Premier League

Premier League End Of Term Report: Part 2

 • by Tom Bodell
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The 2016/17 Premier League campaign won’t go down as a classic. It will be judged against last season’s fairytale and Leicester City’s finest hour. But even without that filter, it wasn’t a thrilling ride.

Chelsea, bar the briefest of wobbles, had the title sewn up for several months and even Tottenham Hotspur’s challenge had an air of resignation about it to those outside of White Hart Lane.

At the other end of the table, there was slightly more intrigue. Sunderland were the division’s no hopers and their battle against the drop was over before the season was out. But the other two sides waving goodbye to the Premier League, Hull City and Middlesbrough, made more of a fight of it.

With the dust settled on the 25th edition of the Premier League, we have graded each Premier League club on their finish, the efforts of their manager and the club itself – be that the owners, work in the transfer market or any other business.

We will be marking the managers who finished the campaign in charge of their respective clubs but the decision to chop and change will be reflected in the club’s score.

You can read part one, covering Arsenal to Manchester City, here.

Manchester United – 5/10

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Finished: 6th

Louis van Gaal lost his job for finishing fifth and winning the FA Cup. José Mourinho has secured the EFL Cup and finished sixth, admitting the Premier League was not a competition United wanted to play in with their Europa League final on the horizon.

Winning the Europa League against Ajax will ensure a return to the Champions League after a season away. But it is hard to imagine Sir Alex Ferguson throwing the towel in domestically even if the Portuguese’s siege mentality is straight out of Ferguson’s playbook.

José Mourinho: 5/10

The Portuguese has tried to create a narrative where United, despite a net spend of £117m and the world-record purchase of Paul Pogba, have not got the squad to compete in four competitions.

The quality of yesteryear is no longer there but he has failed to get the best out of this group or create an attacking blueprint. Defensively United bear the hallmarks of a Mourinho side but they have lacked panache, guile or excitement. One success has been sidelining the ineffective Wayne Rooney.

The club: 7/10

The Glazers and Ed Woodward delivered what Mourinho wanted while satisfying the club’s need to continually improve their global brand and appeal. The signing of Pogba ticked every box in a football and commercial sense yet the Frenchman has not had the impact many hoped.

Zlatan Ibrahimović was another expensive acquisition – even on a free transfer – who held global appeal. But those additions must equal Champions League revenue and domestic success.

Middlesbrough manager Steve Agnew

Middlesbrough – 4/10

Finished: 19th

When Aitor Karanka was in charge Middlesbrough had a plan. It wasn’t fun to watch and it didn’t yield many wins. But, by defending resolutely and being hard to beat, Boro were picking up points.

When Steve Gibson lost patience with the Spaniard’s approach in March and appointed Steve Agnew as caretaker Boro had just slipped into the Premier League’s bottom three. They picked up six points from their 11 remaining games under Agnew, securing an immediate return to the Championship.

Steve Agnew: 5/10

The former Sunderland midfielder was given something of a hospital pass in replacing Karanka at the Riverside Stadium. Boro were dour but grinding out the odd result. He took the reigns off but it made little difference to a squad low on confidence and quality.

A 2-2 draw at home to Manchester City, which would have been a win were it not for some theatrics from Leroy Sané, was the high point of a forgettable stint at the helm but there was no much he could do.

The club: 4/10

Middlesbrough will return to the Championship in better financial shape then they left a year ago. Apart from that they have not gained a lot from this season. The squad is not discernibly better and the one player of quality they have acquired, Alvaro Negredo, will move on this summer. Was it even worth it?

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Southampton – 7/10

Finished: 8th

Eighth place and a cup final. The kind of season most mid-table clubs would take without a moment’s thought. But something isn’t right at St Mary’s. Claude Puel is expected to lose his job and outgoing Hull City boss Marco Silva has been heavily linked with the role.

Southampton’s model is to be agile with change yet this season they appear – for the first time – not to have improved with their alterations.

Claude Puel: 6/10

The Frenchman is not popular at St Mary’s despite reaching the EFL Cup final, where the Saints were unfortunate to lose to an Ibrahimović inspired Manchester United, but it is the style of play which has been the root of concern.

The Saints, noted previously for being vibrant and fun to watch, are no more and only five sides scored fewer than their 41.

Signings have been hit and miss with Manolo Gabbiadini scoring six in 11 starts. On the flip side, £16million forward Sofiane Boufal has started just 12 games. Puel looks set to lose his job this summer.

The club: 7/10

Southampton’s top brass could be forgiven for looking upon this season as a success regardless of what supporters think. A cup final place represents a step in the right direction and seventh place is on-par with recent seasons.

Yet if Puel is relieved of his duties they clearly don’t see it that way. This is the first time an appointment has not worked out, though, so they should be given a pass.

Stoke City: 5/10

Finished: 13th

After three consecutive ninth-place finishes Stoke City were looking to finally improve this season. It did not happen. Mark Hughes’ side regressed by four places – in an admittedly compact Premier League table – and the Welshman’s job is under scrutiny from Potters fans.

The £13million acquisition of Joe Allen from Liverpool was a big success but Saido Berahino, prised away from West Bromwich Albion for £12million, failed to score in 13 appearances following his January switch, contributing to Stoke’s lowly total of 41 goals.

Mark Hughes: 6/10

There is a sense of stagnation at the Bet365 Stadium under Hughes. Despite having seven fewer points the Potters scored the same number of goals as last season (41) and conceded just one more (56).

A range of just six points separate Southampton in eighth (46 points) and Watford in 17th. Last season that was an 11-point gap which should be taken into account when assessing Hughes’ season.

The club: 5/10

Stoke City will be happy enough. They are unlikely to trouble the European places without serious investment and there is little danger of them going down.

Still, a lack of progress will be of concern and it is now up to the club’s hierarchy to decide what they want to be. Stoke’s spend of £30million last season was low. Further investment is required to push the club on.

Sunderland – 3/10

Position: 20th

David Moyes warned this would happen in August. He warned in January that no addition would improve his Sunderland squad. And he was proven right. Which begs the questions why did Ellis Short stick with the Scot?

It was clear Moyes had little or no belief in his players and they were relegated with defeat at home to Bournemouth after a ten-year stay in the Premier League. Relegation had been coming even before Moyes replaced Sam Allardyce. But this was pitiful. Six wins all season and 26 defeats. Moyes called it quits on Monday.

David Moyes: 2/10

The former Manchester United and Everton boss was pessimistic from the outset. Being realistic and honest are two qualities rarely seen in football managers yet Moyes took it to the extreme and that must have rubbed off on his players.

His policy of signing Everton cast-offs – Joleon Lescott, Victor Anichebe, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar and Bryan Ovideo – did not work. In the end Sunderland will be glad to be rid of Moyes who might be out of work for some time.

The club: 2/10

Sunderland owner Short comes out of this no better than Moyes. The American did not back his manager, despite gushing about the appointment when he made it, and, to an extent, Moyes’ hands were always tied.

The club has been sliding towards the Championship since Steve Bruce was sacked and not enough has been done to halt it.

Swansea City manager Paul Clement celebrates a Premier League win over Sunderland

Swansea City – 6/10

Finished: 15th

Swansea City’s slide from finishing eighth under Garry Monk in 2015 continued and they looked doomed even after Paul Clement took over from Bob Bradley. But Clement somehow turned things around and the man famed for being Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant at Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain is quickly building a reputation of his own with this resurrection job. A run of five without defeat, including four wins, sealed survival at the death.

Paul Clement: 8/10

Appointed with 18 games to keep the Welsh side in the top flight, Clement made the ideal start by beating fellow strugglers Crystal Palace 2-1. That victory gave the Swans the bounce they needed and, despite losing their next game, they pulled clear of the bottom three only to be sucked back in eight games from the end.

Clement deserves credit for turning the ship around. January signings Tom Carroll and Marcus Olsson were key, as was bringing skipper Leon Britton back into the side at the crucial moment.

The club: 5/10

When it really mattered Swansea got it right. The appointment of Francesco Guidolin at the end of last season should only ever have been a short-term measure, underlined by the Italian’s wretched record of one win in seven before being sacked in October.

The appointment of former USA coach Bradley was a spectacular gamble which backfired. What has happened to the club which was the envy of the Premier League?

Tottenham Hotspur – 9/10

Finished: 2nd

The history books will show Chelsea won the title with a seven-point buffer. What they won’t show is that gap was down to four points and Spurs breathing heavily down the necks of Antonio Conte’s men. This was progress. It is often forgotten Spurs finished behind Arsenal last season in third. This year they have come second and will, therefore, expect to be in the title race and improve in Europe where they exited the Champions League at the group stage.

Mauricio Pochettino: 8/10

The Argentine is one of the hottest managerial properties in the Premier League. And with good reason. He has got the best out of Harry Kane and Dele Alli as well as building one a side that play some of the most attractive football in the top flight.

The one, big, blot on his copybook this season has been his signings. Club record signing Moussa Sissoko has been a huge bust at £30million while Vincent Janssen – who was always onto a loser as Kane’s understudy – has scored once from open play in the Premier League.

Spurs defender Kyle Walker js a Manchester City transfer target

The club: 8/10

The onus is on chairman Daniel Levy to keep this group together. All of the club’s biggest assets are tied to long-term deals and appear to genuinely enjoy playing in Pochettino’s side.

There has been a falling out with Kyle Walker, though, and the Manchester City transfer target looks set to leave the club this season. With a new stadium on the way everything is in place for Spurs to become a force.

Watford – 4/10

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Finished: 17th

Ninth in the Premier League with eight games to go, the Hornets spectacularly took their foot off the gas and ended up in the last spot ahead of the relegation zone.

Head coach Walter Mazzarri’s fate was sealed before the season’s finale against Manchester City. A 5-0 defeat to the Citizens, albeit without a single central defender, only poured further fuel on the fire. Survival is the number one aim at Vicarage Road but the club are ambitious and this will not do.

Walter Mazzarri: 3/10

The Italian arrived with an impressive pedigree having won the Coppa Italia at Napoli and finished a Serie A runner-up. But he was cold, stand-offish and made little effort with the supporters.

That could be forgiven with the right results but despite several highs – including wins over Manchester United and Arsenal – Watford never clicked. Reports of over-working the players and a bust-up with skipper Troy Deeney meant Mazzarri’s departure was inevitable.

The club: 6/10

Two seasons in the Premier League and two head coaches. Watford are in unchartered territory as they had never had successive seasons in the Premier League until now.

The right appointment is key to avoiding the same situation in 12 months. Whoever replaces Mazzarri – Silva, Roger Schmidt and Cesare Prandelli have been linked – will be backed but the expectation is more than survival alone.

Watford have been linked with Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelan

West Bromwich Albion – 7/10

Finished: 10th

Under Tony Pulis West Brom secured their highest Premier League finish since coming eighth under Steve Clarke in 2013. The Baggies had been as high as seventh in December and remained steadfastly in eighth until three weeks from the end of the season.

They achieved that by gradually evolving and the signing of more accomplished footballers has helped, even if the dog-of-war Pulis approach is still in tact at times. There was a noticeable drop off once Albion could no longer go down and the challenge facing Pulis now is to build on that and take the club forward.

Tony Pulis: 8/10

No-one would have fancied West Brom for a top-half finish at the start of the season and an outlay of £32million suggested there was little more ambition than staying well away from the drop zone. But Pulis’ signings have been shrewd.

Nacer Chadli, a £13million arrival from Spurs, Allan Nyom, £4million from Watford, and Matty Phillips £5.5million from Queens Park Rangers have been at the forefront of that.

The club: 7/10

West Brom continue to be a model Premier League club, building sensibly and in Pulis they have one of the league’s most canny operators. The big decision for the club now will be whether they believe the former Stoke City and Crystal Palace boss is the man to take the club to another level.

He established Stoke before quitting and lasted only a short time at Selhurst Park before walking away so there is little evidence to go on.

West Ham United – 6/10

Finished: 11th

It has been a chaotic season for West Ham United and, on that basis alone, Slaven Bilić has done well to keep everything together. A tumultuous move to the London Stadium was compounded by the team’s poor form which was exacerbated by Dimitri Payet’s acrimonious January move to Marseille.

The threat of relegation was only mild but with a 60,000 capacity stadium and an increased budget better will be expected next term – whether Bilić is in charge or not.

Slaven Bilic: 6/10

The Croatian’s recruitment has been disastrous tis season. There is no getting away from that. Strikers Simone Zaza, Jonathan Calleri and co. have failed to take the burden off of Andy Carroll and, in truth, much of the Hammers’ £71million summer spend has come up short.

However, given the ongoing backdrop of complete bedlam, not to mention speculation about his own future, Bilić has done more than enough to earn a third season at the helm.

The club: 4/10

West Ham’s owners are among the Premier League’s most vocal. Karen Brady and David Gold are omnipresent on Twitter and David Sullivan is also a regular voice on the club’s website. That has created pressure and speculation surrounding Bilić which is not constructive or helpful to anyone. At some stage something will have to give.

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