So we’re there, now the FA Cup has been won the English Premier League season is complete and to wrap it up we’ve put together a quick review of how each side has done in the past 10 months.
Eddie Howe will look back at his and Bournemouth’s second season in the Premier League with some pride. His side managed to end the season in 9th place, thanks to an unbeaten run in the final 5 games which saw them pick up 3 wins and 2 draws. Bournemouth will feel that they need to continue to grow if they are to keep their Premier League status and reach their aim to be recognised as an established Premier League side. This will be especially important as they look to build a new stadium in the coming seasons. The emergence of Joshua King as a goalscorer really helped the side towards the end of the season and may have alerted some of the slightly bigger clubs to his potential. It will be interesting to see who Eddie Howe looks to in the summer to strengthen his side, with obvious problems at the back it wont be a surprise if a few new faces come into the defence. The deal for Defoe, which sounds like it could almost be complete, shows that Eddie Howe is not wasting any time.
Arsenal’s season is one which can only be described as topsy-turvey. Things started on the wrong footing with a defeat on the opening day of the season. They then went on a 13 game unbeaten streak and things were looking good for the North London side. However, a single win in five games during February sparked their fall out of the top four and then the fans got frustrated and the ‘Wenger Out’ banners came out. A run of five wins at the end of the season seemed to quieten down those who wanted change, yet, there was still a big hope from some sections of the club who were hoping that it would be Wenger’s final season at the club. The season ended with a victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup final and our poll seemed to indicate that some the majority of fans are happy for Wenger to stay.
The biggest aim for Arsenal for next season will be to qualify for the Champions League, and to do this there’ll need to be a very large effort to keep key players such as Sanchez and Özil. There will also need to be investment in an out-and-out goalscorer as Welbeck and Giroud have not proven themselves to contribute at the same level as Kane, Costa and Aguero at Arsenal’s rivals.
Burnley managed to keep their Premier League status, the first time they have managed to do so on their journeys to the top flight. Burnley proved that on a limited budget and a relatively small squad that you can battle your way in and then stay in the Premier League. The reason they managed to stay up is down to their impressive home form. When they were relegated two seasons ago they picked up just 19 of their 33 points at Turf Moor, this year they picked up 33 points at home. Next season I am sure Sean Dyche will be looking to improve their away form, as 7 points and 1 win on the road is not good enough if the club wants to build and establish itself in the top league. Burnley in the end missed out on relegation by 6 points and will know they need to buy some players if they’re going to avoid being anywhere near the bottom three next season. With Michael Keane’s future very much up for debate a new centre-back could be the first thing on Dyche’s shopping list, along with a goalscorer to help improve on their average goals scored per game of 1.03 over the course of the season.
Chelsea end the season as Champions, yet they finished off as defeated FA Cup finalists thanks to a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, in a final where Conte’s side where overwhelming favourites. Chelsea’s season saw them sit at the top of the league from mid-November all the way to the end of the season winning 30 of their 38 games along the way. The revival in contrast to the previous season could be put down to a better collective-ness, the lack of European competition, the introduction of Kante to the side or the revived form from Hazard and Costa. Ultimately it could be argued that the style of play wasn’t always the prettiest however they were the most efficient and deserved the title. To try and win the title next season there will need to be investment in the squad, mainly to strengthen and to replace the possible outgoing Diego Costa. With signs that this transfer window will be a busy one it will be interesting to see who will stay and who will leave Stamford Bridge. As Costa may be on his way to China and with Mourinho interested in signing Willian and Matic, Conte may need to look at shaping the side that he wants as he aims to win more trophies next season.
The season technically is not even over yet and the man who was brought in to save Palace from the drop has decided to leave. ‘Big Sam’ came in did his job and got Palace to play much better football than he will be given credit for, he got Benteke to score goals and Zaha started to show some of the potential that was spoke about 4/5 years ago. Parish, the chairman of the club will now have to find someone who can take over and ensure the club do not find themselves in the bottom 3 again next season. It will be interesting to see who comes in for Palace and who they then turn to transfer wise. Sakho had a good season before injury at the club and there were talks to make the loan move from Liverpool permanent so that is one to watch. Palace brought ‘Big Sam’ in and went on to pick up 22 points in their final 12 games which is what ultimately moved them safely into 14th place. Surprise victories against Chelsea Arsenal and Liverpool along with wins against fellow strugglers Hull, Middlesbrough and Watford were the key wins and showed that Palace can mix it with the sides and top and bottom of the league.
It would be interesting to know what Everton fans thought of their season. It seemed like a typical Everton year, they showed some good potential yet failed to take the next step and progress to really challenge the top 6 sides in the league. There was a point in March when they could have really made a statement by moving above Arsenal and United but in the end there season petered out largely due to them only picking up 4 wins in their final 10 games. They have managed to get qualifying spot in the Europa League next season so there is a chance of European Football at Goodison, but to be able to challenge on multiple fronts the squad will need some investment. This leaves the owners with big decisions to make on the future of Barkley and Lukaku, two highly talented players who they could cash in on, the problem is there is no guarentee of finding cheaper replacements who will have the same impact. It will also be interesting to see if Koeman stays, a few months ago there was talk of him being in the frame for the Barcelona job, which I doubt will happen but if Wenger leaves Arsenal then could he be temped to move to London?
Hull City will be looking to bounce back in to the Premier League again following their relegation to the Championship. They made a valiant fight for survival yet in the end didn’t seem to quite have enough in the squad to save themselves. Silva’s arrival in the new year seemed to spark some belief into a Hull side who had gone from having an amazing start under Mike Phelan to being relegation certainties by Christmas. The biggest thing the side lacked was a goalscorer, their leading goalscorer was Snodgrass, who they sold in January. If they had been able to score goals then they may have had a chance of staying up especially as Silva proved himself to be a good tactician and someone the players appeared to want to play for. Silva has now left Hull, to stay in the Premier League with Watford, so Hull will now need to look for someone who can build a side whilst battling to get promotion, not an easy task at a club which didn’t allow Bruce, Phelan or Silva to really invest in the side over the last 12 months.
There must of been a point during the season where Leicester fans thought the unthinkable, they could be relegated the season after winning the league. The season saw the biggest outpouring of disbelief as Ranieri was sacked in February with all media and pundits saying it was shocking and the wrong thing to do, but by the end of the season it appeared to have been forgotten about as Craig Shakespeare helped guide the side to a mid-table finish and kept them in the Champions League as the only English side to reach the Quarter Finals. It will be interesting to see if Shakespeare keeps his job, as towards the end of the season you could tell that the honeymoon had ended as the club won 4 of their final 10 games following a 5 game winning run from his initial games in charge. It will also be interesting to see who stays at the club, as they did well to keep Mahrez and Vardy last summer but you cannot help but feel that it was done by promising they could leave this year if the club did not reach certain goals. If they do lose key players then the owners will probably allow the club to spend money as they seem to be owners who want the side to grow and be quite ambitious in their running of the club.
Liverpool have got in to the Qualifying stages for the Champions League, don’t be fooled, they are not actually in the Champions League proper yet, they are essentially the same as what Guiseley Football Club are to the FA Cup. Anyways, in the end you could say it was a good season for side who have not finished in the top 4 for the last 3 seasons yet for the first half of the season they looked to be guarenteed a top 4 spot as they were challenging for the top of the league. A run of 5 games without a win in January saw them slip from 2nd to 5th. It would be a shock if they didn’t make it through the qualifying stage of the Champions League but Liverpool have not historically done well in the league in seasons where they are in Europe so it will be interesting to see what Klopp does to improve the side. It became apparent last season of the players who Klopp valued and with Champions League football almost certainly guaranteed it may mean he can keep those players, especially Coutinho who had a very good season. The signing of Sane was very good and his influence was missed in January when he was away at the African Cup of Nations.
The expectations for Manchester City were high this season, mainly thanks to the press and the signing of Pep Guardiola as their new manager. Pep came to England as one of the most successful managers in the world and had never finished a season without a trophy, until this season. They may not have won any silverware and a third place finish may not seem great to a side who, rightly, should probably believe themselves to be challenging for the title. City’s season started as many expected with 6 wins, including a 2-1 win at Old Trafford, yet defeat to Spurs and consecutive draws to Everton & Southampton showed that City were not unbeatable. The reason they finished third is down to too many home draws, which seemed to be a new trend in Manchester, and a failure to pick up wins against top 4 sides is the reason they finished 15 points behind Spurs. City fans will know that this season is probably just a blip in their recent successful history and they will rebuild over the summer, with a new goalkeeper high on Pep’s shopping along with a couple of fullbacks and possible a new centre back. It will be interesting to see how City do in the markets as this year they will probably be in direct competition with United for players so I wouldn’t be surprised to see both sides trying to do their business early.
As a United fan I do find it hard to know whether to say that this season was a success or not. United won the League Cup and more importantly the Europa League Cup, which means a Champions League place come the group draw on 24th August. However even with the trophies and the Community Shield you cant help but feel that a 6th place finish in the league is disappointing. Mourinho arrived at United after his 18 months at Chelsea where he won the league but then lost the dressing room and his job and at points this season it appeared he may lose some of the players at Old Trafford. United are use to managers wrapping their arms around players in public yet Mourinho isn’t that way inclined and will call out players in public. Even with a new managerial style to get use to the players should have done better, and United’s home form is largely to blame for their position in the League. United picked up 34 points at home, just one more than Burnley and 35 points on their travels. 10 of their home games were drawn, which is shocking when you look at the total amount of draws for the other sides in the top 6. Mourinho has already said that it will take until the 2018/2019 season before he has ‘his’ squad so there will be activity at Old Trafford this summer. The number one target appears to be Griezmann and with Mourinho also wanting to strenghten his defence you should expect a few new faces.
Middlesbrough’s return to the top flight appeared to be one which they had adapted to very quickly, picking up 5 points from the first 3 games, however 5 games without a win dropped them to 17th and then failure to win a game between 17th December and 26th April all but secured their return to the Championship. Middlesbrough appeared to have come in to the league knowing that defensively they were going to keep it tight and for this plan to work they need to be able to win games 1-0 unfortunately scoring goals was something the side could not do, even with Negrado at the club on loan. The run without wins ultimately cost Karanka his job but ultimately relegation cannot be blamed squarely on the man who got them promotion. The side average .7 goals per games over the season and won only 5 games all season. They go to the Championship without a keeper as Guzan and Valdes have both been released and knowing they need to get a new striker along whilst holding to the impressive Ben Gibson who has done well enough to be called into the England squad.
Southampton have shown what promoted teams strive for can be achieved, they have pretty much established themselves as a Premier League side, the question now is can they kick on. This season saw them finish lower in the league than in the previous two seasons and many will see this as a step backwards but Southampton probably feel that they need to rebuild after seeing the which they build a few years ago be almost completely dismantled in the past two seasons. There was a point in the season where Southampton, completely lost their way losing 6 out of their 7 games between 28th December and 4th February. However a strong performance in the League Cup final, where they were unlucky to lose, and the rise of Gabbiadini who was bought in January steered the Saints back on course. Puel will now be hoping to add to this squad over the summer and try to keep clubs away from his best players, especially Van Dijk who is linked to a move to a top 6 side.
Mark Hughes will feel that the club needs to take a big step forward next season following what could be seen as a small step back for the club who normally finish in the top half. As many other clubs have taken a step forward Stoke will know they need to invest in new players and try to ensure key players such as Shaqiri and Arnautovic stay. Stoke were missing Jack Butland for almost the whole season and he will almost be like a new signing next season and there is hope that Stoke can become stronger at the back. Over the season Stoke were very much a side who were middling in the league, finishing 13th in the league with 11 wins, 11 draws and 16 defeats. The season saw them go through phases where they would go on small unbeaten runs such as the run they went on between 24th September and 5th November along with another run throughout January. If Stoke can build on these runs and strengthen then you could probably expect to see them in the top half again next season, failure to do so could see them slip away from the midfield pack of sides.
Sunderland have flirted with relegation for the past few seasons and have finally succumbed to the drop and its been quite a miserable season for the Mackems. The only bright points over the season has been the proof that Jermaine Defoe still has the ability to score goals in the top division and Jordan Pickford has shown that he has the ability to be a top goalkeeper. The problems for Sunderland were quite extensive, defensively they have been poor, injuries have been rife and recruitment has been relatively poor. Going into the Championship it will be interesting to see who stays at the club, with talk of Defoe going to Bournemouth and with a lot of clubs interested in Pickford the club has to decide if they will cash in on their young keeper. David Moyes has left and this season looked to be out of his depth, it does make you wonder where he can go to rebuild his reputation after 3 very difficult jobs which he has not been able to see through. Sunderland’s season was spent in the relegation zone with them spending 26 of the 38 game weeks at the bottom of the table.
At the start of the season Swansea fans would have been hoping to see their side push on from their 12th place finish and try to reach the top half of the table, unfortunately the opposite happened and a near catastrophic season was saved by a late flurry of wins. Swansea have slowly been sliding from the side who impressed after their promotion and a succession of manager changes hasn’t already helped them. The season began with Guidolin in charge, then Bob Bradley, Alan Curtis took charge for a week before Paul Clement came in and he seemed to improve the side and the side moved away from the bottom 3 for a period. However the honeymoon ended and they slowly slipped back into the battle for survival, yet a undefeated run of 5 games in the final 5 matches of the season saw Swansea survive and finish in 15th. There will need to be a big change of players at Swansea, especially if they end up losing their best player in Sigurdsson who has been linked to many of the top half clubs. The side will want to avoid any drama next season and re-affirm their place as a mid-table league side.
Spurs have proven that they can challenge at the top of the table once again and there is no longer the ‘top 4’ going for the title but a ‘big 6’ who all think they could win the league with Spurs very much a part of that. Spurs will look back and feel that a run of 4 draws in October is what cost them the title this season. That is how close they were from winning the league. They have moved from 3rd to 2nd and will be hoping to take the next big step next season and win the league. The biggest thing Spurs is to keep a hold of key men Alli, Kane, Eriksson, Alderweirald and Lloris whilst replacing the seemingly outgoing Kyle Walker, although his deputy Trippier has shown himself to be a very good full back this season. The highlight of the side has been that whilst Kane got the Golden Boot the side had goals coming from the likes of Alli, Son and Erikson all season, however they will probably be hoping that Janssen starts scoring or a backup forward will be on the shopping list.
Watford fans ended the season by showing their frustration at manager Mazzarri who before the final game of the season announced that he was leaving the club at the end of the season. It has been announced that Marco Silva will be joining the side as Head Coach and will be hoping that he can continue to show the ability which was apparent during his tenure at Hull, although Watford fans will be hoping their side does not go in the same direction as Silva’s former side. Watford will be hoping that captain Troy Deeney stays at the club and that there is investment into the side. Watford’s season ended with 5 defeats on the bounce but their survival had pretty much been secured thanks to a good run at the beginning of the season, where they reached 8th place in the league in December. However post Christmas saw Watford pick up just 18 points in the latter half of the season. The new boss will want to build his own squad but he will need to given funds to do so otherwise Watford could struggle next season again.
West Bromwich Albion
Tony Pulis will probably have ended the season quite frustrated with his side, they were doing so well until they reached 40 points and then they seemed to coast. West Brom looked to be about to launch a surprise challenge for an Europa League place when they reached 40 points with 12 game weeks to go, however in the final 12 games of the season they added just 5 points. The run of games without picking up points saw the Baggies move from the 8th place they had sat in for the majority of the second half of the season down to 10th place by the end of, costing the side in prize money. The earlier half of the season had been good for the Baggie’s and Pulis had them playing in his usual divisive style, love it or hate it it seemed to be working for the side from the Midlands. Pulis will be hoping to build on the side this season and with money hopefully in the clubs coffers it will be interesting to see who West Brom move for. There is talk that a move for Deeney could be in the offing and with speculation that Jones or Smalling could leave Old Trafford there could be a new Centre Half joining.
West Ham United
West Ham United’s first season in their new home at the Olympic stadium has probably not gone the way many would have hoped. The new home has not quite been a fortress but the early trouble in the crowd seemed to stop and now the hope will be for results to improve. The side has had two really bad runs one in the first half and another in the second where West Ham couldn’t win a game, however the rest of the time they have been quietly doing okay. West Ham fans will be hoping that next season they can build and be challenging for a Europa League spot as that is where the club wants to be, to do so there will need to be some spending at the club this summer. West Ham will know that to push on they ideally need a season where Andy Carroll doesn’t get injured as this was another stop-start season for the big Centre Forward. Bilic has gone through stages where his future in the job had come up for discussion this season so will know they need a good start next year to avoid those discussions beginning again.