Heung-Min Son

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.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 12

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Wolves are rising, Gunners misfiring, and Spurs just linking self-inflicted wounds as the Premier League club power rankings head for Week 12.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

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


20. Norwich City — Just dreadful right now, and in dire need of healing over the break.
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 at Everton

19. Southampton — Minus-18 in goal difference, but that shrinks to minus-7 on the expected goals table, so perhaps just really unlucky right now?
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 at Arsenal

18. West Ham United — It’s not talent. It’s not the manager. Something’s just foul in London.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Burnley
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Nov. 23 v. Spurs

17. Watford — Not out of danger, not even close, but playing like a club that will find its way to safety.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m. Nov. 23 v. Burnley

16. Spurs — Unlucky again this week — Heung-Min Son could’ve had three against Blades — but unlucky is not comforting at all considering the expectations and talent in North London.
Last week: 14
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Nov. 23 at West Ham

15. Aston Villa — Dean Smith has to be crushed that his overall decent performances have only equaled 11 points, just three more than 18th place.
Last week: 11
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Wolves
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Nov. 25 v. Newcastle United

14. Brighton and Hove Albion — A setback after a fine run, as the Seagulls were dominated by Manchester United. Mat Ryan was sensational in a losing effort.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Manchester United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 v. Leicester City

13. Bournemouth — Joshua King‘s missed header in stoppage at St. James’ Park was the story of their season. 4-4-4, and just not looking capable of being anything better than average.
Last week: 7
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 v. Wolves

12. Newcastle United — Remember the name Allan Saint-Maximin. Newcastle is 4-2-2 when the 22-year-old dribble wizard makes an appearance, and has one point from four matches when he’s unused or unavailable. Like Miguel Almiron, he hasn’t been finishing his chances, but he’s a handful and Newcastle’s most dangerous player since Hatem Ben Arfa (and, so far, no signs of off-field drama).
Last week: 15
Season high: 12
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Nov. 25 at Aston Villa

11. Arsenal — Free Nicolas Pepe.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 11
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 v. Southampton

10. Crystal Palace — Consecutive understandable setbacks could turn to three with Liverpool coming to meet old pal Roy Hodgson at Selhurst Park.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Chelsea
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 22 v. Liverpool

9. Burnley — Never doubt Sean Dyche. We keep saying we won’t. Then we do. Then they produce a complete performance like the weekend’s 3-0 win versus struggling West Ham.
Last week: 16
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 v. West Ham
Up next: 10 a.m. Nov. 23 at Watford

8. Everton — As much as Marco Silva‘s men have wasted the table’s softness, the Toffees are right in the mix for the Top Six.
Last week: 13
Season high: 5
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Saints
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 v. Norwich City

 7. Manchester United — The walking boot is off Paul Pogba, who probably demanded its removal after United ran all over Brighton.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Brighton
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Nov. 24 at Sheffield United

6. Wolves — Unbeaten in seven league outings, and a sneaky bet for the Top Four-Six.
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 at Bournemouth

5. Sheffield United — Right now we’re just admiring the Blades, but a win at Old Trafford after the break will make us really take a look at what’s possible for the newly-promoted club.
Last week: 5
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Spurs
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Nov. 24 at Manchester United

4. Leicester City — Doing the little things that make the difference, and could be in line for 15 more points before meeting Man City and Liverpool in back-to-back outings.
Last week: 4
Season high: 3
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 22 at Brighton and Hove Albion

3. Manchester City — Expected goals say City actually out-performed Liverpool on Sunday, but you have to finish your chances to win. Fine margins.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Liverpool
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Nov. 23 v. Chelsea

2. Chelsea — Kante is back. Good luck with that, league rivals.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Nov. 23 at Man City

1. Liverpool — How good was Fabinho‘s hit to open the scoring v. Man City? Add in the fact that the Brazilian’s expected goals total for the match was .05, and it’s even more humorous. What’s deadly serious? The midfielder’s presence on the pitch has him
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Nov. 23 at Crystal Palace

Blades earn point at poor Spurs

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Sheffield United overcame one VAR incident to grab a point from Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

George Baldock scored in the second half after snake-bit David McGoldrick had a goal pulled back for a toenail’s worth of offside. Fine margins.

Spurs were again quite poor aside from Heung-Min Son and some moments from Giovani Lo Celso. Son scored the goal.

Sheffield United remains sixth with 16 points, while Spurs also claim a 16th point but sit below their visitors on goal differential.


Three things we learned

1. VAR follows rules to perplex: Lundstram was offside by a toenail in the build-up, pulling back David McGoldrick’s goal that would’ve leveled the score at 1 (which of course it later was). The decision-making process slowed the game for several minutes, those thin lines calling back a goal that no team’s fans would feel was understandable. When is the moment the ball is struck, and how can you be certain enough to call it offside for centimeters.

2. Son continues to shine: Not only are puns really fun, but where would Spurs be this season without their South Korean star? Son scored a deserved goal and took six shots on the day, making three successful dribbles, and completing 21 of 23 passes.

3. Kane invisible: Maybe England’s star striker is still getting over the sickness that cost him a start against Everton, but Harry Kane was quite poor against the Blades’ disciplined back line. Good for just one shot and six of 12 passing. On a day when the two attackers underneath him were quite good, Kane was absent.

Man of the Match: McGoldrick — Should’ve had his first Premier League goal but will settle for the assist, we suppose. His day must be coming.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Giovani Lo Celso and Heung-min Son both came close for Spurs in a lively start, though cagey Sheffield United wasn’t overwhelmed by the venue either.

John Lundstram scuffed a 27th minute chance wide of the frame. Soon after, he smashed a Jack O'Connell cross off the post.

Son curled wide in the 50th minute as both sides started their second frames well, and in-form Lys Mousset turned Davinson Sanchez around before firing wide of the far post.

Dean Henderson made a fine save on Son in the 54th, but was left in a bad situation when abhorrent inactivity from the left side of his line gave the South Korean a clear cut chance. Given the day he was having, a goal felt inevitable.

But Blades had the ball in the net for an equalizer soon after, McGoldrick knifing home. A long VAR review followed for an offside in the build-up, and the slimmest of margins made it “clear and obvious” to… someone… that Lundstram was offside.

Baldock’s goal also had to withstand VAR review — don’t they all — when his shot took a slight turn off Ben Davies‘ rear end to beat Paulo Gazzaniga.

Apologetic Son happy to show ‘right response’ after Gomes injury

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Heung-Min Son‘s difficult week turned a corner on Wednesday with a two-goal day against Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Champions League.

The brace and 4-1 win came three days after Son was sent off against Everton for a reckless tackle of Andre Gomes, one that broke the Portuguese midfielder’s ankle.

[ MORE: Ex-Spurs man Walker goes in goal ]

Son was inconsolable as he left the field, and teammates said he remained so into the locker room.

There were smiles again on Wednesday, even if his goal celebrations were understated at best; The first one a hands folded prayer presumably aimed at Gomes.

“Of course it has been a really tough few days but I have realized how lucky I am with all the support I have had from the fans and my teammates. I can say I’m really sorry for the accident and the situation but I had to focus for the team and I had to keep going and it was the right response to all the people who have supported me.”

Son’s red card was overturned on Wednesday.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said the team was on Son’s side after the incident, which shook all participants at Goodison Park. From Football.London:

“It was a problem for everyone, not only for Sonny, for everyone on the pitch,” Pochettino said. “We feel very sorry about what happened to Andre, but he moved on quickly. We helped him to move on. It was a mix of everything, not only the injury, the red card, how we missed the three points.”

Pochettino praised his side’s performance on Wednesday, and he’ll have to keep his men in the right mindset ahead of Saturday’s Premier League visit from Sheffield United.

As for the UCL, Spurs are back in good position to qualify for a third-straight Round of 16.

The 2019 UCL finalists are five points behind already-qualified Bayern Munich, and can clinch second by beating Olympiacos on the next match day. Failing that, the North Londoners will still have a chance on the final match day at Bayern.

Son, Spurs cruise to win in Serbia

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Red Star Belgrade is going to be happy to see the back of Tottenham Hotspur after the North London side clobbered the Serbian side for the second-straight UCL match.

This time it was a 4-0 score line in Serbia, as a brace from Heung-Min Son led Tottenham to keep hold of second place in the group with two matches to play.

[ MORE: Walker in goal during Man City draw ]

Giovani Lo Celso and Christian Eriksen also scored in the win, with assists for Danny Rose, Ryan Sessegnon, and Dele Alli.

Three things we learned

1. Closer to their best: Make no mistake about Red Star Belgrade’s team this season — it’s not great — but two complete performances have cemented Spurs’ favorite status to emerge as the second team from Group B. Perfect Bayern Munich has already advanced and is a point away from winning the group, but Spurs could join them with a defeat of Olympiacos at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Nov. 26.

2. Humbled Son at the double: If Son’s two goals following Sunday’s dispiriting (and overturned) red card tackle of Andre Gomes gave him any relief, he didn’t show up. The South Korean nearly twice came close to scoring on Spurs’ first goal, but delivered twice in the second half as the North London side took control of the match. There was only a minor prayer celebrating after the first goal, and perhaps even less of a reaction after the second one.

3. New boys have their moments: Making his first Spurs start, Lo Celso scored his goal and had a Man of the Match style performance with three shots, five tackles, and 90 percent passing while also being a master of possession as Spurs held close to 67 percent of the ball. The 19-year-old Sessegnon came off the bench three days after making a 1-minute cameo versus Everton, and set up Eriksen’s goal. Not bad!

Man of the Match: It’s Son. It just has to be.