural. Brereton Diaz is at least maximising his top-flight shop window and will surely be back in the Premier League regardless of Sheffield United’s fate. For players with five or more starts in Europe’s top five leagues this season, the Chilean ranks behind only Serhou Guirassy, Kylian Mbappe, Deniz Undav and Harry Kane for combined goal and assists per 90 minutes this season. That move to West Ham is nailed on and well deserved.


Adam Wharton
Crystal Palace supporters already adore Daniel Munoz, in part because he is a right-back not named Nathaniel Clyne or Joel Ward. But perhaps the best January transfer window of any Premier League club was based mostly on Wharton becoming the latest gem in a crown filled with Football League brilliance.

That first-half pass for Eberechi Eze was outstanding and it will be a pleasure to watch him dominate at the Euros this summer.


Ivan Toney
Probably kept himself just barely in the black with that sumptuous equaliser, but it was chiefly Toney’s profligacy which meant it was needed. Nine shots and zero on target – post discourse be damned – is not a conversion rate a relegation-battling side can ordinarily afford.

He himself considered it “points dropped” and it does feel like Brentford should have pulled themselves completely clear of danger based on that performance. That will obviously matter to Toney but it will be interesting to see where he lands this summer; six games without a goal undermines the hype somewhat.


Aston Villa
A first Premier League clean sheet against top-half opposition since those December shut-outs against Arsenal and Manchester City. Although that title-chasing pair’s centre-half obsessed crimes against football have since been exposed so there it is: Aston Villa’s first clean sheet of the season against a team currently 10th or higher.

Emi Martinez will presumably stick it next to his World Cup winner’s medal and solid gold hand penis.

READ MOREAston Villa begin business time with just enough to end Wolves hoodoo

Ezri Konsa celebrates scoring for Aston Villa against Wolves.
Ezri Konsa celebrates scoring for Aston Villa against Wolves.



Kalvin Phillips
David Moyes was presumably thrilled. “I do actually consider myself as an attacking manager,” he said before a game in which his enviable forwards veritably shone but were undermined by some cataclysmically poor defending. It was perhaps unnecessary to go to those lengths to prove his point, but still.

The problem against Newcastle was not a lack of ambition or endeavour, but a desperate grab for “control” with a player who has given no recent evidence he offers it. Bringing a midfielder on for a striker at 3-1 up away from home is an entirely justifiable change; leaning on someone whose seven appearances for the club now include assisting an opposition goal, getting sent off, being substituted at half-time twice, conceding a penalty and playing in a single victory is not.

It was a harsh call to punish Phillips for the accidental purchase of an Anthony Gordon foul in the area but his non-existent resistance to Barnes for the winning goal was risible. The middle finger issued in the heat of the moment to provocative supporters specifically wanting a reaction can be justified; that disastrous cameo was indicative of the sort of performances actual fans will struggle to forgive or forget.


Manchester United
On Saturday, Brentford became the sixth different side to have their most shots in a single Premier League game this season against Manchester United. They joined Liverpool (34 shots), Aston Villa (23), Wolves (23), Luton (22) and West Ham (22) with their 31 efforts on goal.

It is deeply frustrating that Newport cannot make it seven teams in all competitions, though not for Manchester United’s want of trying: the 17 shots the League Two mid-table dwellers had against their Premier League visitors in the FA Cup fourth round shows that Erik ten Hag does not discriminate. He gives any opponent ample chance to beat his team.

A bizarre low block, a mess of a narrow press, an inability to retain possession or build pressure and a reliance on individuals to break out from a rigid system with game-defining moments is a curious fusion of every post-Ferguson manager rolled into one team without an identity under a coach who has resorted to rolling out the same cliches about aggression and passion.

There have been injuries, but never enough to account for either a laughably passive defence or a hilariously blunt attack. The turning of corners and subsequent encountering of dead ends and brick walls has become the only constant over the past decade at Manchester United. But those intoxicating highs are neither as frequent nor as pronounced as these absurd lows.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his team talk a good game about identifying and putting in place the absolute best in class in terms of executive positions and backroom infrastructure. If that extends to the dugout and beyond – as it surely must – then Ten Hag cannot pretend he fits that description.


Sean Dyche
Having spent most of the season in an internal conflict with the concept of xG while pointing to it as justification that things will eventually even themselves out for Everton, it must be a relief to know it is no longer needed: the Toffees have lost three of their last four games on xG and it is just as miserable.

Never before have Everton gone more Premier League games without a win. Only Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United have conceded fewer goals but the second-lowest scorers in the division, ahead of just Sheffield United, have failed to justify those sacrifices to style or system in any way.

Everton’s consistent reliance on creating a high volume of low-percentage chances was never sustainable; they do not have forwards capable of converting those opportunities. But shifting towards generating an obviously lower volume of high-percentage chances would necessitate a change in approach Dyche is either not willing or not able to make. And while they might get away with it this season, his and their stated aim being to move away from this sort of relegation battle marks it out as another wasted, failed campaign under another ill-fitting manager.


Mauricio Pochettino is unlikely to appreciate quite how damning it is to call Cole Palmer “a good example” and a player who “when the team is struggling, they give the ball to him”. The Chelsea manager who did not want him and believed the club already had enough talented wide forwards has come to lean almost entirely on a 21-year-old in his first proper season of senior football.

Palmer himself called it a problem of consistency and complacency and pretended he had to shoulder some of the blame too, as any player would in that situation. But this was a laughably expensively-assembled team taking the lead twice at home to 10-men relegation favourites and still failing to win. It cannot be on the goalscorer. It probably doesn’t even lie with the manager if he had little input in terms of recruitment, even if it ultimately reflects worst on him.

It is a problem with a flimsy, ineffective midfield and a defence prone to collapse. And most unforgivably of all, it suggests Tim Sherwood might actually have been right.


Manchester City
A perfectly acceptable result which nevertheless underlined a glaring weakness in this version of Manchester City: six games against the rest of the current top five have delivered no victories and as many goalless matches as games in which they have managed to actually score.

Those are the points Pep Guardiola might come to count as most important. Two draws against Liverpool after leading in both fixtures and failing to find a way past Arsenal in 180 minutes has been infinitely more damaging than the usual Crystal Palace slip or a couple of Chelsea stumbles.

Games like these do not take up much of the schedule but they do make the decision to shed both Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez in the same summer questionable. Manchester City miss that big-game decisiveness; John Stones being their joint highest scorer against that distant top five this season is not by design.

MAILBOXArsenal accused of bottling chance to beat Manchester City in ‘awful game of football’


Nottingham Forest
A point to lift them outside a relegation zone they dropped into after deductions. But there was no galvanising effect, no transformative siege mentality close to that which followed Everton’s punishment earlier in the season. It was more of the same.

The biggest difference between the Forest of this season and last has been their home form. Their 30 points won at The City Ground in 2022/23 was an effective platform towards safety. The 16 delivered in 2023/24 are barely enough to keep heads above water.

Even more pertinent is who those home points have come against: nine against top-half teams and seven against bottom-half teams this season, compared to 12 and 18 last campaign. It might be as costly a swing as chucking £30m at PSV for Ibrahim Sangare.


The list of result-altering late goals in Luton games gets another addition: from draw to defeat against Burnley (85th minute), defeat to draw against Nottingham Forest (92nd), win to draw against Liverpool (95th), draw to win against Crystal Palace (83rd), draw to defeat against Arsenal (97th), draw to win against Sheffield United (81st), defeat to draw against Burnley (92nd), draw to defeat against Aston Villa (89th), defeat to draw against Crystal Palace (96th), draw to defeat against Bournemouth (83rd), defeat to draw against Nottingham Forest (89th) and draw to defeat against Tottenham (86th).

Each of their last five games are included in that. Nearly half of their matches have swung entirely on goals scored after the 80th minute. They might be the most fast-forwarded club in Premier League history.


Erling Haaland has posters of Rodrigo Muniz on his bedroom wall and those substitutions were phenomenal, but Fulham should probably be relegated for dropping points in three of four games against Burnley and Sheffield United, while remaining unbeaten against Arsenal.


Still no consecutive Premier League wins since September and their manager remains the one at least publicly settling in this relationship, being courted by the side at the top of the table. Funny old game.


Probably the first starting line-up in Premier League history to have Mario Lemina as its top career goalscorer.