PREMIER LEAGUE REPORT CARDS: Title rivals City and Liverpool top the class, United AREN’T the only established side deserving a ‘D’ and Spurs and Newcastle turn it around in Part 2 of our ratings
- The Premier League season reached a thrilling conclusion on Sunday afternoon
- Manchester City pipped Liverpool to the title by the most slender of margins
- Both clubs continue to play almost perfectly in English football’s top rivalry
- Manchester United endured a calamitous season and are at their lowest ebb
- Tottenham surged back under Antonio Conte while West Ham take positives
- Norwich and Watford were relegated straight back without much of a fight
- CLICK HERE to read part one of the report cards, covering Arsenal to Leicester
A dramatic Premier League season reached its conclusion on Sunday with Manchester City just pipping Liverpool to the title, Tottenham snatching fourth spot and Burnley consigned to relegation as Leeds survived.
Now that the dust has settled, Sportsmail assesses all 20 teams on their performances this season and what needs to be improved ahead of the next campaign.
Part Two of our end-of-term report card runs from Liverpool through to Wolves. CLICK HERE to read part one.
Final position: 2nd
Almost certainly the best team to miss out on the Premier League title and it could still be a phenomenal season if Liverpool add the Champions League to the FA Cup and Carabao Cup this weekend.
Just one goal away from keeping their Quadruple dreams alive for long stretches on the final afternoon, Jurgen Klopp’s brilliant team ultimately reached 92 points and yet still finished behind Manchester City.
The fact these two teams continue to push one another to greater and greater heights make this a golden era for English football and both are a pleasure for the neutral to watch.
It was so near and yet so far for Liverpool as they narrowly missed out on the title
Liverpool lost only two league matches all season long and still came second but played some mesmerising football along the way while demonstrating an astonishing never-say-die mentality.
Klopp has committed for a few more years and Liverpool fans couldn’t be happier, especially if they win the second European Cup of his tenure on Saturday.
But next season will be all the more challenging given City have already signed one of the world’s deadliest strikers in Erling Haaland.
How will Liverpool respond in this ongoing arms race? Is there a big name they can sign, or will Klopp continue to spend less but acquire more absolute gems like Diogo Jota or Luis Diaz.
Jurgen Klopp continues to take his Liverpool team to new heights – but will City pull away?
Can they also fend off interest from leading European clubs for their star men Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane this summer?
Whatever happens, Klopp’s Liverpool always seem to emerge better from the occasional sacrifice of a big name player. Their true strength lies in the collective and mental fortitude.
In the Premier League, City proved a hair’s breadth better than them. Taking into consideration all competitions, they’re neck and neck.
We should enjoy all this while it lasts.
Final position: 1st
While it was agony for Liverpool, there was unconfined joy for Manchester City as they clinched a fourth title in five seasons in the most dramatic of fashion.
10 years on from Sergio Aguero’s stoppage time heroics to deliver their first title, City beat Aston Villa by scoring three times in five breathless minutes.
Pep Guardiola’s side were worthy winners, responding to Liverpool’s challenge by raising their own standards, and it’s now legitimately a dynasty of domestic success at the Etihad to rival Fergie’s Man United in their prime.
Manchester City claimed the Premier League title once again during a frenetic finale
Even more impressively, City have zero intention of standing still and the signing of Erling Haaland will strike fear into the hearts of those who wish to take them on next season.
No sooner had they waved goodbye to the likes of Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan, Guardiola will be plotting how to make them even better.
They may have won the title again but by other measures, City are still falling short. A few minutes of madness saw them lose to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals and mere lapses continue to haunt them in Europe.
Erling Haaland could offer the lethal finishing touch that finally delivers European success
Maybe Haaland will provide the deadly finishing touch to break through this final frontier and keep their necks ahead of Liverpool in the next captivating title race.
The only cloud in City’s clear blue sky is how much longer Guardiola will want to do it for.
He has spoken about his desire to leave the club in 2023 and so that gives him just one more opportunity to deliver the Champions League glory he was hired to deliver. Can he be persuaded to carry on?
Final position: 6th
David de Gea summed it up nicely after Manchester United’s defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday. ‘The only good thing about today is that the season is over,’ he said.
It’s been nine months of grinding misery at Old Trafford and to think that many expected them to mount a title charge this season, not least when Cristiano Ronaldo made his sensational comeback.
They lost 12 league games, finished a lowly sixth with a goal difference of zero, and trailed Manchester City in the final reckoning by a whopping 35 points.
It’s been a thoroughly miserable season for Manchester United in almost every department
The season saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally exposed for being out of his depth and interim manager Ralf Rangnick completely fail to inspire a pretty dysfunctional group of players.
The cup competitions offered no solace either and United haven’t been at such a low ebb since Alex Ferguson was fighting for his job at the beginning of the 1990s.
It now falls to Erik ten Hag to try and sort out this colossal mess and a good start would be to purge out all those who no longer wish to play for the shirt.
Incoming manager Erik ten Hag looks thoroughly unimpressed during the Crystal Palace game
Despite everything, United still managed to finish sixth and qualify for next season’s Europa League, just about avoiding the indignity of the Europa Conference League by virtue of West Ham losing on the final day.
You certainly don’t envy Ten Hag and the Everest-like scale of the rebuilding job he is now embarking on. Surely though, it can’t get any worse.
Final position: 11th
A season in two acts and all’s well that ends well.
Considering that Newcastle went winless in their first 14 league games and found themselves rooted to the bottom of the table, it’s a minor miracle they’ve ended up ensconced in mid-table.
There have been two transformative factors, of course. The colossal wealth of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, who bought out the club in early October, was always going to have an instant impact.
January signings proved shrewd and sensible, with £33m Bruno Guimaraes the stand-out performer and very quickly adopted as a cult figure.
Bruno Guimaraes, a £33m January signing, has helped turn Newcastle’s season around
The second decisive factor was the owners’ decision to appoint Eddie Howe as manager to replace the deeply unpopular Steve Bruce in early November.
Howe’s impact was swift and positive, proving a firm hand on the tiller and relegation simply hasn’t been a concern since that nine-match unbeaten run between December and March.
With hindsight, Howe had the perfect character and temperament to get Newcastle’s season back on the rails amid all the post-takeover noise.
Eddie Howe has proved to be the ideal managerial appointment by Newcastle’s Saudi owners
This mid-table finish should represent just the beginning. Richer than any other club in the world, Newcastle will inevitably be linked with every half-decent player this summer.
But they’re not going to turn into the Galacticos 2.0 overnight. They’ll recruit in the areas they need and continue building.
You’d anticipate them pushing to finish in the top six next season but the possibilities, all of a sudden, are endless.
Grade: E (first half)/B (second half)
Final position: 20th (relegated)
Norwich remain in their perpetual limbo – far too good for the Championship, nowhere near good enough for the Premier League.
The last time the Canaries visited the top-flight they mustered just five wins and 21 points, conceding 75 goals. Their figures this time around are eerily similar and equally as unpleasant.
They are far from alone in being a yo-yo club but the big dilemma for Norwich is how to escape from this purgatory, if indeed the will is there given they still recoup handsome financial rewards.
Norwich once again suffered relegation from the Premier League without any real fight
Despite the best efforts of Teemu Pukki, who has scored 11 times, Norwich have been thoroughly outplayed in the majority of their league games this season.
There have been streaks of five or six consecutive defeats on a regular basis with the odd clumps of three or four unbeaten.
Even a managerial change at the start of November, when the Daniel Farke era ended and Dean Smith was hired to perform a rescue act, couldn’t prevent the inevitable.
Dean Smith came in to rescue things at the start of November but couldn’t stop the slide
Smith was unbeaten in his first four games and in January, all too briefly, they escaped the bottom three to the nose bleed heights of 17th.
But the rest was feeble and it really is difficult to see the Canaries’ cycle being broken anytime soon.
Final position: 15th
Has Ralph Hasenhuttl taken Southampton as far as he can? You increasingly suspect so.
You never quite know what you’ll get with his team and the craving for some consistency of performances and results could well lead to a change this summer.
On their day, Southampton can remind us of when they were upstarts a few years ago, getting into Europe and doing well in the cups.
Ralph Hasenhuttl may well have taken Southampton as far as he can after an inconsistent year
In September they held Man City goalless at the Etihad; on Boxing Day they won 3-2 at West Ham; in February they won at Tottenham by the same scoreline; and only last month they beat Arsenal 1-0.
On the other side of the coin, they were hit for six at home by Chelsea, clobbered 4-0 at Aston Villa, went down to Norwich and lost to Watford at St Mary’s.
For their manager, their late season slide has come at the worst possible time. Though they’ve always had enough points on the board to stave off relegation fears, it’ll be difficult to point to progress in his end-of-season appraisal.
It’s been difficult to predict which version of Southampton is going to show up in games
Final position: 4th
Yet another season in two parts. Going nowhere under Nuno Espirito Santo, Tottenham acted decisively to bring in Antonio Conte at the beginning of November and reaped the benefit.
A return to Champions League football for next season was sealed on the final day and made all the more sweeter by the fact Arsenal missed out.
Now it’s clear they must do everything within their power to cling on to Conte, a born winner who has revitalised the club again. If that means getting the chequebook out this summer to boost the squad, then so be it.
That’ll be Daniel Levy’s top summer priority because, for a change, it looks as though Harry Kane looks content and won’t be linked with a move anywhere.
The season ended well for Tottenham as they secured a Champions League place
The England captain simply couldn’t find the net under Nuno but still ended the campaign with 27 goals, including 17 in the Premier League. His reward is another shot at Europe’s leading competition.
There’s a strong case for keeping hold of Dejan Kulusevski, who scored five goals and contributed eight assists during his loan from Juventus, and with a couple more additions Spurs will have the makings of a good team again.
Conte’s next mission, should he remain, is to try and deliver a first piece of silverware since 2008.
Antonio Conte turned Tottenham’s season around after Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked
They would surely have had a good crack at the Europa Conference League had they not been forced to forfeit their final group game against Rennes because of a Covid outbreak.
But then the additional burden of those knockout games could easily have derailed their efforts to break into the top four so a worthwhile sacrifice.
Final position: 19th (relegated)
The hottest hotseat in football rattled through three different managers this season and there will be another one in situ come August. When Watford will be playing their football in the Championship. Again.
The season started with a 3-2 home win over Aston Villa with Xisco in charge. Remember him? He was dumped in early October following a 1-0 defeat at Leeds.
In came that old charmer Claudio Ranieri but the magic touch deserted him and it was a very bleak midwinter down at Vicarage Road.
Watford have got through three managers in yet another dismal Premier League relegation
They lost every match between late November and the middle of January and went 11 without the taste of success stretching through until mid-February.
By then Ranieri had been replaced by another old stager in Roy Hodgson. His final record stood at two wins, three draws and 12 defeats from 17 games in charge. Not quite the last hurrah the 74-year-old wanted.
So rather like Norwich, Watford find themselves in purgatory between Premier League and Championship. It’ll be up to Rob Edwards to lead them up again and, given the budget and squad, he probably will do.
Keeping Watford in the Premier League proved beyond 74-year-old Roy Hodgson
It’s quite difficult to pin down what Watford have contributed to the Premier League this season. They won 5-2 at Everton back in October when things were more cheerful and they thrashed Man United 4-1 in November to sound the death knell for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Mostly though it’s just been pretty risible.
WEST HAM UNITED
Final position: 7th
Though it ultimately ended in disappointment, West Ham can reflect with plenty of satisfaction following a long and exhausting campaign.
They finished seventh on the final day, meaning they will have to make do with the Europa Conference League next season rather than playing again in the Europa League.
But David Moyes has got them into Europe once again and there can be few complaints at that.
It was a season of good memories for West Ham, especially on their Europa League run
That in a season when they created a palpable feel-good factor among their fanbase by battling through to the Europa League semi-finals.
The wins over Sevilla and Lyon were certainly memorable before eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt proved too strong.
At one point, a top four finish looked a good possibility but injuries, fatigue and the fact their squad just isn’t as large as rivals around them in the table ultimately caught up with them.
David Moyes has guided the Hammers back into European football and needs to be backed
It’s a fair question to ask how some recruitment in the January transfer window would have changed this outcome and the same mistake cannot be made this summer.
Moyes needs to be backed in the market with depth added in key positions. If that happens, maybe we will eventually see Champions League football at the London Stadium and/or a piece of silverware.
Keeping hold of Declan Rice would certainly help matters as well!
Final position: 10th
Wolves’ season is essentially ending in mutiny, with fans chanting ‘you’ll have a riot on your hands’ at their last home game against Norwich if they sell Ruben Neves.
The Portuguese star could bring in £70million and manager Bruno Lage has already said he wants to overhaul his squad in the summer. But it shows how high expectations have become at Molineux.
A comfortable top half finish, just missing out on a return to Europe, in Lage’s first season looks great on the surface of it. They came a lowly 13th last season.
Whether £70m-rated Ruben Neves stays or leaves looks set to dominate the summer at Wolves
But not everything is sweetness and light, with plenty hinging on how Lage plans to go about this revamp in the summer.
Their home record over the last two seasons has been terrible – 17 defeats at Molineux since September 2020. The difference being that the fans have had to watch it this time around.
A disappointing conclusion to the campaign, with losses to Newcastle, Burnley and Brighton in the final weeks, has also cast a pall over encouraging displays earlier on.
There has been forward progress under Bruno Lage but now he wants to revamp the squad
Europe’s elite clubs are sniffing around Neves and Wolves’ fans may have to surrender to the inevitable. They’ll hope the transfer fee is reinvested cleverly.
There have been enough signs of progress under Lage, however, to look forward to next season with some optimism.
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