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Daniel Storey is away at the Africa Cup of Nations, so i‘s team of football writers have put together this week’s Score in his stead.
Fit-again Erling Haaland (who else?) makes it advantage Manchester City at the top of the table, while Arsenal and Liverpool are doing their best to make it a three-legged race.
After a period of unexpected turbulence, it looks like Newcastle United have finally found some stability under Eddie Howe. However, the same can’t be said for David Moyes, who may find himself out of a job if he’s not careful.
Scroll down for our verdict on every team (listed in table order)…
Gameweek 24 results
Saturday 10th February
Sunday 11th February
Anfield’s biggest league crowd in its history might have expected Liverpool to beat Burnley but they might have wanted more control and more incisiveness, especially before the interval which they reached level at 1-1.
Liverpool, under Jurgen Klopp are, however, one of the great second-half teams and once Diogo Jota restored their lead, there was a sense of inevitability about what followed. Perhaps the fact that this was Andy Robertson’s first game back since suffering a shoulder injury in October contributed to a slow start, and the loss of Trent Alexander-Arnold could have repercussions, although Harvey Elliott performed with real verve as a replacement.
The Reds’ defence still does not feel right. The last seven games at Anfield have not produced a clean sheet, and Burnley might have had a second equaliser. Nevertheless, Liverpool seem to possess the firepower and belief to get them out of trouble as next month’s showdown with Manchester City draws near. By Tim Rich
In 15 minutes against Everton at the Etihad, Manchester City demonstrated perfectly why they are still favourites to win the Premier League. For 70 minutes, they poked and prodded and toiled, blew and blew and blew, but Sean Dyche’s house was not for falling. City didn’t even have a shot on target in the first half, the first time that had happened since August 2022.
And then in the 71st minute, the big bad wolf remembered he was big and bad, and instead of blowing he opted to stick his laces through the house, and it was much more effective.
Against Everton, Erling Haaland had just 26 touches – the lowest of any starting player – yet scored twice. The first was a rasping half-volley from a corner, breaking down a low block with patience and precision.
The second was a devastating counter-attack in which he ran half the length of the pitch, exploiting Everton’s need for a goal and resulting high line. There’s no plan or philosophy which can keep him down.
For Haaland’s second, Jarrad Branthwaite, a 6ft 4in 21-year-old who the Toffees value at £100m, was flicked to the turf as if he were made of nougat. Across 90 minutes, with 10 minutes injury time, the Norwegian made just 12 passes and every one found its mark, with two of them classes as key passes. Everything is about efficiency.
It’s not that City were particularly good, or that Everton were especially bad, especially in defence, but there doesn’t need to be some extreme disparity when Haaland is around. He exists in the cracks, thrives in the one per cents, sees a gap in a door and sends it top bins. These were his first Premier League goals since November due to injury, yet he is still top of the Golden Boot race.
Haaland’s second was also set up by Kevin De Bruyne, the 12th assist the Premier League’s premier creator has provided its premier striker since the start of last season in all competitions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s higher than any other duo.
City will be top of the table if they win their game in hand, despite keeping just two clean sheets in their past 13 league games. This doesn’t have to be one of the best City sides in recent years when Haaland is on the pitch. If City can keep him fit through the remainder of the season, he will win them another title. By George Simms
When Arsenal bought Declan Rice last summer they knew they were acquiring one of the most complete midfielders in Europe, an exceptional ball winner, ball carrier and distributor. Three players rolled into one. Given less prominence in the scouting report was his expertise from set-pieces.
Rice didn’t take a single corner in his first five Premier League seasons for West Ham and managed under 20 in his final two (16 and 19 respectively). He only took 22 free-kicks in 204 appearances.
Initially, that pattern continued at Arsenal with Rice taking four corners in his first 20 league matches.
He has since attempted 12 in his last four. At this stage, it is tempting to wonder if there is anything that Rice cannot do on a football pitch. With his height and agility he would probably make a decent goalkeeper.
Rice demonstrated impressive variety with his dead-ball delivery too. William Saliba scored the opening goal with a header from a corner that floated all the way to the back post, while Gabriel Magalhaes netted the third from a free-kick whipped menacingly towards the front post. West Ham’s James Ward-Prowse would have no doubt approved.
That pair of assists also doubled Rice’s overall tally for the campaign, matching his previous best effort across a season.
Perhaps the biggest question asked of Rice when he made his record-breaking move across the capital was whether he could continue to make year-on-year progress in a different coloured shirt. That has been answered emphatically. By Oliver Young-Myles
Read more: From boos to standing ovation – how Arsenal’s new star won over West Ham fans
This was the moment of vindication Brennan Johnson craved, but there remains one major headache for Ange Postecoglou to solve.
You could be forgiven for assuming Son’s return would be the game-changer in Tottenham’s top-four push. Yves Bissouma’s comeback from the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) could be just as decisive – it is now down to Postecoglou to dictate the battle between Bissouma and Rodrigo Bentancur at No 6.
Postecoglou does not like to be drawn on what he believes to be Bentancur’s best position, insisting the terminology should be “getting away from eights and sixes”. Yet Brighton’s penalty gave him plenty of hard evidence, and the Uruguayan’s wrestle with Pascal Gross near the edge of the box before Micky van de Ven brought down Welbeck was not the only occasion in which he struggled.
Bentancur operates best as a No 8. That much was clear from the way he robbed Billy Gilmour in the build-up to Pape Matar Sarr’s equaliser.
Bissouma was not ready to start after his international hiatus at Afcon, with Mali knocked out by Ivory Coast on 3 February. It was reported he contracted malaria during his time at the tournament. While the substitutions initially killed Spurs’ momentum, Bissouma did make several crucial interceptions to stop Brighton countering and setting Welbeck away.
There have been so many iterations of the central midfield since the New Year, with Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg also playing roles. Hojbjerg is expected to leave this summer and Skipp is unlikely to displace Bissouma, Sarr or Bentancur, but the No 6 dilemma will need to be addressed.
It is difficult to judge Bentancur’s form without recalling the eight months he spent on the sidelines with an ACL injury. When he returned in October, he was soon injured in a rash tackle by Aston Villa’s Matty Cash. It was feared he could miss up to three months but he returned after just six games.
Indeed there is some method to the madness in Postecoglou refusing to confine Bentancur to one position, given the fluidity with which he wants Tottenham to play – but as a protective cover to Cristian Romero and Van de Ven, it does not work. Bissouma’s discipline was called into question when he received his third ban of the season before Christmas, but going forward it seems likely he will return the first choice as a No 6. By Katherine Lucas
Read more: Tottenham still have one major headache even as Postecoglou celebrates options
Anyone who has seen Aston Villa regularly over the past few months felt their current slide was coming. Perhaps they had gone too soon in giving everything to beat Arsenal and Manchester City in the space of a week.
Following their impressive successes over the title-chasing duo in early December, Villa drew with Sheffield United and were then very fortunate to beat Burnley. The mood around Villa Park had changed and worse was to come.
There were elements of the Villa from the peak of their stunning home winning streak on Sunday, especially in the response to falling behind to Manchester United, but their inability to put chances away, as well as looking porous in the extreme defensively, is not going away.
Somehow, you knew a United winner was in the offing, even though the majority of the chances were falling to hosts. Keeping the victories coming amid a seemingly-unstoppable winning win is one thing, arresting three successful home losses is another. Their season hinges on doing just that sooner rather than later. By Pete Hall
A first victory over a side in the Premier League’s current top six since October 2021 was never going to come easy.
Erik ten Hag needed to get every in-game decision spot on – something that has not been his strong point this season.
With Andre Onana worn out from plentiful fine stops down one end, as Aston Villa’s forwards scuffed their way around their Sunday afternoon, a Ten Hag masterstroke ensured the constellation fell into place to see Manchester United through to a potentially season-defining success in their quest for an unlikely top-four finish.
His in-game changes have drawn much criticism as things have unravelled of late, with his decision to take Kobbie Mainoo off in defeat at Nottingham Forest in December angering supporters and the club’s army of former players-turned-pundits.
With £85m forward Antony sat behind him, though, Ten Hag’s final throw of the dice – his job is as much on the line as anyone’s with the new Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos regime about to commence – was to turn to what he believed was his biggest goal threat. And boy did it pay dividends.
Despite what Scotland supporters will tell you, Scott McTominay is not going to be one of the catalytic figures capable of guiding United towards a brighter future. Not by any stretch.
What he does offer, however, is a boundless desire – something not a given in the United dressing room – to arrive late in the penalty area to settle matches at the death. He could not have timed his latest intervention any better. By Pete Hall
Read more: The Erik ten Hag masterstroke that inspired Man Utd to victory over Aston Villa
After months intermittently soundtracked by alarm bells, Newcastle are finally finding some stability, even if it is through chaos. Their only defeat in their past seven games came to Manchester City and their only draw was last weekend’s comeback bonanza against Luton.
What is fuelling this mini renaissance? It certainly isn’t a solid defence – they have conceded 17 goals in their past six league games – but they have scored at least twice in each of their past eight matches in all competitions. Despite their forward line repeatedly being ravaged by injuries, they are finding ways to score.
The most prolific of these methods is set pieces. In Newcastle’s past four matches, they have scored six times from set-pieces: five corners and one free-kick. Much like Arsenal and their dead-ball wizard Nicolas Jover, Newcastle are not too arrogant to believe attacking set pieces should be the reserve of struggling sides in need of a quick fix.
Eddie Howe’s men have now scored 12 goals in four games. None have come from a striker, only one from a recognised forward in Harvey Barnes.
Yet Fabian Schar managed a corner brace against Aston Villa, one a direct header and the other a well-earned rebound, before scoring from a free-kick against Forest. Sean Longstaff has three goals in his past four games – his first, against Fulham, also from a corner. Even Dan Burn has got on the scoresheet of late.
There are two key drivers behind this attacking set-piece boom – Kieran Trippier and “Mad Dog” Jason Tindall. Guimaraes dedicated his first against Forest to the assistant coach, the brains behind the club’s set-piece routines. Newcastle actually produced the exact same move last season.
The Magpies are now scoring freely through a smorgasbord of short corner routines and rebounds which appear to be luck, but are actually painstakingly planned. They don’t all resemble set pieces as you know them, but that’s how they’re fooling oppositions too.
In October 2022, Howe said “the element of surprise is important in our routines”, and that is still the case, as Guimaraes demonstrated at the City Ground. When the Magpies have someone of Burn’s height available, he can act as an attention conductor, allowing those around him to go relatively unnoticed.
And when they can rely on someone of Trippier’s quality, set pieces can become an exact science. The Newcastle captain now has a goal and three assists in his past three games and 10 assists across this season. Only James Ward-Prowse has provided more than his 27 shot-creating actions from set pieces, and this doesn’t take into account short corner routines and rebounds.
Newcastle won’t be able to beat every side in the Premier League through a war of attrition and short corners, but for a team short on form and fitness, it’s a good start. They are now up to seventh in the top flight, a route back into Europe next season.
And they have become the top flight’s premier set-piece exponents in 2024, among stiff competition. What looks like chaos might actually be the closest thing this team does to order. By George Simms
Read more: How Newcastle’s secret weapon is turning their disaster season around
There is an argument to be made that West Ham are the most difficult team to work out in the Premier League. They are eighth in the Premier League table which is where they’d expect to be given the spending power of the seven clubs above them. They have beaten Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham this season.
However, they have also conceded 42 league goals, been on the receiving end of 5-0 and 6-0 thrashings, and are yet to win a match in 2024. They are simultaneously having a good season and a bad one. Supporters are permanently grappling with conflicting emotions about David Moyes.
Had Moyes not presided over that famous night in Prague the atmosphere on Sunday would have turned mutinous. It was West Ham’s joint-heaviest home defeat in the league in their history and their worst loss at home in 61 years. There were boos at half-time, but most fans made their point by leaving early with thousands streaming out at half-time and others following shortly once Saka had made it five. Lucas Paqueta cannot return to fitness quickly enough.
One player who is fit and available but not being picked is Kalvin Phillips, who was named as a substitute for the second game running. It is still early days and given how little football Phillips played at Manchester City perhaps a slow adaptation period at West Ham was inevitable. The problem for Phillips is that games are running out for him to solidify his place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
He needed to hit the ground running and hasn’t. A late yellow card for a petulant kick out betrayed his frustrations. By Oliver Young-Myles
If Roberto De Zerbi is a serious candidate for the Liverpool job, Brighton have got to start controlling games. With De Zerbi recovering from dental surgery, Andrea Maldera’s job was to double down on their approach and he was proud afterwards that his players had done just that. Unfortunately, “that” was a naivete that cost them the game. It’s fine to “want to score always the second goal” – it might warrant a little consideration when you haven’t won on the road in the Premier League since 25 November. Away from The Amex, it’s now 23 goals conceded in 10.
Brighton probably missed a trick in not pressuring Guglielmo Vicario from set pieces, as Everton set the blueprint for last weekend. It will grate too that while they have so often had to rely on teenagers this season, it was the far more experienced Pervis Estupinan who might have held his line better for Brennan Johnson’s winner.
That is perhaps the harsher reading of what happened at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Joao Pedro’s thigh issue meant this was always going to be an uphill struggle – he has scored a fifth of their goals this season and Jack Hinshelwood’s foot injury was another serious blow.
Yet there were hints Brighton have enough in the tank. Ansu Fati completed another half an hour. Kaoru Mitoma made some decent runs and caused Spurs problems in the second half.
It wasn’t just senseless having a go – the introductions of Evan Ferguson and Benicio Baker-Boaitey might genuinely have changed something. By Katherine Lucas
“Absolutely gutted. We fell below it today”. That was the headline on the Wolverhampton Wanderers official website.
Since club websites are the kind of platform that will squeeze any hint of positivity from even the grimmest debacle, it is safe to conclude that Wolves’ 2-0 home defeat to Brentford is one that everyone at Molineux would like to consign to oblivion, especially if the injuries to Hwang Hee-chan and Matheus Cunha are only short-term. Their loss may explain why it was the first time this season that Wolves had failed to score at home, although what would have been an equaliser from Craig Dawson was offside only by a couple of boot studs.
What would concern his manager, Gary O’Neil, was the defensive sloppiness that ought to have seen Brentford out of sight before the half-time whistle. By Tim Rich
Play against Crystal Palace on Monday evening.
There was a rainbow over Craven Cottage and, metaphorically at least, there was one on the pitch, in the shape of Roberto Muniz. The 22-year-old Brazilian’s two goals were the difference in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth and his combination of pace and physicality means that there might be a few more as the season nears its climax, especially if he continues to be the recipient of Willian’s superb passing.
Fulham’s January may have been dominated by the narrow defeat to Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final and to Newcastle in the FA Cup, but in front of their own fans Marco Silva’s side has developed the kind of rhythm that is the hallmark of a team with plenty of confidence.
Since early October, Fulham have won six of their nine league games at home, dropping points only against clubs from the north-west – Manchester United, Burnley and Everton. Liverpool and Manchester City are still to come. By Tim Rich
The defeat at Fulham was a slap in the face – although not the biggest slap in the face of the weekend which came at Kenilworth Road. Bournemouth had lost once at Craven Cottage since 1982. They had beaten Fulham on Boxing Day at the Vitality Stadium and now they aimed 25 shots at Bernd Leno’s goal and forced 14 corners. That Bournemouth lost, 3-1, was partly because of the quality of Fulham’s own finishing and partly because 84 per cent of Bournemouth’s shots were off target.
There are a couple of reasons why the headlines that Andoni Iraola’s team have not won a league game in 2024 – and might be starting to slide – should not stick. Firstly, it is February and then there is the fixture list. Once past games against Newcastle and Manchester City, Bournemouth face Burnley, Sheffield United, Luton (twice), Wolves, Everton and Crystal Palace. Then they play Manchester United, a team they beat comfortably at Old Trafford earlier in the season.
By then it will be mid-April and, if Bournemouth still haven’t registered a league win in 2024, then it might be time to worry. By Tim Rich
Quite a few people at Wolves were anxious as Thomas Frank’s men made their way towards Molineux which considering Brentford had beaten only Luton and Nottingham Forest since the end of October and Wolves had beaten them twice in two months seemed to be a little over-cautious.
And yet the worriers were proved right. Brentford should have settled the contest in the opening 20 minutes, when Neal Maupay might have had a hat-trick. That Ivan Toney has now scored three times in four matches since his return from his eight-month ban for betting offences will lead Brentford fans to wonder what might have been – like Everton fans adding 10 points to their points total, although with rather more complicated maths.
The facts are that, despite the recent results, Brentford have been consistently dangerous. Since losing 4-1 to Wolves in December, they have taken the lead in their next five matches. Two wins is not an outstanding return but this was a victory that was coming. By Tim Rich
Play against Chelsea on Monday evening.
Is Callum Hudson-Odoi… back? It’s now two goals and an assist in his past four league games, managing 90 minutes in three of those matches. That’s as many times as he lasted a full 90 in either the Bundesliga or the Premier League in the past two seasons.
Hudson-Odoi’s goal against Newcastle may have taken a wicked deflection off Lewis Miley, but he was a threat throughout. He also produced two key passes, four dribbles and was fouled three times, all match highs.
To the casual observer, he appears more self-assured and sharper. Something is clearly working in his relationship with Nuno Espirito Santo, having started his Midlands rebuild under Steve Cooper, who he had won the U17 World Cup with.
“[Nuno] is an amazing manager,” Hudson-Odoi told BBC Sport.
“He’s come in with that attitude and knows exactly what he wants from players.
“For myself, I’ve always said I want to be more on the assist sheet, more on the scoresheet, helping out the boys more off the ball too.”
Nottingham appears to suit this occasionally wayward talent too, still just 23 despite what can feel like more than a decade in the limelight.
“Here is much more quiet,” he said. “Being here gives you more time to focus on what you need to focus on. There are more distractions in London, which is a bit bad sometimes. Here is a much bigger help.”
With a front four of Anthony Elanga, Morgan Gibbs-White, Taiwo Awoniyi and Hudson-Odoi all fit and firing, Forest can disrupt any defence with direct dribbling, pace and power. They still need to learn to defend set pieces, but this is the basis of an attacking axis which could have huge success over the coming months, perhaps even years – if Forest can negotiate a potential points deduction. By George Simms
Luton were fortunate that so much attention in their 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United was concentrated on two of the more baffling penalties awarded by VAR – which is a pretty long list.
This was a crushingly deflating defeat, the kind that may have a long-term impact. Since November, Kenilworth Road has seen their boys beat Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Brighton while pushing Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City close. They were kicking off against a club that had not won away all season, knowing that a win would take them four points clear of Everton with a game in hand.
It could have been this pressure that undid them or it could be that Sheffield United are more used to Luton’s physical style of football than some of the more refined members of the Premier League. In their five matches against the teams that came up with them, plus Nottingham Forest, who were until fairly recently part of the Championship, Luton have won one, at Sheffield United courtesy of two late own goals. By Tim Rich
There’s no better or harsher yardstick to measure Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s performance against than Erling Haaland. The Norwegian had one fewer touch than Calvert-Lewin’s 27, yet scored twice and completed all of his passes.
Calvert-Lewin didn’t put either of his shots on target and less than 30 per cent of his attempted passes met their mark. He looked the part, harrying and harassing City defenders at every opportunity, but it came to nought.
The 11-cap Englishman is an easy whipping boy, having scored just four goals in 26 games this season, a marginally better ratio than two in 18 in 2022-23. But really, this is an Everton problem. In their past eight games, they have scored just four times, twice from corners and once from an Andre Gomes free-kick.
Only Jack Harrison’s effort in the 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Luton was from open play, and even then it needed a defender to slip and Tim Krul to mishandle.
It may seem hypocritical to praise Newcastle for their use of set pieces then berate Everton for their reliance on them, but the Magpies are turning them into points and wins in a way the Toffees aren’t.
Defending resolutely is all well and good, but Everton don’t seem to have a plan once they concede. Sitting so deep only makes sense if you can also counter-attack effectively.
You won’t avoid relegation relying on 0-0 draws, which Everton have had three of in 2024. They haven’t managed more than five shots on target in a single game since Christmas – they had just one against City. Even then, their shots on target to goal ratio is the third lowest in the league.
Part of this is down to a striker corps made up of Calvert-Lewin, Beto, Arnaut Danjuma and Youssef Chermiti. Between them, they have played 3,893 minutes this season in all competitions, scoring just 11 goals. That’s slightly better than a goal every four games from your designated goalscorers.
Everton’s creators are no better – only Dwight McNeil (five) and Harrison (three) have more than two assists. Until they can find a way of scoring goals, they seem unlikely to escape the relegation zone they have now slipped into. By George Simms
There was at least some unity in the away dressing room after Burnley’s 3-1 defeat at Anfield. “It sums up our season,” said the Burnley captain, Josh Brownhill. “It sums up the last few months,” said his manager, Vincent Kompany.
Indeed, it did. They had won once at Anfield in half a century, and that was in a game with no spectators present and they were now facing a Liverpool side that were expected to be stung into action by their defeat at Arsenal. Instead, Burnley were the better side, controlled much of the game and then conceded their 11th goal of the season from a set-piece.
This time it was a corner that their keeper, James Trafford, utterly misjudged. Having equalised, they continued to play well and received plenty of plaudits.
“Burnley were super competitive,’ said Jurgen Klopp, a man who is always generous to teams he beats. The plaudits earned Burnley zero points and they are off the bottom of the Premier League only on goal difference. Considering their goal difference is minus 25, that is some achievement. By Tim Rich
That 3-2 defeat to Luton was the trigger for Paul Heckingbottom’s removal as manager and the return of Chris Wilder. Last Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing at Bramall Lane by Aston Villa seemed to be a signal that nothing much has changed.
Sheffield United are a side that can crumble quickly – Newcastle, Arsenal, Burnley and Villa have all put five or more past the Blades. However, they possess bouncebackability. The 8-0 evisceration by Newcastle was part of a six-game losing sequence but they recovered from their defeats to Arsenal and now Villa to win immediately while the 5-0 thrashing by Burnley was followed by a narrow defeat to Liverpool and a 1-0 win over Brentford.
Wilder has now taken four points from his first five games, which is encouraging but not enough. Sheffield United now require back-to-back Premier League wins to give themselves any hope at all of staying up, something they last achieved in December 2006 under the management of Neil Warnock. By Tim Rich