Who proved how much difference a week can make? Who needs to invest in January? Find out in this week’s Premier League grades…
Liverpool came out on the right side of a seven-goal thriller against Crystal Palace, which kept their four-point lead at the top intact when Manchester City beat Huddersfield 3-0 on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Manchester United edged Brighton 2-1 to keep up their perfect start under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while Chelsea were not only taught a lesson on the pitch by Arsenal, they were told a few home truths by manager Maurizio Sarri following their 2-0 defeat at the Emirates.
How did those at the top, bottom and in between get on? Read on for the lowdown from all of this weekend’s games…
Arsenal – A+
What a difference a week makes! Arsenal put their drab performance against West Ham firmly behind them with a vibrant, clinical display against Chelsea to reinvigorate their bid for Champions League qualification.
The result also proved that Unai Emery has helped the Gunners to somewhat of a breakthrough against fellow sides in the ‘big six’. Arsenal have now won more points in seven games against big six sides this season (eight) than they did in the whole of the 2017-18 campaign (six).
The progress is there for all to see, but consistency is now what the Arsenal fans, and Emery, will want to see from their side going forward. (Oliver Yew)
Southampton – A-
Ralph Hasenhuttl said the 2-1 win over Everton was Southampton’s “best performance” since he arrived and it’s hard to disagree with him.
They had three good chances to go in front in a first half which they dominated before sealing the victory through a fine strike from James Ward-Prowse and an unusual Lucas Digne own goal. Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond shone again in Hasenhuttl’s 3-5-2.
The only reason Southampton are getting an A- rather than an A+ is the fact they did not register a clean sheet. Nevertheless, Hasenhuttl’s men held firm during an extended period of stoppage-time to secure a vital three points. (James Kilpatrick)
Wolves – A-
It may not have been the greatest victory Wolves have enjoyed since returning to the top-flight, but their dramatic win over Leicester was certainly the most thrilling. Wolves were able to cut through the Leicester defence with ease throughout, even when they relinquished control of the game from a position of security.
Diogo Jota’s hat-trick sparked delirium at Molineux and Nuno Espirito Santo was as excited as anybody as he raced down the touchline and onto the field with his players. But even he admitted after the game that there was plenty for his side to work on after allowing Leicester back into the game.
There were good and bad aspects to Wolves’ performance, but when you score a stoppage-time winner, they have every right to focus on the positives. (Jack Wilkinson)
Liverpool – A-
Liverpool were not flawless in their 4-3 win over Crystal Palace, but they dug deep to ensure they avoided the same fate as Manchester City last month. Palace won at the Etihad to hand Liverpool an advantage at the top of the table, and Jurgen Klopp’s side showed their resolve to ensure they did not give City an opening in the title race.
Full-backs James Milner and Andy Robertson were crucial in breaking down Palace’s compact defence and Jordan Henderson impressed in midfield. It was nervier than many of their wins this season, but this was another test passed for Liverpool. (James Walker-Roberts)
Newcastle – B+
Newcastle have a new super-Schar in the form of their goalscoring centre-half. Fabian Schar’s two goals set the platform for an utterly dominant performance over Cardiff City to lift them out of the bottom three.
Defeat for the Toon in this one was a scary prospect with Mike Ashley back amongst the spectators but from the moment Schar waltzed through to open the scoring, Newcastle didn’t look in trouble.
Salomon Rondon led the line superbly and he was supported by the tireless Matt Ritchie. If they continue in this mood, the threat of relegation will be a distant memory in the spring. (Lewis Jones)
Tottenham – B
It was a battling performance from Tottenham at Fulham and even manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted after the game that it may not have been their best, but it was a solid display nonetheless. They showed real character to come from behind – of their own volition, admittedly – and snatch a point at the death, especially without Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son.
However, the games keep coming thick and fast for Spurs – next facing Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg on Thursday, live on Sky Sports – and they will potentially be without Dele Alli. This will arguably be the biggest test they face to date and the most important if they want to win a trophy this season. (Charlotte Marsh)
Burnley – B
It wasn’t the prettiest, but it was almost the complete away performance by Burnley, who resisted Watford’s fast start before asserting their authority on the game. Tom Heaton kept them in it early on, but once they had a foothold, Ashley Barnes twice went close while Chris Wood fired into the side netting.
A clean sheet at Watford is another tick for Burnley’s upturn in form following three straight wins and if not for an erroneous offside flag in injury time, Woods’ late strike would have made it a perfect day in Hertfordshire for the Clarets. (Ben Reynolds)
Crystal Palace – B
Palace can count themselves unfortunate not to get anything from their trip to Anfield. They played an excellent first half, only to concede a couple of unfortunate goals after half-time and then see Julian Speroni commit an error for Liverpool’s third.
Palace had the gameplan to hurt Liverpool, with Wilfried Zaha in particular looking a threat on the break. They also showed fighting spirit to come back from 2-1 down and stay in the game until the end. The display should give Roy Hodgson optimism going forward. (James Walker-Roberts)
Manchester United – B
A seventh straight win has left nobody in any doubt that United have drastically improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the final 15 minutes of this one showed the first signs of fragility.
United allowed Brighton to find ways to pump the ball into the box, with several silly fouls and space left on both flanks, but the hosts’ quality in the first half was ultimately telling.
Marcus Rashford was outstanding again, Ander Herrera’s tenacity gets them going in midfield and Anthony Martial looks confident and dangerous. Tougher tests will come, but momentum is key in the race for the top four. (Gerard Brand)
Bournemouth – B
Victory for Bournemouth against West Ham was just their third from 13 top-flight games and ended a five-match winless run in all competitions.
Despite a bleak winter, the Cherries are now just three points off seventh place again, and a first clean sheet in 13 games laid the foundations to this much-needed victory.
Eddie Howe made the surprising decision to drop Asmir Begovic, but Artur Boruc is a popular figure in the dressing room, and he may now retain the No 1 jersey after a disciplined display from the defence.
It was another brilliant Callum Wilson strike which broke the deadlock, underlining his importance to the side, and this was much more like the old Bournemouth from the early weeks of the season when they won six of their opening 10 games. (Ben Grounds)
Manchester City – B
This was a case of job done for City, who closed the gap on Liverpool again without having to exert themselves for large periods of the game against Huddersfield.
For the majority of the clash, they were in first gear but when they put their foot down, they were irresistible. Leroy Sane epitomised their ability to switch through the gears, grabbing an assist and a goal to continue his hot streak of late. (Lewis Jones)
Fulham – C+
It was a real shame that Fulham could not hold on for a point against Tottenham on Sunday. In the first half, they performed well and could easily have added to their lead, with new signing Ryan Babel looking to be a shrewd acquisition. He tired in the second period but he could have scored three times and on another day, they probably would have gone in.
Fulham were the makers of their own downfall, with a poor attempted clearance from Tim Ream allowing Christian Eriksen to cross for the opener and Joe Bryan not tracking Harry Winks properly for the late winner. They desperately needed a point, now sitting seven points from safety after the weekend’s fixtures, and will face an even harder battle for the remainder of the campaign if they continue to defend so poorly. (Charlotte Marsh)
Leicester – C+
You would expect to secure at least a point when you score three goals away from home in the Premier League, but when you defend as poorly as Leicester did at Molineux, even that is a difficult task.
That being said, the Foxes were seconds away from doing just that until, you guessed it, their defences were breached again. Leicester were all at sea at the back through their 4-3 defeat to Wolves; their only respite came when their attacking players began converting some of their chances.
Claude Puel will take positives from his side’s role in a classic Premier League game, clawing themselves level on two occasions, but their naivety at the back continues to hamper their cause. Whether it proves to be his undoing remains to be seen. (Jack Wilkinson)
Watford – C
Javi Gracia accepted his side were not at their fluent best in the goalless draw with Burnley, but he was at least pleased with their effort. But for Tom Heaton’s fine reactions at the start and end of the first half, the home side might have been two-up going into the break.
Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney were both denied before the break, but they struggled to create in the second half, with Tom Cleverley’s volley a rare bright spot. Burnley controlled large portions of the game and after a scrappy second half of failed set-pieces, the visitors should have won it when Chris Wood’s injury-time strike was incorrectly ruled out for offside. (Ben Reynolds)
West Ham – C
There has been much to like about West Ham during the same period in which their opponents Bournemouth were heading in the opposite direction, but the 2-0 loss at the Vitality Stadium was another reminder of the inconsistencies that still remain.
The Hammers, unlike Bournemouth, were shorn of their talisman and the difference told with Marko Arnautovic kept at home as Callum Wilson lashed in the opener in a game of fine margins.
Manuel Pellegrini claimed Arnautovic “has his head on another issue” after the player was left out of the squad – but Andy Carroll’s glaring miss served to highlight the reliance on the Austrian for goals.
Despite 71 per cent possession, it wasn’t until the 79th minute that they mustered a shot on target against one of the leakiest defences in the league, so Pellegrini will hope this was just a bad day at the office and not a window into what life could be like without Arnautovic. (Ben Grounds)
Brighton – C-
Away from home against top-six opposition, it’s clear what qualities Brighton possess. Despite United starting on the front foot, Brighton did show they are capable of creating nerves in opposition boxes.
Chris Hughton’s side utilised the wings and free-kicks to pile the penalty area, but the manner of the first-half goals they conceded meant they had a mountain to climb in the second half.
The penalty saw Gaetan Bong criminally get the wrong side of Paul Pogba, and Pascal Gross’ defensive capabilities have come into question in recent weeks as he let Marcus Rashford neatly slip past him in a tight space.
Plenty to be satisfied with, and they will be safe this season, but Hughton will want more. (Gerard Brand)
Chelsea – D
The problems continue to rack up for Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, who launched an extraordinary attack on his Chelsea players after the limp loss at Arsenal.
Should the Blues stick with Eden Hazard as a false nine? Who can give them a cutting edge in front of goal? How can they get the best out of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho?
These are questions the former Napoli boss will have to answer, but straight after the defeat at the Emirates, he did absolve himself of tactical blame, despite Jorginho’s continued struggles as a central playmaker and the blunt attacking display with Eden Hazard as a ‘false nine’.
Instead, an “angry” Sarri blamed the mentality of his players once again, accusing them of being difficult to motivate. How will the players react? We will find out when they take on Tottenham in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg, live on Sky Sports on Thursday. (Oliver Yew)
Huddersfield – D
Little was expected of the basement boys, and they delivered on that front. Manchester City were in control of the game from the first to the last whistle as interim boss Mark Hudson had little impact on the Terriers’ creativeness in the final third.
As they have been for the entire season, Town were toothless in attack, summed up by Steven Mounie’s last-minute miss from close range. Another blank means the Terriers have only scored just 13 Premier League goals this season – the fewest in the top four divisions. They remain 10 points from safety. (Lewis Jones)
Everton – D-
Everton had 61% possession in their 2-1 defeat to Southampton, but they failed to impress on an afternoon where a victory would have lifted them into seventh.
Everton’s attack lacked bite with Richarlison isolated up front for long periods of the game. The result could have been worse had Jordan Pickford, who was one of Everton’s few bright sparks, not made two crucial saves in the first half.
Marco Silva said post-match that Everton were “not aggressive enough”, but once again questions will be asked about whether the club should be investing in an out-and-out striker this transfer window. (James Kilpatrick)
Cardiff – E
Neil Warnock seemed quite upbeat in the aftermath of their 3-0 defeat at Newcastle but positives were thin on the ground. Following on from their woeful showing against Huddersfield, this wasn’t much better.
New signing Oumar Niasse looked well off the pace on his first Premier League start of the season while they missed Harry Arter’s snap in midfield.
This defeat dropped them into the bottom three. Warnock faces a huge task to get them out of it. If he accomplishes it, then this would surely rank as his greatest ever achievement in football. (Lewis Jones)
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