Another Premier League season is in the books, and while 2017/18 didn’t deliver a great deal of drama, with many of the key battles won and lost long before the final matchday, there has been plenty of intrigue when assessing how individual clubs performed against their expectations.
And there were triumphs and failures in between. We’ve looked back over the season to give every club a grade for their campaign.
Given the summer outlay, part of which was a much-publicised £130million spend on full-backs alone, City were expected to usurp Chelsea and champions of England this season.
Yet still City managed to exceed all expectations, setting new Premier League records for total points, goals scored, goal difference and the gap between them and second place. What’s more, they did so with the most aesthetically pleasing football seen on these shores for some time. They’ll take some stopping next season, too.
Pep Guardiola – City were never going to allow Guardiola to fail. Guardiola was never going to allow himself to fail. After a difficult first season in the Premier League the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach took stock, adapted and set about taking the English top flight by storm, in spectacular style. Grade: A
But every signing had a purpose: goalkeeper Ederson’s stunning passing and sweeping ability aided the system; Bernardo Silva rotated in and out seamlessly; Aymeric Laporte added depth and class at the back mid-season; and the three new full-backs (although Benjamin Mendy was cut down by injury early on) allowed for the style and shape of attacking play Guardiola desires. Grade: A
Standout stats – City’s average possession duration of 18.45 seconds is the highest in Europe’s five major leagues, with Paris Saint-Germain second and Barcelona third.
After their highest league finish since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, United can point to a degree of progress made this season. Yet, 19 points behind rivals City, they are no closer to a title challenge.
What’s more, given the money spent, the quality of football on show at Old Trafford has fallen some way short of expectations and a drab Champions League campaign has led to grumbles of discontent from some sections of the support.
José Mourinho – Ever the spin master, Mourinho will undoubtedly accentuate United’s achievements this season, and finishing second is a feat worthy of praise. But the Portuguese ends the campaign trophyless, with high-value stars under-performing and reportedly unhappy, and with United’s style of football roundly criticised. One step forward; at least one back. Grade: C-
Transfer business – Romelu Lukaku has come in from Everton to act as the focal point of the United attack and, with 27 goals in all competitions, the Belgian has added cutting edge to an otherwise blunt attack. And Nemanja Matić can be satisfied with his work after joining from Chelsea.
Standout stats – Despite only conceding 28 league goals in 2017/18, United the chances United gave up equated to an expected goals against (xGA) of 44.4.
The silence that has greeted Tottenham’s third straight top-four finish should be music to Spurs fans’s ears. Despite still punching above their weight in terms of budget and transfer spend, it is now viewed as a simple matter of fact that the north Londoners will qualify for the Champions League each year.
Although an exit from Europe’s premier club competition at the hands of Juventus stung, the strides Spurs made in the Champions League, topping a group which contained Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, should not be overlooked. Quiet but significant progress.
Mauricio Pochettino – Many will still use his lack of a senior trophy as a stick to beat him with, but Pochettino continues to do excellent work at Spurs. Hinting at a desire for an increased wage and transfer budget in order to compete for honours, Tottenham should give him what he wants. Grade: B
Transfer business – Fernando Llorente’s lack of impact after signing from Swansea City last summer means Spurs’ struggles to identify an able deputy for Harry Kane continue.
Davinson Sánchez, a £30million arrival from Ajax, looks hugely promising, but the jury is still out on Serge Aurier and Lucas Moura, both from Paris Saint-Germain (the latter in January). Grade: C-
Standout stats – Kane took more shots than any other player in the Premier League in 2017/19 (184), and had the highest expected goals total (xG, 25.4)
With a Champions League final against Real Madrid still to come, it feels strange to sum up Liverpool’s season already, as their fortunes against the reigning champions of Europe will go a long way towards colouring how this campaign is remembered by Reds fans.
But there league showing alone, powered by the goals of Player of the Year Mohamed Salah, proves the Anfield side are moving in the right direction, securing a top-four spot for the second year running while continuing to build a thrilling team ready to challenge domestically next term.
Jürgen Klopp – Not only has Klopp transformed Liverpool into a top-four regular within a few sound acquisitions of domestic contention, he has constructed one of the most dynamic and thrilling attacking outfits in Europe, and could yet crown his progress with a Champions League victory. Grade: B+
Transfer business – The £75million January signing of Virgil van Dijk raised eyebrows, but the Dutchman’s performances on Merseyside have been so impressive that his price tag is no longer considered overly extravagant.
Additionally, the purchases of Salah and Andrew Robertson could both be considered among the best pieces of business anywhere in Europe this season, while the Reds also tied up a deal for Naby Keïta to join ahead of 2018/19. Philippe Coutinho? Never heard of him. Grade: A
Standout stats – Klopp made 135 changes to his Liverpool team this season, the most rotation since 2013/14
Consolation for Chelsea comes in the form of an eighth FA Cup, secured by virtue of a 1-0 Wembley win over Manchester United, but, considering their dominant brilliance en route to the title last season, this has been a grossly underwhelming campaign for the Blues.
Twenty-three points worse off than last season, 30 behind champions Manchester City and without a place in next season’s Champions League, it hasn’t been a vintage year for Chelsea, brightened only by their cup triumph.
Antonio Conte – The Italian tactician’s astute switch to a back three last term not only inspired Chelsea’s title charge, but also set a trend within the Premier League, as several sides followed his lead. This term, though, the former Juventus boss appeared to lose the faith of his charges and is, if reports are to be believed, destined for a Stamford Bridge exit. Grade: D
Transfer business – Chelsea had a pretty disastrous season from a purely transfer-based perspective, with the acquisitions of Álvaro Morata and Tiémoue Bakayoko flopping miserably, while Ross Barley and Danny Drinkwater were too often sidelined to be appreciated.
The one bright note was was the signing of German centre-back Antonio Rüdiger from Roma, who adapted well to his new surrounding and shone, in particular, in the cup final. Grade: D
Standout stats – Only possession master City and sixth-placed Arsenal had a higher average possession duration that Chelsea this season (13.55 seconds).
Without Champions League football of the first time in two decades, Arsenal sought to rediscover their place among Europe’s elite by twice breaking their club transfer record on highly regarded strikers, but, for the second season in a row, they were cut adrift of the top four.
The speculation surrounding the future so of both Alexis Sánchez hung over the club like a cloud and went too long unresolved. Things picked up post-January, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s arrival bought edge back to the Gunners’ attack, but by then it was too little too late.
Arsène Wenger – It what turned out to be his last season as Arsenal manager, Wenger oversaw his worst-ever Premier League finish. Tributes rightly flooded in for the Frenchman upon the announcement of his resignation, but no one would argue that his departure has come too soon. Grade: D
Transfer business – The arrivals of both Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang have quenched a long-standing need for a quality finisher at the Emirates, but many of the same holes remain in the Arsenal squad: central defence, central midfield, goalkeeper.
Retaining Özil and swapping the want-away Sánchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan was wise of Arsenal, and will stand the new manager in spring stead. More was needed in order to bridge the widening gap to the top four, though, as will be the case this summer. Grade: C-
Standout stats – Gunners goalkeeper Petr Čech made his first penalty save for seven years when he stopped Troy Deeney’s spot kick in March.
After finishing 16th in their first second back in the Premier League last term, Burnley were tipped to battle relegation this season. Nine months on, after an incredible seventh-place finish, they look forward to Europa League football next term.
For a while, they even threatened to unseat Arsenal in the top six, but there is no shame in falling just short of that effort, given their comparative resources. It’s been a fairytale season for Burnley, and everyone at the club can be proud of what they have achieved.
Sean Dyche – What Dyche has managed to achieve at Turf Moor is nothing short of exceptional, even before the heroics of this season. With a near non-existent net spend, the former centre-back has taken the unfancied Lancashire club into Europe. Grade: A
Transfer business – The clarets were one of few Premier League sides to actually turn a profit in last summer’s transfer market, following the sales of Michael Keane to Everton for £24million and Andre Gray to Watford for £18million.
New Zealand striker Chris Wood, signed from Leeds United in the Championship for a club-record £15million, was their only real extravagance, and he proved an astute addition. Grade: B+
Standout stats – Burnley’s incredible rise up the table this season was done without the aid of a single penalty. The Clarets were the only side in the division not to be awarded a spot kick.
This has been a season of grave disappointment for Everton fans. A comfortable mid-table finish and the promise of new ideas for next term cannot detract from the fact that 2017/18 promised so much more of the Goodison Park faithful.
A record summer spend was designed to allow the Toffees to compete for a position among the Premier League’s top six, but they never got close, with a shorter point gap to 17th-placed Southampton than Arsenal in sixth.
Sam Allardyce – Finding Everton in 13th after struggles under Ronald Koeman and temporary boss David Unsworth, the former England manager ensured top-flight survival, although that was never really in threat. The dismal style of play Allardyce instituted failed to inspire and his points per game average was almost identical to Unsworth’s; “Big Sam” was sacked at the end of the campaign. Grade: D
Transfer business – Too much money and not enough sense. Everton spent around £140million last summer and dipped back into the market mid-season. The return of Wayne Rooney proved to be funded in romanticism rather than reality and record buy Gylfi Sigurðsson has not been properly utilised.
The Toffees have very little to show for the money they spent, while the decision to loan young winger Ademola Lookman to RB Leipzig in January, with whom he duly shone in the Bundesliga, exposed a lack of foresight. Grade: F
Standout stats – Everton’s goal difference of -14 was the lowest in the top half of the table, also bettered by 11th-placed Crystal Palace.
A shaky start saw the 2015/16 champions rid themselves of manager Craig Shakespeare after slipping behind in the race to be among the Premier League’s ‘best of the rest’ adrift of the top six.
Claude Puel’s appointment initiated a reversal in fortunes, however, as the pragmatic French coach got the Foxes back to basics and restored many of the tactical principles that led them to an unlikely title two years ago. Overall, Leicester just about scraped par this season.
Claude Puel – Jettisoned from Southampton at the end of last term for a lack of entertainment, despite attaining a credible eighth-place finish, there is talk the Frenchman could suffer a similar fate this summer. His work at the King Power Stadium has again been solid, if unspectacular. Grade: C
Transfer business – The debacle which saw Leicester fail to register Adrien Silva in time exposed a lack of organisation, and Kelechi Iheanacho’s £25million switch from Manchester City has this far failed to deliver.
The £17million signing of Harry Maguire from hull City, however, is one of the transfer success stories of the season and enough to redeem Leicester’s summer business somewhat, while keeping Riyad Mahrez from the clutches of City in January was also great going. Grade: C+
Standout stats – Jamie Vardy became the first player to score against all of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ in a single season.
All season, we’ve heard talk of how Newcastle’s squad is not fit for purpose in the top flight, that under-investment from owner Mike Ashley has left the club short on quality and requiring a near-miracle to secure their Premier League status after promotion from the Championship last term.
While it is certainly true that that the Magpies lack for true top-flight quality, their 2017/18 campaign was a testament to what can be achieved with meagre means when sound management and organisation marries with a group of players who buy into the collective cause. A top-half finish is an astounding achievement.
Rafa Benítez – One of the best coaches in Europe of the last two decades, Benítez’s reputation had taken a hit after an unsuccessful spell at the helm of Real Madrid. Although he was unable to keep Newcastle up two season ago, the way he has rebuilt the Magpies on a shoestring shows he is still one of the best bosses around. Grade: A
Transfer business – Newcastle needed additions in several key potions ahead of this season, and Benítez can’t have been thrilled with what he received. None of the incomings had a significant impact as players already at the club rose their games to compensate.
The fact Florian Thauvin, whose loan switch to Marseille was made permanent last summer, suddenly transformed into one of the best players in Europe didn’t help the perception of Newcastle’s transfer dealings. Grade: D
Standout stat – Benítez was reportedly unhappy with the club’s inability to secure a top-class striker ahead of the campaign, and the fact Newcastle were outscored by every club in the top 14 aside from Burnley suggests the former Liverpool manager’s frustrations were well founded.
Palace’s start to the season was bad. As in, record-breakingly bad. New boss Frank de Boer was given his p45 after just four fruitless games, and the Eagles remained without a point or a goal to their name for the first seven fixtures.
However, throughout this period, and increasingly so once their fortunes reversed, the Selhurst Park side remained a perfectly good outfit by almost all measures. All measure, that is, except the one that matter: goals.
Wasteful up front, thank largely to Christian Benteke‘s struggles, Palace could have finished even higher than their ultimately respectful 11th place. A few key tweaks in the summer could see them crack the top eight next term.
Roy Hodgson – With his stock at an all-time low following England’s limp exit at the 2016 European Championships at the hands of Iceland, Hodgson has proven himself to still be among the most astute tacticians in the country with the way he righted the Palace ship post-De Boer. Grade: A
Transfer business – Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed sufficiently on loan with the Eagles to earn a call-up for Gareth Southgate’s England squad and the expensively acquired Mamadou Sakho added power and presence at the back.
Palace desperately lacked a viable alternative to Benteke at the point of their attack, however, and often fielded winger Wilfried Zaha centrally to compensate. Grade: C-
Standout stats – Despite struggling to score for much of the season, creating chances wasn’t a problem for the Eagles, whose xG of 50.86 was the seventh-best in the league.
Another season in the top flight for Bournemouth – their third in succession now – passed almost without remark, but once against the Cherries have outperformed many sides with greater means than their own to ensure drama-free survival.
They may not be the most exciting club to follow at times, consolidated as they are in a position of relative safety without being quite able to kick on and threaten a top-eight finish, but that shouldn’t detract from the marvellous work being done by Eddie Howe and his players to make such over-achievement seem quotidian.
Eddie Howe – Some observers seem to be tiring of Howe’s Bournemouth, who offer sound possession football and middling returns within the context of the division. But the Cherries continued top-flight status is a huge feather in the English coach’s hat. His only blemish: a hit-and-miss transfer record. Grade: B
Transfer business – Nathan Aké and Asmir Begović, a double signing from Chelsea, were both seen as fantastic additions at the Vitality Stadium, yet the young Dutch defender has impressed far more than the veteran goalkeeper.
And age seems to have finally caught up with Jermain Defoe, able to return just four Premier League goals from 24 appearances. Grade: C-
Standout stats – Bournemouth proved to be the comeback kings this season, rescuing 21 points from losing positions, more than any other team.
West Ham United
After a horrendous start to the campaign saw West Ham flirt with the relegation battle and part ways with manager Slaven Bilić, the east Londoners rallied (in the loosest possible sense of the word) to finish the campaign in the relative safety of 13th.
But after a summer which saw them make marquee signings in the form of Marko Arnautović and Javier Hernández, more was hoped for. With as many problems off field as on it, these are difficult times for West Ham supporters.
David Moyes – Brought in from the cold after overseeing Sunderland’s relegation to the Championship last season, Moyes was tasked with avoiding the same fate at the London Stadium. He did so, but typically failed to inspire and has seen been shown the door. Grade: C-
Transfer business – Hernández, with just eight league goals, has flattered to deceive but cannot be termed a total flop, while £25million man Arnautović grew into the season and seemed to be one of an extremely exclusive group of players who have thrived under Moyes in the last five years.
The problem with West Ham’s transfer business, however, was that there just wasn’t enough of it. Grade: D
Standout stats – With 75 cards (73 yellow, 2 red) West Ham’s players had their names taken more times than any other side.
After a stunning start to the campaign, rising briefly to contention for a European spot, Watford suffered a dip before then plateauing to finish 14th, towards the tail end of the lower-mid-table logjam.
When manager Marco Silva had his head turned by Everton, things quickly began to slide, and he was dispensed with in January, replaced by Javi Gracia, who oversaw a spell of consistent mediocrity.
Javi Gracia – In truth, it is still hard to gauge Gracia’s Watford tenure. The Spaniard appears to have had little effect on the Hornets, either positively or negatives; next season will be a greater barometer. Grade: C-
Transfer business – A relative unknown when signed from Fluminense last summer, Richarlison enjoyed a barnstorming start to the season before, mirroring the fortunes of his club, levelling off somewhat. Still, though, the Brazilian has vastly grown his value.
Nathaniel Chalobah‘s acquisition from Chelsea looked a real coup before injury cut him down, and Will Hughes adapted slowly but surely to life in the top flight; record signing Andre Gray has been less impactful. Grade: B
Standout stats – With 19 defeats in 2017/18, only 18th-placed Swansea City lost more games than the Hornets.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Seven points clear of the relegation zone, closer to a top-half finish than the dreaded drop, this has been a wonderfully successful first Premier League season for Brighton.
The Seagulls began the campaign among the favourites to finish in the bottom three, yet Chris Hughton’s men have, at every turn, looked every bit a top-flight outfit. Through organisation and efficiency, not to mention key performances from previously unheralded players such as Glenn Murray and Lewis Dunk, Brighton have exceeded expectations.
Chris Hughton – The former Newcastle and Norwich City boss had been too readily labelled a ‘Championship-level manager’ prior to this term’s success with Brighton. The 59-year-old has thoroughly shaken off that label. Grade: A
Transfer business – Brought in for a combined outlay of around £30million, Davy Pröpper, José Izquierdo and Mat Ryan all settled quickly and vastly improved Brighton, and Pascal Groß, signed from Ingolstadt for just £3million was far and away the bargain of the summer.
January arrival Jürgen Locadia is yet to unleash his full potential at the AmEx Stadium but that shouldn’t detract from a superb summer of spending. Grade: A
Standout stat – Brighton centre-back Lewis Dunk managed to put the ball into his own net four times in 2017/18.
Promoted via the play-offs, Huddersfield’s sole task this season was attaining Premier League survival, by any mean necessary.
Manager David Wagner brought in a lot of players last summer but few came with guarantees of Premier League-readiness, so the German tactician had to cull upon all of his knowhow to steer the Terriers to safety, doing so despite being the division’s lowest scorers with just 28 goals in 38 games.
Short of the magical 40-point return that many see as a near-guarantee of survival, if offered 36 points and 16th place before the season began they’d have jumped at it.
David Wagner – An acolyte of Liverpool boss Klopp, having worked under the German at Borussia Dortmund, Wagner has adapted and developed a system based around organisation and co-ordinated pressing that has made Huddersfield greater than the sum of their parts. Grade: A
Transfer business – Huddersfield spent around £40million last summer, bringing in almost a new team’s worth of players to help them battle against the drop in the Premier League.
Securing key playmaker Aaron Mooy on a permanent deal was by far the best piece of business, while others, like Tom Ince and Steve Mounié, may not have set the world alight individually, certainly contributed to form a great white. Grade: B
Standout stats – With just 28 goals scored from 38 games, Huddersfield had the joint-least productive attack in the division.
Not many people would have tipped Southampton to battle relegation this season; the Saints finished eighth last term and would have been expected to more or less repeat that feat.
Having dispensed with manager Claude Puel due to an apparent dissatisfaction with the Frenchman’s playing style, perhaps hoping to recreate the magic of Pochettino’s time at the club, Mauricio Pellegrino was appointed.
Like the Spurs manager before he arrived at St. Mary’s, Pellegrino is a towering, Argentinian former centre-back who had over-achieved with an unfancied side in La Liga.
However, Pellegrino proved to lack the pedigree of his compatriot and flopped miserably on the South Coast. The football was no prettier than last season, and the results were far worse. Southampton stayed up by just three points. Grade: F
Mark Hughes – the man tasked with replacing Pellegrino and keeping Southampton in the Premier League satisfied the most base requirements of his remit, without ever truly convincing. Grade: C
Transfer business – Commended for their resolve in not selling Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool last summer, their stance may have done more harm than good, with their best defender suffering a severe drop in form before eventually getting his move mid-season.
They made a phenomenal profit on the Dutchman, though, and the signings of Mario Lemina and Wesley Hoedt have proven astute, while the jury is still out on January arrival Guido Carrillo. Grade: C
Standout stats – Despite flirting dangerously with relegation, the Saints ranked 12 for both xG (42.39) and xG conceded (52.57), suggesting they should have been more comfortable.
Swansea rose to the Premier League, claimed a League Cup and consolidated their top-flight status as a club with a clear identity, a team who played football the “right” way, employed joined-up thinking and appeared progressive in every aspect. This is no longer the case.
Staid and grey, the Swans no longer espouse an ambitious brand of possession football, no longer punch with the verve of a defiant underdog, and no longer look like a new archetype for any emerging club with Premier League ambitions.
The signs of Swansea’s demise have been present for some time. This season, they crystallised. They entered the final weeks of the season with a chance of staying up, but they haven’t looked a Premier League side and cannot claim their performances deserved better.
Carlos Carvalhal – Somewhat of a shock appointment when he took over from Paul Clement in late December, and the Portuguese boss looked to have briefly turned things around for the Swans, named Manager of the Month for January. But his motivational skills soon waned and he has since been let go after the South Wales club were relegated. Grade: C-
Transfer business – Bringing back André Ayew and Wilfried Bony, and with the ambition acquisitions of gifted playmaker Roque Mesa and former Golden Boy award winner Renato Sanches (on loan from Bayern Munich), Swansea seemed to have the basis of a strong squad.
But the loss of Gylfi Sigurðsson, previously their creator-in-chief, to Everton and the incomings struggling to live up to their billing left Swansea worse off than last season. Grade F
Standout stats – Swansea share the unenviable distinction with Huddersfield of being the Premier League’s lowest scorers in 2017/18.
Some have used Stoke’s relegation as evidence for their move away from “Pulisball” being misguided, and a case of “be careful what you wish for . . .” But the Potters successfully reinvented themselves as a more attractive side post-Tony Pulis, and maintained a consolidated mid table place in doing so.
Their mistake has been to allow stagnation to set in and not properly addressing it, with Mark Hughes perhaps retained too long and his replacement, Paul Lambert, and uninspiring choice for the bet365 Stadium hot seat.
With players like Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen, Kurt Zouma, et al, Stoke should have been too good to go down. They were not.
Paul Lambert – Lambert took charge with Stoke in dire straits after a poor start to the campaign. Unable to instigate a “new manager bounce” the Potters’ fortunes never really improved as they slumped towards the Championship. Grade: D
Transfers business – Stoke bolstered their backline significantly with the arrivals of Bruno Martins Indi, Zouma and Kevin Wimmer, while augmenting their attacking options with Jesé.
But 68 goals conceded and only 35 scored suggests these acquisitions were not as successful as hoped. The sale of Marko Arnautović to West Ham robbed Stoke of a degree of inventiveness in the final third, too. Grade: D
Standout stats – With 68 goals conceded, Stoke had the worst defence in the Premier League in 2017/18.
West Bromwich Albion
It seems strange to say this about a club who finished rock bottom of the table, but things could have been much worse for West Brom.
The Baggies will be playing Championship football next season and will have to deal with the inherent question marks over the futures of key players that always comes when a side drops out of the Premier League.
But the fight West Brom showed after dispensing with Alan Pardew was ultimately too little, too late, however, it has shown there is life yet in this squad and will offer a foundation to build a promotion campaign upon.
All things considered, though, the Baggies season as a whole was one of grave disappointment.
Darren Moore – Instantly popular among the players upon taking temporary charge after Pardew was sacked, Moore’s arrival brought a bounce that, for a brief moment, allowed some to believe the Baggies might just get out of the mess they were in. It wasn’t to be but the new manager, recently confirmed in permanent charge, showed himself deserving of the job. Grade: B+
Transfer business – The loan signing of Grzegorz Krychowiak was hailed as the coup of last summer, but the Polish midfielder didn’t quite have the impact desired. Jay Rodriguez and Ahmed Hegazi has decent first campaigns at the Hawthorns but the January loan of Daniel Sturridge fell flat. Grade: D
Standout stats – The relegated Baggies contrived to let 26 points slip from winning positions this term, more than any other Premier League team.