Premier League grades - 10 games in: Every club rated so far
Liverpool, Leicester, Sheff Utd commended; Arsenal, Watford, Everton slated
By Sky Sports Football
Last Updated: 01/11/19 1:20pm
'Judge us after 10 games'.
In football parlance, the 10-game mark has long been cited by managers and fans alike as the first stage at which their teams can legitimately be assessed, scrutinised and held to account.
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With just over a quarter of the 2019/20 season gone, what's the verdict so far? The Sky Sports Football writers grade every Premier League side...
Omens after game 10 (last six PL seasons)
- 50% of league leaders have gone on to win the title (3/6)
- 71% of teams in top four at this stage have finished there (17/24)
- 50% of teams in the bottom three have gone on to be relegated (9/18)
- Two of six sides rooted at the bottom of the table have avoided the drop
Arsenal were riding a wave of optimism at the start of the season having smashed their transfer record to sign the £72m Nicolas Pepe and also clinched deals for Kieran Tierney, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos and rising stars William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli. But the mood has soured rapidly.
Results have been poor, performances have been worse, and tensions boiled over during Sunday's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, when Granit Xhaka's outburst added to Unai Emery's problems and angry fans called for the reinstatement of the out-of-favour Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal are only four points off the top four. They are going strongly in the Europa League and Wednesday's Carabao Cup defeat came after a thrilling game that saw Mesut Ozil finally come in from the cold. But fans expected much more. The pressure is mounting on the man in the dugout.
All the pre-season talk was of Villa's spending, but regardless of the £100m+ Dean Smith splashed, the main aim should be 17th place or higher. And for that, they're on course.
They sit 15th with 11 points from 10 games - a rate which would just see them safe - but most importantly, have been competitive in every match.
Their three wins have shown a variety of character; the hard-fought 2-0 victory over Everton with little possession, a 5-1 demolition of Norwich, and a win from behind against Brighton. They've also given Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City difficult tests, all away from home.
There is a good nucleus to the team in Tyrone Mings, Marvelous Nakamba, John McGinn and Jack Grealish, though there are fears about their risky attacking approach - they've conceded more shots than any other Premier League side - and whether Wesley can make it stick. But so far, so good.
The south coast side remain, for many, the club to emulate. Following last Saturday's 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road, Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores said: "Four years ago when we were training here, both times we played Bournemouth the feeling I had was they are a very stable team, with a very stable manager and they had a really good idea of football. Four years later I think it is exactly the same ... of course they change some players but the philosophy of the club and the team is the same."
Sanchez Flores is right. The secret to Bournemouth's continued success has been the gradual evolution under Eddie Howe. After arriving as something of an unknown quantity, the Cherries have now come through a transitional period and are into a new cycle in a way Brighton were unable to replicate under Chris Hughton.
Aaron Ramsdale is maturing with every Premier League appearance, while the club has forged a very clear identity in allowing young creative players the chance to shine as part of an attacking playing style.
The results have not been without their disappointments - the 2-0 defeat to Burton in the Carabao Cup saw Howe field an understrength team that raised questions of their ambition - while back-to-back 0-0 draws have felt very unfamiliar. They have gone three games without a goal.
But Howe will take the positives from those two clean sheets, and it will now be about striking the right balance to achieve only a second top-half finish from their fifth season in the Premier League.
It was a shock for many when Chris Hughton left Brighton in the summer, having guided the Seagulls to an FA Cup semi-final and secured another season in the Premier League, and maybe a few more eyebrows were raised when Graham Potter came in from Swansea.
There have been improvements in some areas, with work to do in others. They are two points behind where they were after 10 games last season but have the same goal difference. And speaking of goals, Brighton have scored three or more goals in three of their games this term, more than they did in the whole of 2018/19 (two).
Those three games have all been Premier League wins, including a famous victory against Tottenham and a late 3-2 win against Everton last weekend, although that was not without its own slice of luck. That's what you need when you're battling against the teams around you, though. Having brought an end to their eight-game winless streak at home, it looks like things are on the up on the south coast.
But there was a six-game gap between their opening weekend win against Watford and their Tottenham victory and that will be a concern for Brighton fans. Their aim should continue to be Premier League survival and with things congested at the bottom, another extended run without victory could easily see them slip into an unwanted relegation battle.
Brighton have the tools to succeed though. Aaron Connolly has made an impressive breakthrough and Neal Maupay - a summer acquisition from Brentford - is proving that he can cut it in the Premier League. They need to maintain their recent form at home and start competing on the road to keep themselves away from danger.
Burnley have picked up where they left off last season. There's been no repeat performance of their dreadful start to 2018/19, despite facing Arsenal, Liverpool, Leicester and Chelsea inside their first 10 games, and they are four points better off than this time last season.
They've built relatively solid home form, based around their continued organisation, the ability of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes in attack - with both netting four league goals already - and Dwight McNeil stepping up his game again on the left flank.
It's been steady but unspectacular from Sean Dyche's team - but then, isn't that just the way he likes it?
A slight markdown for their slowish start to the season shouldn't overshadow what has been an excellent opening 10 games for Frank Lampard's young side.
His young charges have stepped up to the plate, with academy stars Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori impressing, but old heads who came in for criticism last year - namely Jorginho and Willian - have improved too.
Abraham, in particular, has caught the eye, with huge question marks over his Premier League prospects - after a dismal spell with Swansea just over a season ago - already long forgotten thanks to his eight-goal Premier League haul.
In August, a top-six finish would have seemed a good season for a team without their best player in the departed Eden Hazard and saddled by a transfer ban, but football is a fickle game and after a run of results to raise hope - as well as the belated emergence of Christian Pulisic - it may already be a disappointment if they miss out on the top four.
And to think that Palace's season began so lamely with a goalless draw against Everton and then a goalless defeat at Sheffield United...
Since then, Roy Hodgson's side have very arguably been the season's surprise package, beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, frustrating Arsenal at the Emirates and taking three points from West Ham.
There has been luck on the way, of course, and VAR has been particularly kind: Aston Villa scored a legitimate equaliser in their 1-0 loss at Selhurst Park at the end of August, Palace's winner at West Ham was a matter of millimetres and several minutes of deliberations, while the decision to disallow Arsenal's 'winner' last week remains both unexplained and inexplicable.
But pluck makes its own luck and Palace's resolution and organisation continues to make them the Premier League's most efficient pound-for-pound operatives.
Where on earth do you start? Six league defeats from their opening 10 games was not the return expected from another summer of hefty investment.
The departure of Idrissa Gueye and the failure to land a top-class centre-half after Chelsea's refusal to allow Kurt Zouma to return following his successful loan spell were somewhat glossed over in those pre-season forecasts.
It turns out having a strong spine is pretty important in the Premier League, and with Jordan Pickford once more struggling at times to produce the performances expected from England's No 1, the club's ongoing search to replace Romelu Lukaku's goals is just the tip of the iceberg.
Everton have won seven of their last 10 home league fixtures, but replicating that form away from Goodison Park has remained an issue this term. The Toffees haven't won on the road since March, and a mental fragility has been at the heart of an abysmal away record.
But such is the congested nature of the Premier League this term, Marco Silva's side remain just five points off sixth place - and the Carabao Cup run to the quarter-finals has offered some much-needed respite and hope that the club's 24-year search for a trophy may soon be at an end.
Silva retains the backing of his dressing room for now, but ahead of a daunting run-up to Christmas, he needs results as he heads into a critical period of his reign. Ten points from these opening 10 fixtures - with just one game against last season's top six - is simply nowhere near good enough. Despite the loss of Gueye and Zouma, Everton should still be doing far, far better.
There was cautious optimism in the summer given the impact that Brendan Rodgers had made in the spring but that has made way for full-blown excitement given Leicester's early season form. The Foxes are third in the Premier League and they deserve to be there. No team has a better defensive record. Only Manchester City have outscored them.
Jamie Vardy has been in extraordinary form ever since Rodgers took over and the team's young midfield continues to impress. At the back, the loss of Harry Maguire has barely been felt at all thanks to the assured performances of Caglar Soyuncu who has been a revelation. Leicester are flying and the recent 9-0 win over Southampton was the culmination of that.
That result will be difficult to top but they are capable of sustaining this. Rodgers' side have already played five of last season's top seven so, in theory at least, a more winnable run of games awaits them. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have picked up more points over the past eight months so this is no flare up - Leicester will be looking to keep this run going.
Having made their best-ever start to a Premier League season to open up a six-point leader on champions Man City, it would be churlish to give the still unbeaten league leaders anything other than top marks after the opening 10 games of the campaign.
Many had wondered if Jurgen Klopp's side could go again after the agony of just missing out on a first title since 1990 by a solitary point last time around, but the Reds have well and truly cast those doubts aside in the opening three months of the season.
And when they have not been at their fluent best, the Merseysiders have still been able to grind out important wins - such as at Bramall Lane in September - in a way champions must, as Roy Keane noted after Sunday's come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Spurs at Anfield. Klopp's "mentality monsters" did it again against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup.
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Given their high standards, Manchester City have not quite picked up where they left off after their record-breaking Premier League victory last season. After just 10 games, they have lost twice, which is half of their tally from last term, having been defeated just four times in 38 games.
There was the shock 3-2 defeat to newly-promoted Norwich where their defence were bewildered by the knee injury to Aymeric Laporte and struggled to quieten a lively Canaries side. But what followed? Three successive games in all competitions with clean sheets and 14 goals scored - including an 8-0 drubbing of Watford in the Premier League. Norwich was just a blip and Man City were back to their best.
But then came a 2-0 loss to Wolves a few weeks later, which was paired with an unusually lacklustre performance that must have begun to worry Man City fans. Of course, since that game, Pep Guardiola's side have won their last four in all competitions with just two goals conceded, but question marks still remain, particularly in defence. They have had an incredible run of bad luck with injuries too, with Laporte the biggest loss. John Stones, Benjamin Mendy and Kevin De Bruyne have also faced spells on the sidelines.
Ultimately, the cliche of the rollercoaster season can be applied to Man City. They are not having everything their own way and are being truly challenged by Liverpool. They just had enough to see off the Reds last season, although Jurgen Klopp had the small matter of winning the Champions League as a consolation. But after 10 games, they are already six points off top spot and Liverpool do not look like giving it up any time soon.
The top two are gearing up to go head to head live on Sky Sports on November 10. This will arguably give us a better gauge of where Man City are and if they can produce one almighty comeback to become only the second side after Man Utd to win three Premier League titles in a row.
The letter D has come to typify Manchester United's season thus far.
Fans dared to dream after a shrewd summer of transfer activity, and an instant dividend was delivered in their opening-day demolition of Chelsea. But after that performance, a performance that promised so much, supporters were dealt blow after blow as they side flattered to deceive again and again until their decline culminated in their worst start to a campaign in three decades.
Defeat at home to Crystal Palace was an early low and a sign of things to come, with disappointment quickly stubbing out the glimmers of optimism on the rare occasion when United looked to have turned a corner, like their battling victory over Leicester.
Abject defeats on the road to West Ham and Newcastle bookended a five-game winless run that left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side without an away victory in any competition since March. And the daunting task placed in front of the United boss looked set to deepen as Liverpool, and their perfect record, travelled to Old Trafford.
But a spirited draw against the Premier League leaders provided the springboard for back-to-back wins at Partizan and Norwich, victories that have not only lifted the mood but given renewed hope that Solskjaer, despite his poor start to the season, may just be steering United in the right direction. Victory over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup - with Marcus Rashford's wonder-strike further boosting morale - was another sign.
Steve Bruce conceded that another uninspiring performance against Wolves suggested slog ahead for Newcastle and his admission that "it's not been any different for the last couple of years" rings depressingly true.
The matchday buzz at St James' Park has long been blunted - close to 6,500 seats were unoccupied on Sunday and that calculation goes only by official figures. A smattering of palms clapped as the whistle blew on a 1-1 draw but, mostly, there was resigned quiet. Typically fervent supporters are low on hope these days.
Whoever followed Rafael Benitez was always going to be on a hiding to nothing; while Mike Ashley reigns, so too will disillusionment on Tyneside. Bruce said he wanted his side to be entertaining, not just effective yet Newcastle have scored just six goals in 10 games and a sense of identity has eluded his new side so far.
Their start has been tough. Victories against Tottenham and Manchester United, where the Longstaff brothers' impact - as well as uplifting post-match interview - have been bright spots. Allan Saint-Maximin has looked exciting, if a little erratic. But Joelinton and Miguel Almiron are struggling in a side that has reverted to playing on the counter and collectively created the fewest big chances (10) in the league. Worryingly, Bruce, whose side were humiliated 5-0 by Leicester a month back, also hinted at a "mentality" issue as his side sat in and surrendered the initiative at home in their latest outing.
Newcastle, one place above the drop zone, are six points and two spots better off than they were after 10 games last season. But Benitez, the ultimate top-flight strategist, always had a plan. On and off the pitch right now, one feels distinctly lacking.
It was looking very promising early on. Norwich's famous 3-2 win over champions Manchester City on September 14 - for a promoted side that spent very little - made everyone stand up and take note.
The atmosphere, the energy and the ambition of Daniel Farke's side was infectious, but one thing cannot be denied: the style is risky. That's been evident in the five games since, where Norwich have taken just one point and conceded 12 goals, scoring twice.
The question now is whether Farke can adapt. Their game is about keeping possession and moving the ball quickly, but there are question marks over the wing areas and whether Teemu Pukki is getting the service his movement craves.
Norwich are not competitive at the moment, and must be careful their five-game winless streak doesn't stretch to 10 or 15. But there's still time to reverse the slide.
Sheffield United were the bookies' odds-on favourites to go straight back down before a ball was kicked but plenty who had closely tracked the Blades' rise under a real-deal manager addicted to achieving would have told you to save your money.
Unbeaten away and with 13 points on the board from 10 games, five of which have been against teams in the current top six, the Blades look like they belong; are they beginning to believe it themselves? Only a home defeat to Southampton - another day, another result - has felt like a blot on a start that has surely exceeded expectations of the most buoyant Blade; there are plenty of those these days.
Their attacking quirks - overlapping centre-backs, wide overloads and fluid positional rotation - remain but Chris Wilder has tweaked it too by stiffening his midfield, mindful of the goals-conceded column and the top-flight's counter-attacking threat. Their defence was as mean as Middlesbrough's in the Championship last season and what appeared an edge over fellow newcomers, Norwich and Aston Villa, has proved just that so far. There is room for improvement at the top of the pitch with goals in short supply, but in preventing them - no side has let in fewer - the Blades are laying foundations to keep steadily adding to their tally, whether at home or on the road.
Manuel Pellegrini's words - "direct, totally English football" - ahead of a 1-1 draw at West Ham whiffed of derision but he too has found out that this tight-knit team can mix it. There were slick passages of play against Arsenal - the Gunners "outfootballed, as well as outworked," admitted Jamie Carragher at half-time - before defensive grit took over, while at West Ham, Wilder's bold substitutions changed the game.
There will be challenges ahead as winter bites but while survival should remain the aim, those lazy labels are being torn up by the week.
Historically, Southampton's home form has been a real strength of the side - but it is away from St Mary's where Ralph Hasenhuttl's men have collected seven of their eight points so far.
Back-to-back defeats at the start of the season - away to Burnley and then at home to Liverpool - was far from ideal, but a three-match unbeaten run, including fine wins at Brighton and Sheffield United, suggested the Saints had turned a corner. But the 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth on September 20 started a worrying slide into the bottom three.
The decline has coincided with new signing Moussa Djenepo being out with a hip injury but the loss of the Mali winger does not explain the disastrous 9-0 defeat against Leicester. Remarkably, Southampton have conceded 16 goals in their last three home games and they are yet to win in front of their own supporters.
Former Saints defender Francis Benali told Sky Sports: "It's been a disappointing and frustrating start in many ways. Quite naturally, the home form has been a bit of a concern and a worry - none more so than that hammering. As crazy as it sounds, I'm already looking at goal difference and the impact that has. You hope that it was just a one-off. But this is now an opportunity for the players to bounce back, and show some resolve, steel and character."
Hasenhuttl has played around with his formation in search of a winning formula, reverting from a back four to a back three while personnel has also been shuffled regularly by the Austrian.
The form of Danny Ings has been a rare positive - with the striker's six goals in all competitions reflecting just why Hasenhuttl opted to remove his talisman at half-time during that defeat to the Foxes.
Benali added: "There have been or two players who have been regulars in the side, and perhaps now is the time to freshen it up a little bit. A lot of supporters voted with their feet against Leicester. The players have to take responsibility and show them that they're willing to fight to get out of the position they're in."
What's happened to Tottenham? It sounds odd to say it, but a Champions League final aside it's been as close to an annus horribilis as Spurs have had in some time and after stumbling to fourth place last season, things have only got worse in 2019/20.
The shock home loss to Newcastle in August set the tone and while losing at Leicester was no disgrace, there was clearly something more serious at play by the time they crumbled at Brighton earlier this month.
Too many players have allowed their form to drop, like Dele Alli who was singled out for criticism after his performance against Liverpool on Sunday, and Christian Eriksen.
The Dane is one of an ever-increasing number of players with contract issues, too, and with Spurs already eight points off fourth place, their incredible stadium could be the best in the Europa League if their form doesn't pick up soon.
There is just no caveat for Watford. A poor summer of transfer business, when Danny Rose's failed move left Craig Dawson their only addition to a porous defence, has set the tone for a season that has yet to yield a win and failed to deliver a Hornets goal in a league-high six games.
The signing of £40m winger Ismaila Sarr was prioritised, but it is one yet to bear fruit, producing just 167 minutes of league football to date.
Off the field transfers have proved just as peculiar, replacing Javi Gracia with the same man they sacked three years ago.
Quique Sanchez Flores' return was meant to help build from the back, which lasted about 15 minutes into his second game in charge by which point they were already 5-0 down at Manchester City.
A draw at Spurs and another at home to Bournemouth suggest the next 10 might not be quite so painful, but that's a pretty low bar for a side who were celebrating their highest ever Premier League position, and reaching the FA Cup final, barely six months ago.
West Ham have been perennial slow starters, but after the opening-day 5-0 defeat at home to Manchester City, there were signs that Manuel Pellegrini's side could emerge as genuine top-six contenders. Victories over Watford, Norwich and most impressively Manchester United raised expectations among Hammers supporters.
The 2-0 win over United lifted them up to fifth in the table - level on points with Leicester - 12 places and seven points better off than at the same stage last campaign. But those two sides have headed in opposite directions since late September - sparked by an embarrassing 4-0 drubbing away to Oxford United in the Carabao Cup.
It felt like a missed opportunity to progress deep into that competition, and West Ham have since been dealt a major blow in goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski being ruled out for two months with a torn hip muscle.
With games against Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal on the horizon, Manuel Pellegrini will be desperate to find some consistency and to end the current four-game winless streak.
The return to fitness and form of Andriy Yarmolenko has been a real positive alongside how well Sebastien Haller has adapted to life in the Premier League following his £45m summer transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt.
But West Ham cannot rely solely on Yarmolenko's creativity and Haller's goals. Mid-table on 13 points, bringing Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson back to the boil will be vital if hopes of gate-crashing the top six are to be realised.
Europa League commitments overshadowed the early part of Wolves' season as excitement about the club's continental adventure took precedence among supporters. The draw at Leicester on the opening weekend looks a better result by the week but six games into the Premier League season, Nuno Espirito Santo's side were still winless.
A 5-2 home defeat to Chelsea was particularly alarming but Diogo Jota's last-gasp equaliser with 10 men next time out at Crystal Palace proved a turning point. Wolves are now on a five-game unbeaten run in the competition with the 2-0 victory at Manchester City arguably the club's best result under Nuno - particularly as it came after winning away to Besiktas.
This season looks like it might be more of a battle for a small squad competing on multiple fronts and the loss of Willy Boly to an ankle injury is a huge blow. But spirits still seem high and with Adama Traore making great strides there are reasons for optimism too. Wolves look capable of staying out of danger and prolonging their European dream into the spring.