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Premier League Winners and Losers After Saturday's Updated Week 20 EPL Table

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2019

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Carlo Ancelotti, Manager of Everton celebrates with Fabian Delph of Everton following their sides victory in the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton FC at St. James Park on December 28, 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti continued to make an impact at Everton on Saturday, as the 60-year-old won his second straight game in charge of the Toffees in the Premier League.

Everton defeated Newcastle United 2-1 away from home, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring his second and third goals since Ancelotti took his seat in the dugout. Fellow attackers such as Richarlison and Moise Kean are also impressing on the Italian's watch.

The day wasn't so kind to another veteran manager, with 66-year-old Manuel Pellegrini sacked by West Ham. His departure was confirmed by the club after a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to a Leicester City side resting many stars, including striker Jamie Vardy.

West Ham United @WestHam

West Ham United can confirm that Manuel Pellegrini has left the Club with immediate effect.

West Ham are looking to refresh, but Manchester United are starting to see the benefit of trusting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Norwegian has the Red Devils up to fifth following a 2-0 win away to Burnley, a result earned even though Paul Pogba was left out of the squad.

Fortunately for United, Andreas Pereira assumed the creative burden in the Frenchman's absence. Pereira teed up his team's first goal and caught the eye throughout.

VAR was anything but eagle-eyed during the opening batch of Week 20's fixtures. A number of questionable calls were made after the technology was used, with goals chalked off in games involving Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Premier League @premierleague

How Saturday went down in the #PL... https://t.co/MMQPZVQzRT

   

Week 20 Standings (GP, W, GD, Pts)

1. Liverpool: 18, 17, +32, 52

2. Leicester City: 20, 13 +24, 42

3. Manchester City: 19, 12, +29, 38

4. Chelsea: 19, 10, +6, 32

5. Manchester United: 20, 8, +9, 31

6. Tottenham Hotspur: 20, 8, +7, 30

7. Wolverhampton Wanderers: 19, 7 +5, 30

8. Sheffield United: 19, 7, +6, 29

9. Crystal Palace: 20, 7, -4, 27

10. Everton: 20, 7, -7, 25

11. Newcastle United: 20, 7, -10, 25

12. Arsenal: 19, 5, -3, 24

13. Burnley: 20, 7, -9, 24

14. Brighton & Hove Albion: 20, 6, -4, 23

15. Southampton: 20, 6, -14, 22

16. Bournemouth: 20, 5, -8, 20

17. West Ham United: 19, 5, -11, 19

18. Aston Villa: 20, 5, -11, 18

19. Watford: 20, 3, -18, 16

20. Norwich City: 20, 3, -19, 13

   

Winner: Carlo Ancelotti

Two games and six points in the bag prove Everton were right to splash the cash to bring three-time UEFA Champions League winner Ancelotti to the blue half of Merseyside.

Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto

🔵 @Everton managers to win their opening 2 PL games in charge: ☑️ Joe Royle (1994) ☑️ David Moyes (2002) ☑️ Carlo Ancelotti (2019) https://t.co/QgroITSBaF

He's been a success because of a knack for restoring confidence among his players. No member of the Everton squad is performing more confidently than Calvert-Lewin after the striker's brace saw off the Magpies:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Everton have now scored three Premier League goals under Carlo Ancelotti: ⚽️ Dominic Calvert-Lewin ⚽️ Dominic Calvert-Lewin ⚽️ Dominic Calvert-Lewin Now that's a No.9. https://t.co/Xi38tzQFrw

Calvert-Lewin's upturn in form started under caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson, but the 22-year-old isn't the only Everton striker playing with more swagger. Kean has flopped since arriving from Juventus in the summer, but he showed signs of life at St. James' Park.

Ancelotti's arrival means Kean now has a key fan ready to champion his development as an effective forward in England's top flight:

Goal @goal

🗣 Carlo Ancelotti might be just what Moise Kean needs: “I tried to sign him before he signed for Everton. “He is a fantastic player, we have to remember he is only 19. We have to wait and work with him. He has top quality.” 🇮🇹🤝🇮🇹 https://t.co/jT2eOEYuTJ

It was a similar story for Richarlison, who assisted Calvert-Lewin's winner and showcased the flair he can bring to matches. If Ancelotti gets players as gifted as Kean and Richarlison to deliver consistently, Everton will soon be a threat to the European places.

   

Loser: Manuel Pellegrini

Europe was supposed to be the target for the Hammers during Pellegrini's second season. His track record, which includes winning the title with Manchester City in 2013-14, coupled with an active summer in the transfer market, appeared to make West Ham primed to challenge the top six.

Instead, Pellegrini struggled to make the pieces fit despite the talent at his disposal. In particular, he rarely got the balance right in the advanced areas of midfield, where he needed to accommodate Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals and Andriy Yarmolenko.

Fornals scored against the Foxes, but the Spaniard has taken his time to adapt since arriving from Villarreal. Meanwhile, Sebastien Haller hasn't provided a credible goal threat to justify the £45 million the Hammers invested to acquire him from Eintracht Frankfurt.

Things unravelled rapidly for Pellegrini and his unevenly constructed squad in recent weeks. Saturday's reversal was symptomatic of a dire run on home soil:

Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto

🏡West Ham last 4 @premierleague home games ❌Newcastle ❌Tottenham ❌Arsenal ❌Leicester Equal club record of 4⃣ successive home PL defeats 😳 https://t.co/M4Sb2gQUvy

Pellegrini will need to reflect on exactly what went wrong. In the meantime, West Ham are left running the rule over the man he replaced, David Moyes, according to Sky Sports News.

   

Winner: Andreas Pereira

Solskjaer told MUTV (h/t Mark Jones of the Daily Mirror) that Pogba was left out because of the risk to his fitness after the midfielder played twice recently following a lengthy injury layoff.

Even so, Pogba often seems to be the subject of speculation regarding a move elsewhere, though, with Real Madrid mentioned as a possible destination. United won't mind moving on from the one-time world's most expensive player if Pereira continues to prove his worth.

The 23-year-old ran the show during the first half against tough opposition at Turf Moor. Pereira's class showed a minute before the break when he played in Anthony Martial to put the away side in front:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Manchester United take the lead! 🔴⚫️ Andreas Pereira robs Charlie Taylor and sets up Anthony Martial! The Frenchman's 10th goal of the season 👊 https://t.co/ReQSM44i8o

NBC Sports Soccer @NBCSportsSoccer

🔥 MARTIAL 🔥 📺: NBC 💻: https://t.co/45pIlOlvTw https://t.co/JNQDoo453z

His telling contribution to the goal capped a superb opening 45 minutes by Pereira, who continued to impress after the restart until he was substituted for Jesse Lingard in the 73rd minute:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Andreas Pereira created more chances (3) than every other player on the pitch combined (2) in the first half against Burnley. And got himself an assist to show for it. 👏 https://t.co/eHfwi8MYku

It's been an up-and-down season for Pereira, but few have doubted the schemer's natural talent. United will have a dynamic creative fulcrum if he can put it all together.

   

Loser: VAR

The best place to start with another day of controversy for the video review system is to look at the incidents that set pulses racing and prompted widespread head-scratching.

Dan Burn was the first to have a goal ruled out, though Brighton eased home to a 2-0 win over struggling Bournemouth:

NBC Sports Soccer @NBCSportsSoccer

Actually, goal disallowed... https://t.co/XkSf9EycF2

Next it was Wilfried Zaha, whose apparent infraction chalked off a Max Meyer goal for Palace, leaving the Eagles to settle for a point against Southampton:

NBC Sports Soccer @NBCSportsSoccer

Palace score but Wilf was offside https://t.co/EQcHpQvI4s

Later, Teemu Pukki thought he'd put Norwich City 2-0 up against a struggling Tottenham side, only for the fine margins of VAR to render his joy moot. The Canaries were eventually pegged back, and Spurs left Carrow Road with a 2-2 draw:

NBC Sports Soccer @NBCSportsSoccer

No goal, Pukki...offside. https://t.co/SqVSWvshB2

Not surprisingly, those impacted by the decisions had plenty to say about the technology and how it's being used.

Palace boss Roy Hodgson told Sky Sports that VAR is nullifying the emotions of the game with tight decisions: "I'm still foolish enough to celebrate the goal we scored; I couldn't possibly believe it could have been offside. I have to wait until afterwards and show it 100 times on the TV and put my glasses on to make sure I can see it right."

Meanwhile, Burn also lamented how he was penalised for a marginal infraction, per the same source: "I think it was my armpit or something like that, which is a bit ridiculous, but if we're going to play by that rule, then every offside is going to be the same."

Hodgson and Burn struck at the central issue building around VAR and its growing influence.

Not only is it damaging the spectacle of the sport in terms of spontaneous emotional reactions to key incidents, particularly goals. There's also the negative impact on the match-going supporters standing in freezing temperatures amid protracted delays while decisions based on an almost impossible degree of precision are made.

VAR should ideally be utilised to fix incorrect decisions when there is a reasonable margin of doubt. None of the three big calls on Saturday fell into that bracket.