Chris Hughton

Grading every PL club’s festive season

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And exhale.

The Premier League’s festive season concluded Thursday with a sizzling second half draw between West Ham and Tottenham, 13 days after Arsenal and Liverpool got us started on our 40-match run with a 3-3 thriller at the Emirates Staidum.

[ WATCH: Twin stunners at Wembley ]

Forty matches!

We are not grading on a curve, but we are grading relative to seasonal needs.

Arsenal
Dec. 22 – vs. Liverpool, D 3-3
Dec. 28 – at Crystal Palace, W 3-2
Dec. 31 – at West Brom, D 1-1
Jan. 3 – vs. Chelsea, D 2-2

Unbeaten! But only one win! Arsenal can feel aggrieved at West Brom’s late penalty on New Year’s Eve, and those two points are the reason Arsene Wenger‘s men aren’t level on points with fifth place Spurs. All-in-all, though, these are respectable results. Grade: B.

Bournemouth
Dec. 23 – at Man City, L 0-4
Dec. 26 – vs. West Ham United, D 3-3
Dec. 30 – vs. Everton, W 2-1
Jan. 1 – at Brighton, D 2-2

There’s a reason Eddie Howe‘s name is tossed about as a prime prospect for bigger clubs, and a reason Jeff Mostyn and the Bournemouth administration don’t want him going anywhere. The performances are coming around for the Cherries. Grade B-.

Brighton and Hove Albion
Dec. 23 – vs. Watford, W 1-0
Dec. 26 – at Chelsea, L 0-2
Dec. 30 – at Newcastle United, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – vs. Bournemouth, D 2-2

Chris Hughton‘s doing a very good job at the Amex Stadium, and the fortnight went alright for him. Three points above the drop and a goal scorer from feeling safe. Grade B.

Burnley
Dec. 23 – vs. Spurs, L 0-3
Dec. 26 – at Manchester United, D 2-2
Dec. 30 – at Huddersfield Town, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – vs. Liverpool, L 1-2

A brutal run of opponents is hard, and shows that the Clarets were a bit of a mirage. Still a fantastic season, but only a Top Seven contender if Everton and Leicester City drop the ball. Grade C.

Chelsea
Dec. 22 – at Everton, D 0-0
Dec. 26 – vs. Brighton, W 2-0
Dec. 30 – vs. Stoke City, W 5-0
Jan. 3 – at Arsenal, D 2-2

The Blues will take the draw at Arsenal given that Thibaut Courtois‘ many saves offset Alvaro Morata’s several misses. The Everton one, however, stings and stops the Blues from taking advantage of Manchester United’s draw-heavy December. Grade: B

Crystal Palace
Dec. 22 – at Swansea City, D 1-1
Dec. 28 – vs. Arsenal, L 2-3
Dec. 31 – vs. Man City, D 0-0
Jan. 2 – at Southampton, W 2-1

There’s a lot to like here, especially considering the Eagles probably deserved a point against the Gunners. The draw at Swans is poor considering how well Roy Hodgson‘s had the Eagles playing, but is worth overlooking at this point considering Palace ended City’s 18-match win streak (and were a saved Luka Milivojevic penalty away from ending the prospect of an unbeaten season). Grade A-.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Everton
Dec. 23 – vs. Chelsea, D 0-0
Dec. 26 – at West Brom, D 0-0
Dec. 30 – at Bournemouth, L 1-2
Jan. 1 – vs. Man Utd, L 0-2

The Chelsea draw is great, and Sam Allardyce is right that he’s operating without a good striker, but this was not a good period. The loss at Bournemouth could be a blip, but the Toffees were second best at a very poor West Brom side. Grade D+.

Huddersfield Town
Dec. 23 – at Southampton, D 1-1
Dec. 26 – vs. Stoke City, D 1-1
Dec. 30 – vs. Burnley, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – at Leicester City, L 0-3

Depends on how you view David Wagner‘s men, really. Are they overachievers who still should be fearing the drop, or are they a quality side who should be competing for a top half spot? We think the latter, and that makes the home draw vs. Stoke extra disappointing. Grade C.

Leicester City
Dec. 23 – vs. Manchester United, D 2-2
Dec. 26 – at Watford, L 1-2
Dec. 30 – at Liverpool, L 1-2
Jan. 1 – vs. Huddersfield Town, W 3-0

That Watford loss is just sitting there, looking out of place. Beating the Terriers and starting United’s rough patch is a good combination. Grade B-.

Liverpool
Dec. 22 – at Arsenal, D 3-3
Dec. 26 – vs. Swans, W 5-0
Dec. 30 – vs. Leicester City, W 2-1
Jan. 1 – at Burnley, W 2-1

Still humming, beat two decent teams without hemorrhaging goals, and played one of the thrillers of the season. Help coming in Virgil Van Dijk, but Jurgen Klopp improved his defense before the Dutchman signed at Anfield. Grade: A.

Manchester City
Dec. 22 – vs. Bournemouth, W 4-0
Dec. 27 – at Newcastle United, W 1-0
Dec. 31 – at Crystal Palace, D 0-0
Jan. 2 – vs. Watford, W 3-1

Taking 10 of 12 points is pretty good, though Pep Guardiola will feel stung to have seen his 18-match win streak come one short of the mark he set while at Bayern Munich. Grade: A-

Manchester United
Dec. 23 – at Leicester City, D 2-2
Dec. 26 – vs. Burnley, D 2-2
Dec. 30 – vs. Southampton, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – at Everton, W 2-0

Just not acceptable. Yes the fixtures came fast, but they also continued a run in which United didn’t really seem to have a plan other than possession. Grade: C-

Newcastle United
Dec. 23 – at West Ham United, W 3-2
Dec. 26 – vs. Manchester City, L 0-1
Dec. 30 – vs. Brighton, D 0-0
Jan. 1 – at Stoke City, W 1-0

Seven points, and a Dwight Gayle missed header away from going through the festive season unbeaten? Not bad, though the Brighton draw was less than exceptional. Grade: B-

(Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

Southampton
Dec. 23 – vs. Huddersfield Town, D 1-1
Dec. 26 – at Spurs, L 2-5
Dec. 30 – at Man Utd, D 0-0
Jan. 2 – vs. Crystal Palace, L 1-2

Giving points to, at best, a pair of mid-table rivals and, at worst, a pair of relegation scrappers, is not good. The Red Devils draw boosts Mauricio Pellegrino‘s grade just a tad. Grade: D

Stoke City
Dec. 23 – vs. West Bromwich Albion, W 3-1
Dec. 26 – at Huddersfield Town, D 1-1
Dec. 30 – at Chelsea, L 0-5
Jan. 1 – vs. Newcastle, L 0-1

Funny how one match can swing the whole tenor of a quartet, as the loss to fellow scrapper Newcastle colors it in a big way. Grade: C.

Swansea City
Dec. 23 – vs. Crystal Palace, D 1-1
Dec. 26 – at Liverpool, L 0-5
Dec. 30 – at Watford, W 2-1
Jan. 2 – vs. Spurs, L 0-2

Still dead last in the Premier League, but three of Swans’ four opponents were very much in form. Throw in a managerial change, and the grade should probably be a bit higher. Grade B-.

Tottenham Hotspur
Dec. 23 – at Burnley, W 3-0
Dec. 26 – vs. Southampton, W 5-2
Jan. 2 – at Swans, W 2-0
Jan. 4 – vs. West Ham, D 1-1

The draw coming how it did — outshooting a rival 31-3 — makes the fact that Spurs are the only club who could’ve bettered Man City’s festive season even more bitter. Still, a great run. Grade: A- 

Watford
Dec. 23 – at Brighton and Hove Albion, L 0-1
Dec. 26 – vs. Leicester City, W 2-1
Dec. 30 – vs. Swans, L 1-2
Jan. 2 – at Man City, L 1-3

Marco Silva‘s star doesn’t seem as shiny as it did when Watford was turning down Everton interest, and two of these losses were pretty bothersome. Five points above the drop zone now. Not great given the parity in the league. Grade C-.

West Bromwich Albion
Dec. 23 – at Stoke City, L 1-3
Dec. 26 – vs. Everton, D 0-0
Dec. 31 – vs. Arsenal, D 1-1
Jan. 2 – at West Ham, L 1-2

Still winless since August. Didn’t deserve to get a point against Arsenal, but deserved three versus Everton. Need attacking help. Grade C-.

West Ham United
Dec. 23 – vs. Newcastle United, L 2-3
Dec. 26  – at Bournemouth, D 3-3
Jan. 2 – vs. West Brom, W 2-1
Jan. 4 – at Spurs, D 1-1

You’d say bang average, but it’s difficult to overlook that the Irons have climbed out of the drop zone. Grade C+.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 21

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The Premier League’s festive fixtures continue to test squad depth, and one in particular is in danger of losing its surefire Top Four footing.

[ MORE: JPW’s PL picks | PL streaming schedule ]

That’s the lead of our top storylines this weekend in England.


Will Mourinho get Man Utd back in the win column?
Manchester United vs. Southampton — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC [ STREAM ]

[ PL PREVIEW: Man Utd vs. Saints ]

Back-to-back draws have Jose Mourinho’s men 15 points back of Man City, but the manager will be more concerned about his status just one point ahead of Chelsea and six clear of fifth place Spurs. The good news is that Saints defense looked awful in getting buried by Spurs, and Mauricio Pellegrino has some big questions to ask of his men — and himself — at Old Trafford.


Is Liverpool going to continue its charge up the table?
Liverpool vs. Leicester City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Unbeaten in 15, the hosts are looking for the first season sweep in this series since 2001-02, but history says it won’t be easy: The last two seasons have seen both sides take a win from each other in Premier League play. The Reds and Foxes have allowed 53 goals between them this season, so there’s a good chance of offense on Saturday at Anfield.

[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool vs. Leicester City ]

 (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

 

Was sloppy midweek a sign for City?
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City — 7 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Manchester City produced a lot of chances but only converted one at Newcastle United, its first 1-0 match in the Premier League since late September. City is a win away from tying Pep Guardiola‘s Bayern Munich record for consecutive wins (19), and have yet to lose this season. Palace will be facing a City back line still looking for health, so is there some danger at Selhurst Park?


Will the Baggies make it four calendar months without a win?
West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal — 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Alan Pardew‘s West Brom has not won since it was Tony Pulis‘ West Brom, and that means September, October, November, and now perhaps December will pass without a league win if the Baggies cannot manage an upset against Arsene Wenger‘s bunch. Arsenal hasn’t lost in five matches, but boasts just two wins from that bunch. Ripe for an upset, or a breakout performance?


Here’s the new boss, and the old boss
Newcastle United vs. Brighton and Hove Albion — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Chris Hughton‘s done a fine job at several Premier League stops, and the ex-Newcastle manager looks for a season sweep of his old charges when he matches wits with Rafa Benitez at St. James’ Park. More importantly, a win would boost the Seagulls six points clear of the Magpies and multiple results clear of the drop zone.

Benitez: Newcastle “needed a victory like this”

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Newcastle United’s nine-match winless run is over, and Rafa Benitez is relieved to see his charges get what he believes is a deserved trip back out of the drop zone.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-3 Newcastle ]

Benitez has lamented his team’s lack of depth since the end of the August window but rarely proffered negatives about his players or their effort.

So when the Magpies responded from a rough start to get goals from two unexpected sources and a third from Christian Atsu, Benitez was essentially glowing from the visitors’ side at the London Stadium as Newcastle beat West Ham 3-2.

From the BBC:

“We needed a performance and a victory like this. We were pushing really hard against Everton and hit the post twice. I am really pleased for the lads and the fans. it is fantastic.

“It was important to win to show that we could doing the things we are doing. We know it will be difficult to the end but we know that we can win and achieve things doing things as we are.”

Mikel Merino, Jonjo Shelvey, and Isaac Hayden were all unavailable to Benitez through injury or suspension, necessitating a partnership between Mo Diame and Henri Saivet. The latter hadn’t started for Benitez in the Premier League, and scored a free kick after giving away a goal to Marko Arnautovic early in the match.

It doesn’t get easy for the Magpies over the festive season, with a visit from behemoth Manchester City next. But the Magpies will defend to the death and hope for good things from a visit from old pal Chris Hughton and Brighton and then a trip to Stoke City.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Watford: Gross gets it done

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  • Fourth-straight Watford loss
  • Gross keeps producing for Gulls
  • Brighton moves 12th

Pascal Gross moved Brighton and Hove Albion a point back of their Saturday visitors as the Seagulls bested Watford 1-0 at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Brighton has 21 points, one point behind 10th place Watford.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Chris Hughton‘s Seagulls had the most of the early chances, with Pascal Gross and Davy Propper among those tempting the frame.

Brighton took its deserved lead in the 64th minute through Gross, who took advantage of a Watford giveaway and powered his shot through a hand of Heurelho Gomes.

Richarlison looked prepared to make it 1-1 with an in-tight header, but he missed wide of the frame.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Brighton 0-0 Burnley: Seagulls continue barren spell

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  • Seagulls without a win in seven
  • Murray misses first half PK
  • Wood denied twice in second half

Brighton and Hove Albion drew 0-0 with Burnley at the Amex Stadium on Saturday with Chris Hughton‘s side now without a win in seven games and they’ve scored just once in their last six Premier League encounters.

Glenn Murray blazed over a first half penalty kick to add to Brighton’s woes, while Burnley were denied by Mat Ryan in the second half as the spoils were shared.

With the point Burnley move on to 32 points, while Brighton have 18 and are just three points above the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton did most of the pressing early on with Murray causing plenty of problems and Burnley could hardly get out of their own half.

Johann Berg Gudmundsson had a shot which flew just wide but that was as close as the Clarets came.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Before the break Anthony Knockaert‘s shot hit the post and then Lewis Dunk‘s header was cleared off the line by Phil Bardsley, before a massive moment arrived.

James Tarkowski bundled over Murray in the box but the Brighton forward blasted the penalty kick over the bar as the Seagulls wasted a glorious opportunity.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Chris Wood forced Mat Ryan into a save early in the second half but the chances kept coming for Brighton.

Knockaert squirmed an effort just wide of the far post for Brighton and then Wood had the ball in the net after Scott Arfield was twice denied but he was in an offside position.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Ryan denied Wood again late on as he closed down the onrushing Burnley forward brilliantly, and both teams had to settle for a point on the South Coast.