Duncan Ferguson

Premier League midseason grades

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We are at the halfway point of the Premier League season, so now seems like a good time to dish out grades to each team.

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Based on the opening half of the 2019-20 campaign, which teams have impressed? Who should be doing better?

Below we give grades on all 20 teams and evaluate their first half of the season.


Arsenal: F
Unai Emery was fired, defensively they are all over the place and Arsenal currently sit closer to the bottom three than the top four. A terrible season so far and former captain Mikel Arteta has a huge job on his hands to make them competitive again. The only saving grace is that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to bang in the goals. Aside from that, shambles.


Aston Villa: D-
A decent enough start as Dean Smith‘s side showed plenty of promise after big spending in the summer but things have unraveled very quickly. Jack Grealish is doing his best but Wesley has struggled and defensively they are weak. A relegation battle beckons for Villa, and that was not expected. Smith is on borrowed time.


Bournemouth: D
Eddie Howe‘s side are in their toughest stretch since being promoted in 2015 and aside from their defensive injuries, the biggest concern is that they no longer seem capable of scoring at least two goals every game. The Cherries are slumping and it may be tough for them to turn this around. Losing Brooks to injury was a huge blow, while Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser have gone off the boil.


Brighton and Hove Albion: B+
Graham Potter has had a huge impact. Brighton have gone from being one of the worst teams in the PL to watch to one of the best. Trossard and Maupay have been big attacking additions and the Seagulls should be clear of the relegation scrap. A brave hire in Potter has paid off, as he’s already signed a new deal at the Amex.


Burnley: C+
Typically Burnley. Tough to play against, grinding out wins at home and they’ve gone back to being solid defensively. Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez and Ashley Barnes give them extra firepower and the Clarets should be battling for a top 10 finish.


Chelsea: B+
A proper Jekyll and Hyde season for the Blues who have lost at home against some very poor teams but won at Spurs, Arsenal and have pushed the big boys all the way. Frank Lampard has kept faith in the youngsters with Abraham, Mount and Tomori ever present, while Pulisic is coming in to his own. A UCL last 16 berth was a huge bonus and sitting in the top four at midway is much better than many expected. They now have the added bonus of being able to buy new players in January.


Crystal Palace: B+
Roy Hodgson continues to work miracles with a banged up squad and the fact Wilfried Zaha is finally refocused (close to the January transfer window…) has pushed them away from the bottom three. Palace need to spend some money in January to help them stay midtable, while Gary Cahill has been the bargain of the season so far as a free agent.


Everton: C-
Marco Silva was a disaster and had he stayed, the Toffees were likely going down. Duncan Ferguson galvanized the squad as interim boss and made them hard to beat, while Carlo Ancelotti has arrived to add his experience. Big names players will arrive in January and the summer. Things are looking up for Everton who have too much quality to go down.


Leicester City: A+
Pretty much the perfect season so far as Brendan Rodgers side have a 9-0 win on the board, Jamie Vardy is in the form of his life and the Foxes sit second in the table and are looking good for a top four finish with a young, talented squad also in the League Cup semifinals. Their title hopes are done and dusted but a top four finish would be a superb return, especially after selling Harry Maguire in the summer.


Liverpool: A+
Talking of perfect seasons… Liverpool could legitimately go the entire campaign unbeaten and even though they probably played better last season they are grinding out wins this season. Jurgen Klopp‘s side have that psychological edge over the rest of the PL and even though they have had some injuries to key players, they’ve dealt with it with ease. 17 wins from 18 games is incredible and Sadio Mane has been the star man for the newly-crowned World Club Cup champs. They will soon become the PL champs as their title procession has begun.


Manchester City: B-
Their inability to sign a new center back in the summer has come back to hit them hard. Kompany left and Aymeric Laporte‘s injury means that Fernandinho has had to play as a center back, and Otamendi and Stones just haven’t been good enough. Full back is also an issue and even though Kevin De Bruyne is firing on all cylinders and they look great in attack, City are back to the team they were in Pep Guardiola‘s first season in charge. They will soon go all-in on the Champions League.


Manchester United: B
Very similar to Chelsea as their young side have shown glimpses of brilliance but they’ve lost against Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Watford and Bournemouth. Defensively they are still coughing up easy goals and David De Gea is having a poor season, by his high standards. That said, Rashford, Martial and James are looking very good as a trio, while Maguire and Wan-Bissaka have slotted in seamlessly. Finding the right balance in central midfield in the second half of the season will be key if they are going to finish in the top four, but wins against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Leicester, plus their draw against Liverpool, prove they can mix it with the big boys. Finding consistency has to be their biggest aim for 2020.


Newcastle United: B+
Results wise it has been an amazing first half of the season for the Magpies and much-maligned boss Steve Bruce. They aren’t great to watch, at all, but Newcastle are almost closing in on the magic 40-point marker and are solid defensively. For now the natives at St James’ Park are on their side and Bruce has weathered the early storm. Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton need to produce more goals and if they do, Newcastle can push for the top 10.


Norwich City: C
The Canaries are punching above their weight week in, week out. Daniel Farke is a very good coach and he’s getting the best out of his limited squad, while Teemu Pukki is getting the goals to keep them competitive. Todd Cantwell is a gem and Norwich have had to deal with lots of injuries defensively. The only major negative is that they have been playing really well and attacking teams but they are a little naive and have been punished in plenty of games. It will be a huge surprise if they stay up.


Sheffield United: A-
Another newly-promoted team who have been open and attacking but the Blades have the defensive stability to get results. Chris Wilder‘s side are pushing for a top six finish and have only lost once away from home, at Man City, in the opening half of the season. From their overlapping center backs to Mousset, McGoldrick and McBurnie up top, they have been a wonderful addition to the PL. Fleck, Lundstram and Norwood are all so underrated too. Basically you can praise this entire team as Wilder has done a wonderful job keeping their identity intact while adapting to the PL.


Southampton: C
Probably where they should be at, just above the relegation zone. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side have recovered well from the 9-0 hammering at home by Leicester and in Danny Ings they have a Matt Le Tissier-esque savior. Ings scores almost every game and in Moussa Djenepo they have another top attacking talent. Saints need defensive reinforcements in January and if they can add quality at the back they should kick on in the second half of the season and be clear of danger. That said, the ownership need to realize that a relegation scrap will be the outcome each season until they make more funds available to spend.


Tottenham Hotspur: C+
Where do we even start with Spurs? Mauricio Pochettino was fired after a terrible start to the league season as problems brewing with players not signing new deals and Daniel Levy over transfers carried over from the summer months. Step in, the Special One. Jose Mourinho has added a cutting edge to this Spurs side and he’s refocused them. Defensively they are shambolic and they miss captain Hugo Lloris. Mourinho’s main aim is a top four finish and to go on another deep run in the UCL.


Watford: D-
The Hornets are on their third manager of the season and they’ve finally got going. Javi Gracia was fired quickly after a poor end to last season and a poor start this time around, then former boss Quique Sanchez Flores didn’t last long before Nigel Pearson arrived. Big wins against Man United and Aston Villa have followed and has them within touching distance of safety but it is still a tough road ahead. Troy Deeney‘s return to fitness is a boost and Watford believe now they can stay up with veteran goalkeeper Ben Foster in fine form.


West Ham United: F
The Hammers have hired David Moyes to replace the man who replaced him, Manuel Pellegrini. This will be very interesting. West Ham had a great start but have wavered badly and that has coincided with Lukasz Fabianski‘s injury. Now he is back and Moyes has returned they will be tougher to beat and Anderson, Haller, Antonio and Fornals have the quality to unlock opposition defenses. Still, a relegation battle is coming up and the Hammers ownership would have wanted a top six finish. They are underachieving massively.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: A-
Could they build on last season? Yep. They are probably better. Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore have improved in attack and Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side will be in the top four hunt this season. They are in the Europa League last 32 after a gruelling run of qualifiers and Thursday-Sunday action but their main focus will be on qualifying for the Champions League. They can take it to the top teams in the PL but how long can they keep going with a relatively small squad?

Ancelotti says Everton upswing started before his arrival

Carlo Ancelotti praises Everton
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Carlo Ancelotti’s perfect start as Everton boss continued with a 2-1 defeat of Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

He got a bit of everything in win no. 2. Everton held firm against a first half Newcastle charge and then didn’t wilt after the Magpies equalized in the second half.

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“We are judged for the result,” Ancelotti. “I thought we did good for the first 20 minutes. We need to have more control in the second part of the first half but we came back in the second half. I think at the end we deserved to win.”

Ancelotti deflected any praise from himself, saying the atmosphere around Finch Farm and Goodison Park was excellent when he arrived in town.

“I saw a team with a fantastic spirit. I saw that before I arrived, the job Duncan Ferguson did was fantastic. After that we just tried to play football because we are paid to play football. We don’t have to look at the table too much, we have to look to the next game.”

Credit to Ancelotti for not sucking up the oxygen in the room and preening after a 2-for-2 start in charge of the Toffees.

Everton hosts Man City on New Year’s Day before an FA Cup trip to Anfield for a Merseyside Derby.

Ancelotti wins on Everton debut

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Carlo Ancelotti got off to a winning start as Everton’s manager as they ground out a 1-0 win against Burnley on Boxing Day.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored the winner late on in a tight, physical battled at Goodison Park as both teams went close early but the Toffees just about deserved to take all three points.

With the win Everton move up to 13th on 22 points, while Burnley have 24 points and sit one place ahead of them.


3 things we learned

1. Ancelotti expectant on sidelines: Whenever the camera panned to Carlo Ancelotti, in the dugout for the first time as Everton’s manager, he didn’t look happy. That level of expectancy drove his side on as the Toffees clicked through the gears late on and finally scored to get the win they deserved. He has so much experience and has won so many trophies and with that comes a level of performance he will expect. That should help get Everton out of a relegation scrap this season and then kick on next season.

2. Toffees continue to improve defensively: It started under Duncan Ferguson during his spell as interim boss and Everton have now conceded just twice in their last four games, as they’ve won two and drawn two. Mason Holgate has come back in and helped shore things up and playing with three center backs certainly helped them out. Everton have enough attacking weapons to win games, as long as they keep solid at the back.

3. Burnley dig deep ahead of tough stretch: The Clarets dug deep, as they always do, and were denied by some brilliant Everton defending in the first half. Sean Dyche‘s side didn’t force the issue enough and they now have a daunting run of games coming up as they play Man United (twice), Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester City in their next six PL games. The Clarets are only six points above the drop zone, so they know they have to beat some of the big boys at home in the coming weeks. Turf Moor, especially at this time of the season, will be key in deciding how their season goes.

Man of the Match: Dominic Calvert-Lewin – Ran himself into the ground up top and scored the winner. He is still so young and has all of the tools to succeed in the Premier League.


Burnley almost took the lead early on as Yerry Mina headed Chris Wood‘s header off his own line and Jack Cork then went close from the resulting corner.

At the other end Mason Holgate should have given Everton the lead from a set piece situation but Nick Pope saved superbly.

Lucas Digne had a free kick deflected wide as the home side grabbed a foothold in the game in the first half.

Richarlison had an effort before half time which caused Burnley problems but the visitors held their own.

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Bernard had a shot deflected wide in the second half as the Toffees clicked through the gears going forward. Djibril Sidibe almost bundled home after powering into the box as it was all Everton in the closing stages but Burnley remained a threat on the break.

Seamus Coleman flashed a shot just over from distance as the Toffees pushed for the opener but were frustrated by a stubborn Burnley defense.

Jordan Pickford then handled the ball outside the box but Burnley couldn’t make the most of a dangerous free kick.

Arteta confirms Ljungberg remains on Arsenal staff

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Just as Carlo Ancelotti did with Duncan Ferguson, so too will Mikel Arteta keep Freddie Ljungberg on staff at Arsenal.

The former Arsenal player impressed and endeared himself to fans during his time as interim manager, taking charge following the dismissal of Unai Emery and seeing the club to five points across his five Premier League matches in charge. Arteta took note, and has made sure to carve out a space for Ljungberg on his new Arsenal staff.

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“I spoke to Freddie after the [Everton] game,” Arteta said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Thursday’s game against Bournemouth, his first match in charge of the club. “I told him my ideas about the people I want to bring to form my coaching staff, the roles and responsibilities of each of them and I wanted to know what he was feeling. I wanted to know what he had in mind and what his expectations were. We talk and we made a decision that the best thing was for him to carry on with us.”

With all the changes of late at Arsenal, a bit of continuity can be helpful and Arteta confirmed as much. “I think he can be very valuable, he knows the players, he knows the situation, he knows the history and where we’re coming from. As well, his knowledge of the game is going to help us get better.”

Arteta was also asked about Mesut Ozil, and while he mostly danced around the question regarding the German international, he did seem to indicate Ozil would be given a clean slate.

“It’s a question for him [Freddie],” Arteta said in response to a question about Ljungberg’s previous indication that he wouldn’t have picked Ozil even if he had been fit. “I just wanted him to pick the best possible lineup for the game.”

“You’re not going to be judged on what you done in the past, positive or negative,” Arteta said later when pressed on Ozil. “We will try to put the most competitive team out, we are to be ready and nullify them [Bournemouth] as much as possible.”

Stalemate between Everton, Arsenal

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Everton and Arsenal played out a dour 0-0 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday, as both teams had their new managers watching on from the stands.

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Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta are now in charge of Everton and Arsenal respectively and will have been far from impressed with what they saw as interim managers Duncan Ferguson and Freddie Ljungberg tried their best, but both teams failed to create clear cut chances.

With the point Everton now have 19 for the season but remain just above the relegation zone, while Arsenal move on to 23 points.


3 things we learned

1. Players distracted as new managers watch on: With Arteta and Ancelotti in the stands, both sets of players looked nervous. It was as though they were involved in a very, very public job interview and a lot of the players were trying to do things they weren’t comfortable with. That resulted in a very poor game, lacking in quality and specializing in nerves. Both new managers will have plenty to mull over in the coming days as they aim to push their teams up the table.

2. Arsenal’s kids are okay: Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Joe Reiss Nelson and Gabriel Martinelli all started and all played their part in a gritty away display for the Gunners. The kids played well in the second half against Man City last week and perhaps new manager Arteta will be best served to give them an extended run in the team in the coming weeks and months. Aubameyang was taken off in the second half and the likes of Lacazette, Ozil and Pepe have failed to get going in recent months, so it may be down to the kids to drag Arsenal out of this situation.

3. Big Dunc signs off unbeaten: Interim boss Duncan Ferguson can hold his head high as he prepares for a position on Ancelotti’s staff. The Everton legend beat Chelsea and drew against Man United and Arsenal in his three PL games in charge, plus the Toffees draw 2-2 against Leicester in the League Cup quarterfinals, only to lose on penalty kicks. Ferguson will be back and he is a man of the people and gave his sweatband, tie and everything else away as he walked off the pitch at the end of the game. After Ancelotti, he has shown he can be the next man up for the Toffees as he galvanized a struggling squad of players to dig deep and restore some pride. The way he subbed off the sub Cenk Tosun will rub many the wrong way, and he did it with Moise Kean last week too, but Ferguson isn’t messing around and he has high standards which the Toffees lived up to.

Man of the Match: Calum Chambers – Dug deep defensively, looked solid at the heart of Arsenal’s defense and dealt with the threat of Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin and Tosun well.


Both teams were tentative on the ball early with their new managers watching on, and the first big moment was Alex Iwobi coming off injured with what looked like a slight hamstring pull. His replacement, Cenk Tosun, flashed an effort over the bar with his first touch of the game as Everton started to build a head of steam.

Richarlison had a shot blocked and Gylfi Sigurdsson curled a free kick just wide as Arsenal struggled to get out of their own half. Tom Davies crossed for Tosun but it was too powerful for the Turkish striker to get a decent effort on target, then Gabriel Martinelli raced clear at the other end but smashed wide as Arsenal had their first chance of the game right on half time.

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At the start of the second half Richarlison flashed an effort just wide of the far post as Everton continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock.

Jordan Pickford then made a really good save as Calum Chamber’s flick on found Aubameyang at the back post but Everton’s goalkeeper clawed the ball out. Emile Smith Rowe then should have got a shot away but Aubameyang slipped as he tried to finish as the Gunners finally got going.

Everton finished the game strongly as Dominic Calvert-Lewin had a shot which was blocked by Lucas Torreira in the box, as VAR checked for a handball but nothing was given.

Cenk Tosun was subbed off late on after coming on as a sub, as Moise Kean came on and Tosun was far from happy with the decision from Ferguson.

The final minutes were scrappy and summed up the full 90 as both teams huffed and puffed without really throwing caution to the wind.