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Every Premier League club has now played at least 19 games which means we have belatedly reached the half-way point of the season.
Arsenal top the pile with 50 points after an outstanding start to the season - with their only defeat coming to Manchester United in September - and boast a five-point buffer to reigning champions Manchester City in second. Newcastle and United round out the top four, with disappointing ninth and 10th places for Liverpool and Chelsea.
Southampton changed managers but are still bottom, with Everton only saved from the ignominy of 20th place on goal difference. Bournemouth are the third team in the drop zone but Wolves, West Ham, Leeds and Leicester are all still looking over their shoulders.
Our football writers have assessed the teams they cover in most detail and have provided a half-term report card...
Position in class: 1st
Grade: A* - exceeded all expectations
Manager Grade: A* - Mikel Arteta is top of the class
Star students: Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka, Granit Xhaka, Oleksandr Zinchenko
Need work: Albert Sambi Lokonga, Fabio Vieira
This season has been way beyond any Arsenal fan’s wildest dreams.
What a transformation under Mikel Arteta. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Arteta was under pressure, fans were getting restless and Arsenal looked further away than ever.
Arteta has produced the story of the Premier League season so far and - whisper it quietly because their own fans are too paranoid to believe it - but there’s a lot of neutrals probably wanting Arsenal to win the title.
It’s a new name at the top, they are playing some super football and defying the odds.
Arsenal are not just getting it right on the pitch either. They’ve taken the fans along with them on the journey. The hierarchy have engaged and the atmosphere at the Emirates has gone from the toxicity of fans having meltdowns on social media to a young, enthusiastic supporter base who stand shoulder to shoulder with the older, loyal fans. The turnaround in match day atmosphere is arguably Arteta’s biggest achievement.
How have they done it? Well, the Amazon doc probably helped (barring a few Ted Lasso moments with the speakers playing You’ll Never Walk alone or Arteta’s team talk on how he met his missus) as fans could see the players really care.
But Arteta’s tactics, his man management and joined up thinking on recruitment. They’ve done some super transfer business.
If there’s one player who epitomises the reinvention of Arsenal then it’s Granit Xhaka. He’s gone from public enemy No. 1 to the most important player in the team. That’s a tribute to Xhaka’s mental strength but also a determination that runs through the whole club.
If Arsenal can complete the job and win the clubs first title in 19 years, then surely Arteta will be made head boy for finishing top of the class. John Cross
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Position in class:11th
Grade: B - New boss Unai Emery has instantly made his mark and given Villa hope they could potentially gatecrash European qualification despite being in danger of relegation when Steven Gerrard was axed in October.
Morale at Villa’s training HQ under Gerrard plunged previously with the Scouser and his close-knit group of first team staff at odds with some long serving club employees but Emery’s reign has been more inclusive. His signings also offer more hope for the future than Gerrard’s additions a year ago of Philippe Coutinho, 30, Lucas Digne, 29, and Calum Chambers, 28, whose best days all seem behind them.
Manager Grade: A - Aside from an embarrassing FA Cup exit to Non League Stevenage, it is hard to criticise Emery. He has won over players and fans alike with his work ethic and coaching acumen. He seems to have quickly found a settled line up and shape which is getting results.
Five wins from seven League games is a superb start as the players have bought into his methods. Emery also seems to have struck the right tone in communicating his wishes to his squad despite his previous problems at Arsenal. Tyrone Mings has said the level of detail and coaching he is getting eclipses anything previously in his career while the rejuvenated Leon Bailey says Villa’s players play for Emery because they also like him and find him amusing.
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Star students: World Cup winning keeper Emiliano Martinez has won Villa points while evergreen Ashely Young, 37, brings reliability and experience at the back. In midfield Douglas Luiz is playing his best football alongside impressive free transfer Boubacar Kamara. Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins carry a threat upfront but both should improve their conversion rate.
Need work: Coutinho and Digne have both disappointed since lucrative moves last year and they need to contribute a lot more if they are to have a future at the club. The much-maligned Mings has been getting his form back under Emery but needs to cut out the defensive lapses which can prove costly. Recently against Leeds he slipped on the halfway line attempting a Cruyff turn and was lucky Villa just avoided conceding. In midfield Emiliano Buendia, 26, is starting to justify his record £33million price tag and is popular with fans but can still do more to fully harness his creative abilities. James Nursey
(Image: AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)
Position in class: 18th
Grade : D — Not meeting the required standards
Manager Grade: C — Working hard but sometimes struggling to keep up with the bigger boys
Star students: Marcus Tavernier, Neto.
Need work: Marcos Senesi, Ryan Fredericks.
The last week of the transfer window will arguably be the most important week of Bournemouth’s season.
Because a run that has seen them pick up just four points from the last 30 they have contested has seen the plummet into the relegation zone.
Gary O’Neil, working with new owner Bill Foley, the Las Vegas-based businessman, needs to bring in several new faces to freshen things up and give the club some impetus.
And if they don’t get as many deals wrapped up as they want to then they could well be in serious trouble.
O’Neil was looking at as many as six new signings to come in and challenge for a place in the starting line-up at the beginning of this month.
And so far only Dango Ouattara from Lorient has come in.
Foley has promised fans an ‘active’ window and they will now be waiting to see how well the American delivers.
O’Neil had started so well after coming in to replace Scott Parker early on and his appointment appeared a shrewd one.
But the dismal run has put his future back in the spotlight and the spectre of Marcelo Bielsa, who is being targeted by Everton, will loom while ever he is out of work.
It will be a shame if O’Neil isn’t able to make a success of it but Foley, understandably, will do everything he can to avoid relegation at the end of his first season on the south-coast.
Only three teams in the bottom half of the table have scored more than Bournemouth this season but, crucially, no team has conceded many, and that’s despite some fine performances from goalkeeper Neto.
Marcus Tavernier has done well, too, and they need him back and fit again.
The Cherries also need more consistency from striker Dominic Solanke in front of goal if they are to stand any chance of retaining their top-flight status. Tom Hopkinson
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Position in class: 8th
Grade : A
Manager: A* - Thomas Frank excelling again
Star students: Rico Henry, Ivan Toney - both unlucky not to go to the World Cup, for different reasons
Need work: None really, but a creative midfielder (like Christian Eriksen last season) would help
No sign of any second-season syndrome, or any such nonsense, at Copenhagen-on-Thames. Brentford stayed up comfortably last year, and they should be aiming for a top-half finish this time.
In the West London Premiership, Frank is on course to beat Fulham and Chelsea to the coveted title because the Bees are fearless when the big guns come to Kew Bridge, and their 2-1 win at Manchester City ranks as one of the finest results since Andy Gray and Richard Keys invented football in 1992.
There are clouds on the horizon, however. Ivan Toney is likely to cop a long suspension if FA disciplinary hawks decide he has broken too many betting rules to warrant a slap on the wrist.
And without Toney's eye for goal, not to mention his infallible nerve from the penalty spot, Brentford's season may reach a plateau. More's the pity that they missed the boat in the FA Cup third round against West Ham. Mike Walters
Position in class: 6th
Grade: A - adapting well to new curriculum
Manager Grade: Roberto de Zerbi. A - settled in quickly with little disruption
Star students: Alexis Mac Allister
Need work: Julio Enciso.
Some very encouraging marks in their half-term assessment. Now in their sixth year, Brighton have recorded their most wins, best goal difference and most points at this stage than is any of their previous years.
Most impressive, though, has been the thorough way in which the club has clearly done its homework. Having been threatened by the departure of former star pupil Graham Potter for a year or so now, the board made sure it was ready to carry on working seamlessly and without distraction.
De Zerbi may have been a new boy to many people but he was the only candidate in Paul Barber’s mind, with the Brighton chief executive a big fan of his high-pressing, possession-based football before war intervened at Shakhtar Donetsk.
(Image: Getty Images)
The Seagulls were flying high even before the Italian’s appointment, but by tweaking the mindset De Zerbi unlocked a scoring potential that remained stubbornly hidden for all Potter’s ability to pinch the points.
After the new manager failed to win any of his first five Premier League games, stand-out wins against Chelsea and Liverpool have helped keep Brighton in contention for a European place.
Since his appointment, only Arsenal and Manchester City have scored more goals than Brighton, and De Zerbi has even had the previously goal-shy Adam Lallana and Solly March finding the back of the net. Leandro Trossard scored the club’s first top-flight hat-trick since the early 1980s.
But that is the rub. Brighton remain a club who develops players and then sells them on. Trossard’s move to Arsenal, and question-marks over the future of newly-crowned world champion Alexis Mac Allister will ultimately be the test of De Zerbi’s managerial reign.
Can he keep the South Coast conveyor belt rolling? Matthew Dunn
(Image: Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Position in class : 10th
Grade : E
The Blues came into the season as part of the title conversation under Thomas Tuchel and having signed Raheem Sterling during the summer.
But Tuchel’s unceremonious dismissal and the bumpy road Graham Potter has trodden since have left the west London club floundering in mid-table.
As Todd Boehly continues to splash the cash on mega-money deals - even confirming the Mykhaylo Mudryk deal midway through the win over Crystal Palace - they have the look of a club that is unsettled, and where on-pitch action is playing a secondary role to off-field change.
Manager Grade: D
Potter deserved his chance at a big club after his fine work at Brighton, but having opened up with three Premier League wins on the spin, it’s just two wins in 11 games since amid constant chopping and changing of players and formations.
His side have looked much less than the sum of their parts all too often.
Star students: Thiago Silva, even at the age of 38, remains utterly integral to the side and his consistent performances have been one of few plus points.
The redemption of £71million ‘keeper Kepa, hugely improved but still prone to lapses in judgment, has been noteworthy too.
Need work: You could make a case for a host of star names needing to step up and improve, but most notable are the £120million duo of Raheem Sterling and Marc Cucurella.
The England forward has struggled to adapt to life at Stamford Bridge and hasn’t found the kind of rhythm to his play that was seemingly always present whenever he stepped out at the Etihad.
Cucurella meanwhile looks like one of the biggest overspends in Premier League history, and has damningly lost his place to youngster Lewis Bate in recent weeks.
Much was expected of Conor Gallagher on his return from an outstanding loan spell at Crystal Palace, but he’s failed to show his best or claim a definitive place. Alex Richards
(Image: Getty Images)
Position in class: 12th
Grade : C+ — Need to concentrate for longer
Manager Grade: B- — Working well with not the easiest class
Star students: Cheikh Doucoure, Vicente Guaita, Joachim Andersen.
Need work: Odsonne Edouard, Jean-Philippe Mateta.
For Palace fans, the first three games of the season were a window into what would follow.
A defeat, a draw and a win in that order … and they have been inconsistent ever since. They are yet to string more than two victories together on the spin.
Although those supporters whose glasses are half-full will no doubt tell you they haven’t lost more than two league games in a row all season, either. What’s more, they are on the same number of points — 24 — as they were after 20 games last season.
And that’s despite having lost two influential midfielders in Conor Gallagher and Cheikhou Kouyate over the summer, and replaced them with just one in Cheick Doucoure.
What all supporters will agree on is how worrying it is that their side hasn’t managed a goal from open play since November and, of course, it is something boss Patrick Vieira and his strikers must address immediately.
Especially at a time when they are without a win this calendar year, either, which is another cause for concern. Not least because, not for the first time this season, they are in the midst of a very difficult run of games.
In fact, the fixture computer hasn’t exactly made things easy for them with a very tough run at the start of the season, then an easier run, and then another tough one now.
After the FA Cup break, they face Manchester United away with fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal all looming. Their run-in will see another run of matches that, on paper, would be deemed more winnable.
Although supporters will be hoping their men have managed to nick enough points before then so they won’t be looking too far over their shoulders come April. Tom Hopkinson
Position in class: 19th
Grade : F - A complete failure to learn from past mistakes, often repeating the same, basic errors that have blighted them over recent years. Now looking a mismatch of previous failed ideas, the fear has to be that there is just no hope of them at this level.
It's been an education on what not to do.
Manager Grade: E - Admittedly the school is a failing one that wouldn't pass too many inspections right now, but Frank Lampard didn't really inspire any confidence when it came to showing that he could inspire those under his tutelage.
Last term he managed to do enough to scrape together the bare minimum when it came to results, with Everton turning things around to stay up as they were backed by their passionate fans, but there was no evidence that the same was possible this season.
Relieved of his duties earlier this week, the question now is whether a supply teacher comes on board or a tried and trusted, albeit unconventional educator of players.
Star students:Jordan Pickford has been top of the class and often managed to keep scores at respectable levels, while James Tarkowski has done well since his arrival from a different school and Alex Iwobi is a hard worker.
Need work: Anthony Gordon has dropped off from previous high levels of performance, while Neal Maupay and Dwight McNeil haven't really taken to their new environment at all and Abdoulaye Doucoure was expelled under Lampard. Mark Jones
(Image: Getty Images)
Position in class: 7th
Grade : A — Far exceeding expectations
Manager Grade: A — Finally fulfilling his potential
Star students: Joao Palhinha, Aleksandar Mitrovic
Need work: Daniel James, Kevin Mbabu.
There was trepidation around Craven Cottage at the start of the campaign given the misery Fulham endured two seasons ago when they were last in the Premier League.
They went down with a whimper then, 11 points from safety and having managed only five wins, and there was a fear among some supporters that they were in for a repeat this time out.
How misplaced those fears have proven to be, though, with Marco Silva’s men one of the two surprise packages of the season along with Brighton.
A 2-2 home draw with Liverpool on the opening day gave them a platform on which to build and nine wins since then means the club can relax into the second half of the season with no threat of relegation whatsoever.
(Image: Frank Augstein/AP/REX/Shutterstock)
Much of their success has come from the fact they have made the Cottage a difficult place to visit this time out with only three teams, Newcastle, Manchester United and Tottenham, all of whom are in the top five, winning there.
Silva deserves a lot of credit for the job he is doing, and Fulham’s scouting department deserve a pat on the back, too. Of course, much of their success has come from the goals of Aleksandr Mitrovic, who has been there a while, but Joao Palhinha has arguably been their star of the season.
The 27-year-old defensive midfielder has been excellent alongside Harrison Reid and Andreas Pereira, and even though he signed a five-year contract when he arrived last summer, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to supporters if one of the Big Six didn’t have a tickle at him in the summer.
For now, though, he and his team-mates’ focus will solely be on a top-half finish and there’s no evidence thus far to suggest they aren’t capable of it. Tom Hopkinson
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Position in class : 15th
Grade : C- still work to do. Been flashes of real quality but still far too infrequent.
Without a Premier League win since November 5 there’s little wonder fans are fearing getting dragged into the relegation scrap. The return to fitness of Patrick Bamford bodes well, as does the record signing of France Under 21s striker Georginio Rutter. And the spirit in Leeds’ ranks is still plain to see so you sense they’ll be up for the battle to come. But how they need a win. Quick.
Manager Grade: C - If getting marked for positivity, Jesse Marsch would come top of the class. The effusive American constantly talks up his team and remains consistently upbeat. But is his chat getting slightly deluded? They do look great at times but there’s no getting away from the fact Leeds are in trouble. He’ll need to stop the rot at the back - where their defence is far too porous - to get back on track. United have the players to do that but Marsch urgently needs to get results rather than performances.
Star students: Willy Gnonto has been a revelation, with the teenage Italian forward slicing through opponents and scoring one truly brilliant goal against Cardiff. And Austria defender Max Wober has instantly looked the business since his £12m January switch from Red Bull Salzburg.
Need work: Brenden Aaronson has come in for some criticism from Leeds fans and it’s understandable. Another signing from Salzburg, the midfielder has scored just once and made only two assists in 21 Premier League appearances following his summer switch. Started bright enough but not fired since returning from the World Cup. Dave Craven
(Image: Leicester City FC via Getty Imag)
Position in class: 14th
Grade: C - Leicester are now in a relegation battle and are in serious danger of going down. Their prospects have not been helped a huge injury list with skipper Jonny Evans a costly absentee in defence and James Maddison only just back from his latest injury. A lack of investment last summer on reinforcements could come back to haunt their Thai owners.
Manager Grade: C - Brendan Rodgers has been hugely successful at the King Power Stadium with an FA Cup triumph in 2021 and successive fifth place finishes. However it appears his once glorious love affair with the club is seemingly heading to a likely divorce at some stage in the future. Many of the club’s fans already want the ex-Liverpool and Celtic boss gone after regularly booing the side and holding up banners. Rodgers is a very good coach but every boss has a shelf life at a club
Star students: Maddison has seven goals and four assists in 15 games in all competitions and is comfortably City’s best player and go to man these days for inspiration. If Leicester are to climb the table, a lot will depend on the England ace’s form and fitness. Belgium defender Wout Faes,24, looks a decent signing at £15million and stalwart Marc Albrighton can always be relied upon
Need work: Harvey Barnes was in terrific form before the World Cup break but his recent finishing has been very erratic sparking flak from fans. Long-term deputy keeper Danny Ward is adjusting to becoming Kasper Schmeichel’s successor but always looks vulnerable on crosses and set pieces. While Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy’s form has dropped off noticeably. Vardy’s decline is understandable at 36 years old but Ndidi’s woes are a shock. James Nursey
Position in class: 9th
Grade : F - The levels of effort are questionable compared to exemplary performances in recent years, raising the distinct possibility that this group are simply burnt out and would benefit from several fresh faces.
Muddled performances have brought very disappointing results, and they are a long way from where they would have been expected to be at the start of term.
Manager Grade: D - Jurgen Klopp has a right to question the tools he's been given to work with, and the ageing nature of a lot of them, but he's made several mistakes too.
Confusing tactical changes and what seems to be an increasing reliance on sports science when it comes to picking teams have meant that his side's previous machine-like performances have dramatically tailed off, and there it is now likely that they'll lose their status amongst Europe's elite next season.
A rebuild is needed with new faces and new ideas.
Star students: Alisson Becker has been the most consistent performer and a player without whom there would be even more struggles this season, while Andy Robertson has been the leader of the pack outfield.
Need work: Mohamed Salah simply isn't showing what he's capable of, while there has been a huge drop-off in performance from the likes of Fabinho and more recently Jordan Henderson.
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Position in class: 2nd
Grade : ‘A-’ Some way from the levels achieved in their 93 points winning campaign last season or their title victory in 2020-21 and have already dropped points in half a dozen of their 20 games. While Erling Haaland has undoubtedly improved them in front of goal there is a feeling that the rest of the team are still working out how best to fit in around him.
Manager Grade: ‘A-’ You don’t have to be Hercule Poirot to work out Pep Guardiola is not happy with the output of his side. He has tried regular rotation, an arm round the shoulder and, with a couple, a kick up the backside as motivation. But he is annoyed at the way – in terms of form, fitness and attitude – that some players have come back from the World Cup.
(Image: Getty Images)
Guardiola has seen what is developing at Arsenal and recognises a lot of early City in them – the hunger, effort and desire – and has tried to get his side to feel that again. It is proving a challenge though with a group of players who have grown over-familiar. Pep clearly knows how good Mikel Arteta is as well and fears that the apprentice may be about to upstage the sorcerer.
Star students: Erling Haaland – the goals return has been beyond anything anybody dreamed of with 31 goals in all competitions and 25 in the league – enough to have won the Golden Boot in any of the last four seasons. Rico Lewis, who has stepped up from academy with impressive maturity, has been a star find. And John Stones, who has looked better than ever, has been the best defender on show.
Need work: Ederson has had a patchy season so far. Phil Foden is struggling to regain his pre-World Cup form and fitness, and Joao Cancelo has been a huge disappointment after being one of the standouts last season. Gideon Brooks
Position in class : 4th
Grade : A.
Manager Grade: A* - Transformed the team ahead of schedule.
Star students: Marcus Rashford, Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes, Luke Shaw
Need work: Antony, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial
They may not be top of the class at half-term, but Manchester United are overwhelming winners of the progress prize.
After defeats in their opening two Premier League games under new boss Erik ten Hag, United were bottom of the table and mired in crisis.
The turnaround since then has been nothing short of remarkable, with Ten Hag instilling a consistency of performance which has seen United go from class dunces to high achievers.
Ten Hag has made sure all of the players have bought into his philosophy and jettisoned those who refused to do so, most notably Cristiano Ronaldo, who was shown the door in November.
The 52-year-old Dutchman has brought standards and discipline back to United and been responsible for getting the likes of Marcus Rashford to rediscover their confidence and form.
Ten Hag's recruitment has been spot on, with Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro all proving shrewd buys who have made an immediate impact. The jury is still out on Antony, while loan signing Wout Weghorst needs time before the wisdom of his short-term recruitment can be properly assessed.
United's 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions may have ended with Sunday's dramatic 3-2 defeat at Arsenal, to put into perspective talk of a title bid in Ten Hag's first season.
Yet few people, least of all Ten Hag, felt United were capable of challenging for the title this season, with the remit before the campaign being a top-four place and a trophy.
With United currently occupying fourth spot, into the EFL Cup semi-finals and still in the FA Cup and Europa League, both of those targets remain attainable. A return to the Champions League and a first trophy would represent a successful first term in charge for Ten Hag, and a platform to go for the big prize and top of the class next season. David McDonnell
Position in class : 3rd
Grade : A*
Manager Grade: A* - Developed a formidable consistency of performance and results
Star students:Nick Pope, Dan Burn, Joelinton, Bruno Guimaraes, Miguel Almiron
Need work : Alexander Isak, Allan Saint-Maximin, Jacob Murphy
Eddie Howe's transformation of Newcastle has been nothing short of remarkable. When he took over 14 months ago, the Toon were 19 th in the Premier League, five points from safety.
Now, following the Saudi takeover and a significant and strategic investment of around £250million in the transfer market, Newcastle are up to third in the table, challenging for a Champions League place.
Newcastle may have relied on the financial might of their new owners to propel them up the table, but the money has been invested wisely, in signings like Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn, Kieran Trippier, Sven Botman and Nick Pope.
In addition to shrewd recruitment, Howe and his coaching staff have improved players like Miguel Almiron, Joelinton and Sean Longstaff, with Newcastle having developed a consistency throughout the team that has enabled them to remain in the top-four.
(Image: Richard Lee/REX/Shutterstock)
Newcastle served notice of their ability to take on the Premier League's big guns with a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to champions Manchester City early on in the season. More impressive results came, drawing at Manchester United, beating Tottenham away, Chelsea at home and holding leaders Arsenal to a goalless draw in their first game of 2023.
If there is one criticism of Newcastle, it is that they do not score enough goals. Defensively they are solid, conceding just 11 goals in 20 gams, the fewest in the Premier League this season. But they need to be more prolific at the other end, with Almiron their top scorer this season, with nine goals in the league.
In mitigation, Howe was without £64million signing Alexander Isak from September to January, the Swedish forward sidelined with a hamstring injury, which saw him miss 16 games. But he is back now and scored on his Premier League return with a late goal in a 1-0 win over Fulham.
If Howe can keep his key players free from injury, Newcastle have every chance of staying where they are and securing a top-four place. But squad depth is an issue, which is why Howe must ensure the core of his team stays fit, to build on a formidable first half of the season. Full marks for Howe and his impressive students. David McDonnell
Position in class: 13th
Manager grade: Steve Cooper - B+ - struggled to start but has dragged it around thanks to a huge influx of players and his ability to make them gel into a coherent whole.
Forest were promoted on the back of several key players being on loan. Cooper’s squad needed to be strengthened - and boy, have the owners backed him.
So far, including work carried out last summer and during this January window, a staggering 26 new faces have arrived in the dressing-room at the City Ground.
Cooper has steadied the ship, discovered what he believes is near to his first-choice XI and Forest are slowly making their presence felt in the top-flight.
Star students: Dean Henderson - highly-rated keeper showing his true worth after stepping out of the shadows at Old Trafford - although the histrionics need to be reined in.
Ryan Yates, skipper who never shirked the challenge even when the going was tough, early on. Morgan Gibbs-White, forward who seemed vastly over-valued at £45m but whose recent performances suggest Forest’s decision-makers knew something the rest of us didn’t.
Need work: Jesse Lingard and Emmanuel Dennis. Both arrived in the east Midlands with a point to prove.
Lingard needed to show he could live up to the hype outside Manchester United’s bubble. And Dennis that he could cut it as an A-grade Premier League striker. Neither of those points has been made by either player. In fact, the opposite has so far proved to be the case. Neil Moxley
(Image: Getty Images)
Grade: E (see headmaster in study after school)
Manager grade: D. Nathan Jones needs points on the board fast
Star students: James Ward-Prowse, Kyle Walker-Peters - more help needed
Need work: Che Adams, Adam Armstrong - more goals, please
Rock-bottom of the Premier League at the halfway stage is not, perhaps, such a big surprise after the way last season tailed off so badly.
Ralph Hasenhuttl paid the price with his job just before the World Cup, and Nathan Jones was not an obvious replacement.
Jones has shown promise in cup ties, notably handing Pep Guardiola the first domestic quarter-final defeat of his managerial career in 16 games, but he was brought in to deliver Premier League survival - and three points from a possible 18 isn't going to change the outlook.
He may be out of his depth or he may be an inspired appointment, but half a dozen games is no proof, one way or another.
James Ward-Prowse's form has survived Saints' slump, and his eye for goal - from a more advanced position - is their best hope of scrambling above the dotted line. Mike Walters
Position in class: 5th
Grade: B - in danger of falling out of the top set
Manager grade: Antonio Conte. C - too many distractions at home
Star students : Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski
Need work: Hugo Lloris, Heung-Min Son, Eric Dier
If their season is anything like a typical Tottenham performance, sit back and enjoy the second half! Throughout the campaign, they have been notoriously slow starters.
Whereas if games this season only started at the 45-minute mark, Spurs would be riding high in second place with Manchester City only in front of them and - perhaps more importantly given the local rivalry - Arsenal in their wake.
A team meeting before the Fulham game may have helped notch only their second win in six Premier League games but they were still largely anonymous for the first half-hour.
(Image: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
But nobody seems to be able to come up with an answer to these slow starts. Former manager Mauricio Pochettino used to claim he could tell whether his team were on it or not within 50 seconds.
Only Manchester City and West Ham this season have got anything out of a game in which Tottenham have scored first. The trouble is, due to a litany of unexpected howlers from senior players, that does not happen often enough.
With Hugo Lloris literally throwing them into his own net, Eric Dier always a horrendous slice away from a howler and Heung-Min Son this season weighed down by the Golden Boot he collected last campaign, Tottenham have looked all too fallible.
Thank goodness for Harry Kane. It is five years since the only other time he had managed better than his current tally of 16 goals after 21 games and he is once again so isolated as a goalscoring threat that it is still not enough to propel the club into the top four places.
That, ultimately, is no longer the measure of success at White Hart Lane but of adequacy. Success itself these days has to be winning some silverware and the clock seems to be counting down on Antonio Conte’s chances of being the manager finally to achieve that. Bottom line: he must do better. Matthew Dunn
(Image: Getty Images)
Position in class : 16th
Grade : D-
After the highs of last season’s Europa League semi-final run and 7th place finish, West Ham have hit something of a brick wall this term and are floundering in the lower reaches of the table.
David Moyes has tried to adapt his side’s style of play from counter-attacking to being more progressive, more dominant with the ball with the integration of Lucas Paqueta and Gianluca Scamacca, but it hasn’t taken off and the side have, at times, looked like one caught between a rock and a hard place.
Inverting the midfield, playing with Declan Rice as a sole holder rather than in a pair, to accommodate both the Brazilian and Tomas Soucek, has yet to pay off.
Manager Grade: D
The moves Moyes has attempted to make to take the side to the next level have, from afar, looked to be the right ones. However, they’ve not been matched by results nor performances for the large part.
A back to basics win over Everton will keep the wolves from his door a little while longer, but they’ll need a strong second half of the season to really ease the pressure on the veteran Scot.
Star students: Declan Rice
Even as things change around him, the England midfielder continues to impress. He’s had even more defensive responsibility this term, and has more than done his bit, even with injury issues meaning a continually rotating cast behind him. It’s little wonder the continued interest from bigger clubs.
Need work: Jarrod Bowen
His display against Everton showed just how important Bowen can be and he remains the Hammers’ most decisive goalscorer. But after a real breakthrough campaign last term, this has been a disappointing one all told.
He’s the player who can really step up in the second half of the season and fire them up the table.
Paqueta meanwhile has shown glimpses of real quality, but only glimpses. He needs to be more dominant in games, rather than merely decorating them. Alex Richards
Position in class: 17th
Manager grade: Bruno Lage - D. Took the inexplicable decision to allow Conor Coady to leave and decided upon a change of system. Both gambles have backfired. Little summer recruitment of note to rectify the goals’ shortage. Wolves’ poor start to the campaign cannot be attributed to him solely. But neither can he escape criticism, either. The club deserve censure too, for failing to act quickly to source a replacement. Steve Davis’ appointment as caretaker was over-long and cost them valuable time.
Julen Lopetegui - B - it’s difficult to realistically value the Spaniard’s input but eight points from five matches since football resumed suggests that it has had a positive impact.
Star students: Ruben Neves - the outstanding talent at Molineux. There’s a reason why the Portuguese is coveted by Europe’s biggest. He would not look out of place anywhere. Yes, he is that good.
Jose Sa - perhaps not as impressive as he was during his last two campaigns at the club. But the club’s No. 1. has still made a difference when it’s mattered.
Need work: Goncalo Guedes - well, he needed work but has since returned to Benfica on loan. Strange indeed for a winger who cost almost £30m to be returned to his homeland after less than five months in the Black Country.
Raul Jimenez - was one of them most prolific and sought-after strikers before his sickening head injury. However, has struggled since then to find the form that made him one of the best in the Premier League.
Hee-Chan Hwang - bought in for £14m last term. Didn’t really set the world alight then and certainly hasn’t done much up until now. Was signed to find the net but hasn’t managed a solitary successful strike in the Premier League so far this season. Neil Moxley