Premier League Winners and Losers After Wednesday's Updated Week 21 EPL Table

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2020

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01: Harry Maguire of Manchester United and Nicolas Pepe of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 1, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Nicolas Pepe finally showed Arsenal fans why the club made a record investment to sign him from Lille in the summer. Pepe scored the opener to help the Gunners beat a tame Manchester United side 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

The win was Mikel Arteta's first as manager and moved Arsenal up to 10th in the Premier League. United are still four points ahead in fifth, but the Red Devils have major issues to fix, notably in defence, where Harry Maguire continues to struggle.

He's the most expensive defender on the planet, but the former Leicester City man was clumsy and overwhelmed in north London.

United's struggles were in stark contrast to those of neighbours Manchester City. The Citizens beat Everton 2-1 thanks to a pair of classy goals from Gabriel Jesus, who led the line superbly in place of Sergio Aguero.

It was a day to forget for a former United boss, with Jose Mourinho making headlines for the wrong reasons when Tottenham Hotspur slipped to a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Southampton.

Injuries to Harry Kane and Tanguy Ndombele, as well as run-ins with Saints' coaching staff and the referee, only compounded Mourinho's misery.

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Saturday Results

  • Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 Chelsea
  • Burnley 1-2 Aston Villa
  • Newcastle United 0-3 Leicester City
  • Southampton 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
  • Watford 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
  • Manchester City 2-1 Everton
  • Norwich City 1-1 Crystal Palace
  • West Ham United 4-0 Bournemouth
  • Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United


Standings (Played, Won, Goal Difference and Points)

1. Liverpool: 19, 18, +33, 55

2. Leicester City: 21, 14, +27, 45

3. Manchester City: 21, 14, +32, 44

4. Chelsea: 21, 11, +7, 36

5. Manchester United: 21, 8, +7, 31

6. Tottenham Hotspur: 21, 8, +6, 30

7. Wolverhampton Wanderers: 21, 7, +3, 30

8. Sheffield United: 20, 7, +4, 29

9. Crystal Palace: 21, 7, -4, 28

10. Arsenal: 21, 6, -2, 27

11. Everton: 21, 7, -8, 25

12. Southampton: 21, 7, -13, 25

13. Newcastle United: 21, 7, -13, 25

14. Brighton & Hove Albion: 21, 6, -4, 24

15. Burnley: 21, 7, -10, 24

16. West Ham United: 20, 6, -7, 22

17. Aston Villa: 21, 6, -10, 21

18. Bournemouth: 21, 5, -12, 20

19. Watford: 21, 4, -17, 19

20. Norwich City: 21, 3, -19, 14


Winner: Nicolas Pepe

Some lean moments aside, Pepe justified Arteta's decision to hand him a rare start. The Ivory Coast winger tormented United left-back Luke Shaw from the off.

Pepe's quick feet, running power and willingness to show for the ball reduced Shaw to a quivering passenger in defensive areas. He and the rest of the United back line had no idea where Pepe was when the 24-year-old pounced to convert from Sead Kolasinac's deflected cross on eight minutes.

Obviously buoyed his goal, Pepe was soon showcasing deft control, neat touches and an array of tricks. Confidence is something one of the stars of last season's Ligue 1 has been short of since moving to England's top flight.

Yet Pepe's influence grew until he whipped in the corner for Alexandre Lacazette to flick on at the near post and allow Sokratis Papastathopoulos to net Arsenal's second.

While he waned somewhat after the break, before being subbed for Reiss Nelson in the 62nd minute, Pepe had done enough to suggest the £72 million Arsenal paid will eventually prove money well spent:


Loser: Harry Maguire

The Gunners' investment may be starting to bear fruit, but United's £85 million outlay on Maguire is beginning to rot.

United signed him to be the rock underpinning a formidable back four. Instead, Maguire is failing to lead and organise those around him.

It's not simply a matter of being vocal enough. Maguire can't lead by example when his performances are this shoddy.

Whether it was failing to step up and play offside in the buildup to the opener or getting turned around by Lacazette inside the box, Maguire looked lost.

The most vivid illustration of his sketchy form came from how he was outperformed by Arsenal central defender David Luiz. He's noted for his erratic displays, but the Gunners' £8 million summer signing delivered the kind of performance expected of Maguire, but for a fraction of the price.

Maguire needs to prove he isn't being weighed down by the price tag and that he can make the kind of difference United expected for the money paid.


Winner: Gabriel Jesus

Getting the start ahead of a fit-again Sergio Aguero meant the pressure was on Jesus to deliver against an Everton side tougher to beat since Carlo Ancelotti took the reins.

Fortunately for City, Jesus delivered and then some against the Toffees. The Brazilian produced a masterclass in movement and finishing en route to bagging a clutch brace.

Jesus caused problems for experienced Everton centre-back Yerry Mina all game. His runs were subtle and varied, meaning Mina rarely kept City's No. 9 in his sights for long.

Jesus' intelligent off-the-ball running dictated the passes from the City midfield, like when Ilkay Gundogan threaded a ball through in the 51st minute. The touch, turn and curled finish typified a natural marksman inside the area.

The City frontman took his second goal just as decisively, striking hard and low after encouraging the right ball from Riyad Mahrez. In the process, Jesus maintained a stellar run against Everton:

Aguero will always have more profile, but Jesus' impressive overall record suggests replacing the former won't be quite as difficult as Pep Guardiola thinks.


Loser: Jose Mourinho

It wasn't a good day in any area for Mourinho. Not only did his Spurs side fail to click against Saints, the manager lost star striker Kane to a hamstring injury, per Sky Sports.

Mourinho also saw club-record signing Ndombele succumb to yet another injury. Ndombele was withdrawn after just 25 minutes at St Mary's Stadium, making way for Giovani Lo Celso.

The Frenchman's latest setback left Mourinho frustrated:

To top it all off, Mourinho received a booking from referee Mike Dean after the 56-year-old appeared to take a look at the tactical notes being written in the Southampton dugout.

Mourinho offered an acerbic response to explain his actions:

While his wit remains sharp, Mourinho's reaction betrays the tensions borne from a tough day at the office. Spurs have dropped points in their last two games, including the 2-2 draw with Norwich City.

Struggles against teams in the bottom half have left Tottenham six points adrift of Chelsea in the race to finish fourth. Qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League may be too tall a task for Mourinho if Kane's goals are missed for a prolonged period.

Meanwhile, a defence that's kept just one clean sheet in 11 matches in all competitions since he took over will also have Mourinho worried.