Man Utd up to mid-table but top three still top three in the Barclays Mood Rankings

Dave Tickner
The Premier League mood rankings are here.
The Premier League mood rankings are here.

It’s been about a month since we last gave an update and it’s also the international break, so you better believe it’s time for some more Premier League moods. No change in the top three but a fair bit of shuttling about elsewhere in our entirely scientific analysis.

February’s plucked-from-the-anus rankings are in brackets below and that full if now largely defunct Barclays Mood Update can be enjoyed or mocked here.


20) Everton (20)
Got four points back off the Premier League, which is jolly nice of them, but are still waiting for the next punishment beating to land while on the field proving themselves almost entirely incapable of dragging themselves sufficiently clear of trouble for it not to matter.

It is now more than three months since they last won a Premier League game, which when it came – extraordinary as it now seems – was their fourth straight win to wipe out the initial 10-point penalty handed down from on high.

While that four-game run was extreme, it was only mildly out of character. When they won 2-0 at Burnley on December 16, Everton had not only won four in a row but eight of their last 12. There’s a reason everyone at the time assumed Everton would be fine despite the 10-point kick in the balls. It really did appear at this point that a thoroughly competent set of Dycheballers had been assembled that would, on the pitch at least, be mid-table merchants at worst.

There was absolutely no reason at that point to imagine this was a side that would subsequently not win again for what is now 11 Premier League games and counting.

The combination of miserable results and the provisional nature of what points they have managed to scrape together is enough on its own to make Everton’s misery uniquely grim in the current Barclays set-up.

But it’s also true that relegation, should it arrive, will hit Everton harder than it would just about anyone else. That long unbroken run of top-flight status is a source of undeniable and justifiable pride at a club that has gradually seen other sources of that chipped away over the years while having to watch everyone fawn over Klopp and the lads across Stanley Park.

Turns out there really is a club in Liverpool where This Means More. But ‘This’ is relegation and the club is Everton.

READ: Wembley-bound Simms livin’ large as proof of yet another stupid Everton transfer decision


19) Sheffield United (16)
Their entire season appears to be nothing more than a 10-month exercise in demonstrating just how monumentally, unbeatably and spectacularly toilet that Derby County 2007/08 side really was.

And you know what? Fair play and thank you very much. The build-up to this season did show that we were probably all a bit guilty of forgetting or at least not fully appreciating just how big an effort it really is to win only one game out of an entire 38-game season, and Sheffield United winning three whole games with time to make it four or even five while being as relentlessly and drearily crap as they are is a powerful, timely reminder.


18) Burnley (15)
Have at least now managed a fourth win to make themselves measurably less bad than an all-time stinker of a Sheffield United side, but it’s been a miserable season really. It is properly wild that they retain plausible hope of survival thanks to the antics – on-field and off – of a few of the teams above them, but really it’s just cruel to toy with a team that has been as bad as Burnley by continuing to dangle the carrot of survival so deep into March.

Somehow worse to have a season as bad as this where you can’t even fully resign yourself to your fate and engage in a bit of good old-fashioned gallows humour this late in the piece.


17) Nottingham Forest (17)
The Damoclean points penalty possibility that has squatted like a giant toad across Forest’s season, eliminating any hope of certainty and comfort, has at least dropped now and inflicted its damage.

And… it’s not so bad. Sure, a four-point penalty drops them into the relegation zone for now but not terminally so and unlike Everton’s situation that should at least now represent the worst-case scenario with some scope for a successful appeal to make it less bad.

What is also true and is surely related to all the above is that Forest remain far too silly a football team to actually drag themselves clear of danger under their own steam anyway.

Such is the make-up of this season’s Barclays that opportunity existed for the idea of even a six-point punishment to be almost entirely irrelevant. Sure it might drop Forest a place or two, but there’s a clear bottom three if everyone stops being silly for a minute and Forest aren’t in it.

And yet Forest have point-blank refused to ever quite get themselves into a situation where they could relax about any punishment heading their way. It’s absolutely maddening behaviour.

To take off all your attacking players when leading key rivals Luton, cede hitherto total control of the game and throw away your advantage once is careless. To do it twice five months apart under two different managers as Forest have done this season genuinely unforgivable.

One might sympathise with Forest fans’ frustrations at the situation, but it’s hard to take the club too seriously when it frets about having four points taken off it when it has so casually p*ssed four points up the wall in those two games alone.

READ: 16 Conclusions on Survival Saturday: Embarrassing Toney, Chelsea loanee shines, Forest flounder, late Luton


16) Newcastle (10)
The best thing about this Newcastle season is that it’s a season that could absolutely have happened at just about any point in the last 25 years. Winning as often as they lose, absolutely definitely not winning any trophies, bit of a cup run but a limp and lifeless end, occasional demoralising defeat to a relegation straggler, occasional enlivening victory over a big beast.

It’s all enormously on brand. With the slight problem being this sort of season was supposed to be behind them now. They were in a newly minted Big Seven now after winning the dodgepot lottery and having all the money to spend.

Even allowing for the fact that pesky rules have prevented them spending all that lovely, dirty money as they’d wished, they should at least have been able to stand still this season. Not backing up last year with another top-four finish would have been no disgrace if they’d cemented a spot in the top six or seven. If they were still in the conversation, it would still count as another solid step on the long road to world domination.

But they’ve regressed alarmingly. A European spot is still just about within reach with eighth place potentially good enough this season, but it definitely won’t be in the Champions League and probably not in the Europa League. And they absolutely could yet finish in the bottom half.

Immensely fortunate that mainstream coverage of Newcastle remains generally dominated by discussion of ‘amazing fans’ and a ‘fine young English manager’. Even proper coverage of the owners might be preferable for Newcastle this year than proper analysis of the results.

A truly sh*t season that frankly has gone far more under the radar than it ought. The results alone prove there is no Big Seven (yet), but in a way the near total absence of any crisis club narrative is itself the clearest indication that Newcastle haven’t yet cracked the big time. None of the Big Six would get away or have gotten away with a season like this one.


15) Brentford (9)
Turning out to be a really quite rubbish season for the Bees, who should be eternally grateful that the three promoted clubs have been historically weak and that Everton and Nottingham Forest are currently more courtroom drama than football club.

The Bees are one of only three Premier League teams without a single win in their last five games and, with the initial Ivan Toney Comeback Bounce now done, really could do with sorting themselves out. It really is only the failings – on the pitch and off – of other clubs that is keeping Brentford out of the relegation discussion, because 26 points from 29 is enormously rubbish.

Still, that Brentford have now reached the point in their prodigious rise through English football where they can have almost as bad a season as possible and the outcome of it is near-certain Premier League survival is in itself quite something.

Plus they have Neal Maupay, the Premier League’s current sh*thouse-in-chief and a man who could probably still somehow come out on top if he misses a final-day open goal against Newcastle that sends the Bees down, because he also managed to make Anthony Gordon cry or something. And that’s the real quiz.


14) Chelsea (12)
The narrative that was allowed to take hold in which they were somehow favourites in the Carabao Cup final was enormously silly, but it was a huge missed opportunity for Mauricio Pochettino and his players to take something tangible from a season of almost unrelenting unpleasantness.

Chelsea would also do well to consider that the very fact they weren’t in any way favourites against such a depleted Liverpool is in its own way so damning. It’s their own crushing mediocrity despite the vast sums invested that made such claims so fanciful.

The idea of what Chelsea are supposed to be allowed that Liverpool narrative to take hold, because the reality of Chelsea is that they remain an inconsistent, unreliable mid-table team on a road to nowhere in a very expensive clown car.

Barring a significant run of crack-papering late-season form of which they appear only fleetingly capable, it’s going to be another season among the also-rans for a club that was lifting the Champions League only a very short time ago.

It really isn’t good enough. They’ve reached the point where even getting to the FA Cup semi-final doesn’t lift the mood because they look so damned ordinary in doing so and the overwhelming lack of belief that they can get past Manchester City in the last four.


13) Crystal Palace (18)
The manner of Roy Hodgson’s departure was an unhappy and unfortunate one, but it was still probably something that did need to happen. They’ve got an engaging and exciting new manager in Oliver Glasner, a manager who had been on the list for what are, with the best will in the world, much bigger jobs than Palace.

It’s clearly going to be next season after a summer of transfer and training work before we get a full idea of what a Glasner Palace side might look like, and that’s quite exciting.

Early results haven’t given us huge clues either way it must be said. A comfortable home win over Burnley and battling defeat at Spurs are perfectly normal results for a lower mid-table team, which is what Palace have been for longer than any of us care to remember, while conceding a late equaliser to Luton is now just apparently something Premier League managers have to accept is going to happen quite frustratingly often.

We might have a bit of a better idea after Palace’s next two games against Forest and Bournemouth, before a couple of free hits against City and Liverpool.

The main thing is that Palace have 10 games to get 11 points and maintain their proud decade-long record of getting 40-something points every single season since they came back into the Barclays in 2013.


12) Bournemouth (13)
Funny team, Bournemouth. They’ve spent a couple of really quite large chunks of the season looking like a relegation team. But they also spent November and December looking like a title-challenging team. And the net result of all that is a team that has 35 points on the board which this season almost certainly means they can lose all their remaining games should they so desire without ever getting in any real relegation difficulty.

‘Almost entirely safe from relegation with 10 games to go’ feels like it would have been a reasonable target for Andoni Iraola’s first season in what is an ambitious long-term kind of project to make Bournemouth more than just survivors. Given the ambition behind it, the nature of this season is arguably therefore more encouraging than just consistently grinding out results.

That tantalising nine-game run where they really were for a brief moment among the best teams in the country is a kind of proof of concept.

For mood-lifting purposes, they’ve also won two of their last three games. As these are the only wins that exist outside that previous nine-game nonsense sequence, we can only assume they’re about to do it again. A late push for Europe it is, then.


11) Manchester United (14)
That FA Cup win over Liverpool is a real mood-changer, isn’t it? That was the good stuff. That was the magic of the cup, all right.

But it’s still Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United, and to update the old cliché these clowns have turned more corners than Max Verstappen.

Who knows, maybe this corner really is the decisive one. Maybe this is the corner that actually leads to measurable progress rather than another cul-de-sac and more corners.

What United have done cleverly is give themselves this huge mood lift just before the international break, meaning it’s at least a fortnight of good vibes before bastard reality has any chance to stick its beak in and ruin everything. And it’s a whole week after that until Liverpool are back at United in the league to inflict what we fully expect to be the mother of all punishment beatings.

That’s all ages away, though, isn’t it? After you’ve just turned over the club that, whatever City may achieve, will forever remain top of the United sh*tlist. Doesn’t matter how poisonous the overall mood might remain, doesn’t matter how inevitable the back-to-back FA Cup final defeats to City now feel, doesn’t matter that they are somehow still six points behind stupid Spurs in the Premier League table.

Right now, they’ve just beaten Liverpool in one of the all-time great FA Cup ties and everything else is a footnote. Right now.


10) West Ham (19)
Fair play, that very quickly got a lot less grim. True, there have been frustrations in recent home league draws in the claret-and-blue derbies against Burnley and Aston Villa, but when you throw in a couple of equilibrium-restoring Premier League wins and most importantly a thrilling demolition of Freiburg to reach another European quarter-final, and weigh that against the three-game losing run (goals scored: 0, goals conceded: 11) they were ‘enjoying’ at the time of the last moods update it’s all far rosier.

The situation with David Moyes remains a perplexing one, with the Freiburg win in particular highlighting how he is kind of on a hiding to nothing now. When West Ham play miserable Moyesball, he gets criticised. But when they do play thrilling attacking football with Paqueta, Kudus and Bowen doing bits behind the focal point provided by Michail Antonio, you inevitably idly wonder what a more instinctively progressive manager might do with that frankly absurd array of attacking heft.

We are increasingly of the view that West Ham should not be careful what they wish for and should move on from Moyes in the summer. But that’s easy for us to say, because we’ll get to enjoy what comes next just as much whether it goes thrillingly right or horrifically wrong.

Much harder if you have to be fully invested in it being the former and you’re looking to move on a manager who has been undeniably successful by any reasonable metric for a West Ham manager, but about whom it is impossible to quite shake the notion that he’s done it all with the handbrake not quite fully released.


9) Wolves (8)
Getting magic-of-the-cupped by Coventry is an almighty kick in the arse and anus for Gary O’Neil and his team, but let’s be entirely clear about where Wolves are and where Wolves were. The week the season started their (very good) manager decided to sod it all for a game of soldiers and huffed into the sunset, to be replaced by a man who, yes, had just steered Bournemouth impressively to safety but had significantly less than one year’s experience in full-time management.

It was a situation that screamed relegation scrap. In hindsight, that all seems ludicrous now. Throw in the fact that what irritated Julen Lopetegui was a bunch of player sales that have actually meant Wolves avoiding a season of peril and uncertainly a la Everton and Forest and it does all still feel like it’s going rather well.

As we often do with the moods, we like to imagine we’ve unlocked the secret of time travel, and harnessed that ungodly power to go back in time at untold risk to the very fabric of the universe for the entirely mundane purpose of finding out what assorted Premier League fans six or seven months ago might make of their current predicament.

Butterfly effects be damned, we demand to go back to August and tell Wolves fans they’re currently a bit down because they’ve missed out on an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United and now must instead focus their energies solely on challenging for Europe via the league.

You can’t tell us the reaction to that wouldn’t be worth any potentially catastrophic consequences to the timeline.


8) Luton (7)
We’ve looked at the stats and Luton have either conceded an injury-time winner or scored an injury-time equaliser in every single game this season. Don’t be going and checking that, it’s definitely true. They are late-goal banter kings, for both good and bad, and could extend that line of thinking to truly illogical extremes by actually getting relegated after the season ends.

That’s genuinely possible is well, with the Premier League’s deadline for any appeal from Forest over their four-point punishment sitting at May 24, five days after the end of the season. A quick look at the current table and form of those two teams and a scenario where Luton finish one point above them only for Forest to be given two of their points back is enormously possible if extremely undesirable for the league and especially Luton.

It’s a mess all right, with Everton’s current points total also little more than an estimate. We’ve seen a lot of different types of relegation fight in the Barclays, but never one quite like this.

Luton, expected by quite literally nobody to stay up and enjoying simply being competitive in a way the better-resourced teams who came up with them last season have not, are at least a club with the best hope of enjoying it.

Could really do with taking care of their own business a little bit, though, because it is just starting to get a tiny bit silly. In their last three games, they have been 1-0 down after 88 minutes twice and 3-0 up at half-time once. The fact the latter is the only one of those three games they’ve lost is a tremendous slice of Barclays, it really is, and whatever happens from here absolutely nobody will ever be able to claim that Luton didn’t play a full active part in the season, even if it is all a bit pat-on the-head condescending.

Could really do with actually winning a game again quite soon, but their immediate post-interlull games being against Spurs and Arsenal means it might be a while yet.


7) Brighton (6)
A thoroughly enjoyable maiden European campaign was abruptly halted by Roma in the Europa League last 16, but Brighton did at least manage to bow out with a consolation home win in the second leg there. A boon for the coefficient, at least.

Now it’s a swift and full return to reality and trying to ensure that an undeniably weird season ends with them off on another European tour. Really, Brighton could have no complaints if such a dream was out of their reach given how bafflingly patchy they’ve been domestically this season, but eighth place could be enough and that is where they somehow remain despite winning only six of their last 22 league games. We mention that stat a lot here, but it really is f***ing mental how poor that run is given Roberto De Zerbi’s fair-enough status as a genuine contender for every big job going this summer.

Over 45 per cent of Brighton’s league wins this season came before the end of September, and that really doesn’t feel like it should be something you can say about a team competing for a European spot does it?

They are, though, and if they achieve that after the fun they’ve had touring Europe this year then it’s another successful season and another successful pulling down of Chelsea’s pants, which appears to be a big part of what Brighton do, and we’re not going to argue with it because, fair play, it’s a great bit.


6) Tottenham (4)
Some absolutely textbook Tottenhaming in the last couple of weeks makes them especially difficult to place. For all Ange Postecoglou has managed to achieve thus far he is still only a man and curing them of their deep-seated sillinesses is not a job for one man in one season.

We put it to you that absolutely crushing Aston Villa at Villa Park to put pressure on the top four and then failing to show up at all the following week at Craven Cottage when given the chance to actually go into the top four is such spectacularly Spurs behaviour it should have a Chas and Dave song written about it.

It perfectly encapsulates the way the club has been on the pitch now for so, so long. They can always nearly do something, but never actually do it. They can put pressure on the leaders, or the top four, or the European places, but when time comes to actually make that decisive move they almost never, ever actually do. This is most obviously apparent in their continued trophy aversion, with a long list of final and semi-final defeats going back decades now.

But you see it too in the league. Spurs have, of course, finished in the top four quite a lot in the last 15 years or so. Admirably often, really, all things considered. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there really shouldn’t be a Big Six. Spurs simply shouldn’t be there, but somehow they manfully cling on.

So yes, well done. Lots of top-four finishes. Very good. But they’ve nearly almost been achieved in what were actually failed title challenges and often involved some vaguely undignified clinging on to a spot that should have been secured months earlier. The only time they’ve finished in the top four by muscling their way in down the home straight was when Antonio Conte dragged some winning mentality out of them to reel in Arsenal. And the effort of that broke both team and manager in the end.

The fascinating thing now is that for the first time in a long time, Spurs have both a fresh squad and a fresh manager. There really are only a handful of players at Spurs now who should have actual scars from the accumulated Groundhog Day efforts. And yet at Fulham it was like watching Spurs in the dog days of Pochettino. It lies deep within the heart of the club and you do start to wonder if that will ever actually change. What if they actually don’t ever manage to win anything ever again?

Funny that there are still so many clubs more miserable, frankly.


5) Fulham (11)
Fulham are absolutely everything one could want in a mid-table team, and we mean that entirely as a compliment despite the inevitable hint of back-handedness in there.

What we mean is that Fulham are relentlessly and impossibly unpredictable. There are two ways to be mid-table. You can do it by grinding out results here and there, by generally beating the teams you ought to beat and tugging your forelock, rolling over and having your tummy tickled by the bigger boys. Or you can do it by just being batsh*t. Fulham have chosen batsh*t, and that’s better isn’t it?

Fulham have just absolutely kicked Tottenham’s arses all round Craven Cottage for 90 minutes, adding that very silly team to a scalp list this season that already included Arsenal and Manchester United. They have also recorded back-to-back 5-0 wins in the space of four days, given Brighton a 3-0 paddling and currently find themselves on a lovely run of four wins in six games as they eye up a late tilt at the European spots.

They’ve also taken one point from a possible six against Burnley. Now that is how you mid-table. Top marks, no notes.


4) Aston Villa (5)
Slight stutter in the league campaign, with the Tottenham game a notably unpleasant one, but it’s now pretty likely that fifth place will get a Champions League place and very unlikely that Villa will finish below both Spurs and Manchester United to miss out.

Put the Spurs defeat behind them in fine style to emphatically dismantle Ajax and now have a very real crack at going full West Ham by taking advantage of a Europa Conference campaign to take care of a mortifyingly long trophy drought. But with the added bonus of doing it under a manager the fans still like and enjoy.

Villa following the Hammers in converting the Conference penalty kick will also once again ensure that Spurs, group-stage departures on their attempt, are the butt of the joke and that is an increasingly vital fundamental building block of modern football and thus something that will lift the mood of not just Villans but all supporters. Apart from Spurs supporters, but don’t worry about them for now.


3) Liverpool (3)
Even when they lose it’s just all part of Jurgen’s Wild Ride  and when they draw at home to Manchester City they’re still winners because they get to moan in the media about the cruel injustice of refereeing decisions always going against them, as long as you forget the one that went massively in their favour in injury time a week earlier.

We are thoroughly enjoying the Jurgen Klopp Farewell Tour and the fact it has now just fully opened up a new culture war front. Battle lines have been drawn. When they beat a mid-table team with several players out injured in the Carabao Cup final, it is in fact a miracle at least on a par with the feeding of the 5000, because Diogo Jota wasn’t there. When they draw with Manchester City it’s still a notable achievement because they are but a teeny-tiny little thing when compared to the City giants.

But also they are Liverpool, the biggest and bestest football club that ever was, where even really quite arse-achingly stupid defeats to Manchester United in the FA Cup are sold as evidence of Klopp’s devotion to his style and philosophy. There’s a cognitive dissonance at play that is really quite impressive.

We have this month very much enjoyed Liverpool supporters’ standard, weary riposte to ‘This Means More’ jibes of “It was just a marketing slogan, the players don’t really think that” being slightly undone by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jurgen Klopp both saying that actually it does mean more.

The manner in which the quadruple dream came to an end is a galling one given both the nature and location of the defeat, but it absolutely can end up being only a minor pitfall in what really can still be a genuinely extraordinary final season for a genuinely extraordinary manager, albeit one who can on occasion be a bit of a dick.

Liverpool really do have a pretty reasonable run-in to tackle when level on points with leaders who are not Manchester City. Three of their next four league games are at home against Brighton, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. There’s another trip to Old Trafford in there, but it’s vanishingly unlikely United will play well again because lightning doesn’t strike twice.

They’ve got a decent draw in the Europa against Atalanta and know now that El Narrativo against Bayer Leverkusen cannot happen until the final. A trophy treble to send Klopp off into the sunset remains entirely feasible and that is massively exciting and terrifying.


2) Manchester City (2)
Since the last moods update Manchester City’s all-competition record reads P8 W6 D2 L0. Only with Manchester City could that run, which has seen them saunter from the last 16 to the last four of the FA Cup, into the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and thoroughly school United in a Manchester derby while sitting a point off the Premier League summit, feel like it’s somehow slightly underwhelming.

It’s those two draws, isn’t it? Imagine drawing two games in the space of eight. Mortifying. They are costly, though.

One was against Chelsea, who are rubbish, and the other was of course that game at Anfield which based on the first half they should have won comfortably and based on the second half they should have lost handily. The neatest summary we saw of that game was that City won the first half, Liverpool won the second half, and Arsenal won the game.

They were a bit ropey in that second half as Liverpool flew at them, and while it was impressive to see them just about stay on their feet it was also quite strange to see City so visibly hittable and hurtable at this point of the season. This is the time of year when City are supposed to be both unstoppable force and immovable object, and by their own dizzyingly high standards they just don’t quite look like it at the moment.


1) Arsenal (1)
While Spurs (see above) succumb to old failings despite almost no players bearing the scars that should cause it, Arsenal avoided that fate in the Champions League last 16. Given the frankly dismissive manner in which all stripe of Premier League team is currently being dismantled by Mikel Arteta’s over-celebrating Arsenal machine, it’s hard to come up with any other explanation for their struggles to get past a pretty ordinary Porto side than deep-seated muscle memory that exists at a fundamental club level.

It’s so long since Arsenal had even been in the Champions League last 16 that nobody currently involved should feel the weight of the curse that afflicts them at this stage. And yet there it was, writ large across two uncomfortably difficult games of football that stood in stark contrast to most of their faultless Premier League endeavours during this time.

The good news is that, with the last-16 demons now cast out, Arsenal have absolutely nothing left to fear from their Champions League history and will surely dispatch a Harry Kane-propelled Bayern Munich with absolutely no fuss whatsoever. Absolutely no history there at all.

Meanwhile, the chances of Arsenal actually winning the league grow by the week. Unlike last season, when Arsenal gradually and then suddenly ran out of energy/bottle/whatever you want to call it, this iteration of the side appears to be growing into rather than shrinking away from the white heat of a title challenge.

There is, of course, a great deal of time left for it all to go wrong and all the old memories to resurface (see Champions League, last 16) but for now that seems unlikely and the major cloud on the Arsenal horizon is how much harder it is for their fans to make any kind of self-preserving case that they are only distant third favourites actually.

As ever with Arsenal, the potential for disaster is ever-present and it is undeniably possible that when we do this again in a month’s time they could have plummeted into the moods relegation zone, the agony only doubled by the fact it would be a repeat performance. Fans are hardwired to see and imagine the worst for their team, but from the outside looking in it really does seem far more likely they’ll still be riding high and incurring the weekly tiresome wrath of Keys and co for having the temerity to enjoy it.