Chris Wilder

Premier League club grades: The story so far

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We are nearly a third of the way into the 2019-20 Premier League season and the table is finally starting to take shape.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The surprise packages seem here to stay, there are a bunch of teams battling for European qualification, plenty of giants are struggling and it seems like both the title and relegation battles have already started.

Taking all of that into consideration, we feel like 12 games into the season is a very good time to dish out some grades on each PL club based on their performances so far.

Here it goes…


Arsenal: D
Unai Emery is under pressure, big time, as the defensive problems weren’t properly fixed. Add to the mix that Granit Xhaka was handed the captaincy via a player vote, then stripped of it after his outburst following fans celebrating his substitution and things are a bit of a mess. The only reason Arsenal didn’t get an F is because somehow they are still in the top six and well-placed in the Europa League. That said, they are eight points off the top four and Emery needs some big wins fast. His team don’t seem to know what is being asked of them tactically, and he’s almost 18 months into the job. Scary.


Aston Villa: C
This is just about what we expected from Villa on their return to the PL. Dean Smith‘s side are fun to watch and take risks in the final third, but they are naive defensively. They’ve pushed Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal all the way and they’ve picked up some big wins when things click in attack. Villa look set to hover just about the relegation zone this season and look to have enough quality in midfield and attack to stay out of trouble.


Bournemouth: B-
It’s a case of one step forward, one step back for the Cherries. The last few weeks summed that up well as they beat Man United then lost to Newcastle. Defensively they’ve improved massively but Eddie Howe‘s side are now suffering with a lack of clinical finishing in attack. Bournemouth will be well clear of relegation trouble, but a European push still seems a step too far for this young side.


Brighton: B+
Graham Potter‘s arrival has seen the Seagulls play some wonderful stuff, especially at home. Brighton have picked up some big wins and they have a gem in Leandro Trossard and youngster Aaron Connolly has emerged as a regular. Brighton still have a strong defensive core but they are much more adventurous going forward and Potter has got his ideas across to the players very quickly. A great start for a team many tipped as relegation favorites.


Burnley: B
Some very strong displays from the Clarets, as they’ve hammered the likes of Southampton, Norwich and West Ham, plus beat Everton and drew against Villa and Wolves. They are back to their best with a strong defensive unit and Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes are a handful up top. A top 10 finish seems very likely.


Chelsea: A+
It couldn’t have gone any better than this. Frank Lampard‘s first few months as a top-flight manager got off to a slow start but the Blues have won six PL games on the spin and are sitting pretty in the UEFA Champions League. Christian Pulisic has been on fire in the last month and the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have taken their chances in the first team, not to mention Jorginho and Willian shinning in their new roles as leaders. Chelsea may not be genuine title contenders, but they look certain to finish in the top four. In a season where they were supposed to be hit hard by a transfer ban, that’s very good going. Super Frank, indeed.


Crystal Palace: C+
The Eagles have had their ups and downs and after a fast start they’ve been on a gruelling stretch of games. Wilfried Zaha doesn’t seem fully focused and has looked frustrated, while Roy Hodgson has had to rely on Jordan Ayew for goals. How long will that last? Defensively Gary Cahill appears to be one of the bargains of the season after his free transfer from Chelsea, with the Eagles tough to beat but lacking a little in attack. Palace will be battling for a top 10 finish. Nothing less, nothing more.


Everton: C-
The last few results have improved this grade significantly, as Marco Silva still has so many issues to sort out at Everton. It appears the owners will give him plenty of time and drawing against Spurs and beating Southampton bought him some more of that. But what is Everton’s identity? They now seem to be slipping into a counter-attacking style which suits their players best, and they have to nail down that identity. Everton have the players to push for the top six (the horrible injury to Andre Gomes will make that tougher) but they have underperformed and Silva has been under pressure. Maybe now the pressure has eased (slightly) they can rise up the table.


Leicester City: A+
Brendan Rodgers is working miracles at the King Power Stadium. This young Leicester side have been a revelation so far, with Jamie Vardy leading the PL in goals and finishing off most of the copious chances created by James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Co. At the other end of the pitch Caglar Soyuncu has replaced Harry Maguire expertly and Wilfred Ndidi is ripping it up as N’Golo Kante’s replacement. The Foxes are perfectly balanced and sit second in the table for a reason. They deserve to be there, but the only worry is who will replace Vardy if he’s injured? If he stays fit, Leicester will finish in the top four. Simple.


Liverpool: A
Unbeaten with 11 wins from their opening 12 games. Not bad, Jurgen, not bad at all. Klopp’s Liverpool are hungry and although they haven’t been at their best for most of this season they are ruthless in attack and dogged in defense. Sadio Mane has taken his game to a new level and Fabinho is shielding the back four superbly. They are eight points clear but know how quickly those leads can evaporate. Still, pretty much the perfect start for Liverpool as the reigning European champs are the red-hot favorites to secure their first league title for over 30 years. If injuries are kind to them, there is no way they will let this lead slip this time.


Man City: B
Pep Guardiola‘s side have been hit hard by defensive injuries early in the season and the defending champs will rue not signing a new center back in the summer. With Aymeric Laporte going down, they’ve had to put Fernandinho at center back with Otamendi and Stones all over the place. Ederson‘s recent injury was also a blow as going forward they’ve been sublime but defensively there have been huge issues, as the defeats against Norwich and Liverpool proved. Nine points off the top early on, can Man City claw this back? It is going to take a superhuman effort, plus a Liverpool collapse, to do that. Guardiola’s side may soon go ‘all-in’ on chasing that Champions League trophy.


Man United: C+
What a weird start to the season for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s young side. They’ve beaten Chelsea and Leicester and drawn against Liverpool and Arsenal, but they’ve also lost to Newcastle, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and West Ham. A real mixed bag, which is what you can expect with such a young team out there week in, week out, and because of injuries. When Rashford, Martial and James are fit, they look so dangerous in attack and at least there is a plan in place and a style of play. Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have shored things up at the back and United now need a midfield playmaker to step forward to dictate games. Expect them to make a move in the January window for a Bruno Fernandes type, while a top four finish isn’t out of the question but is looking unlikely after a topsy-turvy start.


Newcastle United: B-
Things have gone surprisingly well for Steve Bruce‘s side so far. Anarchy was in the air among the Toon Army in the summer but wins against Spurs and Man United calmed things down, and they’ve just beat West Ham and Bournemouth back-to-back. Relegation could still be on the cards, but for now the Magpies are looking solid defensively and are tough to beat. Joelinton and Miguel Almiron are struggling to produce in attack and long-term that seems to be their biggest problem.


Norwich City: C
It all started so well as Teemu Pukki couldn’t stop scoring and they beat Man City to spark wild scenes at Carrow Road. That was in September and Norwich haven’t won since. There’s no doubt defensive injuries have hit Daniel Farke‘s side hard and the players they have are adventurous but seem to be taking too many chances in possession. Pukki has been an isolated figure in recent weeks but if they can get him the ball in dangerous areas, he will finish. There’s a long way to go but Norwich sit bottom and look destined for relegation. But maybe Pukki is ready to fire up another #PukkiParty…


Sheffield United: A
The newly-promoted Blades have been one of the stories of the season so far as they sit in fifth place. We’ve all heard about their overlapping center backs and Chris Wilder being adamant they won’t change their style of play, but one of the biggest plus points from their opening few months back in the PL has been their work rate. Every play on this Sheffield United team knows their job and works their socks off. They play as a unit and have given some of the big boys big wake-up calls (they’ve beat Arsenal, drawn against Chelsea and Tottenham and only lost late on against Liverpool). The way they commit players forward is refreshing and they have brought something totally different to the PL. They should easily stay up.


Southampton: F
What a disastrous start for Saints in Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s first full season in charge. They didn’t make the correct offseason additions and were hamstrung by previous poor signings they couldn’t offload. Danny Ings has been the only bright spot so far as he’s scored seven goals in all competitions, but Saints have the worst defense in the league. They were smashed 9-0 at home by Leicester City and they sit second from bottom in the table. It’s true that the fixtures machine wasn’t kind to them for the start of the season, but they now have a very winnable run of games coming up. If they are still in the bottom three in mid-December, they look certain for relegation.


Tottenham Hotspur: D-
A summer of discontent has rumbled on into the fall and now the winter as Mauricio Pochettino‘s mood swings sum up the current situation at Spurs. Eriksen, Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Rose all want to leave but contract situations haven’t been sorted out by Daniel Levy and this has become one heck of a mess. Spurs sit in 14th place in the table, 11 points off the top four, and they look a shell of the hungry, determined side which overachieved season after season since 2015. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are trying their best to score goals and lead the team but something isn’t right behind-the-scenes and Pochettino has a huge job on his hands to push for a top four finish.


Watford: D-
It has taken them 12 games to get a win but the recent signs have been good for the Hornets. After sacking Javi Gracia and bringing in former manager Quique Sanchez Flores they have shored things up defensively overall (let’s forget that 8-0 loss at Man City) and they’ve now drawn games against Spurs, Arsenal and Sheffield United. The win against Norwich gave them belief they can pick things up in the second half of the season and with Troy Deeney set to return they will now have more of a threat in the final third alongside Gerard Deulofeu. Goalkeeper Ben Foster has been superb so far and Watford will need to keep improving defensively if they’re going to get out of the bottom three. They certainly have the talent to do so.


West Ham United: D
Worrying times for Manuel Pellegrini as the Hammers enjoyed a good start but haven’t won since September. West Ham spent big again in the summer and they’re in danger of being sucked into the relegation battle. Declan Rice is struggling for form, so too is Sebastien Haller, and the loss of Lukas Fabianski to injury was a hammer blow (pardon the pun) as Roberto has struggled massively since replacing him in goal. West Ham shouldn’t be in a relegation scrap but it looks like a bleak winter is ahead.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: B-
Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side are ticking over very nicely after a slow start with their small squad seeming to get up to pace of the Thursday-Sunday grind with the Europa League. Raul Jimenez is on fire and although they’re making defensive mistakes, Wolves are able to bounce back better this season when they’ve fallen behind. They should be battling for another top seven finish as well as going on a deep run in the Europa League.

Top Premier League storylines: Week 12

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We all know that the highlight of the Premier League weekend is its final act before the international break, but there’s more going on besides Liverpool-Man City.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


1 v 2

  • Liverpool v. Manchester City, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

This is it: The date circled by both of these fan bases and most neutrals when the Premier League fixture list was released this summer. Man City’s injury list is long and Anfield has been a fortress, but the onus is on the league leaders to handle their business against the two-time reigning champions.

The story lines within this match alone are myriad: Is Ederson‘s injury a mirage? Can City’s marauding full backs deal with the Reds’ wing wizardry? Plus, will the love between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp take a hit following a tense week of diving talk and a more tense battle on the pitch?

And let’s face it: VAR is gonna have something to say before the day is done on Merseyside.


Foxes can make Arsenal even smaller in rear view mirror

  • Leicester City v. Arsenal, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

The Gunners and Foxes know that at least one of the league’s top two will drop points this week, and Unai Emery knows the table can look a lot cozier if he can take three points from a Leicester City side which is overachieving by many metrics.


Chelsea finishes promising stretch of schedule at home

  • Chelsea v. Crystal Palace, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

Since losing to Liverpool, Chelsea has won five-straight in league play. The Blues have outscored Brighton, Saints, Newcastle, Burnley, and Watford by a combined score of 13-4. Palace is the last match of a winnable run before Man City comes calling after the international break.


Improving Seagulls hope Red Devils are weary

  • Manchester United v. Brighton, 9 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

Graham Potter‘s Brighton and Hove Albion have won three of four to move within two points of fifth. United’s improved form took a step back at Bournemouth but picked right back up with a blowout of Partizan Belgrade on Thursday. Both sides will be looking for three points.


Blades aim to carve another point from a top end foe

  • Tottenham Hotspur v. Sheffield United, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

The Blades have beaten Arsenal, drawn Chelsea, and probably deserved a point against Liverpool. Now they had to a Tottenham side whose been anything but consistent, and Chris Wilder‘s men will be thinking another result is in the offing.

Sheffield United ease past Burnley

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Sheffield United beat Burnley 3-0 at Bramall Lane on Saturday, as the Blades finally secured a thumping win in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

For most of this season Chris Wilder‘s side have impressed on the ball but haven’t taken their chances but they scored three times in the first half against Burnley, with John Lundstram scoring twice and John Fleck adding another.

Burnley barely threatened as Sean Dyche‘s side lost a third-straight game, while Sheffield United move up to sixth on 16 points.


3 things we learned

1. Lundstram delivers: He’s now scored four goals in the Premier League this season and

2. Free-flowing Blades prevail: Sheffield United had scored three home PL goals all season, but they scored three in the first 45 minutes in a real breakout day for Wilder’s side. They have threatened this all season long and they should gain huge confidence from a comfortable win against Burnley.

3. Burnley’s defensive problems: The Clarets have now let in nine goals in their last three games and that is unlike them. Sheffield United’s movement caused them problems and Burnley were dragged all over the place. Dyche will not be happy with this very un-Burnley like display.

Man of the Match: John Fleck – Scored one goal and was superb in the engine room to continue his recent good form. The Scotsman was everywhere.


Lundstram put Sheffield United 1-0 up to continue his fine start to the season and Burnley had a penalty appealed looked at by VAR but nothing was given.

Soon after Lundstram got his and Sheffield United’s second, as he finished off a flowing move as Enda Stevens crossed for the midfielder to tap home.

The goals kept coming as Fleck made it 3-0 before the break after Lys Mousset played him in. The Scotsman finished superbly to cap off a wonderful first half for the Blades.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Ashley Barnes was found unmarked but he skied it over the bar as Burnley’s best chance of the game came and went.

Sheffield United continued to look dangerous as Nick Pope denied David McGoldrick and the Blades kept pouring forward.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 9

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Monday’s Arsenal loss and a massive midweek of European football means this week’s Premier League club power rankings come hours before Week 10 begins.

Better late than never.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low


20. Watford — The Hornets simply must get their first win soon, with Bournemouth and Chelsea at home and Norwich City away before the international break.
Last week: 20
Season high: 19
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

19. Norwich City — A decent draw, but the Canaries are wasting an electric season from Emiliano Buendia. His 27 successful dribbles trail only Wilfried Zaha and Nicolas Pepe, although perhaps his numbers are so high because he’s such a focus outside of Teemu Pukki.
Last week: 19
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Manchester United

18. Brighton and Hove Albion — Speaking of wasted efforts, Pascal Gross is Top Five in the league in big chances created and key passes. Good effort in the loss at Villa, but the Seagulls would’ve wanted more.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Everton

17. Newcastle United — Decent effort at Chelsea, but the Magpies need to take advantage of road-weary Wolves (even without Fabian Schar).
Last week: 15
Season high: 15
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Chelsea
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

16. Southampton — Of Saints nine goals, only four have been assisted. Southampton’s passing in general needs to be much better, as Saints’ 74.4 percent passing is only better than Bournemouth and Burnley.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Wolves
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Friday v. Leicester City

15. West Ham United — There are clubs that bring their supporters pain because they don’t try or buy, and those that do. West Ham and Everton are both in that category, and the Irons brought nothing in a loss to the Toffees. Sad.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

14. Everton — The most infuriating batch of talent in the league delivered against West Ham, so I suppose we should expect them to underwhelm in what should be a straight-forward win at the Amex Stadium.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 14
Last match: Won 2-0 v. West Ham
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

13. Tottenham Hotspur — Will the Champions League win over Red Star and an extra day’s rest help Spurs get their season on track while kinda/sorta avenging the UCL final loss?
Last week: 13
Season high: 2
Season low: 13
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Watford
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Liverpool

12. Manchester United — A much-improved performance from the players and tactical approach from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Red Devils fans hoping that maybe, just maybe, something good has taken root at Old Trafford.
Last week: 16
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City

11. Burnley — Sean Dyche‘s scrappiest scrappers who ever scrapped.” Register the trademark.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Leicester City
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea.

10. Wolves — Were in Slovakia on Thursday night. Now onto Newcastle on no rest. Trouble?
Last week: 7
Season high: 7
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Sunday at Newcastle

9. Bournemouth — Do better than two of the match’s three shots on target against one of three teams to have allowed 20-plus goals this season.
Last week: 8
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

8. Aston Villa — Two-straight wins, unbeaten in three, and set for a visit to a Man City side with plenty of injuries who played during the week. What could go wrong? What could go wrong? Bueller?
Last week: 11
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Brighton
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Man City

7. Arsenal — DYK? Arsenal now has three points from four away matches this season…
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 7
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Crystal Palace

6. Crystal Palace — …Unfortunately, Arsenal is 3W-1D at home and hosting Palace. Maybe Wilfried Zaha will put on a proper audition?
Last week: 6
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Man City
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Sheffield United — Look, Chris Wilder‘s men deserve this spot, and it feels just as good to put them here. The best story in the Premier League so far this season.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at West Ham United

4. Leicester City — It’s promising for the Foxes that beating plucky Burnley just seems like “ho-hum, that’s how it’s supposed to go.”
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Burnley
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Friday at Southampton

3. Man City — Too many injuries to key players given all the congestion still to come, but City can feel good that its UCL status is so safe.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

2. Chelsea — The Christian PulisicMichy Batshuayi chemistry is real and has been for some time. It’s a bonus Chelsea didn’t plan for given the transfer ban, and could help keep them in all competitions.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

1. Liverpool — Again, the fact that the Reds have such a big lead on the field even after drawing Manchester United, while also not being near their best in PL play, should be plenty of comfort to the Kop. Now when will they kick on? Spurs at home seems a nice moment for it.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Manchester United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Tottenham Hotspur

Wilder: Sheff Utd basking in points, not plaudits of Arsenal win

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Sure, Sheffield United secured a signature Premier League win by beating Arsenal on Monday, but manager Chris Wilder is far more pleased with the three points his side earned for a victory rather than focusing on who they beat.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Speaking after the game, Wilder drove home the idea that, to a man, everyone at Sheffield United is pulling in the same direction and has a singular focus. Wilder refused to speak of the victory in grander terms, insisting the famous result was just another stepping stone in the club’s journey — quotes from the BBC:

“We have to look at every game on its merits and we are solid defensively. We want to go forward and drive their best players back, but it is an incredible difference from the Championship. This was always going to be a game where we had to make sure we did our job defensively and kept our shape. We had some decent opportunities and [I’m] made up we got the result. We are not taking about plaudits, we want points and it is a big three points tonight.

“Whatever is put in front of us, we have to attack. People look at the stats — the away form has not been great, but two promotions in three years and we are against big hitters in managers and teams. We are quite happy that they have not scored and it was a good all-around performance form us. The atmosphere at the end drove us to get the three points.

“Every game we will try to get something from. I know it is quite boring from me, but that is where it is at. Accumulation of points, if we can stay in the division then fantastic. We have to ask questions of team who come to Bramall Lame, we are up for the battle and delighted with the points total so far.”

With the victory, United sits ninth in the PL table, now four points clear of the relegation zone.