From lauding a couple of Chelsea wingers to suggesting Tottenham’s top-four hopes are already doomed, we’re back with our latest snap judgements to the Premier League’s weekend action.
Cole Palmer and Raheem Sterling Should Start for England
What a day Sunday turned out to be for a couple of former Manchester City wingers, in Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer. The latter had been the subject of much of the pre-match build-up following his move to Chelsea, and he went on to score the final goal in a pulsating 4-4 draw.
The 21-year-old showed immense composure as he coolly slammed home a stoppage-time penalty before celebrating with a kind of ‘football arrogance’ that will have delighted Chelsea fans and infuriated those of a City persuasion, which Palmer was himself until just a few months ago.
The game itself was an instant Premier League classic and only the fifth game in the competition’s history to see as many as four equalising goals scored, which last occurred in April 2009. In fact, it was also the first game in Pep Guardiola’s career as a manager that saw both teams score at least four times.
Sterling netted for Chelsea as well with a well-timed back-post finish; you know the kind, like the ones he used to score all the time for City.
But while Palmer – scorer of four penalties in five league games – awoke on Monday morning to a call-up to the senior England squad, there was no such message awaiting Sterling, who was devastatingly sharp on Sunday and is looking reinvigorated by Mauricio Pochettino.
He’s not played for England since the World Cup, and if his recent form for Chelsea – especially on Sunday – isn’t enough to earn a recall, it’s hardly beyond the realms of possibility that he never represents his country ever again.
The outlook for Palmer is much more positive, though. His man-of-the-match display in a game of such magnitude and emotion spoke volumes for his mentality and attitude, and it’s that unflappable nature that should make him a perfect fit on the international stage for England with Euro 2024 just around the corner.
Raúl Jiménez Can Propel Fulham to Safety
Fulham appear to be in trouble. Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa left Marco Silva’s side 16th in the Premier League; while a six-point cushion remains between them and the bottom three, an improvement is necessary if they’re to ensure that doesn’t decrease after the international break.
The weekend loss was their third in four league games, with scoring goals proving a major issue; only rock-bottom Burnley (nine) have netted fewer than Fulham (10).
But one positive from Sunday was Jiménez’s return to the scoresheet.
The Mexican striker hit the post and scored, which was his first Premier League goal since netting for Wolves against Watford in March 2022. He’d gone without a goal in 33 top-flight games, failing to convert 45 successive shots.
Over the years, Jiménez has proven himself to be a very able striker at this level, especially before his serious head injury in late 2020. While no one is expecting him to replicate the 14 in 24 that Aleksandar Mitrovic managed last season, finally ending such a goal drought could be a major moment for Fulham and their striker.
A few goals here and there before January might be all Fulham need to make sure they don’t get dragged into a relegation scrap before potentially bringing in reinforcements in the January transfer window.
Dyche Has Fixed Everton
Ahead of last month’s Merseyside derby, we highlighted how Everton’s poor start to the season didn’t quite tell the whole story.
The underlying numbers were actually quite positive. Now, that can only take you so far, and in the end the results are what really matter, but when you’re struggling, any source of encouragement can be important.
Basically, according to Opta’s expected points (xPTS) model, Everton – who were 16th prior to losing to Liverpool – should have been as high as fifth in the Premier League, and that would’ve seen them sit above their bitter rivals in such a table.
Since then, however, Everton have won three of their four games in all competitions and are unbeaten in three Premier League outings.
Their latest success came at Crystal Palace on Saturday as they emerged from an entertaining duel as 3-2 victors, with Idrissa Gueye’s 86th-minute strike proving decisive.
Over this three-game period, their expected goals against (xGA) figure of 3.3 is the sixth-lowest in the Premier League, while only Arsenal (two) and Liverpool (one) have conceded fewer actual goals than Sean Dyche’s men (three).
They now find themselves in a much more appealing situation heading into the international break, and with Manchester United, Newcastle and Chelsea to come in three of their next four games, the mood has improved at an important time.
Everton are up to 14th now but can justifiably begin plotting their route into the top half of the table, with 10th-placed Chelsea only two points above them.
Newcastle Can’t Cope with Injuries and Fixture Congestion
Remember how we suggested that Newcastle could cope with their injury crisis in last week’s Knee-Jerk Reactions? Well, we’re once again truly embracing the nature/flexibility of this article format by now insisting that they can’t. Flip-flopping? Absolutely, because that’s the beauty of a snap judgement; it’s right until it isn’t.
It was a particularly difficult week for Newcastle. They were beaten 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League by Borussia Dortmund, leaving their qualification chances significantly diminished, and then suffered a shock defeat by the same scoreline to manager Eddie Howe’s former team, Bournemouth.
This was the same Bournemouth who’d won just once in the Premier League this term and were hammered 6-1 by Manchester City a week earlier.
A second-half Dominic Solanke brace consigned a depleted Newcastle to their fourth league loss of the campaign, only one fewer than they recorded over the entirety of 2022-23. Were it not for a string of Nick Pope saves, then it would’ve been worse.
At full-time, Kieran Trippier confronted angry supporters in the stands, posing the rhetorical question: “How many have we got injured?”
Well, when you include suspended players, Newcastle were without 12 first-team squad members at the weekend and also lost Miguel Almirón to a muscle injury during the game.
No team should be expected to calmly steer themselves through such a crisis, and after the international break they face Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham and Milan in successive matches.
Forget the Title, Tottenham’s Top-Four Hopes Are Fading
How quickly a team’s outlook can dramatically change in the Premier League. Less than two weeks ago, Spurs were top of the table and unbeaten under new manager Ange Postecoglou, who accrued the most points by a manager in their first 10 games in the competition (26).
It was Spurs’ best start to a season in the Premier League era, and it was all looking rather rosy as neutrals held them up as potential challengers to Manchester City.
But the thrilling and mad 4-1 defeat to Chelsea last Monday saw their undefeated streak end, and while there were some significant caveats to that loss, that wasn’t really the case on Saturday as they were beaten 2-1 by Wolves.
Brennan Johnson’s close-range finish in the third minute threatened to earn Spurs all three points; in fact, their 87 minutes ahead is the longest unbroken lead a team has had in a Premier League game that they’ve ultimately lost.
Wolves struck twice in second-half stoppage time and were good value for at least a point. They outshot Spurs 17-6, which was Tottenham’s worst shot difference in the Premier League this season, and the home side accumulated a much greater expected goals (xG) score (2.2 to 0.7).
With Micky van de Ven and James Maddison picking up significant injuries last week, Spurs suddenly looked a shadow of themselves. Any brief dream of a title challenge is surely over on the evidence of the weekend, and their next run of fixtures is the second-hardest according to the Opta Power Rankings.