Despite the foreboding spectre of the Coronavirus, the English Premier League 2019/20 Season still managed to conclude.
It was still full of all the drama, twists and turns we have come to expect from what is undoubtedly the best league in the world.
With all said and done now, let’s take a look at all the teams in order of where they finished, analyse how they fared and give some early impressions on what the future may hold.
I’ll also mention some stats of interest to us soccer betting enthusiasts.
There is not much you can say about Liverpool that has not already been said. They came straight into the 2019/20 season the way they left the previous one, on a warpath towards Premier League glory.
While many questioned if Liverpool could keep up the pace with Man City set in the previous season, it was City that was unable to keep up with the early dominance that Liverpool put down. By the time Watford beat Liverpool back at the end of February, Liverpool had already won 26 of their 27 games up to that point. The Reds all but had their name on the trophy at that point.
It is easy to say the key to Liverpool’s success lies in Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, but the team around these men has been just as solid. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Roberston on the flanks combined to provide 25 assists between them. Very few fullback partnerships have ever had this kind of consistency or ability to lay on goals.
Liverpool are also driven by a dynamic midfield that Jurgen Klopp has put some real depth into, with the players on the bench able to perform just as well as those starting the games.
However, any Scouser will tell you the foundation of their team is built on the massive influence of Virgil van Dijk. Everything good in this team starts with van Dijk and the stats show that without a shadow of a doubt.
If Liverpool hope to duplicate their success next season, it is clear that their key men will have to stay fit and ready for them. While Liverpool are an incredible side, there have been times when they have looked flat when missing or resting just 1 or 2 of their key players. The reliance on the partnerships and interplay in the team is both Liverpool’s greatest strength and their greatest weakness should one too many injuries start to plague them.
There are reports of quite a few players being slated to leave Liverpool soon, so their depth in the squad may suffer a bit over a long season challenging domestically and in Europe. It remains to be seen if Liverpool will jump to drastically strengthen their side for next season because of this.
To their credit, they do have a relatively young squad with some up-and-comers that could certainly go on to challenge for many more titles if Klopp keeps his formula just right.
2nd (Qualified for Champions League): Manchester City
On paper, City were the best team this season.
It is hard to pinpoint City’s exact faults, but it does seem to be down to patches of complacency and the need for a change of personnel to refresh their squad and unique style of play. Pep Guardiola held up his hands on many occasions to say he was the one that got things wrong, but it was particularly apparent in many of the games that the team just was not executing his game plan at all.
City uncharacteristically gave up points to Norwich, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Southampton. Most damning of all though was City losing both games in the league to Manchester United and Wolves, while drawing and losing to Spurs. The losses to these teams point to City having a lot of trouble with well-drilled teams who come in with a tactical game plan, pace to burn in attack and the ability to stop City’s fluid play.
Stones also does not look to be the finished article in the centre of defence for them, which is a worry when the more consistent Laporte is having so many injury issues.
With David Silva retiring, Aguero now 32 and Fernandinho reaching 35, City certainly need to recruit some real talent to replace these great players. Pep will be hard-pressed to do so though, with world-class talent in short supply and not at all reasonably priced at the moment.
City seem to have secured the services of Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake for a decent sum, but they now have 2 left-footed centrebacks with him and Laporte. While 2 right-footed centrebacks is a very common thing, almost no teams have 2 left-footed players, leaving some speculation as to how this will fit together.
City does still possess some great talent that they can still mould into high-level players, with Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden likely to lead the attack for a fair few years. The immense quality of Kevin de Bruyne is not to be overlooked as well, providing a ridiculous 20 assists this season with his laser-like passing.
The blue half of Manchester will no doubt be back to challenge next season. It remains to be seen if Pep will dip deep into the club pockets to bring in talent in all the areas of the pitch, or if he will train his charges even harder to get into his style of play so they try and keep pace with Liverpool once again.
3rd (Qualified for Champions League): Manchester United
The TV pundits often engage in many a back-and-forth argument about whether one world-class player is enough to change the fortunes of a team. The arrival of Bruno Fernandes at United is proof positive that the phenomenon is not just speculation.
United started the season struggling to assert themselves in games. They faired quite well against the top sides, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proving he has some undisputable tactical ability to outfox the bigger sides. On the other end, they dropped a massive amount of points against sides they really should have had the beating of.
He also brought to life an attacking force that has shown so much promise in recent years but has not been able to deliver. The front 3 of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood look like absolute terrors with Fernandes feeding them. The sky is the limit for the number of goals they could score together in a full season with the Portuguese maestro.
United’s problem though is the same as City’s, in that they do not have a truly convincing defence. Despite playing every game for United this season, Harry Maguire has not provided the kind of solidity you see in van Dijk.
In his defence, he has also not had a settled partner that seems to compliment him. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailey do not seem to be what United are looking for in a defender, leaving Solskjaer with a real conundrum at the back. He is on the hunt for a left-footed centreback to allow Maguire to play on his more natural right side of the defence, so perhaps finding the appropriate man for that job could see United grow in that area.
David de Gea has not looked all that solid for United either, making some casual mistakes at the back. He should be wary that the man gunning for his place, Dean Henderson, kept the same amount of clean sheets as him this season (13) in a much less fancied Sheffield United side.
United also still have yet to solve the Pogba enigma. How exactly do you get the best out of a man who is supposed to be one of the best midfielders in the world? To be fair to him, he has not seen a lot of football this season. It would be wise to give him time and see what kind of partnership he strikes up with Fernandes. The pairing these 2 could potentially make could set United up to be a real force in Europe.
There is a lot to like about this United side and they could be up there next season if they can address their issues. They have the added benefit of players like Fred, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, etc all putting their hands up when being called upon, so the squad looks to be a bit deeper than was initially thought. One of the keys to success for United under Sir Alex Ferguson was always having good depth in the squad for a long campaign.
It is clear that United are on the cusp of something here, but what is not clear is if they need more signings to make that happen or if they need to dip further into an academy that seems to be producing solid gold for them at the moment.
Many reports from those in the know suggest that United are keeping quiet about the true depth they have in their academy. They already may have some youngsters who are ready to take over in multiple positions just as Greenwood and Rashford have done.
Signing Jadon Sancho may or may not take this side to the next level, but I feel the money will be far better spent on putting some steel into the defence.
4th (Qualified for Champions League): Chelsea
A lot of credit must go to Frank Lampard for guiding this Chelsea side to a 4th place finish, as well as booking themselves an FA Cup final. They will no doubt be disappointed in losing the FA Cup final. They were bitterly unlucky to get 2 early injuries to key players that made them change their shape, as well as a sending off for 2 soft yellow cards that should not have been given.
Many pundits wrote off Chelsea this season due to having Lampard at the wheel. Despite all that negativity, he has proved that he is a shrewd manager that can get some good performances out of his side.
It is clear though that Lampard still has a lot of work to do with this side if Chelsea want to be challenging for anything except a top 4 finish again next season. Signing Timo Werner was certainly a step in the right direction, as Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud are not as lethal as you like your strikers to be at his high level. With Willian and Pedro likely on the move soon, Chelsea will be back to the drawing board on how their attack will look come next season.
With non-stop reports of Lampard’s displeasure with current keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea will likely be in the market for a new keeper as well. They will have to find someone extremely solid though, as their defence has been more than generous on quite a few occasions this season. Their defenders are in their early to mid-twenties, so they will need a solid hand behind them to marshall affairs and give Chelsea the kind of organisation they are looking for.
Chelsea have some exciting young talent at their disposal, with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Billy Gilmour, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount to name just a few starting to find their feet in the Premier League. Lampard though will have to prove that he is the man to mould these youngsters into a formidable squad. We all know that Roman Abramovic will wield the axe rather quickly if he feels a manager is not moving his club in the right direction.
If there is one thing that may cost Lampard, it will be his side’s performances in next season’s Champions League, having been eliminated by Bayern Munich this year.
Lampard does seem to have what it takes to manage at this level. He is not simply resting on his laurels as one of the Premier League’s all-time greats, but he often sets up his side to directly take on the likes of Liverpool and City (with varying results, of course!). With an uncle like Harry Redknapp though, managing should be in his blood and it will be quite interesting to see how Chelsea fair next season.
5th (Qualified for Europa League): Leicester City
After finishing 9th in the Premier League in the 2018/19 season, selling some of their key players and with Jamie Vardy far from his goal-scoring best, many pundits prophecised the inevitable decline of Leicester. Brendan Rodgers had a massive challenge ahead of him to turn this club around, but it was one he rose to admirably.
Leicester returned to the kind of hit-and-run football that saw them have so much success in this league not so long ago. Vardy looked a new man and got himself this season’s Golden Boot for his 23 league goals. Rodgers quickly found what worked for this side and stuck to it admirably, but with admittedly diminishing results.
Rodgers should be heartened though by the fact that he has so much young, promising talent at his disposal. Ben Chilwell, Çağlar Söyüncü, James Maddison, Demarai Gray, Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes look to be some real players for the future. He will have a hard time keeping them at the club though, with many of the top sides having these players on their radars to strengthen for the new season.
Rodgers is a shrewd manager that does have a good eye for bargain players when he sees them. He will need to draw on this skill if he wants to strengthen for next season, as it does not look like too many funds will be coming his way. Reports say that he will have to sell if he wants to buy, so he will have to be very careful about balancing his books as well as the talent he hopes to field.
If Leicester can manage to hang onto their talent and bring in some stalwarts to help out next season, they can certainly challenge again for Champions League football as they did this year. However, if they cannot hold onto key personnel this time around, they may find themselves slowly bled of talent like Southampton have been for many seasons and slip down the table again.
6th (Qualified for Europa League): Tottenham Hotspur
Sacking a manager that has brought a large amount of success to your club is never an easy decision. Daniel Levy was left with little choice though with Spurs sitting in 14th after 12 games, Mauricio Pochettino seemingly having lost the dressing room and the prospect of a stadium that cost the club around £850 million having no European football at it. As much as you can argue with giving him a bit more time for what he has done for the club, there is little patience left in modern football and results are always king.
Spurs early season under Pochettino was just dismal, with his side looking like the shadow of the team that reached a Champions League final. Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min were not their usual lethal selves. Christian Eriksen did not look at all like the player both Real Madrid and Barcelona were gunning for. The defence was also at sixes and sevens in most games thanks to an unusually quiet Hugo Lloris not marshalling his defence as in seasons past.
The problem with Mourinho these days though, as any avid follower of football can tell you, is that things go wrong for him at his clubs rather abruptly. Bust ups, public admonishings and locker room revolts are par for the course at a Mourinho run club for a while now. So you can understand the trepidation that Spurs fans have when they consider the long-term prospects of their club.
Spurs have been efficient under Mourinho, but have not sparkled as you would expect of a team that has European prospects. Of great concern will be that Harry Kane only bettered his goal-scoring tally of last season by one, getting 18 goals in 29 games for Spurs. A far cry from the 30 in 37 appearances in the 2017/18 season. With Kane himself admitting he wants to win trophies with a team, his prospects may lay elsewhere and leave Spurs with a massive hole in the goal-scoring department.
Spurs fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that Mourinho has finally settled down and is going to move his managerial style into this decade. He was called the Special One for a reason and his credentials are undeniable. However, high-profile failures and revolts at Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United in succession put big question marks on whether Spurs have the right man in charge of a long-term project.
7th: Wolverhampton Wanderers
A lot of people have been saying that Wolves have had a disappointing season by missing out on a European qualifying spot. I happen to think that Nuno Espirito Santo has done a fantastic job at this club and that 7th place in any season of the Premier League for a club like Wolves is an achievement that merits consideration for Manager of the Year.
For a team that has only been in the Premier League for 2 seasons now, Wolves are a side that I am sure many fans see on their team’s fixture list and start to get worried about. They are a great example of a manager coming in with a clear vision of how he wants his side to play, finding exactly the right kind of players to play in that system and using the right tactics on a game-by-game basis.
Boasting some of the Portuguese national side’s best talent in Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Pedro Neto and Diego Jota, Nuno is working with what he knows best and understands how to get results from his fellow countrymen. Add to that the attacking talents of Raul Jiminez and Adama Traore, and you have a side that is hardworking and able to get goals out of lightning-quick counterattacks.
Wolves biggest issue, like many of the Premier League clubs just below the top sides, is that their talent has been well scouted by the bigger teams and they will always face a battle to keep a hold of them. Losing out on European football exacerbates that issue, with a lot of the players brought there on the premise that Wolves could maintain their Europa League status.
Nuno has guided his side to 2 consecutive 7th placed finishes and got more points this season than he did last season, so I do not see any need for Wolves supporters to be panicking any time soon. They beat City twice in the league this season, as well as nicked many a point from the teams in and around them.
As long as the players keep up that excellent work rate and follow Nuno’s well thought out tactics, this Wolves side could go on to be a thorn in the side of many Premier League teams for years to come.
8th (Qualified for Europa League): Arsenal
It has got to be a rather difficult time to be an Arsenal supporter. They are a side that can boast some fantastic talent and forward, but the organisation around them has left a lot to be desired.
To be fair to Mikel Arteta, he is trying to pick up the pieces of an extremely scattered puzzle that have not fallen in place since Arsene Wenger retired. Arsenal fans may have lost patience with Wenger towards the end, but the man did keep them in Europe and win trophies for over 20 seasons. This impatience was no help to Unai Emery after him, as he was simply not given enough time to spark a decent rebuild that should have been done under Wenger already.
It is no secret that for quite a few seasons Arsenal have been growing softer and softer in defence. Wenger did little to remedy this, always preferring to spend the big money on his attack and midfield. Signing defenders has always felt like an afterthought at Arsenal and it has come out to haunt them more than once this season.
David Luiz is the prime example of a player that is simply not good enough for the level Arsenal want to be at, but Arteta has no choice but to play him as they are pressed for choice and he earns about £120,000 a week.
Arsenal has been characterised in recent seasons by consistently falling into the trap of not doing their proper homework on the players they sign. While they have had hits with Aubameyang, Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno, they have also fallen for completely overpriced players that have failed to deliver like Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Hendrick Mkhitaryan, to name a few. At this stage, they would be better off firing their scouts than another manager.
You can see the indecisiveness of Arteta as well about who to play a the back, with only David Luiz and Sead Kolašinac playing over 20 games in the defence for Arsenal. There was a lot of chopping and changing to try and find the right partnerships, but I do not think that Arteta is any closer to figuring that out.
Arteta will need to be extremely decisive about how to take Arsenal forward from here. He faces basically the same challenges that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did when he took over at United. Solskjaer though managed to win over the players and get the guys everyone wrote off playing remarkably well.
With all the stories coming out of how the Arsenal players behave during games and behind closed doors, Arteta will need to swing the axe decisively and sell off the deadweight to get in some decent, hard-working players who will be there for the club and not the wages.
Another thing that Arsenal will want to copy from United is using the up-and-coming academy players to fill in the cracks in their squad. Wenger may be gone, but the Arsenal academy is still reportedly stocked to the brim with some talent that many clubs would love to get their hands on.
Arteta could save the club millions by blooding these youngsters during this difficult period and letting them grow into the pace of the Premier League. Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson look to be some real diamonds in the rough that could shine with some proper development.
One thing is for sure, and that is that Arteta has his work cut out for him. The fans are not happy with him, but it is not like world-class managers are just floating out there at the moment. Nor are they exactly jumping to be at Arsenal.
He at least delivered them European football and a trophy with a win over Chelsea in the FA Cup. That should help to ease the disappointment of finishing 8th and having to get into Europe the hard way. The board will have to back him and see what he can do, but I suspect Arteta will be allowed few wrong steps before he sees the door.
9th: Sheffield United
Chris Wilder deserves all the plaudits he is getting for his job at Sheffield United this season. For a team that everyone wrote off as prime candidates for immediate relegation back to the Championship, they turned out to be one of the best defensive units in the league and masters of breaking up their opponent’s play. You do not always need a ton of goals to get you high up on the log and Sheffield United proved just that.
They are a side set up to play out of a rigid defence, launching the ball forward to their bullies in the box who jostled the opposition’s defence to nab their crucial goals.
Sheffield will need to be careful about that though, as the Premier League sides will be working on a way to neutralise that kind of one-dimensional play next season. It is quite reminiscent of when Stoke City were promoted to the Premier League under Tony Pulis. They would come at you from every set piece, including the speciality throw-ins from cult hero Rory Delap. However, once Stoke were found out, they quickly fell down and then out of the league.
Wilder has shown that he is a good bargain hunter, picking up Sander Berge & Oliver McBurnie at great prices for the excellent service they have provided to the team. While no one really stood out or even scored more than 10 goals this season, every man in the squad pulled his weight in the side when called upon and they were all exceptionally hard-working.
There is not always a huge need for a side to get world-class players in to help finish high up on the table. Sometimes all you need is a squad of men with the right attitude and a willingness to do the hard work that is asked of them.
Wilder’s main concern for the coming season is in goal. Their big star this season has undoubtedly been goalie Dean Henderson. A man who is still adamant to claim the number 1 spot at Manchester United from David de Gea. Should United make a big decision on de Gea this transfer window, Henderson could be called back to take his chance. Leaving Sheffield with a big hole in their water-tight defence is going to be a real headache, as good goalkeepers are hard to find.
It is going to take some more shrewd business from Wilder to bulk out his squad for another season in the top flight. Word has it they are eyeing a few players from the teams that have been relegated, but it is usually the top sides that pick them clean first for decent back-ups before teams like Sheffield can even get a look in.
Wilder will have have to show he and his side are the real deal to beat that “Second Season Syndrome”, or Sheffield may just find themselves not battling for Europe anymore, but for a place to stay in the league.
It is no coincidence that Sheffield United and Burnley finished up on the same amount of points. They are similar teams with really pragmatic managers at the helm. Sean Dyche even shares Chris Wilder’s love for the long ball, with Burnley being the team behind Sheffield in the long ball stats (2,698). These sides both love to pump that ball up to the front and use their physicality to get stuck into their opponents to win it.
Burnley though are bit laxer defensively, letting in 50 goals to Sheffield’s 39. They do have an excellent target man up the field though in serial offside offender Chris Woods. He bagged them 14 goals in the league this season, which is not a bad return at all for a player in a mid table side. He was very well partnered by the tricky Jay Rodriguez, who Sean Dyche managed to snap up for dirt cheap from West Brom.
Burnley are just one of those sides that you know will sit back in their half when they don’t have the ball, but then charge upfield when they get it back and force their opponent into making mistakes by constantly harassing them. It may not be the prettiest football in the world, but it has been more than effective in keeping Burnley in the Premier League under Dyche for 4 seasons now. Organisation and high work rate can very often trump multi-million-pound players.
While it is not the end of the world by any means, it can develop into an issue when the injury layoffs for players in their 30s is a bit longer than the younger guys. It is also an issue when you see teams now loading up their sides with speedy wingers to exploit any lack of pace in their opponents.
Dyche is reportedly looking to sign some more all-round players when he dips into the transfer market for next season. This presents a challenge in that the kind of players who have more well-rounded skills tend to be a lot pricier than the ones that simply excel in the long-ball strategies that Burnley have played with up till now. Burnley are not a club that can win many bidding wars at the moment, so he will have to hunt around for some good bargains.
The eyes of the big teams are also now locked on arguably Burnley’s best players, centreback James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Nick Pope. Tarkowski played in every minute of every game for Burnley this season, providing a huge presence at the back for this workman-like team. Pope kept 15 clean sheets this season, the 2nd most in the league, and was very impressive in one-on-one situations. Burnely will need to keep hold of them if they want to continue their steady progression into being a well-established Premier League side that keeps far away from the relegation scrap each season.
Southampton were having a middling season up until the Coronavirus break happened. They were 14th with 34 points and looked happy enough to be on course to avoid any relegation scrap.
That final run-in was the kind of form that many expected the Saints to be in when Ralph Hasenhüttl became their manager in the 2018/19 season. He came from Germany with a big reputation for having a good attacking flair to his teams. It has been a struggle though for him to get that going at times. The Saints did finally start to show that kind of promise during the run-in. They even managed to beat Manchester City and draw with Manchester United, the only 2 teams that did better than them in those final 9 games.
Is this then the turning point for the Saints to start moving up the table once more? It is quite a bit early to say that for sure, but Hasenhüttl can certainly take pride in how his players have finally grown into his tactics.
Of particular note can be the form of forgotten Liverpool man Danny Ings. A perennial benchwarmer for the Reds, he managed to hit a rich vein of form this season for the Saints and finished joint 2nd on the goal-scorers chart with 22. It is a real feel-good story for a player that suffered so much disappointment after being signed to great fanfare back in 2015. He suffered 2 nightmare injuries and played only 39 games over the next 3 seasons before being offered a lifeline with the Saints. One that he has duly taken with both hands.
The Saints have some real quality in and amongst their squad. James Ward-Prowse, in particular, is a real engine in the midfield for this team. He played in every game for the Saints this season and is their designated set-piece taker, a job which he does quite well indeed. Nathan Redmond is a combative player that helps the Saints get a good foothold in the midfield. His tireless running and battling on and off the ball is so essential to the success of this side.
The Saints have a squad that is capable enough to remain in the Premier League next season, but a lot more hard work will be needed to give them a greater degree of consistency in their results over all of the 38 games.
There are also only 6 recognised defenders in their squad, so they will have to put some investment towards creating some depth in that department so they do not need so many goals to bail them out of games.
While one half of Merseyside is celebrating, the other half has had to endure Everton’s worst league finish in 13 years. Despite being managed by one of the best managers in the game, Carlo Ancelotti, Everton have looked completely out of ideas this season and have none of the steel from their glory years under David Moyes. Teams used to fear a trip to Goodison Park because they knew they were in for a bruising afternoon. Now it seems they eye it up as a very possible 3 pointer.
You just have to scratch your head and wonder how exactly this Everton side is so far down the table. Richarlison is being courted by all the top clubs across Europe. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is growing into a fine striker and looks destined to be up in the goals for years to come.
It is going to be so difficult for Ancelotti to pull this team together. Especially given that many teams will now take Everton’s lowly finish as an opportunity to try and poach some of their best talents. You cannot exactly keep a player like Richarlison when he is being courted by a side like Barcelona and all you have to offer him is 12th place in the league.
When players have their heads turned by big-money moves to the big names in the game we often start to see them drop off in form to a large degree. That is something that Ancelotti can ill-afford during his rebuild of the club.
This finish will also likely tarnish Everton’s proposed plans for a massive stadium development in Liverpool’s port area. This is a literal £1 billion investment proposal for the city and club in terms of jobs and infrastructure. This could all be for nought if Everton cannot provide even Europa League football there. The pressure is on in a big way for Everton to deliver.
All that being said, Everton could have far worse managers at the helm for this project. Ancelotti has managed the top teams in England, Germany, France, Spain & his native Italy. He has won trophies at every club he has been at (a bit easier to do at Juventus, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich admittedly) and is well aware of what it takes to be a successful side on the continent. Everton will simply have to back this man to the hilt and give him what he needs to build a team he can move forward with.
Of all the teams in the league, Everton probably have the biggest challenge of all to get where they want to be. There are many teams in the Premier League now that are already well set up to occupy the European spots, making it seemingly impossible for Everton as they now to try and crack that upper echelon.
Even if we exclude the top 4 from the equation, Everton will have to outperform Leicester, Tottenham, Wolves & Arsenal across a season to claim a spot in Europe. That is a huge ask and Everton will have to hit the ground running next season if they hope to meet that target. And if Ancelotti hopes to keep his job.
13th: Newcastle United
It’s not often you can say that a team is lucky to finish 13th in the Premier League, but, all things considered, Newcastle should be very happy to still be in this league.
Newcastle’s main issues stem not from their manager Steve Bruce, who did do a fine job with the side he had to work with. Nor is it with the players, who, if we are honest here, are mostly players that are out of their element. Newcastle’s main issue lies with their wheeling-dealing owner Mike Ashley. The man is no stranger to controversy and is well known for his tendency to use his companies to quietly line his own pockets at their own expense.
Newcastle fans have been at loggerheads with Ashley ever since his takeover back in 2007 started to turn sour. Manager after manager complained that there was always interference in the financial aspects of the club.
While Newcastle may have splashed around £40 million on striker Joelinton as a statement of intent, they were seriously stitched up on this deal as he managed a grand total of 2 goals in return. He, Miguel Almiron, Yoshinori Muto, to name a few, are simply not players of the standard you need to excel in this league.
They even had to resort to getting Andy Carrol in on a free transfer with fat wages, but he contributed no goals to the cause either. Their best player is arguably Jonjo Shelvey, who is always at his best when paired with a manager that allows him to be as combative as he likes.
Steve Bruce is an experienced manager who is more than capable of setting a team up to be well-organised and difficult to break down. He did just that with this Newcastle side and they had some decent successes. However, they were also found out on many occasions and unfortunately had no answer to it.
Newcastle would honestly have been better off if Ashley had just given into Rafa Benitez’s demands for a bigger transfer budget. This is no slight on Bruce, but Benetiz is a world-class manager who would have taken this Newcastle side to a higher level.
The one positive aspect for Newcastle is the exciting talent that is Allan Saint-Maximim. This is a raw talent with pace to burn that could be moulded into an excellent winger. He will need a stern hand though to curb his attitude and bad habits, as he is prone to one trick too many that ends up losing his team the ball in favourable attacks. When you’re a team that does not defend particularly well, gifting the ball back to your opponents regularly is not a good policy.
With Newcastle’s proposed takeover by a Saudi company now completely halted thanks to legal action, things are looking dim for this great club. They have a wonderful group of supporters who always pack that stadium and it will be a great shame if they are let down by a man who does not want to put any money back into a club that desperately needs it.
Newcastle need results to save them now and keep them from the dog fight that is the Championship, so let us hope Brucie can keep them hanging in there until some resolution is found.
14th: Crystal Palace
After 7 consecutive losses in their final 8 games of the season, Crystal Palace can count their blessings that they were able to pick up enough points before the Coronovirus break to give them enough of a cushion to survive.
Palace had done decently before the Coronavirus break, sitting in 11th and looking like finishing the season decently. Their run-in though was always going to be difficult with Liverpool, Burnley, Leicester, Chelsea, United, Wolves and Spurs all in the final 8 games for them. Only being able to pick up 1 point off Spurs from all those games was a fairly dismal outcome that no one at the club would have hoped for.
Roy Hodgson is a decent manager that is well-liked. He has had some troubles at clubs, most noticeably in his brief (but profitable) stint at Liverpool, but he is still well respected after having managed some good teams in 8 different countries and some national sides, including England. He is arguably at his best at smaller teams where he does not need to set up a fancy style of football to please the fans. He can set up teams to be competent if given the chance to find the right sort of players.
He was not given that chance this season at all. After selling Wan-Bissaka for over £50 million, one would assume he would be given some funds to strengthen a bit.
Palace have some decent players in the side. Men who have been plying their trade at this level for some time, so you can expect them to be reliable when called upon. The only real stand out player among them though is Wilfried Zaha.
Zaha has been attracting a fair bit of interest with his play, leaving Palace with a big problem should he be swooped up by another side. Considering the lack of investment, Palace would be in a lot of trouble if they did not spend wisely after that. Their attack without Zaha would consist of an inconsistent and foul-prone Jordan Ayew, and a Christian Benteke that is nowhere near the player Liverpool splashed a ton of cash on.
Palace is starting to look a bit one-dimensional now. The opposition knows what to expect because Hodgson has a certain style and shape that he favours and because they know what the Palace team sheet will be well ahead of time with little variety in the squad.
The lack of investment can easily catch up to Palace next season if they do not get a few steady hands in to keep things afloat. Hodgson can still do a good job for them, so he should certainly be backed and allowed to build up his squad to try and push a bit further up the table.
Palace though will have a battle on their hands to keep their talent at the club. So many sides are looking to strengthen for the upcoming season and under-performing clubs like Palace are prime targets for them to poach players from.
15th: Brighton & Hove Albion
It may be quite harsh to say of them, but I really would rather watch paint dry than watch a match with Brighton playing. You know exactly what you’re going to get from this Brighton side every single game.
Sitting back, niggling the opposition all game, plenty of fouls and always trying to get a set-piece opportunity for a goal. It is Championship football at its finest being played in the Premier League. While not the worst team in the league (there were somehow 5 worse), their brand of football is not going to win them many fans. Nor will it keep them up for too long.
Manager Graham Potter had his first season in charge of Brighton after taking over from the well respected Chris Hughton. This is Potter’s first season managing in the top flight, so it will have been a good learning curve. That being said, he did not show much that suggested he changed much at all at Brighton.
They took just barely more than a point a game. Which will keep you in the Premier League nine times out of ten, but it is not going to garner you any favour when you want to sign players looking for a team heading in the right direction.
I honestly do not know why they got rid of Hughton in the first place. He is a very good manager who was drummed out of Newcastle not so long ago under similar circumstances when he did not put a foot wrong. Hughton was let go because the board did not want to back the amount he wanted for signings, stating he had spent nearly £70 million the previous season with little improvement. Which, in footballing terms, is fair enough. But then to turn around and give the inexperienced Potter nearly £80 million to sign players is a mind-boggling decision.
Brighton’s squad is just made up of journeymen, guys who have plied their trade at a variety of clubs and can bring some experience to the side. The main issue for Brighton though is that all but one of the men Potter bought for this season is a dyed-in-the-wool Championship player.
Leandro Trossard at least played in the top flight of Belgium for Genk. Neal Maupay looks to be a decent sort for a team at Brighton’s level, bringing in a vital 10 goals for them. However, the rest of them do not look at home in the Premier League and seem to be the kind of players you leave behind when you get promoted from the Championship.
The other teams still in the league have experienced managers who are drilling their squad to play Premier League-level football and challenge for higher places. An insistence on buying Championship players to try and play Championship football because that’s what you know best is not going to keep you in the Premier League.
It is not every season where three terrible teams get promoted, so Brighton’s luck is bound to run out. It is just the way of things in the top flight that seemingly established teams that have been in the Premier League for many seasons will, unfortunately, get relegated from time to time. That could well be Brighton if things do not change next season.
16th: West Ham United
Almost every season the Premier League has a team that everyone looks at and says “That’s such a good team, how are they all the way down there?”
West Ham is that team this season without a shadow of a doubt. West Ham’s story this season is one of two halves, as they changed managers 19 games into the season.
Starting the season with the experienced Manuel Pellegrini as their manager and having spent a sizeable £120 million in the transfer market, one would assume that West Ham were ready to take themselves to the next level in the league.
However, sitting 17th in the league after 19 games with just 19 points, their 9th loss in 12 games spelt the end for the previously Premier League-winning manager. It was a hard decision, but football is all about the results and the managers will always get the axe when the teams do not perform.
Enter David Moyes. A man that West Ham had drummed out to put Pellegrini in charge despite him saving them from relegation just the season before. As many followers of football will know, Moyes has not had the best of times since leaving his post at Everton back in 2013.
Moyes did seem to steady the ship a bit for West Ham, but his side still only took 20 points from 19 games. He did not even really sure up the defence as many had thought he would. He only managed to squeeze a few more goals out of his side to better their goal difference.
Looking at the two halves as compared to each other, David Moyes did not do all that much in the end. Certainly, he did help to save them from what could have been an even worse fight for relegation. However, one has to wonder if Pellegrini could not have perhaps pulled it off himself if given a little more time.
There is still some decent talent in this West Ham side. Sebastian Haller was signed from Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to his excellent performances in the Bundesliga, but he just did not manage to recreate it for West Ham.
Declan Rice is already an England national player at 21 and has a bright future ahead of him. Andrii Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson, Marco Antonio and Mark Noble are all good players that can impact games. They even have Jack Wilshere, who can be a great boon to them if they can keep him fit. There has to be a way to get this good batch of players to start turning out results because they are not as bad as this season would suggest.
West Ham do have the potential to pull themselves a lot further up the table. I would question though if Moyes is the man that can help them do that. His Everton side was an iron wall that ruined many of the top team’s seasons. However, he has not been able to replicate that success since leaving Merseyside. A worrying sign for a manager who we all know can be so good.
But if not Moyes, then who? Excellent managers are in short supply at the moment. But I do feel that there is enough to work with at West Ham to take them towards the top half of the table.
17th: Aston Villa
Dean Smith had better go get himself a Lotto ticket. When you stay in the Premier League after getting 35 points, you have to know that your luck is in. Villa scraped themselves through this season by the narrowest of margins, with 8 points in their final 4 games saving them from the drop.
Smith, much like Potter at Brighton, was having his first season in charge of a club at the top flight. A fact that makes you have to seriously question Villa’s decision to give an inexperienced manager like Smith around £160 million to spend on transfers. There are managers in the top 10 teams that would bite your hand off for a purse like that, nevermind at a newly promoted club.
Despite finishing so low, Villa does have some quality players in their ranks. Douglas Luiz and Trézéguet provide some real lightning pace for Villa in the counterattacks. Their final balls though are lacking at the moment. Wesley up front looks to be a good find but needs a lot of work if he is to develop into a proper Premier League forward.
Tyronne Mings has been big for their defence, despite Villa letting in the second-most goals this season (67). You can just imagine how many they would have shipped without him there.
Jack Grealish though is the man that has been in the headlines all season for his links to Manchester United. He was the most fouled player this season (140 times), but for good reason.
Although Villa did not get relegated, there is still a high chance that they will get raided for players from the bigger teams. The Grealish deal to United has always just been speculation, but they may end up settling for him if they cannot get their number one targets. Mings as well has caught the eye of more than a few sides trying to plug the holes in their leaky defences. Once a team starts losing its best players like these two, it can spark a bigger exodus when the other players feel a lack of ambition at the club.
The club may well stick with Smith until things start looking dire again, but I feel they would be better off with a more experienced manager in control to find what this team needs.
18th (Relegated): Bournemouth
Of the three teams that have been relegated, I’m the most disappointed to see Bournemouth go down. They came into the league with positive, attacking play and stuck to their guns to the very end.
Eddie Howe is a fantastic manager, and I do sincerely hope that Bournemouth sticks with him in the Championship. His style of play is always forward-thinking and has never strayed towards the negative, even when his side was getting a fair old thrashing for it.
It is no wonder that at one time Arsenal were seriously considering him as the man to bring back the old Gunners’ attacking style. Things simply did not come together for him this season, and it is sad to see the Bournemouth dream come to an end.
The chief problem for Howe in his time in the Premier League has been a poor recruitment policy. Whether it is down to his scouts not finding the right kind of player for him, or just himself getting a bit anxious to find top players at a good price to remain competitive in the league, there have been a lot of misses signed to the club.
On the other side of the coin, Bournemouth have also been guilty of letting some of their best players go to be replaced by some of those flops. Tyrone Mings, Lys Mousset and Matt Ritchie, to name a few, were all players that fit in so well to Bournemouth’s style of play, but have been allowed to leave. Not to top teams though, but to teams in and around Bournemouth on the table.
Bournemouth will now have to prepare for life in the Championship, which is a very hostile and hotly competitive league.
If they have any hope to come straight back up, it is going to be a case of hanging onto their best players as opposed to throwing money into getting more players. Bournemouth have some decent players that could well compete at this Championship level. They would be wise to allow Howe to decide who is not pulling their weight and sell them on to trim this squad down for a promotion push.
It would be nice to see Bournemouth come straight back into the Premier League, a little wiser for the experience and a lot more trimmed down. That is a rare occurrence though that not too many teams can achieve when they get into that dog fight that is the Championship.
With so many teams eyeing the big money and plaudits that come with being in the top flight, everyone battles it out for the top 6 spots in the league till the bitter end. If Howe can find his team formula again though, you can bet Bournemouth will be one of them.
19th (Relegated): Watford
When you change managers three times in a season, there is nothing in store for you but relegation.
Javi Gracia did a perfectly fine job with Watford. They had finished 11th in the 2018/19 season, a more than respectable finish for a team like Watford. They even seemed to have a decent amount of solid players about the team. It was a great shock when they fired Gracia after just 4 games of the season. They had lost 3 and drawn 1, not a great return to be sure, but certainly not something they could not recover from with 34 games left to go.
In came Quique Sanchez Flores, a man who had relative success with Watford in his first stint. He even managed a Manager of the Month award and an FA Cup semi-final during his time there but was quite unfairly let go just for a 13th place finish. Watford seemingly had some loftier ambitions. His second stint did not go as well at all. With 2 wins from his 12 games, Watford once again tried to hit the reset button by letting Flores go once more.
Nigel Pearson then took the reigns. Pearson has a good reputation as a man who can turn around a club quick and get positive results on and off the pitch. He did just this during his 22 games with Watford, earning them 7 wins and 5 draws. He even presided over a very impressive 3-0 win over Liverpool which handed the Reds their first defeat of the season.
The writing was already on the wall though and there was not much Pearson could do, leaving the club 2 games before the end with the final games against Manchester City and Arsenal not likely to garner his side any points.
Troy Deeney, in particular, is a bruising, in-your-face kind of player that can excel in the much more physical meta game of the Championship. Their more creative players like Gerard Deulofeu and Will Hughes could suffer though as they are a bit on the smaller side. An injury-prone player like Danny Welbeck will also not be relishing a season in the Championship, as trips to places like Millwall’s Den are more likely to get you bumps and bruises than points.
Watford have some useful players, but they are not as likely as some of the other teams to get raided for them thanks to the poor performances most of them put in this season. Ismaïla Sarr looks to be the pick of the bunch thanks to his great pace and raw ability. It remains to be seen though what team may have an interest in him. Watford could well hold onto some of their better players and challenge in the Championship next season, but I don’t feel they will be back in the Premier League for some time.
20th (Relegated): Norwich City
That win against Manchester City back in September seems like an entire lifetime ago now. Norwich were looking good and Teemu Pukki was looking like the bargain striker that fantasy teams were going to need to put in as soon as possible. However, it all collapsed as quickly as it started.
The early warning sign that Norwich was not going to have a good season was when they only ended up putting around £8 million into strengthening their squad.
While it is not mandatory (or advisable) to pour large funds into buying players, it is good common sense when you have just been promoted and you only have Championship-level players in your side. Daniel Farke decided to roll the dice and go with the players that brought him to the ball, but that has proved to be a fateful decision.
Looking through this Norwich squad, there are not many names that jump out as someone that a team would be looking to poach. Max Aarons is a very young talent that a lot of teams are looking at at the moment. Strong and athletic, he has the physical attributes to have what it takes to play at the top level. He will need to work on the technical aspects of his game as he was exposed all too often this season.
Todd Cantwell is another youngster that could come good with some decent coaching behind him. He has some tricky footwork and a wicked right-foot shot on him. He needs to work on his decision making as he often tried to fruitlessly take on his man when he had a teammate in a better position to receive the ball.
Norwich can be a team that keeps themselves up the table in the Championship if they hang onto their players. It would seem that is where Farke may be a bit more comfortable managing until he gets some more experience under his belt. The step up to the Premier League is never easy for a young manager, but the experience will have to serve him well if he is to grow. Being on a hiding to nothing in the Premier League is never fun, but someone has to hold the wooden spoon every season.
In football, you just have to dust yourself off and keep looking ahead at the next match. The bitter taste of relegation in this fashion can be debilitating to a side, but professionals can often refocus themselves to their next challenge.
Norwich will have to do just that if they are to try and get themselves back up to the top level. It does look like they will need something special to do that though. Let us hope they put a bit more investment into trying to get into the Premier League than they did to stay in it.