Premier League review: An unforgettable campaign for Manchester City, too many Spurs off-days and West Ham’s soap opera

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is thrown up into the air by players during the Premier League trophy celebrations (Martin Rickett/PA Wire)
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is thrown up into the air by players during the Premier League trophy celebrations (Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

FROM Champions to chumps, here’s part 2 of our Premier League club-by-club review of the season.


MANCHESTER CITY – 1st; 100pts

Pre-season prediction: 2nd

Rating: 10/10

AN incredible season for Manchester City. Most points (100), most goals scored (106), most wins (32), biggest winning margin (19). The figures are astounding, but they only tell half the story. The rest came about with the quality of the football played by Pep Guardiola’s side. It was attack, attack, attack but they even finished with the best defensive record. Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings in midfield, but this was far from a one-man show. The big question now is how City cam improve on this unforgettable campaign.

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne. (Martin Rickett/PA Wire)
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne. (Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

 

Pivotal game

Chelsea 0 Manchester City 1 (Sep 30)

CITY had scored 16 goals in their three previous league games, hinting at their attacking prowess but this was seen as a crucial early test. They passed it with flying colours in an excellent display, sealed by a wonderful goal from De Bruyne. This result showed who was the team to beat and they spent the remaining 31 games moving further clear of the field.

 

MANCHESTER UNITED – 2nd; 81pts

Pre-season prediction: 3rd

Rating: 7/10

TECHNICALLY, this season must be classed as an improvement with the most points and highest finish for five years. But this is Manchester United and their history is not based on being the best-of-the-rest. With City across town and Liverpool down the M62 playing football full of thrills and goals, United’s was dull and grey in comparison. Improving the spectacle and narrowing the gap on City is a demanding double job for Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho (Clive Mason/Getty Images)

 

Pivotal game

Huddersfield 2 Manchester United 1 (Oct 21)

THIS match came a week after Jose Mourinho had played for a point at Liverpool, which he got. The plan was obviously four points from these two away games, but it fell apart in West Yorkshire as goals from Aaron Mooy and Laurent Depoitre secured a famous win. Defeat pushed them five points behind Manchester City and the gap only widened as the season went on. It was also the start of an unwanted treble as United lost at the two other promoted sides, Newcastle and Brighton.

 

NEWCASTLE – 10th; 44pts

Pre-season prediction: 13th

Rating: 8/10

A VERY positive campaign on Tyneside ended with a surprise top-half finish. Rafa Benitez worked wonders with the majority of his Championship-winning squad and it begs the question what would happen if he was given proper backing by the owner. Here was an example of players giving everything and having utmost respect for their manager, and the fans responded to that commitment.

Rafael Benitez (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Pivotal game

Newcastle 1 Manchester United 0 (Feb 11)

NEWCASTLE began this match in the bottom three and with real relegation worries. But Matt Ritchie’s winner and heroics from debutant goalkeeper Martin Dubravka made for one of those special St James’ Park afternoons. The confidence gained was huge as they collected 13 points from their next six games and safety was all but assured.

 

SOUTHAMPTON – 17th; 36pts

Pre-season prediction: 11th

Rating: 5/10

MARK HUGHES kept the Saints up with a late flurry, but this was nothing but a poor season on the South Coast after four successive top-eight finishes. Southampton tried to dig their heels in over Virgil van Dijk, but the Dutchman was a shadow of his former self before leaving for Liverpool. His departure still left a big hole, though.

Mark Hughes (Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

 

 

Pivotal game

Newcastle 3 Southampton 0 (Mar 10)

THE win at Swansea was huge, but the final game for Mauricio Pellegrino was significant. The Argentine had been struggling for a long time, but Southampton’s inept performance and lack of spirit prompted the board into drastic action. The club had been sleepwalking towards relegation, but this was the wake-up call that something had to change, and fast.

 

STOKE – 19th; 33pts

Pre-season prediction: 15th

Rating: 3/10

AFTER ten years, the Premier League will leave the Potteries. Stoke’s demise had been on the cards for the previous 18 months before the season began, but they failed to heed the warnings. Mark Hughes was probably given too long and Paul Lambert never looked likely to pull off a rescue act. By the end, Stoke were a classic relegation outfit – an ageing squad with little or no goal threat.

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes speaks to Charlie Adam during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London (PA)
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes speaks to Charlie Adam during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London (PA)

Pivotal game

Stoke 1 Brighton 1 (Feb 10)

NOT a match necessarily, but a single moment. In a vital relegation match, Stoke were awarded an injury time penalty. Charlie Adam and Jese Rodriguez argued vigorously over who should take it, the Scot won the debate and promptly missed the spot-kick. Two costly points were dropped, but such an image spoke of a disunited dressing room heading for trouble.

 

SWANSEA – 18th; 33pts

Pre-season prediction: 18th

Rating: 4/10

AFTER playing Russian roulette with relegation in the previous two seasons, luck ran out for Swansea. The decision to sell chief goal threat Fernando Llorente and main creator Gylfi Sigurdsson last summer looked risky and that is how it played out. Carlos Carvalhal provided a good initial bounce when he replaced Paul Clement but three points from the final nine games was fatal.

Swansea City fans (David Davies/PA Wire)

Pivotal game

Swansea 0 Southampton 1 (May 8)

THE reality is Swansea’s seven-year stay in the top flight came down to one match. If they had won or drawn this game, they would probably have survived. But they lost it and as so often, they failed to score.

 

TOTTENHAM – 3rd; 77pts

Pre-season prediction: 1st

Rating: 6/10

TOTTENHAM secured Champions League football for a third straight year, but the nagging feeling is one of disappointment. They did not win anything again and an excellent team could easily break up this summer with the futures of Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen uncertain. On their day, they still play excellent football but there are too many off-days for them to be true title contenders.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Dele Alli (Anthony Devlin / PA Wire)

Pivotal game

Tottenham 1 Burnley 1 (Aug 27)

HAVING lost at home to Chelsea the week before, here was a chance to get any Wembley hoodoo off their back. Chris Wood’s late equaliser ensured they failed to do that. As it was, Spurs didn’t do too badly but they picked up ten fewer points ‘at home’ than they did last season and finished nine points worse off.

 

WATFORD – 14th; 41pts

Pre-season prediction: 16th

Rating: 6/10

WATFORD remain a Premier League club but they are not everybody’s cup of tea. They started well under Marco Silva, saw him targeted by Everton and then lost their way. The Portuguese was sacked and Spaniard Javi Gracia was brought in to guarantee their safety, which he did with a few home wins. In seven away matches, he didn’t see his team score a goal!

Abdoulaye Doucoure (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Pivotal game

Watford 1 Swansea 2 (Dec 30)

THE Hornets had picked up just four points from their previous seven games after their early season form had dipped, but this looked a home banker. Somehow they allowed bottom side Swansea to pinch a win with two goals in the last five minutes. Defeat caused panic in the Watford boardroom, as they started to doubt Marco Silva and three weeks later, he was gone.

 

WEST BROM – 20th; 31pts

Pre-season prediction: 12th

Rating: 2/10

A SEASON of unmitigated disaster at The Hawthorns. It began with successive wins, but a bad run saw the end of Tony Pulis. Yet the decision to appoint Alan Pardew will be remembered at the club for all the wrong reasons. A run of only one win in 18 games all but relegated West Brom, ruined Pardew’s reputation and painted the players in a terrible light especially after the frolics of a mid-season trip to Barcelona. Darren Moore salvaged some pride as caretaker boss, but could not avoid the trapdoor.

Darren Moore, Caretaker Manager of West Bromwich Albion (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Pivotal game

West Brom 1 Huddersfield 2 (Feb 24)

THIS was the first league game after the antics of Barcelona and the start of a run of six seemingly winnable fixtures. But the Baggies were out-manoeuvred by Huddersfield and looked like a relegation outfit. Perhaps if the board had been bolder and removed Alan Pardew after this defeat, they could have launched a rescue act.

 

WEST HAM – 13th; 42pts

Pre-season prediction: 9th

Rating: 6/10

WEST HAM continue to play the part of soap opera club to perfection, as nothing ever runs smoothly in East London. After a poor start, Slaven Bilic was put out of his misery in November and David Moyes was tasked with keeping them up. The Scot did that well as he had to deal with difficult owners, disaffected fans and a lengthy injury list. Moyes is probably better off out of it at West Ham, but good luck to the next man in.

Mark Noble clashes with a pitch invader (Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Pivotal game

West Ham 3 Southampton 0 (Mar 31)

IN the previous game, West Ham had lost 3-0 at home to Burnley, fans had invaded the pitch and tried to storm the director’s box. The toxic atmosphere at the London Stadium was dividing the club and relegation was a serious possibility. The next match there was crucial and the Hammers, inspired by Marko Arnautovic, were three up by half time. It was crisis averted for that day and this season, but don’t think it is far below the surface.

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