Winners and Losers from the Premier League
Michael Johnson | 22 June 2020
We run the rule after the first weekend of fixtures
The Premier League came back last Wednesday and with eleven games already played, it’s time to judge who the winners and losers are since the restart.
From last-minute heroics to costly blunders, here’s how we’re calling it…
Second-half goals from Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud allowed Chelsea to ease to victory over Aston Villa, despite going behind to Kortney Hause’s opener before the break.
They could be a big three points as well, with nearly all of their rivals for a Champions League spot dropping points – only Wolves won at the weekend, meaning Chelsea now have a five-point cushion over the teams in fifth and sixth. With Manchester City and Leicester City up next as well as Wolves in their final game, those five points could be crucial.
With little to play for and takeover talks hanging over the club, Newcastle could have been forgiven for taking their foot off the pedal in what looked like a tough opener against Sheffield United.
But John Egan’s 50th minute red card changed the complexion of the tie, with Allan Saint-Maximin taking the reins in what turned out to be an emphatic win over the league’s surprise package. A goal for Joelinton, along with two in recent friendlies, suggests the Brazilian might finally have settled in the north-east.
Quickly handed a contract-extension after early season form that found them in 12th, Graham Potter’s Brighton & Hove Albion side found themselves dropping like a stone prior to the break, after nine league games without a win.
But beating a hapless Arsenal as both Bournemouth and West Ham lost gives Brighton and Potter some breathing room.
Survival might not be enough in the long-term, but it will mean Potter has a full transfer window at his disposal, to add players to the squad that allow him to play in the expansive attacking style he’s known to favour. Just a couple more wins should be enough to earn him that privilege. Brighton are now 9/1 to go down.
Raheem Sterling put his goal-scoring troubles to bed as Man City swept Arsenal aside, aided and abetted by a hapless David Luiz performance. While there was some sluggishness to their play, that’s to be expected after such a long break.
With Aymeric Laporte back in the side, they no longer have to make do with make-shift defenders and if any team can capitalise on the flexibility allowed by five substitutes – it’s Man City, with Guardiola set to rotate heavily through the packed fixture schedule.
Guardiola’s side still have the Champions League to play for too – they’re 3/1 to go all the way in Europe, only behind Bayern Munich (11/4).
Centre-back Dawson had a solid game for Watford who found themselves trailing to Leicester after Ben Chilwell’s goal left them staring down the barrel of defeat.
But a late corner and an improvised overhead kick from Dawson rescued a point, demonstrating that football can still be dramatic and unexpected, even without fans in the stadium. His first goal for the club is one to remember and it could be crucial – Watford are 11/4 to go down.
Two games and two defeats has seen Arsenal’s hopes of securing a top-four finish stretch to 66/1. There’s usually no shame in losing to Man City, but Arsenal’s collapse felt like it was their own fault (or David Luiz’s fault if we’re being specific, he’s very lucky not to be on this list), rather than any excellence on the part of their opponent.
Follow that up with a dismal performance against Brighton that also saw goalkeeper Bernd Leno stretchered off and Matteo Guendouzi’s failure to keep his petulance in check – and you have a thoroughly unimpressive return to action from the Gunners.
It’s been a tough week for Chris Wilder’s side, first being denied three points against Aston Villa thanks to faulty goal-line technology, then losing 3-0 to Newcastle as John Egan’s red card precipitated a quick collapse.
While their achievements this season are still praise-worthy, much of the talk before the break was whether they could maintain their form and challenge for European football. Failure to do so would be no disaster, but it would be a shame after the year they’ve had to go out with a whimper instead of a bang.
The best way to look at Villa’s transfer policy and season-long struggles is through the lens of Sheffield United’s relative success. While United reinforced sensibly, retaining faith in the majority of their first-team squad, Villa spent £140 million in the summer bringing in unproven talent.
That gamble looks to have backfired massively and with just one point gained from two games back they’re now 2/7 to be relegated. Couple that with players they’re unlikely to recoup transfer fees from upon relegation, along with the probable departure of Jack Grealish, and Villa’s strategy this season may well end in unmitigated disaster.
They’re not dead and buried yet, but it’s starting to look bleak.
David de Gea
Another high-profile error from the Spanish stopper has seen him called out in the press by the likes of Gary Neville, after he let Steven Bergwijn’s shot through his hands in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Friday.
Manchester United are likely to stick with De Gea for another season, but if Dean Henderson continues to improve and impress, they have a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings. As Neville said in a scathing criticism of the Spaniard, De Gea needs to go back to basics and work hard to regain his form, it’s either that or risk the considerable wrath of Roy Keane becoming a weekly occurrence.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication