Premier League winners and losers: Ten Hag stupidity, snappy Klopp, brilliant Emery and Glasner

Matt Stead
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery, Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag and Crystal Palace player Eberechi Eze
Unai Emery doesn't seem to think you need to concede loads of shots

Only Erik ten Hag did not see this coming – and the same can actually be said for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. What a weekend for Man City, Emery and Glasner.


Premier League winners

Manchester City
It feels like a consensus will need to be reached soon on how to stylise it. Is a hyphen necessary? Are the first letters of both words capped up? Perhaps it is time to experiment with camel case or something. DoubleTreble. Perfect.

What felt like an open secret last season has been approached with stealth this time. Perhaps it was obscured somewhat by a possible Liverpool quadruple or potential Arsenal double. But Manchester City are suddenly 12 games away from achieving something unprecedented.

That is still a considerable way to go but to even reach this point, top of the Premier League with home advantage secured against Real Madrid in the Champions League and a Wembley date with Chelsea, is remarkable.

And this was a transformative weekend at the conclusion of which it all came into full view. Manchester City recorded their biggest Premier League win since November, rested some key players and witnessed both their closest challengers lose and look remarkably vulnerable in home games. They already have the psychological advantage over both; time to underline it in this marathon sprint finish.

Though Martin Samuel would like to remind you that they do sometimes lose.


Unai Emery
Arsenal have rarely been made to look so ordinary
as in that period during the second half when Aston Villa scored twice and consolidated their Champions League qualification position. After the masterclass they produced against Manchester City in December – before beating the Gunners four days later – Emery can claim to have come closest to humbling the two best teams in the country.

The Spaniard will leave the point-scoring to bed-wetting fans constantly desperate to pitch managers against one another to decide who is best. Emery is one of the finer examples of how important and overlooked the club and the structure is. His marriage with Arsenal was mutually unsuitable; he and Villa are a perfect match.

MORE ON ARSENAL: Arsenal humbled by Aston Villa over 26-minute period which could define their season


Oliver Glasner
A penny for the frankly risible thoughts of Rio Ferdinand
, because it seems as though Dougie Freedman has snared another Championship gem Manchester United are destined to be linked with for a small fortune rather soon.

Adam Wharton was sensational at Anfield in an unlikely midfield pivot with Will Hughes. Eberechi Eze scored the only goal, which Michael Olise helped craft. Even the excellent Dean Henderson and Nathaniel Clyne, with their considerable top-flight experience, cut their teeth lower down the pyramid. This was scalable Football League brilliance, harnessed beautifully by the figurehead of Crystal Palace’s brave step and long overdue into the future.

Every new manager needs an early result and performance to which they can point as proof of their suitability, particularly when their appointment marks such an obvious fork in the road in terms of philosophy. When things turn again – and they will, that’s football – Glasner can justify calls for faith and belief based on this game alone.

It does not provide an unlimited supply; Glasner will know that. But this was different to most recent Palace wins against members of the elite. It felt repeatable rather than a lucky one-off. It was the stated aim instead of a happy coincidence. Palace went to Liverpool not in the forlorn hope of avoiding defeat, but with victory the target and ultimate reward.


A performance to remind critics, supporters, players, any others who understandably allowed doubts to creep in, and even Eddie Howe himself what makes Newcastle so brilliant: energy, intensity, bravery, housery and, in tactical terms, absolute clarity.

The composite parts were less than that of their opponent but Howe made the whole laughably better. Dan Burn returned to a position he has notably struggled in at left-back as the most expensive puzzle piece in a defence featuring Jacob Murphy at right-back and Emil Krafth and a 32-year-old Fabian Schar in the centre; they restricted Spurs to almost nothing.

Bruno Guimaraes was disciplined in masterfully leading a midfield of the limited Sean Longstaff and a player in Elliot Anderson who has barely played since returning from a long-term back injury. They carried out the man-marking system perfectly.

Alexander Isak might be the most well-rounded centre-forward in the entire country, Anthony Gordon underlined his status as Jamie Vardy’s heir with a ruthless display of opposition-rustling counter-attacking underlined by him completing the set for goals against the Big Six – only the second player after Vardy to do so in a single season – and Harvey Barnes helped serve a reminder as to why moving on from Allan Saint-Maximin was always a difficult but justifiable decision.

The victory cost Newcastle £28m, with the clause in Lewis Hall’s loan triggered now the Magpies are guaranteed to finish higher than 15th. But it was a win so galvanising that they can look up at the Champions League qualification places with genuine – albeit still distant – hopes of overhauling that gap. On days like these, they certainly feel like one of the four best teams in the country.

MORE ON NEWCASTLE16 Conclusions on Newcastle 4-0 Spurs: Van de Ven, Gordon, Isak, and some very silly numbers


Milos Kerkez
Having four shots against Manchester United is, if anything, pretty sub-standard. But Hungary’s answer to Gareth Bale is here in time to dominate the Euros. The only thing left is for Harry Redknapp to take all the credit and pretend it was the plan all along.

Kerkez is already something of an anomaly. Only two players younger than him have started more Premier League games this season, and the left-back-turned-left-winger has played more overall minutes than Wilson Odobert, while forcing Erik ten Hag to blame and substitute the other individual at half-time on Saturday.

It was a remarkably dynamic display which really ought to have been capped with a goal. Andoni Iraola thought the defender “played a hell of a game” and while not every opponent will allow him to “find more spaces, make his runs and carry the ball” quite so easily, it has nevertheless been a stellar first Premier League season.


Matheus Cunha
There is a stat doing the rounds that reads thus: ‘Matheus Cunha has scored 10+ league goals in a single season for the first time in a top five European league.’

It does the Wolves forward an immense disservice. This is his highest-scoring season in any division, top five or otherwise. The ten goals he scored for Sion in the Swiss Super League six campaigns ago have been surpassed with time to spare.

This is an entirely different, far more effective forward, and that is credit to both Cunha himself and Gary O’Neil. Last season’s lowest scorers in the Premier League are a goal behind Manchester United and moving in the right direction.


Not since the 2008/09 season have Fulham won this many points against top-half opposition. They were the worst in the division by that metric in 2018/19, 2013/14 and 2010/11 but Marco Silva has made the Cottagers about as good against the best teams as they are against the worst.

Four of those six wins against the teams currently in 10th and higher have even come with clean sheets. Arsenal supporters might well already have circled Fulham’s upcoming home games against Liverpool and Manchester City in hope, but there could even be some apprehensive expectation too; they have first-hand experience of this particular banana skin after all.


Kevin Schade
A genuinely delightful flick within minutes of his introduction to assist the goal which effectively ensured Brentford’s safety. Thomas Frank is not alone in having numerous injuries to deal with this season but few have squads as ill-equipped for such crises and Schade was among those whose absence was entirely overshadowed. His was the most impactful and heartening return from a long period on the sidelines that any Brentford forward has made this season.

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Premier League losers

In August 2022, having conceded after half an hour in an eventual draw with Fulham, Jurgen Klopp snapped at a reporter who asked how Liverpool could “avoid a slow start”. It had been a developing trend by the end of the previous season – the Reds were behind within three minutes of two of their last three games in 2021/22, and after 13 minutes of the other. They won all three but it was a worrying sign if left unaddressed.

“Well that’s easy,” he responded. “What do you mean? It’s a silly question,” he continued, before adding: “By not being slow…in the mind.”

They drew their very next game, conceding first at home to Crystal Palace. These things have a funny way of coming back around.

Liverpool had 24 shots in that match while searching for an equaliser. It came from a moment of Luis Diaz genius – after an instance of Darwin Nunez idiocy – with an incisive dribble and accurate finish from outside the box. There was no such inspiration this time, as the pressure of perennially chasing eventually told.

One way to look at them earning 27 points from losing positions this season is to praise their attitude, character and spirit; another is to see how this title charge was always built on deeply unsustainable foundations. They have been behind in half their matches – only two fewer than Everton. At some point they were always going to struggle to find a way back in front, and that itself would likely become the new norm.

That feeds into those slow starts which have been allowed to fester. Only Sheffield United (1-11) have a worse goal difference in the opening quarter of an hour of Premier League matches this season than Liverpool (2-7). Spending most of a season chasing a title from behind is one thing, but making it a consistent habit across games is mentally and physically draining. And it has probably turned Klopp’s quadruple farewell campaign into Erik ten Hag’s first at Manchester United: third and a League Cup.

MORE ON LIVERPOOL: Liverpool and Arsenal and Blow-It Sunday: The first angry Mailbox


Mikel Arteta said all the right things about how Arsenal are “going to need everyone” in the run-in. There can be no doubt that they have a starting XI able to compete with any side across Europe. But beyond that surface lies a squad that has not been able to keep up with the club’s sudden rise in quality and stature.

The five substitutes against Villa changed nothing. Takehiro Tomiyasu has struggled with injury, Gabriel Martinelli is a wonderful player but has six goals and four assists in 29 league games this season, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah have barely played meaningful minutes and Jorginho can blow hot and cold.

That is the next step: to find players Arteta can trust to rotate during the season, instead of only when his hand is forced by the schedule towards the end. Arsenal having most of their spine available all campaign has been a blessing but there are moments when it turns out to be more of a curse.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Can Arsenal and Liverpool recover in the title race? Join the debate here.


Feels like Ange Postecoglou maybe should have watched the 6-1 back, even just a little bit. Spurs did not capitulate quite as suddenly as at St James’ Park a year ago but a more gradual, drawn-out, elongated collapse was almost as damning.

There are numerous potential avenues to explore in the post-match autopsy, from Micky van de Ven’s unceremonious disrobing to the continued midfield trials and tribulations of Yves Bissouma and Heung-min Son’s untimely anonymity.

Take your pick, really: Postecoglou made four substitutions before the hour for a reason. But this and the Fulham defeat in particular have helped show the real cost of Harry Kane’s exit. The goal burden has been shared – in only one of his seasons at Spurs (2016/17) had they scored more than their current 65 goals after 32 games – but there is a chasm where his general centre-forward play once was.

Two of those Newcastle goals came from Son turning the ball over and nothing sticking; Kane may be a savage and a scumbag but they sorely miss his foul-drawing and hold-up play. Attacks cannot be sustained without it and the pressure soon tells on a defence hardly renowned for its solidity and stability.


David Moyes
Rarely has a man ever described in such painstaking detail how he ended up hoist by his own petard.

“We were caught out by a long ball, we didn’t deal with it well,” Moyes said of the 2-0 defeat at home to Fulham. “And we missed some opportunities to score as well. I think we dominated possession, kept the ball and passed it quite well. But we got done on the counter-attack.”

Moyes has taken enough scalps through those exact same methods to know that is how this game works. The queue of managers waiting to witness him take a dose of his own medicine has presumably already formed. You either get sacked as a Conference-winning hero or live long enough to get done on the counter-attack while your contract runs down.

As disappointing as the last week will have been for West Ham, it is for the best. Had they dragged themselves through another Europa League tie or strengthened their hopes of qualification through the Premier League, the temptation would have been to stick and muddle through for longer in a relationship which is making neither party happy. The hope is for a clean, mutual break, which can allow both to grow and move on from a union which is never going to get as close to as good as it did in Prague again.


Erik ten Hag
Fun as it was to hear an obviously brilliant football coach and otherwise ostensibly sensible man pretend he had devised an incredible tactical blueprint whereby letting the opposition have as many shots as possible was not only deliberate but important, there was always going to be a point when reality had to dawn.

“We are defending low-quality chances,” was his explanation after facing 23 shots against Everton in March. “We concede shots, but we don’t concede so many goals,” he said after drawing with Brentford, who had 31 of them at the end of the month. He added that he was not concerned “as long as we get results”. They have not won since.

After conceding four goals in defeat to Chelsea in April, Ten Hag called the criticism “ridiculous” and said he “can do nothing with such stats” because “we showed we were fourth-ranking goals in conceding”. The Dutchman would presumably trade places in a heartbeat with Everton, who are now “fourth-ranking goals in conceding” ahead of his side.

Only Luton (573) – who have played a game more – have conceded more shots than Manchester United (568) across Europe’s top five divisions this season. Ten Hag’s side have won one of their last seven Premier League games. It was all just such an obvious culmination of a ludicrous approach.

MORE ON MAN UTDManchester United need clean break from Erik ten Hag to end embarrassing adolescence


Nottingham Forest
It is pointless to extrapolate statistics and draw definitive conclusions. On the other hand, Nottingham Forest have conceded 37 goals from set-pieces and dropped 50 points from winning positions since they were promoted back to the Premier League. Both are highs for the division in that time, and by some margin.

So obviously they squandered a precious lead against Wolves after summarily failing to either win the first header from a Pablo Sarabia corner, or avert the subsequent goalmouth scramble.

Andrew Omobamidele was every Nottingham Forest supporter in that moment: powerless to stop the danger, marking absolutely no-one, able only to watch the madness unfold, before turning with arms outstretched, appealing for some sort of meaning or divine intervention. The only difference – and it can be imperceptible to the naked eye – is that he was one of the defenders who should theoretically be at least trying to do something about it, rather than being among those in the stand tearing out what remains of their hair.

“We have to look at all of them in a realistic way. Today the organisation was good,” Nuno Espirito Santo said of their continued set-piece fragility after the game. And this is what happens when you bury yourself so deep in the referee conspiracy hole and employ Mark Clattenburg as a lobbyist: you lose all sense of accountability, introspection and reality.


Aro Muric
Only Forest and their three-goalkeeper rotation salvo – each of whom have conceded more Premier League goals this season than the Liverpool stopper they tried to sign for £15m in January – can challenge Burnley for policy-based shambolism between the sticks.

Vincent Kompany disregarded the phenomenal work of Muric in gaining promotion, signing James Trafford instead and immediately starting a keeper who had never played above League One. His mistakes were frequent and costly but the manager waited until mid-March to make a change most supporters had been demanding for months.

Muric took the gloves and sparked a brief revival but has made catastrophic errors in consecutive games which have undermined any glimmer of hope Burnley might have had in terms of survival.

That ultimately comes down to the style, tactics and approach Kompany has adopted, which served them so brilliantly in the Championship but has not been fit for Premier League purpose. And now he has two keepers low on confidence, both safe in the knowledge they cannot possibly have their manager’s full faith. It might be an idea to clear the air and provide some clarity before next season.


Inexplicably still in the top half with a positive goal difference despite winning six of their last 26 Premier League games. Since February 28, Brighton have had 138 shots in nine matches across three competitions, scoring four goals. Their only player to score in that time is Danny Welbeck (against Liverpool and Roma); the other two were own goals by opposition players (Andrew Omobamidele and Aro Muric).

It is definitely no coincidence that Brighton suddenly expect Roberto De Zerbi to stay and the manager has started talking publicly about how he has “no intention of leaving” rather than posturing about “ambition” and such. It’s a poor enough run to eradicate any bargaining position; it’s even starting to feel like the Seagulls are the settlers in this relationship.


Daiki Hashioka
The record for most own goals in a Premier League season is four; Hashioka has two in seven games since joining Luton in January. The reverse Haaland has had a bigger impact on the title race than most of the players actually directly involved in it.


Sheffield United
There goes their final chance of doing the double over someone this season. Starting to feel like they might not be very good.


Bruno Guimaraes
Presumably in for an earful from Callum Wilson soon about how “there’s a way to win”

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