Premier League winners and losers: Liverpool let-down, Potter, Coady, Gracia, Spurs and Edu (out)

Matt Stead
Albert Sambi Lokonga and Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita

Graham Potter and Conor Coady are clinging onto their positions, while Naby Keita is done at Liverpool. Flowers go to Javi Gracia, Spurs and David Moyes.



Javi Gracia
While not a traditional Premier League relegation firefighter, Javi Gracia does possess one thing: a better win percentage in the division (33.3%) than accepted emergency service personnel such as Sam Allardyce (33.1%), Roy Hodgson (32.7%), Tony Pulis (30.4%) and Sean Dyche (28.2%). Even Graham Potter (28.3%) is struggling to keep up with the misspelled Spaniard.

There was no transformation at Leeds under Gracia, whose work permit was only granted the day before hosting Southampton. This was, as much as anything, a triumph of timing: there might be no easier game to start a reign and no better predecessor to replace.

Gracia changed just enough for the variables which betrayed Jesse Marsch to fall in his favour. Leeds embraced control over chaos, their defensive shape was sound and the in-game management was impeccable from a coach with a quietly excellent record. The Whites might have landed on their feet here.


A mature, tactically intelligent and composed performance when the supporters expected anything but. Tottenham were superb to a man, from sudden clean sheet fetishist Fraser Forster to perhaps the single most aggressive defensive unit in the sport’s history, with Oliver Skipp knitting it all together behind the normalised brilliance of Harry Kane.

This is Tottenham, of course, and so four clean sheets in their last five Premier League games has perfectly sandwiched the incompetent collapse which underpinned a 4-1 defeat to Leicester, who have not scored since. They will never be cured of their innate Spursiness but Antonio Conte, even when not on the touchline, has come closer than most.

Harry Kane, Tottenham, February 2023


David Moyes
West Ham delivered their best attacking performance of the season when it mattered. Danny Ings did what he was signed to do. Said Benrahma flourished when freed from the shackles. Tomas Soucek was far better in a more advanced position. David Moyes eventually decided to try and win instead of simply not losing and it showed.

There are caveats. West Ham were fairly uninventive until Jarrod Bowen stumbled through Nottingham Forest’s defence in the 71st minute, at which point the floodgates opened. This resounding win was also against the worst away team in the division. And the Hammers have failed to capitalise on their previous Premier League victories, losing six and drawing one after beating Bournemouth in October, then drawing two and losing one following three supposedly transformative points against Everton in January.

This latest turning of a corner must not be met with another dead end and the confidence generated by four goals and a clean sheet has to be channelled into upcoming fixtures against Brighton and Aston Villa, when West Ham cannot squander this momentum and energy by reverting to stodgy, safety-first type. Moyes and the players are capable of so much more and should not be in a position where the manager is relying on single results to save his job.


The sentiment was far from universal but it was a serious opinion shared by enough people for #EduOut to become a trending topic on the morning of the January transfer window’s deadline day. The charge was that Arsenal had been unable to secure their two top targets even in the middle of a phenomenal Premier League season, that a unique opportunity had been squandered and too much time was wasted pursuing Mykhaylo Mudryk and Moises Caicedo.

That apparent failure might have reinforced Arsenal’s title hopes. Jorginho and Leandro Trossard have come straight into the side at a time Mikel Arteta needed to freshen things up and rely on a few more players outside of his trusted core. Both have been excellent and their impact against Leicester was crucial.

Arsenal are finding different ways to win when necessary. Their first 1-0 victory since November 6 was a welcome example of adapting to the circumstances and adjusting to new challenges. That ability to devise and deploy a Plan B on the move was evident in January and remains crucial going into March, even if some fans might never be fully satisfied.


Ollie Watkins
Aston Villa captains new and old were excellent against Everton, with John McGinn leading the charge in attack and Tyrone Mings organising the resistance; Steven Gerrard masterfully coaxed fine performances out of both with his call on the armband.

But it was Ollie Watkins who set the tone for a crucial, rot-stopping victory. His record-breaking run of goals in five consecutive Premier League games started with a 1-0 victory over Southampton but was most recently in vain during defeats to Leicester, Manchester City and Arsenal. This was a return to individual excellence as part of collective success and further justification for the questionable sale of Danny Ings.

The penalty was dispatched with about ten plombs and Everton struggled to establish any sort of control over the 27-year-old’s movements. Watkins’ last seven shots have all been on target and produced three goals. That is a mark of a man in form.


Raul Jimenez
A throwback performance of sorts from Raul Jimenez, who provided his first Premier League goal contribution of another difficult season with an excellent knockdown header for Pablo Sarabia to finish against Fulham.

The two changes Julen Lopetegui made to his starting line-up from the disappointing defeat to Bournemouth were influential; Jimenez’s hold-up play was key and Mario Lemina held everything together with tireless brilliance in the middle. Wolves responded well with a creditable point when they perhaps deserved more.

Jimenez really ought to have buried a second-half header but he does remain the last Wolves centre-forward to score in the Premier League. The fact it was in a 4-0 win over Watford on March 10 – 35 games ago – rather underlines where Lopetegui needs to invest this summer, with Jimenez, Diego Costa, Matheus Cunha, Hwang Hee-chan and Sasa Kalajdzic all struggling to contribute.


Phil Foden
It is a neat trick Manchester City have mastered, sifting through their squad to reintroduce brilliant players who had almost been forgotten about. Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias have benefited from time out of the spotlight this season and the roulette wheel of attacking options has landed on Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden recently.

The latter was in stunning form against Bournemouth. Foden had as many shots (two) as he had managed in his previous seven Premier League appearances, creating seven chances despite only laying on six in his last 11 games, dating back to October. Let the debate over his best position recommence; Pep Guardiola won’t mind where that is, as long as it’s somewhere on the pitch.


Manor Solomon
Feels a bit like Chelsea spent £62m to sign the wrong Shakhtar Donetsk forward. Tete has at least scored for Leicester, while Manor Solomon is three consecutive goals deep into a productive loan before he has even started a Premier League game. In terms of players formerly of the Ukrainian champions’ parish, Fulham have the two best in the Israel international – who is only 18 months older than Mudryk – and Willian.



Graham Potter
Another outing for what should be everyone’s favourite stat: Manchester City have won more Chelsea games (three) than Chelsea (two) since November 6. Manchester City have also scored more goals in Chelsea games (five) than Chelsea (four) in 2023.

When not even Dr. Tottenham can provide relief


Naby Keita
This should be Naby Keita’s time. Liverpool were so convinced of his excellence and suitability to a magnificent team that they waited 12 months to sign him, agreeing what was a club-record deal in August 2017 in a move which had been eclipsed by Virgil van Dijk when he eventually joined in July 2018.

Van Dijk fixed the defence. Alisson solved the goalkeeping problem. And attack never was an issue under Jurgen Klopp when Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were around. Fabinho helped transform a midfield which has struggled without renovation since Georginio Wijnaldum’s departure in 2021, but the biggest hopes were pinned on Keita; he was personally awarded Gerrard’s shirt number as a symbolic rite of passage.

Keita was signed to help ease a necessary changeover but his presence only seems to have further muddled the thinking. Klopp has never spent more on a midfielder but Keita’s inability to adapt and inevitable departure when his contract expires this summer means the manager might have to surpass his fee a couple of times to sort this. He might be the most disappointing signing in Liverpool history, all things considered.


Conor Coady
A thorough examination of Conor Coady’s credentials in a back four culminated in a complete undressing of his reputation as a defender in any system. Emi Buendia has faced far greater scrutiny en route to goal than Coady managed to provide as Everton chased an equaliser against Aston Villa.

It was risible from the 30-year-old, a laughably slow reaction in mind and body which does not belong on what is supposed to be the highest level of the game. Everton and Sean Dyche need Goodison Park to be a fortress but Coady stood by and watched faster, better players breach it. Yerry Mina, anyone?


Jamie Vardy
A bit like the school bully bumping into one of his numerous victims years later and realising they had moved on with and made a success of their life, while he still wears the same clothes, makes the same inappropriate comments and does the same paper round route, that was an uncomfortable reunion for Jamie Vardy, one of many Leicester players schooled by Arsenal.

The Foxes forward had scored 11 career goals in 15 games against the Gunners – his best record versus any opponent – but eight touches, two completed passes, no shots and no chances created in a 28-minute substitute cameo encapsulated the 36-year-old’s quietly fading powers, as well as Arsenal’s evolution in how adeptly they handled him.


Steve Cooper
“We blame nobody but ourselves. We had to make some changes at certain times in the game, because of where players are at physically. I thought Jonjo was really good, but we knew he could only give us so much. He’s only just come back from a long period out. It was frustrating that we had to do that.”

There is sympathy for Steve Cooper, who has access to enough bespoke information on the fitness and health of his squad to render any fan complaints about substitutions moot. Jonjo Shelvey was excellent against West Ham and Nottingham Forest crumbled without him, going behind four minutes after his removal. But the midfielder is in the process of recovering from his second substantial injury of the season and his minutes must be managed.

The mistake was in introducing Andre Ayew and changing the system; Orel Mangala and Danilo were right there to help consolidate the result. Cooper sensed that a draw could be upgraded to a win – “I really felt like we were starting to take charge in the game” – but ambitious and admirable as that was, the substitution turned one point into none in the pursuit of three.


Marcos Senesi
If making his full Bournemouth debut in a 9-0 defeat to Liverpool wasn’t bad enough, consider this: the Cherries are unbeaten in all five games Marcos Senesi has played no part of this season. Bournemouth beat Aston Villa 2-0 before he signed, drew with Wolves and Nottingham Forest in August and January with the Argentine on the bench, and beat Forest in September and Everton in November when he was an unused substitute.


Crystal Palace
Nine games without a win is venturing into sleepwalk territory. A six-point, five-team cushion to the relegation places by late February sounds decent until you remember there are 14 fixtures left to play and little sign of Palace picking things up.


Gavin Bazunu
Robert Sanchez transitioned seamlessly from playing on loan at League One side Rochdale to starting in the Premier League for Brighton but Gavin Bazunu has shown how difficult that adjustment can and should be. Those numbers are stark and relegation-worthy.