Biggest EPL Winners and Losers from Matchday 18, 2021
Following a couple of postponements, just six-midweek games made up Matchday 18.
Manchester United’s Matchday 1 trip to Burnley and the Matchday 16 clash between Tottenham and Fulham were brought in bulk out the fixture list, with Aston Villa vs. Spurs being shelved for the time being.
Still, there are plenty of talking points to discuss.
Man Utd moved to the top of the table, Man City won again, and Sheffield United FINALLY picked up their first EPL win of the season.
Here are my biggest Premier League winners and losers from Matchday 18.
Winner: Sheffield United
There was a point earlier in the season when I thought I may never be writing this. However, following 17 failed attempts, Sheffield United has won a Premier League game in 2020/21.
The Blades edged Newcastle United 1-0 at Bramall Lane, with Billy Sharp converting from the penalty spot on 73 minutes.
In fairness, Chris Wilder’s men were given plenty of help by the Magpies. Ryan Fraser was sent off on the stroke of half-time, meaning Sheff Utd played the second 45 minutes against ten men.
Following a wave of Blades attacks after the break, a Federico Fernandez handball eventually provided the hosts with their opportunity. Veteran striker Sharp didn’t disappoint.
Sheff Utd is still three points behind West Brom at the bottom of the table, while seventeenth-place Brighton remains nine points ahead. But having finally won a game, Wilder’s side has been given a glimmer of hope.
Loser: Ryan Fraser
On 42 minutes, Ryan Fraser was shown a yellow card for a poor tackle on John Fleck. Just three minutes later, the Newcastle midfielder was leaving the pitch after being shown a second yellow card.
What’s the one thing you don’t do if you’ve just been booked? That’s right, you don’t dive straight into another tackle.
But Fraser couldn’t resist dangling his leg across David McGoldrick, leaving the referee with no choice but to send him off.
With the Blades battling for their first Premier League win of the season, the Magpies – who are also in poor form – needed all the help they could get on Tuesday. But when Fraser was given his marching orders, Sheff Utd was handed a big advantage.
I’m not saying that Fraser is entirely to blame for Newcastle’s loss. Well, okay – maybe I am!
Winner: Manchester United
For the first time since 2017, the Red Devils find themselves top of the EPL table.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were made to work hard for their victory over Burnley on Matchday 18, yet a 71st-minute Paul Pogba volley capped off a spirited away performance from the new frontrunners.
It is no secret that the title race is wide open this season. I mean, there are only six points separating first and sixth place at the moment, while even ninth-place Chelsea is only ten points off the pace. However, Man Utd must be given credit for their efforts.
Solskjaer’s has had – and still has – his skeptics, that’s for sure. But having lost just three of his 17 EPL games this season, he is beginning to prove some of his doubters wrong.
There is still plenty of work to be done, but Man Utd is in a good place right now.
7 – Manchester United are the only side still unbeaten away from home in the Premier League this season, winning six of their seven games so far (D1). Outstanding. pic.twitter.com/lfeZzRYJt1— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2021
In my eyes, Wolves are underachieving.
Of course, Raul Jimenez’s season-ending injury hasn’t helped matters, while key players like Willy Boly, Adama Traore, and Jonny have also spent lengthy spells on the sidelines.
But for whatever reason, something just isn’t quite right at Molineux.
The Wanderers suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Everton on Matchday 18, despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession and creating the bulk of the goalscoring opportunities. As a result, Wolves’ winless run now stands at five games in the Premier League.
Following a decent start to the season, things are suddenly starting to look pretty bleak for Nuno’s men. They are now down to fourteenth in the table – 14 points off the top and ten points clear of the relegation zone.
Winner: Phil Foden
Phil Foden continued to enhance his glowing reputation with another stellar performance on Matchday 18. The 20-year-old bagged the only goal of the game as Man City beat Brighton, although Pep Guardiola’s side should have scored more.
The Cityzen’s finished the match with 66% possession and 16 shots, while the Seagulls only managed to notch up one attempt on target.
It was a solid team performance from Guardiola’s men, yet Foden stood out. The youngster produced a pin-point finish for his goal, as well as dishing up numerous eye-catching cameos throughout the match.
Foden now has eight goals and five assists in all competitions this season, including four goals and two assists in 12 EPL appearances.
It feels like the midfielder is growing with every game. Guardiola is starting to select him more frequently, and Foden is certainly repaying his manager’s faith.
A beautifully worked goal from Phil Foden! ?— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 13, 2021
The perfect first touch to create the space, and he picks his spot inside the near post ?
A couple of months ago, a draw against Crystal Palace wouldn’t have been the worst result for Arsenal. But after turning things around and picking up three straight wins in recent weeks, the Gunners will be disappointed to have dropped points on Matchday 18.
Victories over Chelsea, Brighton, and West Brom have seen Mikel Arteta’s men climb up the table of late, yet they were frustrated by the Eagles on Thursday.
The Gunners dominated possession and produced countless goalscoring chances. However, they failed to find a way through a stubborn Palace backline.
After netting four goals in three EPL outings, Alexandre Lacazette failed to make an impact at the Emirates. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s woes continued, while youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Rowe also struggled to get into their groove.
Arsenal supporters may feel that I’m being a bit critical here, although they will surely agree that their team should have won the game.
Given that Fulham hasn’t won any of their previous six league outings, you would think that Scott Parker’s side was playing poorly at the moment. But five straight draws have seen the Cottagers move to within two points of safety.
Having held Liverpool, Brighton, Newcastle, and Southampton either side of Christmas, Fulham secured a hard-earned draw against Tottenham on Wednesday.
Parker’s men appeared to be heading for defeat in North London, with Harry Kane’s 25th-minute header keeping Spurs in front for the majority of the game. But Ivan Cavaleiro popped up with a superb header of his own to hand his side another precious point.
Interestingly, Fulham is now just two draws away from equaling the record for most consecutive Premier League draws.
The Cottagers have two games in hand over seventeenth-place Brighton, and they are only two points behind the Seagulls. Can they beat the drop? Well, if they continue to be resolute, they will give themselves a great chance.
Matchday 18 Wrap-Up
I’ve got to say that I’m happy for the Blades. It looked at one stage like they might go the entire season without a win, but they have finally sealed a victory.
At the other end of the table, it will be interesting to see how long Man Utd can hold onto the top spot. With Man City rising and Liverpool hanging in there, it’s set to be a thrilling title race.
Matchday 19 is just around the corner, with another load of midweek fixtures to follow. Join me next week as I discuss the biggest EPL winners and losers from the next batch of games.
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