Southampton – A : Surprise of the season has to go to the Saints, who lost 5 first-teamers and their manager during the summer. They were picked by many pundits to be in or around the relegation places but instead they’ll be playing European football next season. They’ll need to retain players and buy again to deal with the dreaded Thursday matches. They only allowed one more goal over the course of the season than league leading defense, Chelsea. Great Stuff.
Swansea City – A : Another team that a lot of people picked to be in the relegation fight. Garry Monk did an amazing job in his first full season of management. Dropping Michael Laudrup last season and making the centerback a player-manager looked a ruinous decision. They lost their (still) top goalscorer, Bony, in January and still did the double over Arsenal and United. Getting Sigurdsson back from Spurs and picking up Fabianski on a free were good signings. We’ll see if Michu will come back from his Napoli loan and what else they’ll be able to do in the summer. Amazing.
Chelsea – A : They did what everybody thought they would do. Won the League and the League Cup (the league cup is still a pot) but fans will be a little disappointed to have been knocked out by PSG in the Champions League and losing at home in the FA Cup 4-2 against Bradford City after being up 2-nil (sorry, we couldn’t not mention it). The league was won efficiently although City gave up the challenge in January and Arsenal were never realistically in the fight. Accused of being boring but trophies speak loudest. It’s hard to see any weaknesses in the squad although depth could be improved. It’s tough to keep a larger squad when Mourinho has such a preferred XI. Par for the course.
Arsenal – B+ : Winning the FA Cup and finishing 3rd is definitely progress over winning the FA Cup and finishing 4th. Part of what makes this a B+ is that a definite challenging team is there, there’s finally depth, they aren’t losing key parts, and they’re winning trophies. Alexis has been a revelation and Özil is starting to look the player they paid for. Goalkeeper needs to be sorted out and who will be CF, Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck, or a new signing. They need to do better and win the big matches (Chelsea, Monaco, Dortmund) but on the whole improving. Another Trophy.
Stoke City – B+ : A transformed side since Mark Hughes came in last year and this season he brought a record points tally for the Potters. He’s been able to combine Pulis’s steel and long-ball style with a certain element of panache. The defining memory for them will be that Charlie Adam goal against Courtois although they also beat City and Arsenal. If Bojan can stay fit for a whole season, they can push even further.
Leicester City – B : As far into the season as April first, the Foxes were bottom of the table. They started off the season looking not bad, beating United and Stoke, but then went on a run where they only got 2 points from 27 on offer. Then something clicked in April and they ended getting 25 points out of 30. Nigel Pearson revealed himself to be truly insane (Ostrich comments, Choking an opposing team’s player, getting fired & rehired in the same day) but he kept them alive, we assume the team played mostly in fear of what their manager would do to them. Well done.
Crystal Palace – B : I really don’t enjoy given Alan Pardew any credit but bringing a team from 18th at midseason to a 10th place finish was impressive. Added to that, he also got almost all the points that saved Newcastle from relegation as well. After sacking Pulis right before the season when he had been Manager of the Season the year before and bringing in Warnock, you feared the worst. They beat Spurs and City and did the double over Liverpool. Impressive.
Tottenham – B : They did slightly worse points-wise than last year but being able to maintain touching distance from fourth with a new manager and style was always the goal. Pochettino feels like much needed stability. Harry Kane is the surprise player of the season and they should build a squad around him. Going to the League Cup Final and beating Chelsea 5-3 were two highlights of the season.
Man City – B- : Another post-title winning season where City surrender their defense of it rather meekly. They also didn’t do anything in the cups. But they still finished second. Can it be argued that the Citizens lack bottle? We have yet to see if Pellegrini still has a job and what major reforms for the squad are needed. Thanks to Aguero & the rest of the attack, scoring goals has never been an issue but the defense and midfield need work. Lampard scoring against Chelsea was the most scripted, best thing ever but why was he even in Manchester?
Man United – C : Bare minimum was achieved but what a rollercoaster and at what cost to the checkbook? Expensive blunders in di Maria and Falcao while ignoring proven talent in Juan Mata were mistakes. They looked like they’d figured it out but then finished the season with only 5 points out of 15. It was really fun to watch Van Gaal experiment with his tactics and team choice; the premier league needs more of it. Young & Fellaini finding redemption was great. LVG doesn’t continue making mistakes. They’ll be back in the Champions League (provided they win the playoff) and a real force next season.
West Ham – C : A season that started so brightly and ended with the manager being sacked before the team had left the field on the final day. Pundits were talking relegation at the beginning of the season but they were in 3rd half way through and ended with European football (albeit not through the table, well not that table). Would have gotten a better grade, and Big Sam might have kept his job, had they gotten more than 9 points out of the last 45. Never inspired the West Ham faithful by winning pretty or against the big teams but kept them safe.
Burnley – C : It feels harsh to rate Burnley poorly for being relegated when that was a fate the club planned on. Didn’t spend any money but the team fought every match, only twice being beaten by more than two goals. The went down because they couldn’t score enough, with Danny Ings carrying almost all of the load. I can see them coming right back up.
West Brom – C : Another average return. Picked as a relegation flirter, Alan Irvine provided just that. Pulis was able to come in and do enough to pull them free. Berahino’s 20 goals in all comps was impressive and beating the Champions 3-nil will be remembered.
Aston Villa – C- : Survived the threat of relegation and at the same time made it to the FA Cup Final. They went an amazing 12 league games in which they only scored 3 goals until Paul Lambert was sacked and Tim Sherwood was brought in. He restored Benteke’s confidence and the goals arrived.
Everton – D+ : A giant step backwards from last season. The league campaign never really got off the ground as a thin squad had to deal with their Thursday games. They went quite far in Europa but were disappointed to be knocked out by Dynamo Kiev. Once they didn’t have midweek games, they started to perform again in the League. It was nice to see them actually spend money to bring in former loanee, Lukaku, but his 10 league goals were not enough to justify his price tag.
Liverpool – D : Any team that lost players that combined for 52 goals in the league the season before would struggle (we know Sturridge isn’t lost). To finish 6th isn’t terrible but after challenging for the title, all the talk was about cementing their Champions League status. They were a bit embarrassing in their return to Europe’s main stage: fielding a change side in Madrid, losing to Basel, and struggling with Ludogrets. The challenge will be to build a team from all the players they spent £110 million on, with only Can looking a great player. Rodgers looked to have figured it out in the middle part of the season, when they started winning, but hit a wall in April with big losses to Arsenal, Palace, & Stoke.
Sunderland – D : Dick Advocaat was able to just save this team from relegation but they haven’t been good all season. There’s nothing worse in football than a nil-nil draw but the Black Cats made that their specialty. They finished the season with 17 draws. The stand-out results were getting smashed 8-0 by Southampton but also doing the double over Newcastle.
Hull City – D : Looked a good squad, even a midtable squad, on paper at the beginning of the season. They’d been to a cup final the year before and bought well but injuries and bad luck conspired against them. The issues between ownership and the fans still need to be worked out and it’ll be interesting to see who sticks around in the Championship.
QPR – F : The results compared to the money spent just don’t add up (and that mismatch will lead to some tough times when they face the fine for it). When Joey Barton appears to be the hardest working, most responsible player for the club, you know something is wrong. A terrible defense and the inability to get points away from home are a death sentence. Charlie Austin, with 18 league goals, was the lone bright spot of the season and we’ll see him somewhere in the Prem next season. Harry Redknapp “abandoning” the club due to health issues was cringeworthy.
Newcastle – F : No team deserves to stay in the league with an 8 game losing streak. The players are supposed to be professionals but it looked like they just didn’t care the second half of the season. Mike Ashley sticking with John Carver, the self-described “best coach in the League,” is embarrassing. Gutiérrez scoring a goal to save the club felt great but then getting released, along with Ryan Taylor, by the coach over a phone call shows a complete lack of class to two players who spent a combined 13 years at the club.
Team of the Season : Southampton – I’m picking the Saints because they not only over-performed but they also had to build a new team under a new manager.
Manager of the Season : There are so many good candidates for this. There’s managers who won things: Mourinho & Wenger, Overperformers: Koeman & Monk, and Saviors: Pardew, Pulis, Pearson, & Sherwood. I’m not picking Mourinho not because I don’t like him (I don’t), but because it was what was expected. He ended up with only 5 more points than last season and no other team really challenged him. Wenger had a slightly above average year. Koeman is a good shout but Saints already got TOTS. Pulis did well but not overly so. Tactics Tim Sherwood brought only modest improvement. That means Pardew or Monk. Monk again has done very well with his side but was never in danger and made modest improvements over last season. I’m going to have to give it to Alan Pardew for bringing an 18th place team into the top half of the table and saving two teams from relegation.