Premier League winners and losers

Sarah Winterburn


Pep Guardiola
They are so very nearly there.

Shots per game by Manchester City in 2016/17: 16.7
Shots per game by Manchester City in 2017/18: 19.3
Shots per game by Bayern Munich in 2015/16: 18.4

Average possession for Manchester City in 2016/17: 60.9%
Average possession for Manchester City in 2017/18: 63.8%
Average possession for Bayern Munich in 2015/16: 66.4%

Pass completion rate for Manchester City in 2016/17: 85.5%
Pass completion rate for Manchester City in 2017/18: 88.6%
Pass completion rate for Bayern Munich in 2015/16: 88%

Reminder: Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga by ten points in 2015/16.

The Premier League is of course a tad harder to dominate, but Manchester City are now pretty damn close to a perfect Pep Guardiola side.

Every member of his back four (plus Fernandinho) at Stamford Bridge on Saturday finished a game against Premier League rivals with a pass completion rate of over 90%. His full-backs touched the ball more than anybody else on the pitch.


Manchester City
Simply excellent. For literally thousands of words on their performance, read Daniel Storey’s 16 Conclusions.


Fabian Delph
A Champions League winner, back in the England squad and then second only to Kevin de Bruyne in terms of City performances in a 1-0 win away at the champions. Not a bad week. And he’s a nice boy.


Sean Dyche
This summer it felt like he desperately needed the Crystal Palace job or he was in danger of being stuck at Burnley until an inevitable bad patch prompted the sack and a stalled career that would need a Championship reboot. Now it feels like Palace were the ones who desperately needed Dyche and almost any club outside the top six would be happy to embrace his brand of simple but effective football.

Burnley are sixth. Yes, sixth. They don’t need goals (one a game will do). They don’t need to create a lot of chances (only Swansea have had fewer shots). They don’t really need the ball (they place 16th for possession). They don’t need to keep the ball (only Newcastle and Leicester have a lower pass-completion rate). They don’t even need to stop the opposition shooting (they average over 20 shots allowed). They just need incredible organisation, commitment and the occasional moment of brilliant interplay that comes when seven of your outfield players have started every Premier League game.

The only English manager in the top half of the table very much deserves to be there.


As ever, Peter Goldstein does an excellent job of explaining why they are effective and how they have evolved since last season.


Manchester United
Easy. Probably too easy. Ian Watson watched on Saturday and decided that they really do need to get better.


Marcus Rashford
One of his best games in a Manchester United shirt, wonderfully timed just before England duty. He was effervescent against Palace, relishing the complete mismatch with Joel Ward. In 71 minutes, he created four chances (resulting in two assists), but most importantly he was a compelling presence, daring you to watch him and him alone. Always looking forward, always looking to beat his man, always looking for gaps.

Rashford and Raheem Sterling either side of Harry Kane? Now if only England had a central midfield…


Harry Kane
Our early winner. He has now scored 27 Premier League goals in 24 games at a rate of a goal every 76 minutes. Has he edged past Robert Lewandowski as the game’s best pure striker? Daniel Storey believes so.


Slaven Bilic
Can there be a finer feeling as a football manager than watching your two substitutes combine to score a last-minute winner just 12 minutes after the crowd has booed your decision?

By any sensible measure and according to almost every observer, West Ham are awful. And yet they amassed as many Premier League points in September as Chelsea. And two more points than Liverpool.

One game away from the sack? Don’t be so sodding ridiculous.


Rafa Benitez
If you can take a defence of DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaal Lascelles, Ciaran Clark and Javier Manquillo and make them look like a solid unit, then you Sir are a ruddy genius. This was the first big test of this cobbled-together Newcastle side and they emerged with heads not just held high but adorned with garlands from a Newcastle public who simply want a team they are not embarrassed to call their own.

This was not a performance full of vim and vigour but it was a performance honed in endless work on defensive shape in training. If you can coach Yedlin to harness Sadio Mane, then you can pretty much coach anything; not for the first time, we are wondering what Jurgen Klopp could achieve if he had Benitez’s organisational skills. A Rafa that hugs? Now he could rule the world.


Jamaal Lascelles
Perfectly entitled to point to Harry Maguire and ask when his chance will come with England.


Just quietly sitting on the same points as Chelsea, just one point behind Tottenham, unbeaten in seven September games since getting thwacked by Liverpool. We’re not saying they have been playing excellently, but any suggestions that their top-four days are permanently over were massively premature. This is still a good if not a great side. Read Matt Stead on Arsenal for more.


Alexis Sanchez
Because he gets in our Team of the Week ahead of Kevin de Bruyne and there can be no greater honour.


Only the two Manchester clubs have scored more goals in the final 15 minutes of games, and Watford’s four late goals have brought them a point against Liverpool, an extra two points against Swansea last week and a point at West Brom on Saturday. Four goals, an extra four points, a difference of at least four Premier League places. There’s a lot to be said for fitness and belief.


Nobody epitomises this Watford spirit and resilience quite like Richarlison. He is not only Watford’s goal hero – their joint top scorer – but the most prolific tackler in Watford colours.

“Richarlison is an amazing talent. I told my board I want this player because I believe in him. We never know how he’ll react coming from Brazil. Brazilian players can have problems in another country but he’s been really good,” said Marco Silva, who has unearthed an £11.2m bargain. And that’s why you appoint a manager with knowledge of the worldwide game, Merse.


Stoke City
Edged ahead of Southampton into ninth in the annual Premier League table. Which feels absolutely right.

After five games without a victory, Stoke needed nothing other than three points. So they played a back three, which became a back five, which pretty much became a back seven, claimed just 29% of the ball, cleared it long and high and restricted Southampton to just a handful of real chances. This was proper Stoke and it was effective, with Kurt Zouma excellent in central defence and Mame Diouf showing the virtues of playing a striker at wing-back.


Peter Crouch
Let’s face it, if Stoke have to win with 29% of the possession at home, then you want the winner to be scored by Peter Crouch. He’s their joint top scorer. Of course.



Ronald Koeman
The real worry is that the one man who watched Everton’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley and thought ‘yep, that was pretty good’ is the one man who is in a position (for now) to change things. Had the Dutchman watched that insipid, rudderless, tortuous display and pledged to work 24 hours a day turn things around, then Everton fans might have some reason to hold a smidgen of belief that things could get better. Instead, he was happy enough.

“I can’t complain about my players, they did everything. Maybe we could create more but it is not so easy against Burnley. We tried everything; the commitment and spirit of the players was really positive and the final result was not.”

You tried everything? Well as long as ‘everything’ is shooting wide from distance and over-hitting long balls, then you did indeed try ‘everything’. Unfortunately for Koeman, ‘everything’ is rather more. The least Koeman could do is acknowledge that his team had come up woefully short.

Koeman may point to 23 shots on goal, but 15 of those shots were from outside the area. Even as a non-Everton fan, it was utterly infuriating to watch. Burnley were Burnley and defended deep; Everton were unfortunately this season’s Everton and did not have the guile to break through. Time and again you watched supposedly elite professional footballers see defenders in front of them and think the only option was to shoot. Never mind that it had not worked the ten times before, let’s try again. And again. And again.

For 20 minutes, Everton had fizzed. Nikola Vlasic and Dominic Calvert-Lewin added youth and pace, while Wayne Rooney was relegated to the bench. It felt like the penny had finally dropped with Koeman – playing three No.10s strung across the pitch was not such a great idea after all. But as soon as Jeff Hendrick had scored for Burnley and they settled in to defend that 1-0 lead, Everton reverted to this season’s infuriating type: No width, no dynamism, no urgency. It was painful – nay, excruciating – to watch.

It feels like it might be premature to sack a man who has achieved three consecutive top-seven finishes, but when that man is applauding this sh*t-show rather than throwing his hands up in despair, you wonder whether Everton need to bring in somebody who at least recognises that things are going really quite badly.


Ashley Williams
It really does feel like he has suddenly aged five years. This Everton side should at the very least be excellent defensively. When you have the protection of both Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin, you really should not look so exposed.


What do you mean, you haven’t read 16 Conclusions from Saturday yet?


Tiemoue Bakayoko
Should have been able to physically dominate Manchester City’s midfield but instead, the game utterly passed him by. Got through a fair bit of defensive work but offered absolutely nothing going forward and was sloppy in possession. These are early days but the idea that he is an upgrade on Nemanja Matic now looks laughable.


Michy Batshuayi
Poor sod.


Jurgen Klopp
“I thought that we were the better, more active side and that we created more chances. Clear chances, which we usually should use.”

And another manager fiddles while Merseyside burns. Jurgen Klopp is adamant that we should all move along because there is nothing to see here. Liverpool tried and tried but were once again ‘unlucky’. Think that one win in seven is not really ‘unlucky’? Think that Liverpool’s wastefulness against Newcastle was incredibly predictable and that 1-1 looked the obvious result as soon as the home side scored? Then Klopp would like to snarkily suggest that this might be the first football match you have watched.

The German’s mantra is that he cannot teach strikers how to shoot better. But as he clearly cannot coach defending and the shape of the team rarely alters, you find yourself asking exactly what he is doing, apart from a lot of lovely cuddling. What he absolutely could be doing is making substitutions earlier in the game when everybody but him can see that nothing is working.

Klopp and Koeman, sitting in a tree…congratulating themselves and wondering what all the fuss is about.


Daniel Sturridge
It was the change the fans wanted. Oh how he needed to take one of those chances.


Mauricio Pellegrino
“We were unlucky, we were pushing until the end and we put them under pressure all the time.”

Mauricio, you had 71% possession and you managed three shots on target at Stoke. That is not unlucky, that is massively inefficient. But why would we be surprised? Southampton’s starting XI against Stoke had scored only twice in the opening six Premier League games of the season. Hell, they had only managed 15 shots on target in six Premier League games. Something is seriously wrong with Southampton as an attacking unit, and the most damning thing is that the problems were evident last season and nothing was done in the transfer market to fix the problem. It was much easier to sack the manager and presume that Pellegrino could enforce a change with a combination of coaching and sheer force of will.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes knew on Saturday that he could gift Southampton the ball and they would look after it diligently, but would pose almost no threat whatsoever. Steven Davis seems a nice chap and he has been an admirable professional, but he absolutely should not be playing as a No. 10 for a team with top-half aspirations.

Pellegrino has watched Southampton stumble and stutter through the first seven Premier League games of the season and has barely changed a thing. They stick with a back four, they stick with two deep central midfielders and they stick with three men behind a non-scoring striker. They are crying out for some innovation and yet none is forthcoming. This could be a long two weeks on the south coast.


Nathan Redmond
When you take 23 shots and do not score a single goal, there is something wrong not just with your finishing but with your decision-making.


Tony Pulis
Our early loser after a late Watford equaliser left the Baggies staring into the abyss of an international break without a win in September.


Swansea City
So it turns out that selling the scorers of over half your Premier League goals in one summer is problematic. Who saw that coming?

Paul Clement is clearly an excellent defensive coach (eight goals conceded in seven Premier League games is mid-table form at least) but he cannot turn murky water into wine. And a front pair of Wilfried Bony and Tammy Abraham is very murky indeed. This is going to be a long old season for a team averaging 1.6 shots on target per game. Eek.


Bournemouth and Leicester City
Five shots on target all game. A point apiece. Both in the bottom four and with little reason to believe that things are going to get any better. By the by, if Slaven Bilic is perpetually 90 minutes from the sack, Craig Shakespeare should be packing his bags full of tracksuits with a shorter leg length. Leicester have been little short of rotten this season; Claudio Ranieri can probably tell you that dropping Riyad Mahrez will only see things end one way. Managers are expendable, and we’ve never really been certain that Shakespeare even qualifies for that job title.


Henrih Mkhitaryan
Remember all of a month ago when he was absolutely wonderful? Being almost entirely neutralised by Crystal Palace and then being replaced by Jesse Lingard is not a good look.


Saido Berahino


Sarah Winterburn