Premier League winners and losers features Tuchel

Will Ford

Rafa Benitez forced Thomas Tuchel to lose his marbles, while Mikel Arteta is doing a Pep Guardiola…



Mikel Arteta and Gabriel Martinelli
Loathe though we should all be to compare Mikel Arteta to his Manchester City mentor, had Pep Guardiola managed Gabriel Martinelli in the same way as his mentee, it would be considered further evidence of his genius.

Phil Foden was being wasted by Guardiola not all that long ago. Play him or send him out on loan was the consensus. There have been similar, perhaps even greater, calls for Martinelli to be playing for Arsenal.

It’s been over two years since the Brazilian’s first Premier League goal for Arsenal; he’s started just 18 games since. Arteta has waited and Martinelli has matured. “He’s able to put some gears into his play instead of doing everything 100 miles per hour,” Arteta said after the 20-year-old’s goal and stellar performance against West Ham.

It’s not about curbing that child-like obsession with the football entirely – that energy is infectious and it certainly was on Wednesday. As Arteta explained, it’s about not being totally worn out after 45 minutes. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of form and favour, and with the rest of the side functioning at the highest level we’ve seen under Arteta, it’s Martinelli time.


Manchester City
They were so, so good. It was one of those games that makes you question how a group of players this talented don’t steamroller every team they come up against. Pep Guardiola has ridiculous forward options all seemingly performing at the peak of their powers.

They’ve established themselves at the top of the Premier League, essentially without their best player. Kevin De Bruyne returned on Tuesday and scored a couple, with the second nearly ripping the net from the goalframe. Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva were buzzing all over the place having a bloody good time, Jack Grealish joined in the numbers game, with Rodri sitting, passing and disrupting all the while with no fuss whatsoever.

It was almost blasé – it’s just what they do.


Rafael Benitez
Chelsea had 80 per cent possession, 23 shots and 10 on target. Thomas Tuchel described it as a “freak” result. It was attack against defence and Chelsea could have put the game out of sight by half-time. And yet, Everton were full value for their point at Stamford Bridge.

Just three of the players to start the opening day win over Southampton played against Chelsea. To get such a tune out of a team cobbled together at the last minute was Benitez at his best. And hate him though they might, surely he will have earned a modicum of respect of the travelling Everton fans, who saw the Spaniard gesticulating and organising from the touchline throughout. Most of those hand gestures were directed at players tempted by a high press, with Benitez waving them away from the Chelsea defenders, back towards their own 18-yard box.

And it wasn’t as though Everton had no attacking threat. The goal aside, tapped in at the back post by Jarrad Branthwaite after a stunning Anthony Gordon set piece delivery, there were at least three breakaway moments for Everton, in which the right decision or a better weight of pass would have cut Chelsea open. Playing that way with a fully fit squad won’t fly, but with that team it was the only way Everton were going to get anything from the game. It was a brilliant plan executed superbly.


James Ward Prowse
‘David Beckham’s free-kick record in sight’ was the slightly misleading headline from The Athletic after James Ward Prowse scored his 11th in the Premier League in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. At the same rate the Southampton captain will need another 205 appearances to surpass Beckham’s tally of 18.

It was another cracker though, hit with pace, curl and accuracy. And weirdly, as though it was a penalty, Ralph Hasenhuttl averted his gaze as Ward Prowse stepped up, only looking up and celebrating having heard the roar of the crowd. The Southampton boss didn’t want to jinx what he knew was a very, very good chance for his side.


Jacob Ramsey
Ramsey has started five of Steven Gerrard’s first six Premier League games in charge, playing in every position across the midfield. He’s a very talented young man, as he showed with a brilliant solo goal against Norwich. Running at such pace with the ball under control is a remarkable skill, something – dare we say it – his hero of a manager wasn’t able to do.


Wolves scored a goal! And it was a beauty.

Romain Saiss is perhaps one of the more forgettable Premier League players, but he was very good throughout against Brighton, picking passes into midfield and calmly dealing with attacking threats. And while Wolves’ forwards misplaced final passes and panicked in goalscoring positions, Saiss’ volleyed finish was excellent.

But it’s really all about the delightful assist from Ruben Neves. The combination of the lack of backlift, contact with the instep and awareness of where Saiss would end up in relation to the defenders was magical.


Trent Alexander-Arnold
How big are Alexander-Arnold’s feet? The contact he made on the ball – wow.


Thomas Tuchel
It’s too early to make any great claims over Chelea’s title credentials – they’re just four points behind Manchester City. But it was a worryingly flat performance against Everton. They got more and more out of kilter as the game wore on and Thomas Tuchel asked after the game “where to point the finger?”. Well, just maybe at you, Thomas.

With the squad hit by covid, Tuchel had no forward replacements to turn to. Dont make changes then. Definitely don’t bring Saul Niguez on to play up front.

The Spaniard has looked like a competition winner – one that’s not particularly happy to have won – in his brief, terrible spells on the pitch for Chelsea this season. He genuinely smiled and laughed when he relayed the message to Christian Pulisic to move to left wing-back to make room for him, the new No.9.

Mason Mount scored soon after Saul came on, but it was nothing to do with the makeshift striker, who switched to left wing-back when the goal went in and was then culpable for Everton’s equaliser, as the cross drifted over his head on to Jarrad Branthwaite’s toe. Back up front Saul went, to kick the ball out of play and stop any promising Chelsea move in its tracks.

Chelsea were fine in the first half, but their confidence dwindled alarmingly in the second, with the game ending with a bizarre spell of them passing the ball around the box until time ran out. It was as though they had accepted it was ‘one of those days’. One of those months, more like.

Todd Cantwell
“When he gets in the team, he’ll be a big boost for everybody because he’s got the talent to create and score goals,” Dean Smith said ahead of Cantwell’s second Premier League start since August against Aston Villa.

An hour into the game Cantwell flounced from the pitch without acknowledging Smith or Adam Idah poised to replace him and headed straight down the tunnel. Norwich would be a better team with an in-form Cantwell, but he’s now both out of form and presumably jettisoned to the naughty step.

Chris Sutton would have chosen a more 1950s parenting style. “I don’t know who he thinks he is, I really don’t. He hasn’t performed well in a Norwich jersey for a long, long time – he’s getting above his station.”


Marcelo Bielsa
There are rumblings. Not from the sensible Leeds fan, but the odd half-wit plucked to spout angry, ill-thought out nonsense on radio call-ins. The fact that the criticism is still limited to the one per cent crazies illustrates how highly Bielsa is regarded in West Yorkshire – almost anyone else in his situation would be under significant pressure.

“It was the worst performance in the four years,” Bielsa said on the 7-0 defeat to City. “At no moment were we able to balance the game. The sensation we gave off was that anything they attempted we couldn’t prevent.”

That is a very fair, quite worrying, but also weirldy comforting reflection from the Leeds boss – there was no sugarcoating.

Leeds were up against a far superior team, but they failed to bridge the gap in quality through their usual extraordinary work ethic. The squad has been ravaged by injury, but that same team produced an excellent display against Chelsea just three days earlier. That could well be the problem – quick turnarounds are tough for a thin squad requiring the effort of this Leeds team.


West Ham
Declan Rice hit the nail on the head in his assessment of his side’s performance at the Emirates.

“Nowhere near the level that’s required to be a top-four team. You can’t come to a place like Arsenal and let them impose the game on you like we did tonight.”

Arsenal were good, but they were allowed to be through West Ham’s inertia. It’s been a long time since it’s been possible to criticise David Moyes’ side for a lack of passion and verve, and they clearly live on it, because in its absence they provided next to no resistance to a curiously comfortable Arsenal win.


Mike Dean
He had to stop the game when Isaac Hayden went down. The Newcastle midfielder was prostrate, holding his head in the six-yard box. Mike Dean looked at him as the ball was cleared, didn’t blow up and Diogo Jota scored a few feet from where Hayden still lay. Eddie Howe was rightly peeved with his side 1-0 up at the time.