Premier League grades: Liverpool impress, Tottenham disappoint
Last Updated: 30/12/18 11:07pm
Liverpool put in a five-star display against Arsenal while Tottenham and West Ham had weekends to forget in our latest round of Premier League grades.
There were big wins for Jurgen Klopp's side and Manchester City to keep the title race alive and kicking, while there were some real setbacks for three of the London clubs.
Here's how our reporters graded every team's performances...
Having seen Tottenham slip up against Wolves earlier in the day, Liverpool finished the year with a statement win over Arsenal. They responded to falling behind in the 11th minute by scoring four goals before half-time, with their attacking assets proving far too quick and clever for Arsenal to handle.
Roberto Firmino completed his hat-trick in the second half while Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang - the Premier League's joint-top scorer - was kept remarkably quiet, having just 13 touches, six of which were from kick-offs.
Sterner tests will await in 2019, starting with Manchester City on Thursday, live on Sky Sports, but Liverpool look as though they will take some stopping on this evidence. (James Walker-Roberts)
Wolves - A
A brilliant, brilliant second-half display against a side fighting for the title. Tottenham looked in control, but Wolves kept coming and coming and got their rewards. The two goals that gave them the victory were right out of the top drawer.
Wolves have only lost two of their seven Premier League games against 'big six' opponents this season (W2 D3 L2), managing to avoid defeat in each of their three away games - no team, no matter who they are, seems to faze this Wolves side. (Peter Hall)
Burnley - A
Who saw this coming? Burnley set out their stall early on, attacking from the first whistle and never relented or lost their focus once Chris Wood and Dwight McNeil fired them 2-0 ahead.
There was not a poor performance across the 11 with everyone playing their part - even Tom Heaton, who made a stunning late save to keep out Andy Carroll's header in an otherwise quiet afternoon for the returning goalkeeper. (Ron Walker)
Manchester Utd - A-
Admittedly, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been given a favourable run to start off his United stint, but he could not have done much more in those three games to lift the mood at Old Trafford.
The win over Bournemouth crossed more issues off the list: get Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford causing trouble, get Paul Pogba back on form, and get Romelu Lukaku in the goals.
But the most noticeable improvement was the atmosphere. The supporters are happy, and that makes the team happy.
The only thing separating them from an A was the rash Eric Bailly sending off and the lack of clean sheet: that's now eight straight games conceding. (Gerard Brand)
Manchester City - B+
Manchester City supporters had a message for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool - 'We'll fight to the end!' - and after their December dive, there was defiance back on the pitch, too.
Kevin De Bruyne may be in a race to make this week's Sky Live showdown with the Reds but David Silva and Fernandinho made a welcome return to the starting line-up at St Mary's and, in the first half-hour especially, City were back to their swaggering best.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's leveller was punishment for Oleksandr Zinchenko's carelessness, while Ederson saved well from Charlie Austin's flicked header. They dropped off after the break but City overall were too quick, too elusive and Riyad Mahrez went close to crowning a remarkable five-a-side move that - predictably - involved Ederson living dangerously. Roll on Thursday. (Kate Burlaga)
Brighton - B+
Brighton continue to turn the AMEX into a fortress. After their 2-1 defeat to Chelsea earlier this month - only a second home league loss this season - Chris Hughton's side have responded with four points from difficult encounters with Arsenal and Everton.
This was all the more sweet given the need to replace Mat Ryan with David Button, who overcame a nervous first half to make a fine save to deny Richarlison.
Hughton's decision to keep Glenn Murray on the bench was vindicated as Jurgen Locadia scored his second goal in as many games, while Bernardo's stature at left-back continues to grow.
With Lewis Dunk imperious on his 250th appearance for the Seagulls having returned from suspension, the future is looking bright for Brighton as Hughton enters his fifth year in charge. (Ben Grounds)
Chelsea - B
Despite the victory, it was not an easy afternoon for Chelsea. Crystal Palace did well to restrict them from having too many chances and their star man, Eden Hazard, was kept quiet for much of the game. They improved in the second period after a slow first half, and it paid off as N'Golo Kante scored the winner.
It will not be a performance that lives long in the memory but opening up a five-point gap on Arsenal in fifth and sitting just one behind Tottenham will be a big plus point. Head coach Maurizio Sarri told Sky Sports he wanted more consistency from his side and he is right as they arguably made it too difficult for themselves at Selhurst Park. (Charlotte Marsh)
Newcastle - B
Rafael Benitez praised his players' work rate after their 1-1 draw with Watford and it's easy to see why as they put in a resolute defensive display at Vicarage Road.
Newcastle only had two shots on target but did look lively on the counter-attack, particularly down the left flank, and will be slightly frustrated not have held on to their 1-0 lead following a lapse in concentration which allowed Abdoulaye Doucoure to convert unmarked in the box. (James Kilpatrick)
Cardiff - B
If you're going to fight a relegation battle, you need grit and determination and that's exactly what was on show from Neil Warnock's side on Saturday.
After a goalless draw on Boxing Day, they did well to stifle Leicester and stop them from playing their football. While they did not have many chances in front of goal, they scored when it mattered to pick up their first away win of the Premier League season.
Credit must also go to goalkeeper Neil Etheridge for saving another penalty - this time from James Maddison - but questions must be asked about why they keep winning them in the first place. But for now, they will look to take this momentum into a tough New Year's Day game against Tottenham and keep pulling away from the bottom three. (Charlotte Marsh)
Fulham - B
It was not pretty at times, but Fulham eventually got the job done against fellow strugglers Huddersfield at Craven Cottage on Saturday to move further away from their opponents at the bottom of the table.
What will most have pleased Claudio Ranieri with his side's display was their first clean sheet at home since he took over in west London.
Not only that, but it was also the Cottagers' second victory in eight Premier League games under the Italian, with both wins coming at home. (Richard Morgan)
Huddersfield - B-
Huddersfield boss David Wagner could not hide his disappointment after the full-time whistle at Craven Cottage following Fulham's injury-time win that kept his side rooted to the foot of the Premier League.
What will have most annoyed Wagner is that his team had actually produced one of their better displays of the season in west London, only to get caught by a late counter.
That means Huddersfield have lost all seven of their Premier League matches during December 2018, becoming the first side to do so in a single calendar month since Leicester lost seven in April 2001. (Richard Morgan)
Crystal Palace - C+
It was not a dazzling performance from Crystal Palace and even manager Roy Hodgson admitted after the game that they were second best on the day against Chelsea.
But for the most part, they did what they set out to do - restrict Chelsea to few chances and try to grab a goal. While the latter may not have come to fruition, they did keep Chelsea from their full flow for much of the game with Eden Hazard also kept quiet.
There was also hope towards the end as they dominated the game for the final 10 minutes but the luck just did not fall their way. While Hodgson said he could not take many positives, this is not the whole truth and Crystal Palace should, overall, be pleased with how they did. (Charlotte Marsh)
Watford - C
They got the draw in the end but the result may have been a slightly frustrating one for Javi Gracia's side considering Watford had 63 per cent possession in the match. The result could have been a more favourable one had Gerard Deulofeu put away a golden chance in the 16th minute.
Nevertheless, Gracia's introduction of Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure proved instrumental early in the second half as Watford continued to rally despite getting shut down regularly by a resilient Newcastle defence. (James Kilpatrick)
Everton - C
Doctor Jekyll, meet Mister Hyde. Having failed to establish a first-half lead despite excellent opportunities falling to both Richarlison and Seamus Coleman, Everton were duly punished for their profligacy as Brighton roared back to demonstrate the cutting edge they lacked in front of goal.
Jurgen Locadia's strike came during a period when the hosts were on top, but Everton appeared to still have an incident involving Richarlison still in their system.
Brighton had refused to knock the ball out of play with the Brazilian down on the ground, and it was not until after Locadia struck seven minutes later that Everton regained their composure.
Marco Silva had opted to drop Gylfi Sigurdsson, and the Portuguese will rue that decision on a frustrating afternoon for the Toffees, who were denied by the woodwork twice, but deserved little on the evidence of a below-par performance. (Ben Grounds)
Leicester - C
It looked like two superb wins against Chelsea and Man City took their toll on Leicester as they hosted Cardiff. They were never able to get into their flow, either due to fatigue or a good defensive performance from Cardiff, and lacked concentration in places. Jamie Vardy was pretty lonely up top with not a lot of service coming his way.
But a draw probably would have been a fair result with only a stunning late strike from Victor Camarasa seeing them fall to defeat. However, the spotlight will be back on Claude Puel to see how his side react when they play again on New Year's Day. (Charlotte Marsh)
Southampton - D
Southampton were well beaten at St Mary's in the end, despite Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg cancelling out David Silva's opener. A quickfire double at the end of the first half killed the contest and after bamboozling their hosts in the opening 45 minutes with slick, one-touch play, City - with 77 per cent possession overall - were able to canter at half-pace throughout the second.
Ralph Hasenhuttl's experimentation in team selection and formation - a switch to a back five with teenager Kayne Ramsay handed a debut - fell flat and Hojbjerg's lunge on Fernandinho further soured his mood. Jack Stephens was shaky at the back and his team-mates up front fell short when the rare chances came, Charlie Austin fluffing a big chance when clean through. (Kate Burlaga)
Tottenham - D
Is Tottenham's title challenge over before it had even begun? Spurs were cruising at 1-0 against Wolves, who did not really threaten, but a title challenger cannot take their foot off the gas for a second in the Premier League, with Spurs punished for their lack of intensity.
Spurs sat far too deep, seemingly content on seeing out the win, but you cannot negate for a header from a corner going in. Wolves' winning goals were excellent, but Spurs were far too open. Another winning run is now a must if they are to get even close to Liverpool. (Peter Hall)
Bournemouth - D-
As Eddie Howe admitted, Bournemouth struggled to recover from the early Paul Pogba goal and were second best in every department at Old Trafford.
The buzz on the ball we had seen in the first quarter of the season, particularly in wide areas, seems to have been lost, and Callum Wilson cut an isolated figure up front.
Howe is under no illusions things must improve, and though they should have too much quality to drag them into a relegation battle, their aim for a top-half finish in their fourth top-flight season seems to be fading. (Gerard Brand)
West Ham - E
This was a horror show of a performance from West Ham. Whether they were suffering from fatigue or not, their performance against Burnley was shocking and only Declan Rice and the three substitutes emerged with any credit.
They were lucky only to lose 2-0 against a team who have looked hopeless in recent weeks, and were all at sea all over the park. (Ron Walker)
Arsenal - E-
Arsenal's defeat to Liverpool served reminder of how much work lies ahead for Unai Emery in 2019. An injury-hit defence could not cope with Liverpool's attackers while the midfield failed under pressure and Aubameyang had no service.
Emery said afterwards his side will learn from a "bad experience" but this was a game that exposed Arsenal's flaws, most notably in defence, where they surely need to strengthen in the next couple of transfer windows. (James Walker-Roberts)