Premier League winners and losers: Angeball and Brighton cannot be stopped, but Chelsea are a waste of time

Dave Tickner
Chelsea, Ange Postecoglou and Mitoma feature in Premier League winners and losers
Chelsea, Ange Postecoglou and Mitoma feature in Premier League winners and losers

Tottenham are fun again and that is what Tottenham should be, Brighton are At It Again, James Ward-Prowse is the very ideal kind of thing for West Ham, while there are problems a-brewing at Manchester United, Chelsea and above all Everton…



We’re hopelessly in love with it already and will be making absolutely no apologies for that. It’s just enormous fun, isn’t it? If Spurs aren’t going to win trophies – which they quite famously are not – then the one thing they must always be is fun. They lost the way on that metric under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. Fine managers with serial winner CVs but thoroughly unsuited and unsuitable for Tottenham.

The serious point is this: Spurs are not like the rest of the Big Six. They are, objectively, the smallest of those six. They didn’t muscle their way into that group by trying to ape them, but by doing it their way. When they try to act like the big boys, it goes wrong. Early signs are that this lesson has now been learned.

Bring in a manager who can coach and improve the very good players that are here instead of complaining that he doesn’t have 20 even better ones. Imagine what Conte would have said in the week after Spurs selling Harry Kane. Now think of everything Ange Postecoglou has said since Kane’s departure. Ange is more Spurs than Conte could ever be. It’s a good fit; it’s got a chance.

He’s also already forcing a re-evaluation of Fabio Paratici’s ill-starred spell as director of football. The man may not have been much cop at picking managers, but putting the players he earmarked in the hands of a coach who coaches and you’re already seeing special things happen. We’re cherry-picking here, but Guglielmo Vicario, Pape Sarr, Destiny Udogie, Yves Bissouma, Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski cost barely £150m for the lot. There will always be misses as well as hits with that kind of transfer strategy, but those are starting to look like some pretty decent hits.

The fun is the main thing, though. The Pochettino team was fun. Kane just scoring all the goals like some Roy of the Rovers character. Dele doing bits with a smile on his face. Eriksen surgically picking defences apart. Mousa Dembele point-blank refusing to lose possession under any circumstances ever. The perfection of the Vertonghen-Alderweireld partnership. They never won anything, but Spurs fans loved that team. We loved that team. We love this new team. The second half against United was absolutely sensational, but let’s not forget the other thing that makes them such great fun: how seat-of-their-pants lucky they were not to go behind in the first half. Angeball really is the football version of Bazball and we are all in.

There’s a whole 16 Conclusions of this nauseating WE LOVE HIM stuff, if you can stomach it. Mate.


Sell a player for £100m. Miss them not one single jot. Go out on Saturday and win 4-1 in joyous fashion. Go top of the table. Premier League? Completed it, mate.


Kaoru Mitoma
Just a lovely footballer doing lovely things in a lovely team. His goal against Wolves is an absurdity. Unimprovably perfect wide-forward play, picking up the ball out on the touchline just inside the opposition half before beating an entire defence through an unstoppable mix of speed, strength and impeccable close control before tying a ribbon around it all with a composed finish once only the goalkeeper remained in his path. Whole thing took about seven glorious seconds.

Please, Brighton. Don’t sell this one. We know it’s what you do, and you do it so wonderfully well. But don’t sell this one. We don’t want to see him, the joy and life sucked from his soul, sitting morosely on the bench at Chelsea or Manchester United. We couldn’t bear it.


Yoane Wissa and Bryan Mbeumo
Brentford have played five Premier League games since Ivan Toney was banned for eight months. Two of those games were against Spurs, and one against Manchester City. Brentford have won four and drawn one of those five games. Mbeumo has scored six goals in that time and Wissa four. Both men have scored in four of the five games. So, was 20-goal Toney actually holding them back?


Nottingham Forest
August 18 may be the earliest recorded date for an Official Barclays Six-Pointer, but really it was impossible to think of Forest’s Friday night clash with Sheffield United as anything else. The loser would be all but condemned to a troubling start to the season, while the winner would at the very least have a launch-pad for Operation: Survival. A draw would really have done little for either, and it looked to be heading that way until the closing stages. The season may only be a week old, but Chris Wood’s header is one of its most significant goals now and may well still be so in May.


Taiwo Awoniyi
Eight goals in his last six Premier League games. Scoring in six consecutive games gives him the longest scoring streak in the competition for any Nigerian player and third best for an African, bettered (for now) only by seven-game runs for Mo Salah and Emmanuel Adebayor.


Chris Wood
Is Nottingham Forest having a striker called Wood just a teensy bit obvious? Feels like lazy work from the Our League writing room.


Phil Foden
Kevin De Bruyne’s latest major injury setback looks like a huge crisitunity for perhaps the most talented of this generation of enormously talented England attackers. Brilliant against Newcastle, he now appears to be the man Guardiola will trust to have licence to weave his own magic from within the intricate precision of the Manchester City machine.


Not currently a good side, but for now making sure they keep themselves where they need to be in case they once again, like last season, manage to become one further down the line. Perhaps once a functioning and recognisable midfield is in place.


Aston Villa’s goal difference
Fascinating start to the season from Villa, a team we expected to be good but didn’t necessarily expect to be this wacky. Their goal difference was -4 after week one and is now safely back to zero. We still think they’re going to be good, and we suspect the early wackiness is in part attributable to starting the season against Newcastle (very, very good) and Everton (very, very bad). And while it’s generally a stretch to read too much into any team’s season-long prospects after just a couple of games, we’re supremely confident that ‘Not as good as Newcastle but an awful lot better than Everton’ is pretty much guaranteed to prove as accurate in May as it is today.


David Moyes
Another week where West Ham can’t sack the Europa Conference League winner, and a performance against Chelsea that suggests the Hammers certainly shouldn’t see any repeat of last season’s domestic unpleasantness this time around.


James Ward-Prowse
And a big part of why West Ham should be nowhere near the relegation conversation this time around is the fact they are clearly going to score roughly a million goals from set-pieces this season as Ward-Prowse – already looking like one of the summer’s canniest buys – clips corner after free-kick after corner on to the very large heads of some very large boys.


Red cards
Four in nine games? Lovely.



Manchester United
Rubbish. Again. Couldn’t capitalise when they were on top against a Spurs team that will cheerfully give you chances. Ripped to shreds when they were on the back foot against a Spurs team that will cheerfully punish you for not taking said chances.

The whole thing looks very messy. Bruno Fernandes is in a state of semi-permanent whinge, Lisandro Martinez has made a miserable start to the season and they don’t have a striker at all because the poor sod of a 20-year-old they’ve entrusted with an impossible job at enormous expense is already crocked. Mason Mount is having to play as a six because there’s nobody else to do it, Casemiro looks like he, ahem, summered well and can barely get himself around the pitch.

If they’d played almost anyone other than Wolves on the opening weekend they may very well have zero points from two games just like they did last season. Certainly their performances against Wolves and Spurs this time around have been every bit as concerning as those against Brighton and Brentford 12 months ago.

I guess if you’re a United fan you have to take the glass half-full approach of seeing it as being three points better off than last year and knowing that Ten Hag has it in him to turn things round. Because the glass half-empty approach is too depressing for words. They really shouldn’t be back in this position of still trying to look like a Ten Hag team – a failing thrown into even sharper focus on Saturday as they were ultimately well beaten by a Spurs side who instantly look precisely like a Postecoglou team.


A bad defeat, obviously, but also just a club currently seemingly without direction or purpose beyond repeatedly spending £100m on £50m players and shouting about how clever they are because they’ve used eight-year contracts to outwit FFP. Yeah, nice one; but you’re also real shit, lads.

Sunday’s defeat at West Ham isn’t really the issue. Well, not entirely. They absolutely could have got one or three points from the game. They seemed well on top at the time Enzo Fernandez tapped a penalty at Alphonse Areola and they never really recovered from that setback. By the end of the game, though, they were getting the runaround from a West Ham side reduced to 10 men.

But the whole enterprise just feels rotten, somehow. And above that, pointless. Even had they won on Sunday – or the previous week against Liverpool – at no point have they resembled anything like a side compiled at a cost unmatched by any other football team in history.

How have they spent so much money putting together a team that is so blandly uninspiring? It’s almost impressive. If you’re going to come in and throw a billion quid at a football squad, wouldn’t you at least want to start by getting in at least one player you’d back to reach double figures for goals in a full league season?

Chelsea may well end up being a competent or even a very good football team. They’ve got a fine coach if they give him time to do his thing.

But they’re not fun. They’re not exciting. They’re not going to sweep all before them. If they’re good they’re going to be prosaically good. And if they’re crap they’re not even going to be a wildly starry Galactico style screw-up. They’ll just be… a bit crap.

This directionless, confused Chelsea aren’t just a waste of money. They’re a waste of everyone’s time.


Sheffield United
Already apparently in a position where they absolutely must beat Everton on September 2 or attention switches from ‘Can we stay up?’ to ‘How many points did that Derby side get again?’


Good grief that was grim. Everton survived by the barest of margins last season – having flirted with disaster the season before – and have somehow conspired to get worse during the summer. How has that happened? More a philosophical question than a direct one, that: it should barely have been possible even if you tried to do it. There probably still are three worse teams than this rabble in the Premier League this season – again, somehow – but if that’s how Sean Dyche’s side are going to defend then really what is the point of anything? Already feels like a change of manager for the third season in a row is on the cards, along with another long, arduous season of grimly clinging on to a proud top-flight record.


The pattern is set. Play quite well, don’t score many goals, concede some goals, lose football matches. Shouldn’t have lost at all to Manchester United, definitely didn’t do anywhere near as badly against Brighton as 4-1 suggests. But both those results were entirely predictable. Wolves are no longer going to be good enough at the back to get away with being so bad at the front. Gary O’Neil has, to his credit, already got this team playing just about as well as could be expected and better than most predicted. Which, if anything, makes a played two lost two start even more of a worry than it would if they’d just been shit.


But 3-1 is a lot better than 9-0, and they also definitely don’t need to sack the manager after this one. Which is also good, because there’s already been enough about Bournemouth in an opening-day draw against West Ham (which looks better now than it did then given this weekend’s events) and defeat at Anfield to suggest there are plenty of worse teams in this season’s Premier League. Certainly more than three, anyway. Maybe they should be in the winners section?


A 1-0 defeat at Manchester City is hardly a disaster, and overall any Newcastle report card on the first two weeks of the season would reflect that we were maybe all sleeping on them this summer and forgetting just how good they were last year. Nevertheless, that felt like a chance to make a real statement. On the back of a 5-1 win over a team we know to be half-decent, against a City side shorn of Kevin De Bruyne and who’d had significant midweek exertion ahead of a Saturday kick-off. Newcastle really could have given things a thorough early-season shake there.