Premier League Report Cards: Spurs & Liverpool Impress But Arsenal Flop
Here we assess how each of the 20 Premier League teams graded over the last 10 months with Spurs and Liverpool impressing but Arsenal flopped.
“Strike while the iron’s hot” is a cliché for a reason. As the effort to clear confetti from Stamford Bridge continues, let’s see how Football’s elite performed over the last 10 Months.
Champions: Chelsea (A+)
After a shaky start, Antonio Conte implemented his favoured ‘3 at the back’ formation and it worked wonders. N’Golo Kante won more end-of-season awards than Leicester City’s groundsman, and Costa and Hazard looked back to their lethal best all year. In a comeback rivalling a May night in Istanbul, David Luiz was transformed into, well, a Premier League defender. This week’s FA Cup final against Arsenal should have bought about a deserved domestic double (maybe the week’s celebrations got the better of them), and if the club can hold on to all of its stars over the summer (here’s looking at you Eden), then it could be the start of a successful few years in West London.
Runners-Up: Spurs (A)
After last years’ successful season, soured only by finishing below their North London rivals, you would have been forgiven for expecting Spurs to fall below expectations. Pochettino and his merry band of young English talent have continued to upset the odds all year, and even the most loyal of West Ham fans (namely, me) have enjoyed watching their brand of attacking football.
Unbeaten until mid-November and a 9-game winning streak may have won the league in years gone by; last year in fact. Keeping hold of players and managers has been the Achilles heel of the past at White Hart Lane, and so the real challenge is ensuring that Europe’s most sought after young manager and the current crop of prospective stars stick around to see the new stadium in. Make no mistake, this is a club on the up and destined for years of Champions League football… as long as they can overcome their Wembley hoodoo.
3rd: Manchester City (B)
Grading Pep’s bunch of stars with a B seems harsh at first, given it was the first season under a new manager and the Club Captain was injured indefinitely, ensuring Champions League football on Eastlands seems like a success.
Now factor in that Guardiola is arguably the best coach in the World, a historic guarantee of silverware, and his main headache has been which World-Class striker to choose between, sympathy might be running low. A pre-season working with his chosen crop of players should be enough to get good ship Citizen back on the title trail next year – Could Do Better.
4th: Liverpool (B+)
It might say more about Liverpool’s recent history of disappointment that a 4th placed finish is enough to secure a B+ grade, but Champions League football was the aim, and achieve it they did. Klopp has brought passion back to Merseyside in a big way, and all seems rosy red as things stand.
With messers Jose and Arsene (maybe) ready to return with a vengeance next year, places in the top 4 are going like hotcakes. Keeping Coutinho at the club, and Sadio Mane motivated (easier said than done) are on the whiteboard for this summer, as well as a desperate need for a couple of decent Centre Backs.
5th: Arsenal (C)
Finishing below their North London rivals is just one part of the torrid puzzle that Arsenal have put together this year. The Arsene Wenger mystery has rumbled on all year and reports of unrest within camp-Alexis will make for a nervy summer. Did the victory in this weekend’s FA Cup final distract fans and pundits alike? Unlikely.
Prepare to see A4 printouts dedicated to Wenger’s demise throughout the summer at each and every festival and pre-season friendly until the board makes a decision to go in a different direction or back their man. With the teams around them on an upward path, this season could be the start of an Arsenal demise.
6th: Manchester Utd (B)
At the time of writing, United are still celebrating a Europa League win which ensures their seat at the top table next year. Jose has once again proven himself as a master tactician in the biggest games, and the class of ’17 looks to hold a few gems for the future. So why only a B? Because the football at Old Trafford has been sinfully dull at times, Mourinho’s mind-games quickly became incessant moaning, and public slaughtering of young players (we see you Luke Shaw) shows that this team has a long way to go. Hiring policy this summer holds the key to success in the immediate future.
7th: Everton (B)
The Toffee’s find themselves in no-man’s land at the end of a long and confusing season. The top 6 are in a mini-league of their own, and Southampton and the rest finished 15 points behind Ronald Koeman’s men. Lukaku showed signs of his everlasting potential, but often went missing in big games; Ross Barkley likewise. While things seem solid on Merseyside, the Barcelona job will never be gone from the gaffer’s horizon, and Mr Lukaku’s advisors seem hellbent on keeping him within the transfer headlines. Another year on the cusp seems likely.
8th: Southampton (C+)
A lot of promise shown with little production; 8th place is nothin to be embarrassed about, but a poor points total tells it’s own story. Given Southampton’s ability to return from setbacks in the past, this season can be put back on the shelf to be forgotten about. On the bright side, progression from youngsters like James Ward-Prowse should be viewed as more than positive, and if Jay Rodriguez’s fitness holds up then this plucky outfit will be knocking on the door of European Football again next year.
9th: Bournemouth (A-)
Eddie Howe is seemingly a miracle worker. He’s in charge of arguably the biggest overachievers in the league, who play in front of a capacity 412 fans each week (approximately), and he still appears as the most relaxed young manager the world has ever seen (approximately). The job won’t get any easier, but securing Jermain Defoe’s signature while Callum Wilson recovers from (another) serious injury is a strong move in the right direction. If overachieving happens every year, is it still overachieving?
10th: West Brom (A)
There were times this season when Baggies fans were upset about the excitement levels at the Hawthorns. ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’ is a phrase that comes to mind. Tony Pulis has turned a squad of average players into Premier League certainties; Gareth McCauley scored goals for fun and losing Saido Berahino has seemingly only improved morale. By focussing on their strengths, set pieces etc, Dr Pulis the survival specialist has outdone himself… even if there is a lack of Tiki Taka in the West Bromich area.
11th: West Ham (C)
Nothing was going to live up to the nostalgia that the final year at Upton Park delivered, but West Ham did all they could to disappoint it seemed. An 11th place finish masks much of the disarray, which started long before Dimitri P***t decided to jump ship. To top it all off, Co-Chairman David Gold has come out this week to assure fans that young players are unlikely to break into the team in the near future, as is the ‘quality’ of recent acquisitions Nordveit and Fernandes (I’m as disappointed as you are). Not exactly the ‘West Ham way’…
12th: Leicester (C)
Did anyone really expect Leicester to defend their title? Of course not… But the majority may not have foreseen the turn of events which plagued the Foxes’ season. Kante, whose importance became clear as the season drew on, darted. Mahrez and co. seemed void of motivation, and there were rumblings behind the scenes from Day 1. Raneiri’s exit seemed like the climax of a meltdown. While Craig Shakespeare calmed the storm and saved the day; it wasn’t a season to be proud of by any means.
13th: Stoke (B)
How can you criticise a Stoke team who consistently finish mid-table and show meaningful displays of exciting football at times? It’s tough, and that’s because the club is in a good, stable place. Players such as Shawcross, Adam, Whelan are ever-presents, and know how to grind out victories. Throw in the odd splash of quality from Shaqiri or Arnautovic, and a superstar goalkeeper in Jack Butland, and you have the makings of a respectable side; led by tactically astute manager. If Saido Berahino comes good next year along with some summer recruits, expect them to push on.
14th: Crystal Palace (B-)
Sam Allardyce came and went, and while he was there, he saved the club from relegation. Retaining Premier League status was huge, but the future seems uncertain with Big Sam out of the picture. The season gone by was largely disappointing for a group of fans who have established themselves as some of the best in the league. No team with Zaha, Benteke and Cabaye in the front six should be fighting for survival, and regular stalwarts Dann and Delaney had poor years by their own high standards. Expect a bounce back next year; possibly with a new young visionary at the helm… Step forward Gary Monk.
15th: Swansea (B+)
Premier League survival is a battle each and every year, and it looked as though Swansea’s tired and aging squad were in real danger of falling short. Don’t underestimate the effect that losing Captain Ashley Williams had on this hum-drum group of players. Paul Clement came in and changed the mood, Leon Britton wore his heart on his sleeve and Fernando Llorente finally showed why there was such a buzz about him previously. Expect another battle next year.
16th: Burnley (A+)
Conte, Pochettino, Dyche. There’s no irony in thinking that those 3 names could be the best bets for Manager of the Season. Sean Dyche could also be the bookies’ favourite to win the Most Likeable Manager Award (if it existed), and it’s no accident. Andre Gray provided the team with some much-needed added firepower, and the odd Tom Heaton superstar performance kept fans on the edge of their seats and neutral fans with a soft-spot for the Lancashire outfit. Winning points at home was the key, and likely will be for a few years unless a Billionaire investor fancies relocating to Turf Moor… No Takers?
17th: Watford (B-)
Do not adjust your screens, Watford’s players hadn’t already gone on holiday when Manchester City ran riot on the final day; at least, they hadn’t physically. Fans were treated to flashes of hope amongst mostly drab performances, and it wasn’t for the lack of experimenting on Walter Mazzarri’s part. Strange training methods and poor results saw him dispatched with, and hopefully a few players will follow. Forget this year and move on would be my advice.
18th: Hull (D)
The season started poorly, with experienced Premier League boss Steve Bruce leaving before a ball had been kicked. Mike Phelan lasted until January, and that felt like too long; sorry Mike. Marco Silva came in, tinkered with tactics and formations, but couldn’t get over the distinct lack of quality within the squad. Unfortunately, teams are required to show up for both home and away games at this level. With Marco being lined up by FC Porto, a rebuild might be in order.
19th: Middlesbrough (C)
Only a C, for a relegated team? Take into account the realistic predictions for this Middlesbrough team, and things may become clearer. A squad made up of primarily Championship standard players was always going to struggle, especially when surrounded with a few youngsters and wildcards (If anyone knows how to get the best of Adama Traore he really might be lethal). For survival, Alvaro Negredo would have needed a 20-goal season, and that didn’t come to light; shockingly. A lack of spending will save the club from too much financial upturn, so Premier League football at the Riverside shouldn’t be lost to the annuls.
20th: Sunderland (D)
In this instance, D stands for Defoe; the only cause for positivity on Wearside this year. With Defoe gone, Moyes gone, and the club in disrepute, Sunderland are not in a good place. As shown by Aston Villa in recent years, relegation can come as a sweet, sweet release from years of clinging on. Getting rid of highly paid dead wood is a must; the fans deserve more from a club which has been run into the ground.
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