Premier League reports – Part two of our early season grading

Liverpool MUST improve, Man City are top of the class with Erling  Haaland the star pupil… and Spurs make the grade – your team’s early season rated in PART II of our Premier League report card

  • PREMIER LEAGUE REPORT CARD: Arsenal and Chelsea feature in Part One
  • Liverpool have struggled to replace Sadio Mane after slow start to the season
  • Manchester United have recovered after disastrous opening under Erik ten Hag
  • Erling Haaland’s goals are making Manchester City look an unstoppable force
  • Tottenham yet to click but are posting impressive results under Antonio Conte 

Even just seven games into the Premier League season it has been a fast start at both ends of the table heading into the international break.

Some familiar big hitters have shown indifferent form, while there are a notable few so-called smaller teams punching above their weight to leave the top flight with plenty of questions to ponder.

Sportsmail has assessed every Premier League’s side form in the early stages, from free scoring Manchester City to crisis club Leicester and graded how they have fared so far. 

We kicked off our guide with part one on Tuesday – now read the second part that features the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham here.

Manchester City have shown excellent form at the start of this Premier League season

Position: 20th Points: 1

The vibes coming out of Leicester were not positive going into the season but there could not have been many who would have imagined a start to the campaign as bad as this.

Rock bottom and having suffered six consecutive defeats – including a 6-2 hammering at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday – the Foxes have opened with their worst set of results since 1983.

It has been chaotic for Brendan Rodgers’ side, who having already conceded 22 goals are letting in around three per game, a recipe for relegation if ever there was one. 

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers is under pressure following a poor start to the season

As well as being thrashed by Spurs they have also conceded four at Arsenal and five at Brighton following a turbulent summer that saw key defender Wesley Fofana leave to join Chelsea for £70million.

Perhaps key to Leicester’s collapse is that, with another key player in Kasper Schmeichel also leaving for Nice, there is a void that has needed to be filled, yet there has hardly been any new signings of note at the King Power Stadium.

Is there any hope for the Foxes? Bizarrely yes. Goals don’t seem to be a huge problem, even with the ageing Jamie Vardy understandably no longer at his peak – at least over a consistent basis.

They have scored 10 goals so far this term, and no side in the bottom half has eclipsed that. If Rodgers can sort the defence out and cut some ridiculous errors from open play and set-pieces, a quick fix may not be far away.

But will Rodgers get a chance to turn things round? The Northern Irishman is under big pressure heading into the international break, with early reports suggesting Brentford boss Thomas Frank is being monitored as a potential replacement. 

Either way it could be a long season for the Foxes, but to end on a positive – even the team from 1983 managed to avoid relegation…

Grade: F

The Foxes have yet to win a Premier League game this term and only have one point


Position: 8th Points: 9 

It has been a stuttering start from Liverpool, who after missing out on the Premier League and Champions League titles last term appear to be carrying a slight hangover.

The Reds took four matches to find their first win following disappointing draws with Fulham and Crystal Palace, as well as a bitter defeat at rivals Manchester United.

Pent-up anger was taken out on Bournemouth with a 9-0 thrashing and a follow up win over Newcastle but they then dropped points again in the Merseyside derby draw at Everton.

Champions League performances have also been suspect, with an opening night 4-1 hammering by Napoli followed by a win over Ajax that required a last-gasp Joel Matip effort.

Liverpool have stuttered out of the blocks at the start of the Premier League season

Jurgen Klopp’s side have had summer issues and it was never going to be easy to replace Sadio Mane with anyone following the Senegal star’s move to Bayern Munich.

Yet it appears Klopp is still unsure of his best front three now, with only Mohamed Salah certain to start among Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez.

Summer arrival Nunez joined for £85million and it’s still early days to judge his overall form – especially having sat out half of Liverpool’s opening fixtures through suspension – but he still has a long way to go to replace the incredibly high standards set by Mane.

The Reds also appear to have questions in midfield as they lack depth, especially with the likes of stand-ins including James Milner now approaching the latter stages of their careers.

This could prove one of Klopp’s toughest seasons yet at Anfield but even so, it is still far too soon to write them off in the Premier League title battle.

Grade: C- 

Darwin Nunez still needs to settle in the starting XI following his £85m summer move


Position: 2nd Points: 17 points

It seems odd that Manchester City went into the summer in desperate need of a new striker, especially after storming to another league title last season despite a strong Liverpool challenge.

Yet their success came despite not having a No 1 striker to call upon, so there was not much surprise to see their summer business triggering the release clause in Erling Haaland’s Borussia Dortmund contract to bring him to the Etihad Stadium.

It’s a move that left their rivals plenty to fear and it’s only taken seven games to see why following the Norwegian’s explosive start to his career in England.

Already he has 11 goals, nearly double more than his next nearest Golden Boot challengers in Harry Kane and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Erling Haaland has already struck 11 Premier League goals for Manchester City this season

But it’s not just attack City are dominating; they just about top every chart apart from the Premier League table and they are only one point off the top there.

Kevin De Bruyne has the most assists with six, Rodri, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker are the top passers in the league, while goalkeeper Ederson has the most clean sheets with four. 

They are not quite perfect – draws away at Newcastle United and Aston Villa attest to that – but they are not far from it so far, although the real tests are coming up.

Following the international break, Guardiola’s men host Manchester United in what looks set to be a huge clash concerning the title race, with a trip to Liverpool to follow a fortnight later.

Only then will we find out if City are this season’s flat-track bullies or whether Haaland and Co really are their new and (somehow) improved dominating force in the top-flight. 

Grade: A

City have proven devastating in attack, boasting the most goals this season with 23


Position: 5th Points: 12

You are not going to find more teams with a more classic rollercoaster start to the season than Manchester United.

Coming into the new campaign, no one knew what to expect from yet another new era at Old Trafford, with some old faces like Paul Pogba departing over the summer and new arrivals coming in, including boss Erik ten Hag.

But United soon hit a new post-Sir Alex Ferguson low when after losing the opening game of the season against Brighton at Old Trafford they found themselves 4-0 down at half-time at Brentford.

It wasn’t just the scoreline that humbled the Red Devils – it was the chaos of the game at the Gtech Community Stadium that appeared to be casting a reflection of public perceptions of the Old Trafford outfit at the time.

Manchester United started poorly under manager Erik ten Hag but have improved recently

Star man Cristiano Ronaldo was anonymous amid his desperations to seal an exit, new centre-back signing Lisandro Martinez was subbed at half-time, club captain Harry Maguire still looked shot of confidence in the defence and the whole team’s shape led to TV pundit and former United star Gary Neville describing Ten Hag’s outfit as ‘looking like an Under 9s’ side.

But what a response since. Ten Hag made some brave calls including dropping Ronaldo after the Brentford humiliation but it has helped produce a desired turnaround to beat rivals Liverpool 2-1 – a huge morale boost for the Dutchman to chalk up and win over his stars.

Narrow wins at Southampton and Leicester City have followed, while another impressive Old Trafford display saw United make an in-form Arsenal look ordinary in a 3-1 victory.

It seems within the space of a few weeks, United have gone from a complete laughing stock to starting to show elements of a team who could be shaping up to lead a title battle.

It will be wise not to read too much into a four-game winning run and there are still cracks in the side Ten Hag will need to address. The team appears to lack depth, demonstrated by the rather meek 1-0 defeat suffered at home by Real Sociedad in the Europa League with a much changed line-up that included Ronaldo. There is though plenty of optimism for United heading into the Manchester derby.

Grade: B+

United beat arch-rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford in one of their early highlights in the new season 


Position: 10th Points:

The team everyone has a ‘third eye’ on have rather gone under the radar following a rather curious opening seven games.

Optimism surrounds St James’ Park these days with a top-down desire from the Saudi-backed owners to keep improving the club, and boss Eddie Howe enjoyed a summer in the transfer market where he was supported financially.

Perhaps sensibly, the Magpies have not gone out and just signed big names. Logical transfers have been made to gradually improve the squad, which over time is likely to lead to them emerging into an elite Premier League side.

That conversation is for another day though – here is about how the summer business has affected their start to the season and, well, the jury is out.

New signing Alexander Isak appears to be settling well at Newcastle with two goals already

Howe’s side have not won since the opening day of the season against new boys Nottingham Forest, yet they are proving notoriously difficult to beat – only losing once in a last-gasp defeat at Liverpool.

Five draws make up the rest of the results, including a 3-3 thriller against title favourites Manchester City.

The tough tests have come and gone and what we can conclude early on is that there certainly won’t be a relegation battle this season and that Howe’s men look like being a match for any team in the top flight.

The £63million signing Alexander Isak already has two goals from three games in attack and while Newcastle perhaps sit in a slightly disappointing mid-table spot at this stage, the expectation is that they will continue to look up the table rather than over their shoulder going forward this term.

Grade: B-

Eddie Howe’s team need to transform more draws into victories to trouble top half sides


Position: 19th Points:

This was always going to be a tricky season for Nottingham Forest, no matter what way they approached the campaign.

With star players returning to parent clubs following loan spells, goalkeeper Brice Samba securing a move to France and more players departing, there was only one way Forest could tackle their transfer business.

Standing still and trusting a squad made weaker following promotion through the play-offs was never the safe option and a large summer recruitment was always going to be needed.

But to this scale? Nottingham Forest signed 23 players – and were still going at it after the transfer window closed having announced this week that they have landed keeper Adnan Kanuric as a free agent. It’s worth remembering at this point that even though Under 21 players are exempt, a team can only register 25 players for a Premier League squad.

Nottingham Forest are still yet to click having signed 23 players during the summer

It is no surprise to see there are teething problems in Steve Cooper’s outfit, who have gone into the international break second from bottom with just one victory over West Ham United at the City Ground.

Morale is also at a low, having lost their last four games in bitter fashion, one consisting of a 6-0 battering at the hands of free-scoring Manchester City, but perhaps even worse was throwing away leads to suffer 3-2 home defeats at the hands of fellow promoted sides Bournemouth and Fulham.

It seems it is going to take time to get the team working as a defensive unit once the dressing room ice-breakers have been concluded and the backlog of team initiation karaoke performances have reached a glorious silence.

Hope can be taken from the four most recent goals, indicating that there is an attacking quality that can be built upon, but will boss Steve Cooper stick around to try and gel his new-look side amid fears he will not sign a new deal at the City Ground amid interest from other clubs?

Grade: D+

Boss Steve Cooper’s future is uncertain at Nottingham Forest as he weighs up his options


Position: 14th Points: 7

It’s difficult to really know just what is going on at Southampton, who appear to be an early contender for being this season’s ‘box of chocolates’, to borrow a much used reference from the film Forrest Gump.

After an opening day 4-2 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur, news soon circulated of discontent in the Saints camp suggesting players were unhappy under manager Ralph Hasenhuttl staying over the summer having only won one of their last 13 games of the previous season.

Coming back to draw 2-2 with Leeds before winning at Leicester soon quietened that narrative. A home loss by Manchester United followed but even that led to the Saints responding three days later with a 2-1 win over Chelsea.

Yet form has deserted them again. Che Adams’ awful finishing cost them in a 1-0 defeat at Wolves, while they also lost by the same scoreline at Aston Villa last time out.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has seen off early season pressure after a poor start

The Saints have produced just two shots on target across those three hours of football and it hasn’t really left much for supporters to be excited about once again.

That’s not to say there isn’t a plan at St Mary’s. Judging by the club’s summer transfers, it’s focused on signing youth players, albeit Manchester City’s youth players at a rather premium price and hoping it will pay off.

Keeper Gavin Bazunu, defensive midfielder Romeo Lavia and left-back Juan Larios have all arrived at a nearly combined £30m and clearly their best is yet to come. Only time will tell what that best looks like.

Hasenhuttl has been in charge of the club for four years now, but he has only finished higher than 15th once. Even at this early stage of the season it is perhaps worth debating whether he can get more out of the Saints – or is he doing a competent job of keeping his side away from a relegation fight?

Grade D+ 

A 2-1 victory over Chelsea has shown encouraging potential among a young Southampton side


Position: 3rd Points: 17 

Tottenham have been on a roll in 2022 following the inspired appointment (eventually) to land Antonio Conte in the wake of the disastrous tenure under his predecessor Nuno Espirito Santo last season.

The popular Italian has since turned around the club’s fortunes to guide them back into the Champions League and one of their best recent starts to a Premier League season.

Along with Manchester City they are the only unbeaten side in the top flight and have shown a resilience to scrap for points when not at their best.

For instance they were largely outplayed in their 2-2 draw at Chelsea, and while referee decisions fell their way they made the most of them to grab a credible point at a venue where they are notoriously weak.

Son Heung-min returned to form for Tottenham with a hat-trick against Leicester City

Form also goes out of the window when playing West Ham, with the fiery London derby seeing them leave the London Stadium with another point.

This has been added to with wins over Southampton, Wolves, Nottingham Forest, Fulham and most recently a 6-2 demolition of Leicester City.

Yet there still seems to be a fragility to them this term. In many games Spurs have toiled in possession creating few chances – even if credit is due for how clinical they have been in taking what they do produce. Son Heung-min also looks like coming back up to speed with his hat-trick against the Foxes ending his goal drought from the start of the campaign.

Other signs of their labouring performances have come in the late win over 10-man Marseille in the Champions League, which was followed by a 2-0 humbling at Sporting Lisbon.

It is why, despite sitting level on points with Manchester City, no-one really considers Spurs as title contenders, at least not yet.

Fans will be hoping summer signings such as Richarlison and Yves Bissouma can settle quickly but the real test of Conte’s men this term is coming up next month. It doesn’t really get much bigger than their next match at Arsenal in a north London derb, while a visit to Manchester United will be an excellent metric to see just how much progress they are really making under Conte.

Are they finally the real deal, or is it another season of trophy dodging?

Grade: A

Spurs boss Antonio Conte has overseen a positive turnaround in fortunes at the club


Position: 18th Points: 4 

It’s all gone wrong down at West Ham United, who after a couple of seasons of leading highly credible challenges for European football have started the season poorly at best despite not much change in personnel or management.

David Moyes is still leading his side and they have kept hold of star midfielder Declan Rice. Exits have been kept low key, and while club legend Mark Noble’s departure leaves a leadership void in the dressing room, his advancing years meant he wasn’t as key to the starting XI.

So how can the Hammers be heading into the international break inside the relegation zone?

While it cannot take the full wrap, having already had to play four matches in the Europa Conference League cannot have aided any preparation for Premier League games. Continued appearances in Europe’s tertiary competition is not going to aid the Hammers in the future either.

West Ham United have held on to key man Declan Rice but have still started the season poorly

Yet this is the same West Ham side who for long periods last season challenged for a top-four place alongside a fine run to the Europa League semi-finals – so there are clearly problems elsewhere.

The trouble is that it’s difficult to pinpoint where those are. There appears little sign of Moyes ‘losing the dressing room’ and in addition there is no real drive from supporters calling for his head.

Perhaps West Ham’s main concern is that, while they look like a reasonably organised side, goals are proving incredibly tough to come by. Jarrod Bowen’s goalless start to the season reflects his poor from and connected with Michail Antonio also being goal shy, and summer arrival Gianluca Scamacca still trying to settle in London, it’s led to just three goals being scored in the first seven games.

Brazil international Lucas Paqueta is also trying to find his feet and while it is not time to hit the panic button at West Ham just yet, there are already concerns that this could prove to be a tough campaign. 

Grade: D

Jarrod Bowen has been unable to score outside of European appearances this season


Position: 17th Points: 6

Positions in the table cannot be taken too seriously at this early sage of the season, especially when three points for Wolverhampton Wanderers would take them level with Liverpool in the table.

But there is plenty of alarm already down at Molineux and it’s not difficult to see where the problems lie. 

Goals. It’s not a recently found issue either. Wolves have struggled in attacking areas since losing Diogo Jota to Liverpool two years ago. It’s a problem they can’t seem to find a solution for, whether it’s Nuno Espirito Santo in charge or Bruno Lage.

No side has scored fewer than their three this season and it’s not a healthy situation to be in no matter how well they otherwise play.

Wolves’ season has been a frustrating one due to their lack of goals and just one victory

Wolves’ defence – while not the best in the division – is certainly top-flight worthy and there is enough quality in the midfield to build competent attacks, but once they hit the final third it’s almost as if all the ideas disappear.

Take the matches at Tottenham and at home to Manchester City. Lage’s side attacked and passed the ball around with measured confidence yet couldn’t force a breakthrough on their way to defeats in both. 

So desperate is the search for some attacking answers, Diego Costa has been brought in as a free agent to try and add a new dimension to their goal-shy attack.

It seems odd to pin Wolves’ season on the former Chelsea star, but if they can get him fit and firing the 33-year-old really could be the difference maker.

If he too fails to solve Wolves’ attacking puzzle, then it could be a season of battling to avoid relegation as fan pressure ramps up on Lage to improve their struggling side.

Grade: D 

Diego Costa has been brought in to try and solves Wolves’ goal scoring crisis

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