Premier League winners and losers: Praise for Newcastle, Paqueta but Spurs and Leeds slammed

Matt Stead
Spurs players Pape Matar Sarr and Harry Kane react

Eddie Howe is working wonders at Newcastle, who are ready to replace Spurs in the Champions League. Lucas Paqueta has arrived just as Arsenal are leaving.



Eddie Howe
The confirmation of a veritable thrashing did not come until the 70th minute of a game Newcastle led by five goals within the first half-hour. Only when Javier Manquillo was introduced from the bench was the process complete: his three Premier League appearances this season – all as a substitute – have come in games which have ended in 4-1, 5-1 and now 6-1 wins.

The Spanish right-back’s last Premier League start was a 5-1 defeat to Spurs last April, after which Eddie Howe suggested that his players “became very expansive and took risks with the ball too early in the game”, “chased the game far too early” and “committed too many men forward”.

How times change. That critique from a year ago can be read as a summary of the irresistible strength of Newcastle in crushing Tottenham’s spirit at St James’ Park. And while there was no place for Manquillo in the starting line-up, the key roles played by Fabian Schar, Sean Longstaff, Joe Willock, Jacob Murphy and Joelinton emphasise just how phenomenal Howe’s man-management has been in this transformation.

The signings made under his regime remain key – and only a fool would pretend that greater investment is not planned this summer and going forward. But Howe is getting as much out of spare parts than key components, if not more.

Eddie Howe acknowledges the fans


Lucas Paqueta
Ten different West Ham players had at least one shot. Nine created at least one chance. Eight either scored or assisted a goal. And for the first time since the opening two games of the 2021/22 Premier League season, the Hammers have scored four goals in consecutive matches.

Fair play to David Moyes, who might yet salvage the first trophy of his career and a comfortable mid-table finish from a season which long threatened something considerably less appealing.

Lucas Paqueta settling at the perfect time has helped, not least in reducing some of that burden on Declan Rice. The Brazilian was sublime against Bournemouth, mixing clever flicks and tireless tackling to show, according to Moyes, “what we thought we had bought” in the summer.

The manager deserves credit for simplifying Paqueta’s role, while the positive impact of a teammate actually embracing possession of the ball was clear to see.


Diogo Jota
It should come as no surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t actually know how ketchup works, but his advice has nevertheless helped Diogo Jota emerge from his injury funk to become the quintessential Liverpool forward once more.

Two goals against Nottingham Forest, both taken excellently, provided the headlines, but the copy was as engaging as ever. Jota’s work off the ball, defensive diligence and sharpness in possession – he only misplaced two passes – suggested he is approaching his best form once more.

Mo Salah is sensational; that much is obvious. But Jota feels like the most natural heir to Roberto Firmino as Liverpool’s most archetypal Jurgen Klopp forward.


Dean Smith
The last two Premier League games Leicester have won without James Maddison in the squad were against Leeds and featured goals from Harvey Barnes, in October of this year and March 2022. The last Premier League game Leicester won without Maddison or Barnes in the squad was against Sheffield United in March 2021.

It does help that Dean Smith has some presumably fairly annoyed players wanting to prove a point after being ostracised by his predecessor, but a win from behind in those circumstances against a team not yet completely clear of relegation fears is like gold dust.


Roy Hodgson, clean sheet connoisseur
Blackburn had kept two clean sheets in 12 Premier League games before Roy Hodgson’s appointment in summer 1998; he started his reign with consecutive clean sheets in his opening two games.

Fulham had kept three clean sheets in 22 games in all competitions before Hodgson’s appointment in December 2007; he started his reign with two clean sheets in his opening six games.

Hodgson never did have to work his clean sheet magic on a Liverpool side that had been drilled by Rafael Benitez, but did nevertheless oversee five shut-outs in his first seven games in charge.

It took Hodgson seven days to record a hapless Crystal Palace’s first clean sheet of 2017/18 upon his appointment in September 2017.

Watford kept as many clean sheets in Hodgson’s first four Premier League games (two) after his arrival in January 2022 as in their previous 36.

Palace had not kept successive Premier League clean sheets for more than a year before Hodgson came in and achieved the feat within his first four matches.

There is always an exception to the rule – West Brom remained incurably leaky in 2010/11 – but even in his mid 70s Hodgson acknowledges the importance of fresh bedding.


The most wins Fulham have ever had in a single top-flight league season is 17, achieved in 1959/60. The closest they have come to matching that number in the six intervening decades is when racking up 14 first-tier league victories in 1960/61, 1962/63, 1965/66, 2003/04, 2005/06, 2008/09 and 2011/12. With seven games of the campaign left, the Cottagers stand on the brink of an unlikely personal best after taking their 2022/23 tally to 13.


Ivan Toney
Michael Owen never scored more goals in a single Premier League season than the 19 Ivan Toney has plundered in his first proper crack at the big time. The Brentford forward has surpassed the career-best totals of Dion Dublin, Charlie Austin and Dele Alli for one campaign, drawing level with Marcus Stewart, Michael Bridges and Mark Bright. That really is a list of names.

And here is another, of the remaining English players to have scored more goals in one Premier League season than Toney, who has six games left to whittle it down as much as possible:

Andy Cole (34), Alan Shearer (34), Harry Kane (30), Kevin Phillips (30), Robbie Fowler (28), Wayne Rooney (27), Les Ferdinand (25), Matt Le Tissier (25), Chris Sutton (25), Darren Bent (24), James Beattie (23), Jamie Vardy (23), Ian Wright (23), Stan Collymore (22), Danny Ings (22), Frank Lampard (22), Teddy Sheringham (22), Andy Johnson (21), Daniel Sturridge (21), Peter Beardsley (20) and Raheem Sterling (20).


Unai Emery
A new Premier League record for most consecutive games scored in from the start of a manager’s reign (19). There’s something to put next to the Europa League winner’s medals.


The only Newcastle player who had a shot on target in the first half at St James’ Park which didn’t go in. Embarrassing.



If only there was a word to sum up a team under interim management failing to support a player to the extent that they are booed by their own fans when being substituted after a performance that was bad but hardly out of step with his teammates, only to be introduced as a substitute for a similarly exposed player within 23 minutes of the very next game.

This all goes far, far beyond Davinson Sanchez and Pape Matar Sarr. It extends further even than Cristian Stellini, although the sheer speed with which he has wasted a golden opportunity on a personal level should be applauded.

It falls squarely on the shoulders of Daniel Levy and the decision-makers who assumed that smashing the glass ceiling and qualifying for the Champions League was the hard bit; that they could not possibly fall back through the opening from which they emerged through constant forward-thinking and positive planning. Those laurels have been rested on for long enough and the brilliance of Harry Kane can only mask so many problems for so long.

No Newcastle player who featured in the 5-1 win over Spurs in May 2016 is still at the club; four were in the Tottenham starting line-up which was hammered 6-1 seven years later, with Ben Davies wincing from the bench. Spurs have stood still for long enough to now be moving backwards at a rapid pace, as confirmed by such a chastening defeat to one of the teams ready to deservedly replace them.


How frustrating it must be for Arsenal that they navigated a three-month injury to their starting striker so phenomenally, only for their Premier League title challenge to be derailed due to the enforced absence of a central defender for a few weeks.

Rob Holding is no William Saliba. And Fabio Vieira is no Granit Xhaka, a further change which really did not help against Southampton, as those tweaks to a formerly winning machine have started to tell. That balance and stability has gone and, with it, the impetus in this race.

It is not over. A gargantuan, likely flawless effort will be required to not only topple Manchester City in midweek but retain that momentum to the finish line. And this has been an excellent campaign which has established Arsenal’s credentials to compete in the future, if not the immediate present.

But a trip has turned into a stumble and then a fall when a collapse was never going to be necessary for the Gunners to be reeled back in. This iteration of Manchester City will never miss the opportunity to punish three successive draws and while Arsenal have an attack which gives them a chance in every game, it is being undone by fundamental defensive errors caused by a disrupted system. The perfect storm simply didn’t last long enough.

READ: Arsenal defender joins Spurs sextet in Premier League weekend’s worst XI


Leeds’ January transfer window
Max Wober has been a great addition – Leeds conceded 17 goals in four games without the injured defender before the Fulham match – but the £65.5m Andrea Radrizzani committed to the cause for two winter transfers looks more bizarre with each defeat.

Weston McKennie has been dreadful, neither solid in defence nor impactful in attack, a beacon of unreliability who arrived from an elite club before immediately settling into his new surroundings in the worst way possible.

At least he is playing. Georginio Rutter has started one of a possible 14 Premier League games since signing, the forward having three shots in 235 fragmented minutes.

Illan Meslier has become a problem that Javi Gracia seems unable to solve, but some help from those higher up even before his appointment would not have gone amiss.


Mason Holgate
Jordan Ayew has not had that many combined shots (three) and completed take-ons (five) in a single Premier League game since February 2020, when he had seven efforts on goal and four dribbles in a win over Newcastle.

Danny Rose was taken off in the 71st minute of that match, so chastening was the experience. Yet Sean Dyche watched non-natural right-back and surprise inclusion Holgate toil on a booking for well over half an hour before his inevitable sending-off for two yellow cards, both for fouling Ayew.

“You have got to be careful with those decisions, sometimes the hardest thing to do in football is nothing,” the Everton manager explained of his decision not to bring Holgate off, instead surreptitiously blaming the officials because “on another day you might get away with that one”. Dyche is unlikely to have realised the irony in him being the only individual who got away with anything as Palace thoroughly exploited Holgate but could not quite take full advantage.


While the recent results and performances against Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal caught the eye, it’s against the teams around them upon which Bournemouth have built a foundation for survival. Their points-per-game record against the current bottom five (1.86) is better than Chelsea’s (1.56).

Thirteen of the Cherries’ 33 points have come in seven meetings with Leeds, Leicester, Everton, Nottingham Forest and Southampton. Chuck in a win and a draw with Wolves and it is clear to see where Gary O’Neil’s side have excelled this season. But a 6-0 aggregate defeat over two matches with West Ham has Bournemouth glancing over their shoulder again.

The good news? They face Southampton, Leeds and Everton in their last six fixtures. The bad news? Their heaviest defeat since The Nine-Nil, coming as it did against a team who started the weekend below them, might take a bit of time to overcome.


Remo Freuler
Given both barrels by Ashley Williams for his marking at set-pieces, and justifiably so after it undid an otherwise admirable Nottingham Forest performance.

Freuler’s personal goal difference while on the pitch this season is -30, Forest scoring a measly 17 goals when he has played, while conceding 47. The only player with a worse record is Jefferson Lerma (-31), who at least has the vague excuse of being a relatively innocent bystander in an Anfield massacre.


Only one team has lost more Premier League games in which they have led this season (four) – and Wolves never looked particularly likely to add to Leicester’s current tally of six once Kelechi Iheanacho equalised from the penalty spot.

Those defeats from winning positions have now come across the entire gamut of Wolves management this season. Bruno Lage saw an advantage slip against Leeds on the opening day, Steve Davis turned three points into zero at Crystal Palace and Brighton and Julen Lopetegui could not turn the tide at the King Power. That does suggest something rather ingrained in the players than the coaches.