END OF SEASON REVIEW: Man United are a shambles, how Mikel Arteta was effectively City’s best signing and Joe Hart turning up for pundit duty in a van! Sportsmail analyses EVERY Premier League club
- Manchester City edged out Liverpool in the best ever race for the league title
- Kepa proved to be an impressive signing despite his row with Maurizio Sarri
- Ralph Hasenhuttl worked wonders at Southampton after taking over the reins
Published: 10:56 EDT, 15 May 2019 | Updated: 11:01 EDT, 15 May 2019
7. WOLVES – LAURIE WHITWELL
Unlike most promoted teams nobody thought Wolves would struggle in the Premier League, but the way Nuno Espirito Santo has guided his side to seventh and an FA Cup semi-final has exceeded expectations. There is a clear idea behind his team, with each player knowing his role. That comes from coaching and a tight squad of only 18 members. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and Matt Doherty have improved significantly, while Joao Moutinho added class instantly. Some big beasts were beaten and more is to come.
Nuno’s Wolves hit the ground running in their first season back in the Premier League
Player of the season: Matt Doherty
Initially doubted whether he could make a real Premier League impact this campaign but he has been brilliant. A consistent source of creativity down the right. Eight goals and five assists from wing back is significant.
Best signing: Raul Jimenez
Arriving on loan from Benfica at first, Wolves soon recognised the need to sign Jimenez in a permanent £32million deal. He has grown into English football, not only scoring well – 17 goals in all competitions – but linking up beautifully with he rest of his team.
The Good: Nuno Espirito Santo
He may not fill journalists’ Word.docs but what a manager he is. Seventh and an FA Cup semi-final in his second season is an astounding achievement, whatever the club’s advantages in the market. The identity he has infused in his team is clear.
The Bad: Wolves dropped 21 points to the bottom six sides, including losing twice to Huddersfield, so imagine where they might finish if they could beat the worst as well as the best.
The Ugly: Not so much ugly as funny, Nuno rejecting the new moniker given to him by supporters after his doctorate from the University of Wolverhampton. ‘Not Dr Nuno,’ he said. ‘I am a simple man. Just Nuno.’
8. EVERTON – DOMINIC KING
If you were drawing a diagram of Everton’s first season under Marco Silva, it would be in the shape of a valley – a bright start, then a deep dip before another rise towards the end of the campaign. Things haven’t always gone to plan but a positive finish has left supporters optimistic for August and it is high time Everton had stability to progress. Thankfully the misery of this corresponding day 12 months ago, when Sam Allardyce was in the process of being sacked and director of football Steve Walsh was also going out the door, is now a fading memory.
Brazil international Bernard showed his best form after settling down into life in England
Player of the season: Lucas Digne
It is was always going to be hard finding a successor to Leighton Baines but the French left back has shown that he will hold that position for many years to come. You never see him out of position, you never see him waste a pass and you can see why he counts Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain among his former clubs. A class act and consistent even when his team’s results were stuttering. Important, also, to mention Idrissa Gueye’s form since January. It would have been easy for him to sulk after being denied a move to Paris St Germain but he never put a foot wrong.
Best signing: Bernard
There would be plenty of support for Lucas Digne but Bernard gets the vote. He arrived on a free transfer, having been released by Shakhtar Donetsk, and gradually has shown why he was in Brazil’s World Cup squad in 2014. He is elegant and clever, teak tough given his diminutive stature, and blessed with ability. You can see he is the type of player who is going to become increasingly important for Marco Silva and the best is definitely yet to come. It was a particularly smart piece of business.
The Good: Without question, the performances against Chelsea, Arsenal and – most of all – Manchester United. That 4-0 destruction of an ailing club shows why Everton should be regard as contenders to finish in the top six next season. If it all clicks for Everton, when the team and supporters are in unison, they can be a potent force. United are vulnerable and Everton are progressive. With the right signings in the next few months and another summer to learn Silva’s methods, Everton can continue to progress.
The Bad: The only possible answer for this section is the three months that followed the loss to Liverpool at Anfield in December. Silva repeatedly insisted that confidence had not been affected by that freak moment when Jordan Pickford pawed the ball onto Divock Origi’s head but the sequence of results in the aftermath suggested otherwise. Everton were lamentable for long periods pre and post-Christmas and it was for that reason they never really challenged for a European place.
The Ugly: Millwall, January 26. A match that was marred by sickening crowd trouble beforehand and obscene chanting from the home supporters during it. The way Everton capitulated to lose to a last minute goal was dreadful. In conversation with Seamus Coleman six weeks after, it was obvious his anger had not subsided. Everton owe it to their supporters next season to mount a sustained assault on both cup competitions next season. They have no excuses – it has been too long since they made it to Wembley.
9. LEICESTER – LAURIE WHITWELL
This will always be remembered as the season Leicester lost their much-loved owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in tragic circumstances. The way the club moved through such trauma spoke volumes for the warmth Vichai had invested during his tenure. His son Aiyawatt then made the call to dismiss Claude Puel and it is already bearing fruits, with Brendan Rodgers a really exciting appointment. Leicester finished ninth on 52 points and now with a manager who can extract the best from his players next season has great promise.
Jamie Vardy appeared to get his mojo back after Brendan Rodgers replaced Claude Puel
Player of the season: Jamie Vardy
At 32, Vardy is as quick as ever but his game is evolving. He has become a more rounded centre forward and Brendan Rodgers is drawing the best from him. His total of 18 goals in the Premier League was bettered by only four players.
Best signing: Jonny Evans
Had a few. James Maddison has excelled, Ricardo Pereira too. But for £3.5million, the purchase of Jonny Evans was very smart. A top-quality defender and Rodgers is a big admirer.
The Good: Harvey Barnes came back from a hugely productive loan spell with West Brom and has pushed a claim for a starting role with his high-energy displays.
The Bad: Claude Puel sucked the energy from Belvoir Drive, provided scant communication, and gave confused instructions.
The Ugly: Vardy’s indiscreet and uncomplimentary uttering believed to be about Puel, who was happily chatting to Paul Pogba after Leicester’s defeat by Manchester United. It was from a player who wanted the best for his side.
10. WEST HAM – KIERAN GILL
Manuel Pellegrini was brought in with the target of fighting for European football. In the end, West Ham finished 10th, five points off Wolves in seventh. They will want to do better next season. Whether Marko Arnautovic will be there to help them push for a top-seven spot remains to be seen.
Declan Rice made a name for himself for both West Ham and England this season
Player of the season: Declan Rice
Worked his way into the England squad and is a stand-out star in this West Ham side at the age of 20. Club have just got to keep those Big Six vultures away now…
Best signing: Lukasz Fabianski
The goalkeeper cost just £7m and has given Rice a run for his money to be named our Hammer of the Year. He has shown himself to be a safe pair of hands.
The Good: The London Stadium is finally starting to feel like home (and not just because of the claret carpet). West Ham picked up 31 points at home this season – their most since moving to Stratford.
The Bad: Jack Wilshere. How we all would have loved to see him do well for West Ham following the hellish injuries which have held him back in his career. Unfortunately, it has not worked out.
The Ugly: Marko Arnautovic’s comical ‘I’m staying’ video, released after he decided to drop his big to move to the Chinese Super League. ‘I’m back,’ he says. Does anyone know where he went exactly?
11. WATFORD – MATT BARLOW
The best season since the 80s heyday under Graham Taylor and Elton John, with a strong Premier League campaign and an FA Cup final.
Etienne Capoue and his Watford team-mates will be hoping to win the FA Cup on Saturday
Player of the season: Etienne Capoue
it has been the ultimate team effort from Javi Gracia’s men. The consistency across the entire squad has been the secret but no one has typified this more than Etienne Capoue in midfield.
Best signing: Ben Foster
He has defied his veteran status to produce some splendid performances in goal.
The Good: Gerard Deulofeu’s delectable curler from an impossible spot in FA Cup semi final to launch a remarkable fight back against Wolves and a first FAC final since 84.
The Bad: There was great excitement around Adelberto Penaranda when the Venezuelan striker finally secured a work permit but his first season in English football has been bedevilled by injuries and he has barely featured.
The Ugly: Long running — and now finally resolved — dispute with Everton over their distraction tactics in the move for Marco Silva and subsequent return to sign Richarlison. Featuring inflatable snakes.
12. CRYSTAL PALACE – SAMI MOKBEL
On the whole a decent season for the Eagles. Any campaign that ends in the club retaining their Premier League status should be viewed as a relative success. But some of the natives’ frustrations at a lack of tangible progress under Roy Hodgson is an interesting dynamic going into the summer.
Wilfried Zaha continues to be Palace’s standout performer but he could leave this summer
Player of the season: Wilfried Zaha
Perhaps not his most explosive or spectacular campaign. But where would Palace be without their talisman? Unfortunately for the Eagles, they could be about to find out.
Best signing: Cheikhou Kouyate
He took a while to find his feet in south London, but he’s turned out to be a solid capture.
The Good: Their brilliant wins at the Etihad and the Emirates. Proper David and Goliath stuff.
The Bad: The FA Cup quarter-final loss to eventual finalists Watford in March. A bitter pill to swallow.
The Ugly: Andros Townsend losing his place in the starting XI for the first game at boyhood club Tottenham’s new stadium after breaking his hand by punching the dug out in the prior game against Huddersfield. At least he got on for the final minutes as a substitute.
13. NEWCASTLE – CRAIG HOPE
A difficult start — two points from nine — during which relegation seemed more likely than not was followed by a masterclass in management from Rafa Benitez. He refused to panic amid that early struggle and his players responded to secure survival with plenty to spare. Now the challenge is to break the top 10 and push for Europe. With Benitez, that is entirely possible.
Rafa Benitez has shown once again that he is a world-class manager – now he needs backing
Player of the season: Salomon Rondon
He is rivalled by Ayoze Perez, but Rondon is the player who has made the biggest difference to this side, a true Newcastle No 9 who the fans have fallen in love with. He’s powerful, honest and brave, and 11 Premier League goals wasn’t a bad return either.
Best signing: Fabian Schar
Ignoring the Rondon loan deal, the £3.5m paid for Schar was a steal. The Switzerland defender is worth five times that amount after an impressive campaign in which he scored four times, including the goal of the season from 25 yards versus Burnley.
The Good: Beating Manchester City 2-1 in January, despite falling behind in the first minute. It was an occasion, under the lights, that reminded you just what a force of nature St James’ Park and its crowd can be.
The Bad: The fixture list! Newcastle had two points after nine games, but only after playing five of the top six. Their form since would have them challenging for a Europa League position.
The Ugly: Rafa Benitez grabbing a colleague to demonstrate his favourite judo move as he opened up on his personal life during a sit-down interview with us in Spain. Our questions were a little kinder after he revealed his expertise in martial arts…
14. BOURNEMOUTH – RIATH AL-SAMARRAI
A bizarre season, really. They were excellent until mid-October and then fell apart. The worry is that across the past seven months, Eddie Howe was unable to get a proper grip on the defensive issues. His progress at the club and their continued presence in the Premier League is deeply impressive, but he was right to be generally disappointed with the final position, particularly in light of Bournemouth’s start to the campaign.
Ryan Fraser has been linked with Arsenal after an impressive season at Bournemouth
Player of the season: Ryan Fraser
Seven goals, 14 assists and an excitement factor every time he takes possession. Serious pace and a serious player. Arsenal are interested and for good reason.
Best signing: David Brooks
The 21-year-old came in for £11.5m from Sheffield United and has been superb. Worth double that fee after emerging as one of the best young players in the league.
The Good: Brooks, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson. As an attacking unit, they are immense.
The Bad: Dominic Solanke. He cost £19m but has not made an impact, partially because of hamstring issues. At 21 he will be a player for the future, but the fee brings attention and as yet he has not delivered.
The Ugly: The defence as a collective. It has majorly undermined their season. On the basis of goals conceded, they are a bottom three side.
15. BURNLEY – MIKE KEEGAN
A season of two halves. The European tour, which included a glamorous trip to Aberdeen, did more harm than good. At Christmas it looked as though relegation was on the cards but a stunning run in the new year, along with the blossoming partnership between Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood, propelled the Clarets to safety.
Dwight McNeil has shown former side Manchester United that they were wrong to release him
Player of the season: Dwight McNeil
The teenage winger released by United had a breakthrough season, winning a new contract and plenty of admirers.
Best signing: N/A
There isn’t one. Ben Gibson had an awful year dominated by injury. Matej Vydra scored once in the Premier League and Joe Hart continued to struggle for consistency. At least Peter Crouch’s arrival allowed the social media team to make a funny video.
The Good: Post-Christmas Burnley returned to the Burnley we all knew and the Burnley opponents hate to play against. McNeil is a huge find and no Europa League next year, coupled with a more effective summer in the transfer market, should see the Clarets in the Premier League for another year at least.
The Bad: That European tour. In the end it proved to be little more than a hindrance to the serious business of keeping the club, which continues to punch above its weight, in the top flight.
The Ugly: When a chauffeur failed to turn up to take Joe Hart to the Manchester derby, where he was due as a pundit for Sky, a panicked phone call led to a kind member of Burnley’s staff leaping into action. As a result, the former City keeper arrived at Old Trafford, among the super cars, in a trusty Volkswagen Transporter.
16. SOUTHAMPTON – KIERAN GILL
Southampton will happily take a 16th-placed finish, given where they were when Mark Hughes was sacked. When Ralph Hasenhuttl arrived, even Huddersfield were above them! He did a wonderful job to keep them up while not compromising his preferred style of play.
Ralph Hasenhuttl worked his magic to secure Southampton another year in the top fight
Player of the season: Nathan Redmond
He has shown a lot of positivity in 2019, and only Eden Hazard and Wilfried Zaha have completed more take-ons than him in the Premier League this season.
Best signing: Angus Gunn
Forget the young goalkeeper’s mistake on the season’s final day against Huddersfield. He has otherwise seemed solid and kept a clean sheet on his Premier League debut at Chelsea.
The Good: Ralph Hasenhuttl. The Austrian whose surname translated into English makes him Mr Rabbit Hutch proceeded to pull a rabbit out of a hat with Southampton. A fine addition to our top flight.
The Bad: Mark Hughes. Five wins in 27 games as Saints boss. Says it all.
The Ugly: One funny moment which sticks out was, when we were all wondering who this Hasenhuttl guy is, the way he introduced himself to English football. ‘If you want guarantees, buy a washing machine,’ he said.
17. BRIGHTON – ADAM CRAFTON
The second season is always likely to be more difficult in the Premier League but Brighton’s form tailed off alarmingly in the second half of the campaign and Chris Hughton lost his job.
Chris Hughton was forced into waving goodbye to Brighton after losing his job on Monday
Best signing: Yves Bissouma
The Malian midfielder only really emerged later in the season but the raw potential is there. He is 22, has good energy, an eye for a pass and competes well. One to watch next season.
The Good: Victory over Manchester United. United may have been a rabble in August as the Mourinho meltdown escalated but Brighton will always remember the day they beat the country’s most successful club 3-2. The FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, however, rather passed the team by.
The Bad: Form in 2019
Brighton took only eleven points from 51 available in their seventeen games from the turn of the year until the end of the season. They survived with 36 points but were fortunate.
The Ugly: Chris Hughton’s sacking.
The decision has split opinion. Some believe he should have been backed and allowed the chance to build on two seasons in the Premier League. Others saw the second half of the season as a stress signal for change.
18. CARDIFF – KIERAN GILL
On the pitch, Cardiff did what the bookmakers expected of them by dropping back down to the Championship but they gave it a good go under Neil Warnock. Off the pitch, what happened to Emiliano Sala overshadowed their season. That tragedy put matters into perspective.
Cardiff custodian Neil Etheridge proved he is a Premier League goalkeeper this season
Player of the season: Neil Etheridge
Cardiff may have dropped out of the Premier League but goalkeeper Neil Etheridge has made a case for why he deserves to remain a top-flight player.
Best signing: Victor Camarasa
Even if he was only on a season-long loan from Real Betis. Gave Cardiff a good edge in midfield.
The Good: Personally, whenever I visited the Cardiff City Stadium, their supporters created the best atmosphere I’ve seen in the Premier League. They made the most of their time in the top flight.
The Bad: What happened to January signing Emiliano Sala was utterly tragic. It touched all of football and Cardiff did superbly to try to avoid relegation in the aftermath.
The Ugly: Take your pick from any of Neil Warnock’s rants about referees. Or maybe even his outburst on Brexit…
19. FULHAM – ADAM CRAFTON
Disrupted a decent set of players with a reckless splurge in the final fortnight of the transfer window and paid the price with relegation.
Aleksandar Mitrovic will attract interest from Premier League sides after Fulham’s relegation
Best signing: Ryan Babel
Raised eyebrows when he signed in January but actually struck upon some decent form and ended the season in credit.
The Good: Aleksandar Mitrovic. Eleven goals is a decent return in a relegated team. Opponents do not enjoy playing against him and I’d expect a Premier League club to come knocking this summer.
The Bad: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa. A club record signing that summed up the recruitment department’s muddled thinking.
The Ugly: Tony Khan. The vice-chairman telling a supporter to ‘Go to Hell’ after the fan had asked Khan to leave the club. Step away from the smartphone….
20. HUDDERSFIELD – MIKE KEEGAN
Not great. A miserable campaign that even managed to sap the enthusiasm of the eternally-bright David Wagner. The German, exhausted by poor officiating and a series of defeats, left to be replaced by compatriot Jan Siewert. By then the damage was done but there was no bounce under the new man and while playing in the Premier League was a privilege, many Town fans were glad to see the season end.
Premier League basement boys Huddersfield had a season to forget on and off the field
Player of the season: Chris Schindler
The German centre half again put his body on the line and refused to give up, even when all was lost. The Terriers will do well to keep him this summer.
Best signing: Karlan Grant
The 21-year-old striker arrived from Charlton for around £2m in January and immediately looked at ease despite the step up from League One. Four goals, especially in a season like this, is not to be sniffed at. Expect him to be prolific in the Championship next year.
The Good: The atmosphere at the John Smith’s Stadium remained incredibly loud, often in spite of what was happening on the pitch. They will be missed.
The Bad: Jason Puncheon arrived on loan from Palace in what, Huddersfield hoped, would be a key move. He made six Premier League appearances and failed to score.
The Ugly: Not exactly a barrel of laughs this year. There were some smiles when fans of opponents Leicester attempted to tease their hosts by singing that they had never won the title. They won it three times in a row, albeit in the 1920s.
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