May 24, 2017
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1st-10th: Reviewing the 2016/17 Premier League’s top-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.

We kick-off with the top half of the table, and where better to start than with the new Premier League Champions, Chelsea…

Chelsea

League Position: 1st (Champions – Champions League Group Stage) (PTS: 93, GD: +52)

Top Scorer: Diego Costa (20)

Player of the Season: N’Golo Kanté

Moment of the Season: Michy Batshuayi scores a late winner at West Brom to secure Chelsea’s status as Champions, and clinch their fifth Premier League crown.

Where do you begin when talking about Chelsea? Deserved champions is probably not a bad place. After a 3-0 drubbing at Arsenal, in November, many Blues fans would have been forgiven for thinking that this wasn’t going to be their year. But Antonio Conte took the defeat in his stride and had produced a tactical masterclass in reshaping his team. Chelsea went unbeaten for 13 games after the defeat and the rest is history.

Initially, re-signing David Luiz from Paris Saint Germain in the summer was seen as a big risk, but the gamble has paid dividends and has been entirely worth it. He and Gary Cahill will surely feel confident of filling John Terry’s shoes, as the long-term Chelsea captain bowed out in front of the club that he has called home for over two decades.

If Chelsea can keep hold of the likes of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard then they will be in a good position to add a sixth crown next term. A close call between Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kanté for Player of the Season, both have had a huge hand in Chelsea’s success this season. Kanté has made it two out of two in terms of Premier League triumphs and has been the heart of the Champions’ midfield this year.

Hazard, meanwhile, has been the main source of creativity, displaying moments of brilliance all year long, with his solo goal against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge the pick of the bunch. But Kante has epitomised Chelsea’s unstoppable drive towards the top and ends the season with another winners’ medal, the PFA Player of the Year Award, the Football Writers’ Award and potentially a first FA Cup triumph in five years.

Adding a few new recruits in the summer will give Chelsea confidence that they can repeat this feat and potentially challenge in Europe as well. What a year it has been for Antonio Conte and Chelsea!

Tottenham Hotspur

League Position: 2nd (Champions League Group Stage) (PTS: 86, GD: +60)

Top Scorer: Harry Kane (29)

Player of the Season: Harry Kane

Moment of the Season: Tottenham beat Arsenal 2-0 in the final North London Derby at White Hart Lane to secure their first finish above their rivals in 21 years.

So close, yet so far for Spurs this season. Mauricio Pochettino’s men finished seven points adrift of Chelsea this season and although they will be proud of their efforts, there is no doubt players and fans alike will be going into the summer months thinking what might’ve been. Two years in a row Spurs have missed out on claiming their first Premier League title, but the young squad will surely be there or thereabouts again next year. Of course, as long as they hold on to their top players that is.

Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen have led the fight this year, and have been well supported by the likes of Son Heung-min and the defensive duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. If Tottenham can recruit well in the summer surely the only way is up. A young, resilient squad put the pressure on eventual champions Chelsea, but Spurs will be hoping they can go one better next year.

If the Lilywhites do lift their debut crown next season it will have to be under the Wembley Arch, having now departed White Hart Lane. Harry Kane and Dele Alli seem to be constantly improving and were both deservedly included in the Premier League Team of the Year. Kane is undoubtedly Tottenham’s Player of the Year, having another superb season, and his second consecutive twenty-five goal plus campaign. His desire and love for the club was emphasised as he netted seven goals in his final two games, to finish the season with a club record twenty-nine Premier League goals.

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Spurs will be back in force next year, with another Champions League campaign to look forward to. A couple of new arrivals in the summer and it could well be Tottenham lifting the title next May.

Manchester City

League Position: 3rd (Champions League Group Stage) (PTS: 78, GD: +41)

Top Scorer: Sergio Agüero (20)

Player of the Season: Kevin De Bruyne

Moment of the Season: Beating arch-rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford 2-1, without top scorer Sergio Agüero, back in September.

It’s been a mixed season for Manchester City. Qualifying for the Champions League group stage is no mean feat, but Pep Guardiola will no doubt be disappointed with his debut season in English football. For the first time in his managerial career, the former Bayern and Barcelona coach has gone trophyless.

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Agüero have been two shining lights this season, and the rise of Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus will have given some hope for future campaigns. The return of Vincent Kompany will have no doubt boosted morale at The Etihad, but improvement must be made if City are to add to their two Premier League titles.

City have an ageing squad, and it looks as though a change of guard could well be on the horizon. Gael Clichy is to leave upon the completion of his contract, whilst long-term servant Pablo Zabaleta departs the club as a fan favourite, and they could be the first of many.

Guardiola looks like he will need to inject new energy into the squad if The Citizens are to wrestle the title from Chelsea’s grasp. Expect a busy summer for the blue side of Manchester.

City may have no silverware to show this season, but ensuring their place amongst Europe’s elite is at least one positive the fans can take from what has been a difficult season for Guardiola’s men.

Liverpool

League Position: 4th (Champions League Qualifiers) (PTS: 76, GD: +36)

Top Scorer: Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mané (13)

Player of the Season: Philippe Coutinho

Moment of the Season: Beating eventual champions Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, with captain Jordan Henderson scoring one of the goals of the season.

It’s been a decent season for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. At one point the favourites to win the title, the Reds dropped off with a range of underwhelming performances against some of the ‘lesser’ sides in the league. Surprisingly, considering their fourth-placed position, Liverpool actually went undefeated this year against the top six.

The Anfield outfit’s season has been a mixture of the sublime and bizarre, ranging from a goalkeeping crisis to a magnificent away win against Arsenal on the opening day of the season. The Reds have faced a challenge of keeping their star names fit this year, with both of their leading scorers, Mané and Coutinho, spending damaging spells on the sidelines.

Liverpool and Klopp have got the job done, not in glamorous style, but in a dogged and determined fashion. A 3-0 win over Middlesbrough confirmed the Reds’ top four status and they will look forward to next year with high hopes. Again, Klopp has a lot of work ahead of him over the summer to continue to build on what is a promising end to Liverpool’s season.

Arsenal

League Position: 5th (Europa League Group Stage Qualification) (PTS: 75, GD: +33)

Top Scorer: Alexis Sánchez (24)

Player of the Season: Alexis Sánchez

Moment of the Season: Hammering eventual champions Chelsea 3-0 at The Emirates back in September.

Where to start with Arsenal’s car crash of a season? Wenger, Kroenke, fighting amongst fans – the problems just go on and on. If missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 20 years wasn’t bad enough, the ongoing dispute over Player of the Season Alexis Sánchez’s contract casts a dark cloud over the red half of North London.

Arsenal’s worst fears have finally been realised and it has become all too obvious that they are a side in decline. Embarrassing defeats at West Brom and Crystal Palace, as well as being played off the pitch at White Hart Lane, have well and truly summed up Arsenal’s horrendous season. Fans hoped it was finally their time, and they can be forgiven for thinking this way when they trounced Chelsea 3-0 in September.

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To rub salt into the gaping wounds further, Arsenal’s defeat at Spurs also ensured they would finish below their rivals for the first time in Arsène Wenger’s tenure at the club. Wenger will soon announce his future at the club and it could go either way. If the fans’ feelings are anything to go by, and Wenger stays on, it could be a long, hard time for the Frenchman next year.

Triumph in the FA Cup final would ease the pain slightly for the Gunners, but it would likely only paper over the cracks at the club. Again, another club which has a big transfer window ahead of them, but the priority will be keeping hold of star man Sánchez.

Manchester United

League Position: 6th (Europa League Group Stage at worst – Champions League Group Stage at best) (PTS: 69, GD: +25)

Top Scorer: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (17)

Player of the Season: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Moment of the Season: Captain Wayne Rooney becomes United’s leading goal scorer, surpassing the great Sir Bobby Charlton with a superb free-kick against Stoke.

Manchester United awarded their own Player of the Season to Ander Herrera, but I have to disagree. There is only one word for me in relation to United this season: Zlatan. He has defied his age and the doubters to finish as United’s top scorer this season. He has carried the Red Devils at times, wearing the goal scoring burden remarkably well. A season-ending injury suffered in April may prove to be terminal on his United career, but if Zlatan’s tenacity is anything to go on then he is far from finished.

José Mourinho’s side has faced much criticism this season for a negative style of play, and fans will be hoping that this changes next season. United spent over £150m in the summer of 2016, and not much progress appears to have been made. Big signings such as Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have struggled and failed to make a notable influence. Eric Bailly has flourished in the heart of the United backline, in front of the ever-impressive David De Gea.

Manchester United may yet join their noisy local rivals in the Champions League next season, should they win their Europa League final against Ajax, and with an EFL Cup triumph too, it may not turn out to be such a bad season after all. Improvement needed, yes, but many sides have had worse seasons than Mourinho’s men.

Everton

League Position: 7th (Europa League Qualifiers Round 3) (PTS: 61, GD: +18)

Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku (25)

Player of the Season: Romelu Lukaku

Moment of the Season: Giving Manchester City a 4-0 drubbing at Goodison Park in January.

What a good start Ronald Koeman has made to life on Merseyside. A seventh place finish this year for Everton is a pretty decent effort from a young squad. Koeman’s signings of midfield duo Idrissa Gana Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin have been two fantastic pieces of business for The Toffees. Encouraging performances from youngsters Tom Davies, Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have given the Goodison faithful some real hope for the future.

Ross Barkley showed glimpses of his talent on a much more regular basis and was instrumental in Romelu Lukaku’s 25 goal haul, and the partnership bodes well for the club as long as they can keep them both at Goodison. Lukaku recently turned down a new deal, and Koeman prolongs the looming contract talks with Barkley and there is a genuine possibility that both could be gone come the transfer window.

Koeman himself has been linked with a move away from the club, with Barcelona reportedly interested taking him to the Nou Camp. It would be a disaster for Everton to lose any of these names, but for now, the focus will turn to next season and converting draws into victories and competing for a place in Europe. The Toffees have shown they are more than capable of competing, beating Arsenal and Manchester City convincingly at home, but have suffered big defeats to the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool away.

Plenty of positives to take from this season, but still, work to do for Koeman to do. Promising.

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Southampton

League Position: 8th (PTS: 46, GD: -7)

Top Scorer: Nathan Redmond

Player of the Season: Oriol Romeu

Moment of the Season: Nathan Redmond scores twice as the Saints come out on top in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Watford.

Oriol Romeu has been somewhat of a rock this season for Southampton. The Romanian has made more passes, tackles and interceptions than any other of his teammates. A typical battling warrior, the ex-Chelsea midfielder has thrived in the role given to him by Claude Puel. Puel himself has managed to fill the shoes of Ronald Koeman without setting the world alight, and there has been a persistent rumour that he will be dismissed in the near future.

Another top half finish for the Saints gives a positive end to a mixed campaign, in a season disrupted by injuries to key names such as Charlie Austin and Virgil van Dijk, where the Saints may well have gained a European place, had Manolo Gabbiadini’s goal in the EFL Cup Final not been wrongly ruled offside.

Regardless, positive results this season against Everton and Leicester have given the Saints something to build upon, and every hope of improving on eighth place next season. With any luck, Puel will be hoping that this is the start of a successful spell on the south coast.

Bournemouth

League Position: 9th (PTS: 46, GD: -12)

Top Scorer: Josh King (16)

Player of the Season: Josh King

Moment of the Season: Plenty. A spirited 1-1 draw at Old Trafford after being reduced to ten men, following the infamous Zlatan/Mings incident optimised Bournemouth’s fight and team spirit.

Eddie Howe has done a fantastic job at Bournemouth this year. Despite being one of the smallest clubs in the league, Howe’s men have enjoyed playing free-flowing football which has rivalled even Arsenal’s at times.

The Cherries scored six goals in a demolition job against Hull City, and four more in a convincing win over Middlesbrough. Josh King has been the architect behind a lot of the club’s goal-scoring prowess and they will do well to keep hold of the Norwegian international in the summer.

Highlights of Bournemouth season includes a magnificent 4-3 victory over Liverpool, in October, and an arguably even more impressive display against Manchester United at Old Trafford, holding the 13-time Premier League winners to a 1-1 draw, despite playing with ten for the entire second half.

The emergence of young Ryan Fraser has been a bright spark for Bournemouth, and they have done marvellously well to avoid the drop and finish in the top half of the league for the first time in their history.

Jack Wilshere’s loan may not quite have gone the way that Howe hoped, but the signing of Jermain Defoe from Sunderland will excite many Cherries fans.

Plenty of positives for Bournemouth to take into next season.

West Bromwich Albion

League Position: 10th (PTS: 45, GD: -8)

Top Scorer: Salomón Rondón (8)

Player of the Season: Ben Foster

Moment of the Season: Dismantling Arsenal 3-1 at The Hawthorns, and with it, their season too.

West Brom fans can be very pleased with their season. They have made decent progress without really pulling up any trees. At one point the Baggies looked set to push Southampton and Everton all the way for a higher placed finish, but a nine-game winless run scuppered their chances towards the end of the campaign. Prior to this, West Brom had won nine out of sixteen games, including a resounding victory against Arsenal.

The Baggies enjoyed their first top-half finish since the 2012/13 season, and never looked in any danger of being relegated. Tony Pulis has a well-drilled outfit, but could perhaps do with signing a new striker in the close season as Rondón tailed off as the season went on. Nacer Chadli, Jake Livermore and Matt Phillips all were successful new signings and Pulis will look to add similar quality to his squad for the next campaign.

However, the star of the show down at The Hawthorns is undoubtedly Ben Foster, without whom the Baggies would surely not be as high as they are. Foster missed not a single second of the campaign for his club and will remain a key player for years to come.

Pulis will be hoping for the same next season, only with a stronger finish next time round. The only way is up for West Brom.

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