May 24, 2017
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11th-20th: Reviewing the 2016/17 Premier League’s bottom-half of the table finishers

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After the final fixtures of a gripping Premier League season came to an abrupt close on Sunday afternoon, fans up and down the land discovered their final league standings.

There was sheer glee for some, whereas others ended their year with despair etched across their faces.

The season has been full of twists and turns and with just the small matter of the FA Cup, Europa League and the Champions League to be settled, we can finally look back and review the domestic league season for each club.

Having already focused on the top half of the league, we now move on to look at the lower end of the table and what turned out to be a thrilling and extremely tense relegation battle…

West Ham United

League Position: 11th (PTS: 45, GD: -17)

Top Scorer: Michail Antonio (9)

Player of the Season: Michail Antonio

Moment of the Season: Beating Spurs 1-0 at the London Stadium to effectively hand Chelsea the title and end Tottenham’s.

The London Stadium has seen ups and downs this year. Granted, it is never easy to move into a new ground having been at your last one for so long, but West Ham fans are slowly adjusting to the change.

It’s been by no means easy for Slaven Bilic this year. After such a promising year last year it was never going to be easy to replicate the feat. The Croatian head coach has done well to guide the Hammers to an eleventh-placed finish, ending level on points with West Brom. What with the Dimitri Payet saga and the injury crisis that has ravaged the club, it has not been so bad. At one point looking doomed for relegation, West Ham managed to secure another season in the top flight and will hope that their second season in their new home is more promising than this campaign.

It’s not been all doom and gloom though. Manuel Lanzini has thrived in Payet’s departure, and West Ham have found themselves a real gem in Michail Antonio. Andy Carroll’s wonder-goal against Crystal Palace got the home crowd bouncing, (and the bubbles blowing), and Hammers fans will hope to see more of the big Englishman next season, after another injury-hit campaign. If anything, the London Stadium natives will remember this forgettable campaign for their effective termination of Tottenham’s title surge, and take great pleasure from it as the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli trudged wearily from the pitch.

David Gold and David Sullivan will likely invest heavily in the squad over the summer, in order for the club to get back to where it was this time last year. Overall, not too bad, but could do much better.

Leicester City

League Position: 12th (PTS: 44, GD: -15)

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (13)

Player of the Season: Kasper Schmeichel

Moment of the Season: (Controversy warning) Winning the first six Premier League games of Craig Shakespeare’s tenure, after Claudio Ranieri was sacked.

It’s fair to say that a lot of people fell out of love with Leicester City this season. What a difference a few months make in the world of football. Just a year ago the club was basking in the glory of arguably the most remarkable achievement in sporting history and yet just nine months later Ranieri was giving his marching orders.

Whether you consider it genius or extremely harsh, it was effective and Leicester found themselves catapulted away from the relegation zone and eventually landing in twelfth place. Jamie Vardy struggled in the first half of the season but found his scoring touch to tally thirteen for the season and drag the Foxes clear of danger.

But the stars of the previous season couldn’t quite seem to find the same mojo which turned dream into reality. Saying that, Kasper Schmeichel stood firm in the Leicester goalmouth and was deservedly honoured with Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year at the annual awards night. Leicester’s summer recruitment was borderline abysmal, but the January signing of Wilfred Ndidi certainly made a real difference to the club’s strong finish.

Leicester’s twelfth place finish is commendable when you consider the 3-0 thumping they took from Manchester United in February. An embarrassing 6-1 loss to Tottenham in their penultimate Premier League fixture summed up what has been an odd campaign for the former champions. No doubt there will be many fans glad to see the back of this campaign.

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The Foxes journey to the last eight of the Champions League was certainly memorable, but their reign as Premier League Champions is well and truly over. Whether Shakespeare stays on permanently or not, there will be new faces at the King Power next season.

Stoke City

League Position: 13th (PTS: 44, GD: -15)

Top Scorer: Peter Crouch (7)

Player of the Season: Marco Arnautovic

Moment of the Season: Peter Crouch scores his one-hundredth Premier League goal against Everton, before pulling out his trademark “robot dance” to celebrate.

Stoke City have had an indifferent season this year. Usually so secure at the Bet365 Stadium, Mark Hughes’ men have struggled to pick up points this term. The Potters amassed forty-four points this season, consisting of eleven wins and eleven draws, but finished below Leicester on goals scored. However, saying that, Stoke finished only four points ahead of seventeenth placed Watford.

Xherdan Shaqiri had his annual flashes of brilliance, most notably with a 30-yard strike against Hull City. Marko Arnautovic was the best of what was a relatively average bunch, netting six times and assisting five other goals. Stoke’s capture of Joe Allen from Liverpool was a decent piece of business in the summer window, but his form was a little inconsistent as the season wore on.

It is slightly concerning for fans of the Potters when they have been reliant on 36-year-old Peter Crouch as their main source of goals this year, and this must change next year if they are to start climbing the table again. Mark Hughes will surely be a busy man in the next couple of months.

Overall, a totally average, but steady season from the Staffordshire club.

Crystal Palace

League Position: 14th (PTS: 41, GD: -13)

Top Scorer: Christian Benteke (15)

Player of the Season: Wilfried Zaha

Moment of the Season: Palace stun Chelsea, winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to take a huge step towards survival.

He wasn’t smiling in September, but he’s definitely smiling now – Sam Allardyce really is a survival specialist. As impossible as it seemed earlier in the season, Crystal Palace will be a Premier League team next year. After Alan Pardew’s shock departure many will have been expecting Palace to have been one of the three that dropped at the end of the season.

Damaging defeats such as the 3-0 rout away to West Ham, and the 5-4 loss to Swansea City, seemed to be damning, but magnificent victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool meant the Eagles lived to fight another day in England’s top flight.

In what has been a difficult season at Selhurst Park there have been some reasons to be positive for Eagles fans. Wilfried Zaha seems to have finally discovered his potential and has become a driving force for the team, both in creating and scoring goals. Christian Benteke managed fifteen league goals this year as he made some inroads into the £32 million that Palace paid for him. Palace will do well to hold on to the pair during the off season, and doing so may prove vital for the club’s ambitions next year.

Mamadou Sakho was an inspired loan signing in January, drastically improving the club’s fortunes before a knee injury prematurely ended his season. It would be a great piece of business for the Eagles to negotiate a permanent deal for the Liverpool outcast.

Crystal Palace, and Sam Allardyce should be commended for their efforts in surviving this season. But, with Big Sam surprisingly exiting the club, it looks as though it will be a new manager that will need to take on the task of considerably improving the squad if they are to survive again next year.

Swansea City

League Position: 15th (PTS: 41, GD: -25)

Top Scorer: Fernando Llorente (15)

Player of the Season: Gylfi Sigurdsson

Moment of the Season: Swansea beat Sunderland 2-0 at The Stadium of Light, before Hull City lose 4-0 to Crystal Palace to confirm Swansea’s top-flight status for another season.

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Swansea City stayed up due to their tenacity and desire. Paul Clement deserves full credit for inspiring the fight back from the brink. The Swans actually took thirteen points from their final five games and climbed to a very respectable fifteenth place in the final standings. With form like that, Clement and Swans fans, alike, will be hoping that they can have a much more successful campaign next time round.

Keeping hold of leading scorer Fernando Llorente will surely be key, as well as their talisman and star man, Gylfi Sigurdsson. There will surely be a fair few clubs sniffing around the two.

Whilst Swansea relied on a late resurgence to climb free of the drop-zone the Welsh side did enjoy a 3-0 win over Sunderland, a 2-0 win over Leicester and found themselves on the right side of a 5-4 score line against Crystal Palace. Needless to say, fans will be keen to forget embarrassing losses, conceding three, four and five against Middlesbrough, West Ham and Tottenham, respectively. Paul Clement will surely be attempting to make his defence much more watertight in his first full transfer manager as Swans boss.

Not a great season, but not a horrendous one either, as Swansea pulled off the great escape.

Burnley

League Position: 16th (PTS: 40, GD: -16)

Top Scorer: Sam Vokes (10)

Player of the Season: Michael Keane

Moment of the Season: Beating Liverpool 2-0 at Turf Moor, in August.

Sean Dyche has done an unbelievable job at Burnley. Not a particularly glamorous or attractive club in terms of footballing style, but gritty and determined nonetheless. Burnley may have only finished six points of the relegation places, but the Lancashire club has never really looked under threat of going down.

The Clarets will have likely been many people’s pick to go down at the start of the year, but their ability to turn Turf Moor into a fortress was undoubtedly the key to the club’s survival, having claimed just one win away from home all season.

Instrumental to this was Burnley’s backline, possessing the impressive Michael Keane and ever-consistent Tom Heaton, the former of whom just nabs the Player of the Season for me. It will be a sad day for Clarets supporters when Keane inevitably leaves the club in the summer, and he will be no doubt difficult to replace. Either way, both were rewarded with England caps for superb seasons. Dyche will also need to recruit upfront where leading man Sam Vokes has struggled at times.

Overall, a good year for Burnley considering their small transfer fund compared to other clubs. Steady.

Watford

League Position: 16th (PTS: 40, GD: -28)

Top Scorer: Troy Deeney (10)

Player of the Season: Etienne Capoue

Moment of the Season: If you’re a Hornets fan then it will probably be Walter Mazzari’s departure, but in terms of the playing side of things, beating Arsenal 2-0 at The Emirates will have put smiles on many Watford faces.

Indifferent. Watford started OK, taking seven points from their opening five fixtures, including a shock 3-0 win over Manchester United, but like so many, they faded away as the season wore on. Captain Troy Deeney led the way, as Odion Ighalo was packed off to China, unable to replicate his form of the previous season.

Several unsuccessful signings for Watford didn’t help the cause, Stefano Okaka and Isaac Success were particularly underwhelming for large parts. Like their manager’s interviews, Watford’s play seemed to be lost in translation as the year wore on, and the fans will no doubt be thankful for survival. Hornets legend Graham Taylor’s untimely death in January didn’t help the mood at Vicarage Road.

The January arrival of Tom Cleverley didn’t really make much difference, as the Hornets just about clawed their way to safety. Etienne Capoue gets the Player of the Season award for carrying Watford’s midfield and helping them to secure another season of top-flight football.

A narrow survival in the end, and the Golden Boys will need to drastically improve next time round to survive. Perhaps a new manager will bring a fresh approach to the Hertfordshire club next year.

Hull City

League Position: 18th (Relegated) (PTS: 34, GD: -43)

Top Scorer: Robert Snodgrass (7) (Now at West Ham)

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Player of the Season: Harry Maguire

Moment of the Season: A 4-2 win at home to Middlesbrough was about as good as it got for Hull this year.

It’s not been a great year for Hull City. The season started badly with the departure of Steve Bruce, the club couldn’t sign the players it desperately needed, and they sold arguably their best two players in Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass.

The Tigers were actually top of the league for a time, after winning their first two games, but they were soon hit hard by reality. Hull’s goal difference speaks for itself, with the club conceding ten more goals than any other side this season. Despite this, Harry Maguire turned out some leading performances, and there was a sense of genuine hope when Marco Silva won two and drew one of his first five games in charge. Hull will do well to keep him on next year but the KCOM crowd may feel they’ve seen the last of the Portuguese. It will be just as crucial that Hull keep as much of their squad together as possible.

It will be tough on Humberside next year but I would still suspect that Hull City will be in amongst the Championship contenders, and making an immediate return to the Premier League.

Middlesbrough

League Position: 19th (Relegated) (PTS: 28, GD: -26)

Top Scorer: Álvaro Negredo (9)

Player of the Season: Ben Gibson

Moment of the Season: Boro fans didn’t have many goals to cheer, but a 3-0 win at home to Swansea was a rare highlight for the club.

Not good from Middlesbrough this year. Goals came at a premium for the North Yorkshire club, scoring just twenty-seven goals all year. The majority of the burden fell on former Manchester City and Valencia striker Álvaro Negredo, but he never really got going.

Aitor Karanka was sacked in March, and his departure summed up Boro’s torrid season. Failure to convert draws into wins cost the club and as a result, they will now spend at least one season trying to fight for promotion back to the top.

Ben Gibson, who was arguably the best Middlesbrough had to offer, was drafted into Gareth Southgate’s England squad but will likely leave Middlesbrough, after stating he would depart should they succumb to relegation.

The Teesside team’s difficult campaign was summarised as they suffered relegation at the hands of Champions Chelsea, with Brad Guzan nutmegged three times in a 3-0 whitewash.

Not good enough from Boro who will need to have a re-think after an eye-opening season back in England’s top flight.

Sunderland

League Position: 20th (Relegated) (PTS: 24, GD: -40)

Top Scorer: Jermain Defoe (15)

Player of the Season: Jordan Pickford

Moment of the Season: Sunderland beat former manager Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace 4-0 at Selhurst Park.

They say to save the best till last, but this is simply not true for Sunderland. Relegation has been calling the name of the Black Cats for many years now, and finally, the club has succumbed. There is nothing really to say about Sunderland’s last placed finish, except that they deserved it. Not enough effort, poor football and a genuine feeling that the players were quite simply lost at times, are just some of the reasons the club now find themselves in England’s second tier.

One player who has made a real fight of things this year is young Jordan Pickford, who wins Player of the Season for me, despite Jermain Defoe’s fifteen-goal haul. Called up to the senior England side this season, Pickford has ensured some form of damage limitation and without him, Sunderland may have finished even further behind the rest of the pack.

With regards to Jermain Defoe, who now finds himself re-joining former loan club Bournemouth, it has been a decent season for a striker stuck in a team lacking any sort of real quality.

With David Moyes now gone too Sunderland face a massive rebuilding job over the summer and it is likely to be a real uphill struggle to bounce straight back to the big time.

If you ask me, it could be a long time until we see the Black Cats back in the Premier League – sorry Sunderland fans.

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