Week 5: “View from the Booth” with Arlo White

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This weekend the voice of soccer on NBC Sports is back in action as the Premier League returns following the recent international break.

When watching soccer on TV, have you ever sat there and wondered what the man behind the microphone really thinks? Maybe this will go someway to helping with that.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about Everton vs. Chelsea on Saturday as Jose Mourinho squares off with Roberto Martinez. Arlo also discusses the U.S. national team and their chances in Brazil and how Liverpool can keep their fantastic early season run going.

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With four live games on NBC and NBC Sports Network this weekend, and every single games available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra, you have no excuse to not get back into the Premier League spirit.

Okay let’s get to it with this weeks questions, over to Arlo.

Well Arlo, the international break is over. It seems like an age since we had some Premier League games to talk about. You will be at Goodison Park for Everton vs. Chelsea on Saturday, who do you expect from this game?

Firstly, it’ll be great to be calling games again after the International break. This match-up is fascinating on so many levels.

Everton need a win. It’s simple. They weren’t handed a horrible start to the season, but they’ve only managed three consecutive draws against Norwich, West Brom and Cardiff. Now Everton fans, is your glass half full (it’s an unbeaten start, you haven’t conceded a goal in the last two games, no team has had more possession this season than your 64% and you’ve still got Leighton Baines)? Or is it half empty (we haven’t scored for 205 minutes, we haven’t won a game yet and we lost Felliani to Manchester United)?

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Mirallas is one of the stars at Goodison who must rise to the challenge after losing Fellaini.

It’ll be fascinating to see how Everton fans react tomorrow. They’ve enjoyed some big wins against Chelsea in recent years at Goodison Park, earned through good play and ferocious spirit. Will they be patient if all is not going well and their team aren’t getting the ball forward quickly enough for their liking?

I’m sure they will. They know their Football, and they know it’s a process. Everton wasn’t nicknamed the ‘School of Science’ for nothing.

As for Chelsea, who is going to start up front? Will it be Torres? Will it be Eto’o? Will Juan Mata feature? Will there be a debut for Willian? Will Frank Lampard feature? Will my question mark button still be working next week? It’s been a big week for Frank after earning his 100th cap for England, but he’s played 7 matches already this season for club and country. He only played 45 minutes for England v Scotland but then played all 120 minutes for Chelsea v Bayern Munich. He may be due a rest in this one, especially given that Chelsea start their Champions League campaign on Wednesday.

And then on Monday your back in South Wales to see if Liverpool can keep their good run going against Swansea. Do you see another 1-0 win coming up for Brendan Rodgers’ men against his former club?

What are the odds on another Liverpool win, with Daniel Sturridge scoring the only goal? Does lightning strike four times? Rodgers will be desperate for Sturridge to be fit as he’s on an incredible run. It’s hard to believe after Liverpool dug their heals in so doggedly to keep Luis Suarez from the clutches of Arsenal, that a debate has started about whether the Uruguayan will actually get his place straight back when his ban ends.

Liverpool have been superb defensively. Mignolet has been fantastic in goal. Between them, Toure, Agger and Skrtel have been solid at centre back. But the engine room for Liverpool is the axis between Lucas and Gerrard at the base of midfield. They dictate the pace of the game, and have done so to great effect so far. Ahead of them, they have the likes of Sturrdige, Coutinho, Aspas and Henderson, who you’d back to nick a goal. It’s the solidity of the back seven that protect those slender leads. I’m sure Liverpool will be more expansive as the season progresses, but right now, a controlled approach based on possession and pressing is working very nicely.

I’m sure Rodgers will get a decent reception back in Swansea. For the home side, Michu needs a Premier League goal. He’s failed to find the net in the league so far this season, and only has one one in his last 7. I’m sure it’s just a blip, and the Swans will be hoping to build on that cathartic and nerve settling away win at West Brom.

Talking about 1-0 wins, would Manchester United take that scoreline against Crystal Palace at home on Saturday? That opening day win against Swansea must seem like a long time ago for David Moyes’ side.

Of course he would. This is an important game for Manchester United. If they slip up, they will take that disappointment to Manchester City next weekend for the Derby. I’m sure David Moyes and United fans everywhere would love a thumping 6-0 win at Old Trafford, but I bet secretly he’d be delighted with a relatively routine 2-0 victory, and bank the three points.

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Is Shinji Kagawa the set to play in a new-look United midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini?

I have a couple of questions re United. If they weren’t interested in Mezut Ozil because they already have Shinji Kagawa, are we going to see the Japan International start a game? And now that he’s signed a new long term deal, is it time that Nani stepped up and fulfilled that attacking potential?

As for Palace, their manager Ian Holloway was in typically great form when the NBC team spoke to him on the telephone the other day. He said, “I’m down here in the gutter but I’m looking up at the stars.” The man is a pure quote machine! I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Selhurst Park for the Sunderland game two weeks ago. It was a golden sunlight evening in South London and Palace played a vibrant brand of Football and got their fans jumping with a 3-1 win. The atmosphere was brilliant. In Midfielder Mile Jedinak, they have a player who may turn a few heads this season. Ollie may face a fight to keep him in January.

An intriguing battle will take place up at the Stadium of Light this weekend, with Sunderland desperate for their first win and Arsenal rolling into town with new superstar Mesut Ozil set to make his debut. Do you think it’s too early for Sunderland fans to be worried?

No. I suspect they are a little concerned already. There is no doubt that Paolo Di Canio is an excellent coach, but his challenge will be to mesh together a disparate group of new signings in spite of his somewhat idiosyncratic methods. It was a tough night at Selhurst Park last time out, but one positive was the return to the field and then the goal scoring charts for Steven Fletcher.

After he ducked out of heading a Stewart Downing cross at Palace, will we see Jo Dong-Won in a Sunderland shirt in the near future?

After all the celebrations in the United States following World Cup qualification, how far can Jurgen Klinsmann’s men go at Brazil 2014? Many are suggesting that qualification is only the start for Klinsmann’s squad.

The USA were so impressive on Tuesday night in Columbus. They completely bossed that game game against Mexico. The players knew the tactical plan and they executed it with authority.

Having watched England labor to string two passes together in Kiev earlier that evening, it was refreshing to see the US possess the ball with such confidence. It gave them a great platform in the game but it also further demoralized Mexico, who stumbled around looking bewildered and thoroughly beaten for most of the 2nd half. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Jurgen Klinsmann, but he has broken this team in now, like a very good drill sergeant. The personalities that are in his squad now are the ones who have embraced his methods and philosophy, and they are an infinitely stronger team for it.

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Find out how far Arlo thinks the U.S. national team can go.

The result against Mexico was thoroughly deserved, and was achieved without Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Geoff Cameron, so they will be stronger still. I wonder if Mix Diskerud has a bigger role for the national team in his future? He looks to the manor born in International Football, so maybe a move from Rosenborg is on the cards soon.

The Finals are still a long way away and we are still months away from the draw, but on current evidence, I’d be shocked if the USA didn’t make it out of their group. From then onwards, who knows? (ps – Ghana can still quality, eeek!)

Staying with World Cup qualification, what do you make of England being lambasted for their negative approach in the 0-0 draw with Ukraine?

A point away from home, in a hostile environment like Kiev, when the home side have a massive incentive to win the game, is a very good point, and one that Roy Hodgson would have been satisfied with before the game. However, the method through which that point was achieved was, I’m afraid, deeply concerning and not very surprising.

It’s one thing to gain a point on the road by controlling the game. Keeping the ball for periods frustrates, and extracts the sting from the opposition and quietens a crowd. It’s quite another to completely fail to retain possession, repeatedly hand Ukraine the ball, and hope that you can defend successfully for 90 minutes. There is no doubt that the England team have spirit and tenacity and are difficult to beat (which is something to celebrate), but I just don’t understand why some very good Premier League players struggle to play together in a cohesive manner. Sure, they were missing key attacking players like Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck, but the likes of Gerrard, Wilshere, Lampard, Milner et al, should be able to keep the ball for periods shouldn’t they?

England got away with it in Kiev because Ukraine are fairly average.

So far, they have only beaten Moldova and San Marino, yet they still lead the group and control their own destiny. I’m confident that with their stars back (fingers crossed) and two big Wembley crowds behind them, they can get the 6 points they need against Montenegro and Poland to qualify for Brazil, but my word it’s been a painful journey.

St. Petersburg arena hurries to lay new field for Confed Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian organizers are hurrying to lay a new field at the stadium in St. Petersburg which will host the final of the Confederations Cup.

[ MORE: Full PL 2016-17 season reviews

With less than a month to go until the tournament kicks off, the 68,000-seat arena requires its third pitch following severe technical problems with the first two.

Russian Football Union board member Igor Lebedev tells Russian news agency Tass that “they’re installing a new pitch.”

The stadium has hosted just two Russian league games, and both times the playing surface cut up badly.

That pitch was the second to be fitted at the St. Petersburg stadium after the original one died, a Zenit St. Petersburg club official previously said.

Grades for every Premier League team in 2016-17

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So, we know where each team finished in the Premier League table this season, but how did they really do?

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Taking everything that happened into account, let’s dish out a grade for the overall performance of each club with a brief summary

Plus, click on the link above to follow all of ProSoccerTalk’s reviews of the 2016-17 season.


Chelsea: A
Sublime season with 30 wins from 38 to win the title. The switch to a 3-4-3 formation after losing to Arsenal in September proved the pivotal moment and Antonio Conte galvanized his squad with his passion and attention for detail. Having no European action certainly helped Chelsea during the run-in but with Kante, Hazard and Costa around they have game-changers. Surpassed everyone’s expectation as Conte took the PL by storm and this Chelsea team will add two or three stars over the summer and aim to challenge for the Champions League. Ruthlessly efficient.

Tottenham Hotspur: A-
For the second season running Spurs came up short in the title race but they were the only team who kept up with Chelsea and made things very interesting as we entered April. Harry Kane led the PL with 29 goals and had he been fit for the whole season, maybe Spurs would’ve won the title. Who knows? What we do know is that Mauricio Pochettino is leading this young team into a brave new era with Wembley their temporary home next season and then the new 61,559 capacity stadium at White Hart Lane ready for the 2018-19 campaign. Another season of huge progress but no silverware is the only annoyance. Going the entire season unbeaten at White Hart Lane before it was demolished was a huge achievement.

Bournemouth: B+
Eddie Howe led the Cherries to their highest-ever finish as a club and finishing ninth in the PL after a real struggle in the middle of the season is a great achievement. Josh King scored the goals to push them up the table and even though Jordon Ibe and Jack Wilshere struggled, this young team still showed plenty of class. A third-straight season in the PL was always the aim and Bournemouth comfortably achieved that.

Burnley: B+
The Clarets had a fine season, especially at home, as Sean Dyche‘s side only won once away from Turf Moor all season. With Tom Heaton and Michael Keane excelling in defense, they always hung in games and the pace of Andre Gray and power of Sam Vokes up top gave them a better cutting edge than the last time they were in the PL. On limited resources, this was a superb campaign which will be overlooked due to a poor finish.

Liverpool: B+
Everyone expected Liverpool to challenge for a top four finish and that is what they did. Jurgen Klopp‘s high-powered offense blew teams away and Sadio Mane was the star man. When he was injured Liverpool missed Mane badly and that threatened to derail their top four bid. In the end they held on to finish fourth but for most of the season they were title contenders. Defensive issues, once again, cost Liverpool any chance at the title. Still, Klopp’s first full season in charge was a success.

Everton: B
A solid season for the Toffees as Ronald Koeman‘s men faded a little but still qualified for the Europa League. Keeping Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku this summer will be key for the Dutchman but it wouldn’t be surprising if both players left. Another summer of transfer dealing will make this Everton team really feel like Koeman’s and they weren’t far away from challenging for the top four this season. Solid.

West Brom: B-
Looked like they were going to finish eighth but a bad end to the season saw Tony Pulis‘ players fail to record a win in their last nine outings. That won’t sit well over the offseason but survival and getting to 40 points is always the first thing the Baggies want. Anything else is a bonus. A severe lack of goals from Salomon Rondon proved costly but resolute defensive displays were once again their strength with Ben Foster having a fine campaign.

Manchester City: B-
Pep Guardiola struggled in his first season in England but finished third to get the job done in terms of Champions League qualification. However, a UCL exit at the Round of 16, plus disappointment in both cup competitions didn’t go down well. Claudio Bravo and John Stones were the scapegoats of Pep’s philosophy not quite working in the PL as possession-based soccer from the back was found out. He will have to tweak things this summer, and spend plenty more cash, to turn this ageing squad into title contenders.

Hull City: C
Even though they were relegated, let’s remember that the Tigers hardly had a squad when the PL season kicked off. Mike Phelan was eventually replaced by Marco Silva and the Portuguese boss did a phenomenal job to give them a chance of surviving. The Tigers will be heavy favorites to come straight back up but Silva is unlikely to remain at the KCOM Stadium as their ownership struggles continue behind-the-scenes.

Southampton: C-
A really strange season for Saints who finished eighth, which is their fourth season on the spin in eighth or higher in the PL. For a club of their size, you can’t argue with that. Yet manager Claude Puel is under severe pressure and could be fired after his first season in England. Saints didn’t make it through their Europa League group in agonizing fashion and then dominated Manchester United in the EFL Cup final but lost 3-2. Their slow paced build-up play has angered many supporters with just 17 goals scored in 19 home PL games. Saints should be careful what they wish for but it is likely Puel will depart.

Manchester United: C-
If Jose Mourinho ends up winning the Europa League then this grade will be higher. However, United have recorded their least wins in a PL season and have been awful to watch at times. Part of that has to do with having a huge number of games with the Europa League and EFL Cup, but Mourinho spent big on the likes of Paul Pogba who has yet to deliver the goods consistently. Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s injury was a big blow but if United end this season with EFL Cup and Europa League trophies, then it will be job done for Mourinho. It wasn’t pretty as Wayne Rooney and others were deemed surplus to requirements and Mourinho has gambled on Europa League success.

Swansea City: C-
The Swans had three managers and somehow survived. Francesco Guidolin was replaced by Bob Bradley early in the season and the American coach was not given time or a transfer window to turn the struggling squad around. Paul Clement arrived and did just that as he won 29 points as Swans boss and they rose out of the relegation zone after winning four of their last five games of the season. Now it’s all about not repeating those mistakes and trying to push for a top 10 finish. Keeping Gylfi Sigurdsson will be tough.

Watford: D+
Walter Mazarri is out as boss in a weird campaign for the Hornets. They were looking set for a top 10 finish but collapsed in the second half of the season as the players appeared to lose faith in Mazarri’s tactics. With Troy Deeney out of favor the goals dried up and Watford’s new manager will now have to try and restore confidence to a mish-mash of players who under-performed. Not a pretty campaign.

Stoke City: D
Disappointing season for Stoke who finshed in 13th place but were just two points off eighth. Goalscoring was the issue once again for Mark Hughes‘ men as Saido Berahino struggled for fitness, Wilfried Bony couldn’t settle and the likes of Arnautovic and Shaqiri were inconsistent. The return of Jack Butland in goal was a huge boost but the Potters will have to start well next season otherwise Hughes will be under a little bit of pressure.

Crystal Palace: D
The Eagles stayed up, just, but this was a bad season for a talented squad. Alan Pardew‘s men didn’t recover from a poor second half of the 2015-16 season and the Palace legend was sacked midway through the season. In came Sam Allardyce who initially failed to turn things around but big wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool sparked a miraculous recovery alongside some great January additions in Mamadou Sakho, Patrick Van Aanholt and Luka Milivojevic. Palace will have to rebuild defensively this summer if they truly want to be a top 10 team.

Leicester City: D
Claudio Ranieri was fired as manager after the Foxes dropped into the relegation zone and the 2015-16 champions rallied late in the campaign to finish in midtable. Interim boss Craig Shakespeare did a fine job to turn things around but Ranieri still played his part as Leicester lost to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals. You have to think a lot of these players will be moved on in the summer, but can Leicester afford their replacements after dishing out big contracts after the title win? Vardy, Mahrez and Schmeichel will attract interest but the Foxes must keep hold of them. 12th place in the table is about right for Leicester’s squad, which shows you just how miraculous last season was.

West Ham: D
So many things went wrong for the Hammers this season. The move to their new stadium was met with plenty of criticism by home supporters, Dimitri Payet left in January and so many injuries piled up in defense. Simply put, you can’t help but feel sorry for Slaven Bilic. The Croatian coach may still leave this summer but he will probably stick around and he deserves too. Strengthening defense should be the main focus this summer and getting in a proven striker with Andy Carroll far too injury prone to rely on. The Hammers finished in 11th which, considering all the issues, was not a bad outcome at all.

Arsenal: D-
Where do we start? Not finishing in the top four for the first time in 20 years under Arsene Wenger says it all. The Frenchman is under increasing pressure to leave the Gunners but it appears he will remain in charge for another two seasons. The debate about the future’s of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez also hung around for most of the season to disrupt the team and humiliation in the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich threw them out of the top four race in early 2017. That said, with five wins in their last six they almost made the top four again and if Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final this weekend then there will be something to salvage from this season. There is a huge change needed in recruitment and investment if Arsenal are ever going to be genuine title contenders. Wenger’s future is not the only big issues which needs to be addressed at the Emirates Stadium after this season.

Middlesbrough: F
A truly woeful return to the PL Boro who had worked so hard to get back to the promised land. Aitor Karanka often set his team up to get clean sheets and they got plenty of them, but the lowest scorers in the PL hit the back of the net just 27 teams in 38 games. Karanka was shown the door at a bizarre time and caretaker Steve Agnew didn’t really have a chance. Boro will be among the favorites in the Championship next season but they may lose some of their talented young defenders, especially Ben Gibson. Five wins from 38 games sums it up.

Sunderland: F
The only team who had it worse than Boro was their north east rivals Sunderland. David Moyes resigned the day after the season was over as he led the Black Cats to a 20th place finish with 24 points and they simply had no chance all season long. Moyes talked about relegation in the opening weeks of the campaign and despite Jermain Defoe‘s goals and Jordan Pickford‘s heroics in goal, they never looked like staying up. The Black Cats will need a complete rebuild but owner Ellis Short has a lot to answer for as he simply failed to invest enough in this squad which has stayed up in the PL by the skin of their teeth for many, many years.

Premier League 2016-17 season reviews: A-M

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The 2016-17 Premier League season is now over and it is time to look back at how all 20 teams fared.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Below you will find the first half of the PL analyzed (Arsenal though to Manchester City), with the second half coming up later today.

Plus, click on the link above to follow all of ProSoccerTalk’s reviews of the 2016-17 season.

Let’s get to it.


Arsenal

Final position: 5th (Europa League group stage)
Star man: Alexis Sanchez – Involved in 34 goals (24 scored, 10 assisted) Sanchez was the main man once again. He’ll likely move on this summer.
The Gaffer: Arsene Wenger – Speculation over his future dominated the entire season and the Arsenal boss admitted it cost them a place in the top four. A poor season by Wenger’s very, very high standards.
Mark out of 10: 5/10 – Not making the top four for the 21st consecutive season is the wake-up call Arsenal needed. Collapse after UCL exit to Bayern Munich costly and speculation around Wenger, Ozil and Sanchez impacted the whole team. Late surge couldn’t save them.
Season summed up in a word: Regression.


Bournemouth

Final position: 9th
Star manJosh King – The Norwegian was on fire in 2017, scoring 13 of his 16 PL goals. The big boys will come calling this summer.
The Gaffer: Eddie Howe – A fine job from Howe as he stuck to his philosophy even when a relegation battle looked likely. Strong finish cemented his status as one of the best young managers in Europe.
Mark out of 10: 8/10 – Their highest-ever finish as a club says it all. The Cherries shook off suggestions of a Sophomore slump and rallied late in the season. Third-straight season of PL despite getting some big transfer moves wrong.
Season summed up in a word: Progression.


Burnley

Final position: 16th
Star man: Tom Heaton – Will surely challenge Joe Hart for England’s No.1 jersey after a fine season. His goal was peppered with efforts but he was the star man on many occasions. Heaton led by example as the skipper.
The Gaffer: Sean Dyche – “The Ginger Mourinho” showed his class once again as he made Burnley tough to beat and worked wonders with limited resources. Expect to see him in the PL for many, many years.
Mark out of 10: 8/10 – With just one away win all season the Clarets relied on their home form and they turned Turf Moor into a fortress. Dyche and his squad learned from their previous exploits in the PL and adapted much better this time. Key addition of Hendrick in midfield worked superbly.
Season summed up in a word: Resilience.


Chelsea

Final position: 1st (Champions League group stage)
Star man: N'Golo Kante – The PFA Player of the Year was sublime in midfield and he has now won two titles on the spin. Phenomenal athlete and wonderful soccer brain. He remains unassuming but is getting all of the credit he deserves. Azpilicueta, Luiz, Hazard and Costa all had fine seasons too.
The Gaffer: Antonio Conte – Italian maestro galvanized Chelsea early in the season and placed his side in a 3-4-3 formation to perfection. His first season in England couldn’t have gone any better.
Mark out of 10: 10/10 – Chelsea were the most efficient team in the PL and setting a record of 30 wins from 38 games says it all. Only one small wobble during the run-in and not having European action helped them dominate the PL. Ruthless.
Season summed up in a word: Dominant.


Crystal Palace

Final position: 14th
Star man: Wilfried Zaha – The winger is finally coming of age and in the second half of the season he was sublime. Wilf has the pace and power to terrify opponents and now he’s adding the goals and assists.
The Gaffer: Alan Pardew/Sam Allardyce – Pardew dismissed around the festive period with Palace in huge trouble. Allardyce struggled initially but marquee wins late in the season edged the Eagles away from the bottom three. Job done for Big Sam.
Mark out of 10: 5/10 – This expensively assembled squad massively under-performed with Benteke and Cabaye struggling. Big wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool saved them and showed what they’re capable of.
Season summed up in a word: Shaky.


Everton

Final position: 7th (Europa League third-qualifying round)
Star manRomelu Lukaku – The big Belgian scored 25 times in the PL but his future remains uncertain as Chelsea and others circle. Lukaku’s goals took the Toffees back to Europe.
The Gaffer: Ronald Koeman – A very solid first season at Goodison Park as Everton flirted with the top four throughout the campaign. Another summer of his buys and this will be a true Koeman team.
Mark out of 10: 7/10 – Overall a fine season for Everton. Not getting further in the cup competitions will have been annoying but being back in the Europa League was always the aim. Mission accomplished.
Season summed up in a word: Rebuilding.


Hull City

Final position: 18th (Relegated)
Star manHarry Maguire – The marauding center back surely remain in the PL with another club. Handed the captains armband and excelled with perfectly-timed tackles and vital goals. Couldn’t do it all on his own.
The Gaffer: Mike Phelan/Marco Silva – Phelan didn’t really have a chance after Steve Bruce left before the season but started well before fading badly. Silva has been a revelation since arriving, somehow giving Hull a chance of survival as he wheeled and dealed, then made them into a solid outfit. The Portuguese coach is high on the list of many PL clubs this summer.
Mark out of 10: 6/10 – Okay, so the Tigers were relegated but they did better than most expected. They looked dead and buried for most of the season but a fine charge late on showed character and took things down to the penultimate weekend of the season.
Season summed up in a word: Valiant.


Leicester City

Final position: 12th
Star manKasper Schmeichel – The Danish goalkeeper was superb for most of the season and had to make a string of fine saves in Leicester’s fairytale run to the UCL quarterfinal. He gets better every season.
The Gaffer: Claudio Ranieri/Craig Shakespeare  – Such a shame that Ranieri was fired but Leicester were in freefall and heading for relegation under his guidance. Shakespeare steadied the ship but there’s still uncertainty over whether he will get the gig full time.
Mark out of 10: 5/10 – Never recovered from a poor start and although the UCL run took its toll, this squad underachieved massively compared to their title-winning campaign 12 months ago. This season showed what a miracle their PL title win was.
Season summed up in a word: Reality.


Liverpool

Final position: 4th (Champions League playoff round)
Star manSadio Mane – The Senegalese flyer was on fire whenever he played but after missing a large chunk of the season through AFCON duty and injury, Liverool fans will be wondering what could’ve been. Joint-top scorer with 13 goals and his pace adds an extra dimension to their attack.
The Gaffer: Jurgen Klopp – In his first full season at Liverpool the German coach delivered a Champions League return for just the second time in eight seasons. It looked like they might mount a title charge but defensive weaknesses cost them during a bad run in January.
Mark out of 10: 7/10 – This season could’ve been so much better for Liverpool had they not wobbled massively at the turn of the year. That said, they recovered well and achieved what many expected for them this season: a top four finish.
Season summed up in a word: Expected.


Manchester City

Final position: 3rd
Star manDavid Silva – Wonderful season from the Spanish midfielder who not only created and scored goals but became the heartbeat of the team. Guardiola put all his faith in Silva and he repaid him. Perhaps his best-ever season at City.
The Gaffer: Pep Guardiola – A tough first season for Pep in the PL as defensive issues riddled City’s progress. Claudio Bravo and John Stones struggled with the free-flowing style expected in defense and this will have been a huge learning curve. First season as a manager without any silverware.
Mark out of 10: 6/10 – Given all the changes and the fact that City have an ageing squad, third place was fine. But that’s it. The UCL exit to Monaco in Round of 16 was a big disappointment, as was the FA Cup semifinal defeat to Arsenal.
Season summed up in a word: Average.


Fernandinho discusses Guardiola’s first season, UCL and more

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Pep Guardiola‘s first season in-charge at Manchester City wasn’t always easy, but in the end the Spanish manager guided his side to a top-four finish and a spot in the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea crowned champions, but more glory on club’s mind ]

One of the players concentrated at the heart of his side’s success was midfielder Fernandinho, who along with Guardiola, had his share of ups and downs during the Premier League season.

As someone not often associated with flashy play or beautiful goals, it’s easy for the Brazilian veteran to get lost in the mix at times, however, it was his solid play in front of the City back line that helped stabilize the club’s midfield throughout the 2016/17 campaign and since his arrival in 2013.

[ MORE: Stan Kroenke releases statement regarding Arsenal ]

PST had the opportunity to catch up recently with Fernandinho, where the Brazilian discussed the Premier League season, qualifying for next season’s Champions League and much more.

The 32-year-old finished his season strong, even closing out City’s PL finale against Watford on Championship Sunday with a goal of his own, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

Just after the transition to 2017, Fernandinho was handed a four-match suspension by the FA for serious foul play during a match against Burnley, but it was that experience, among others, that helped Fernandinho improve under Guardiola.

“Personally it was good because I have been playing a few different positions and learning a lot of things with him [Pep],” Fernandinho told PST. “I am happy with that. Finishing the season playing like this is good because I improved myself during the year after having a tough moment where I was suspended for several games.

“That’s why it was good for me. I learned a lot and it’s going to be giving me more experience with my football and I hope I can put my stamp on the game and help my teammates win as much as possible.”

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This season was one of finding rhythm for many teams throughout the PL, especially for those with new high-profile managers like Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho and Ronald Koeman taking over new positions in England. However, it was Guardiola’s move to the Etihad Stadium that was easily the most noted and carefully-watched from day one.

The former Barcelona boss has always been watched — mostly because of his success while with the Spanish giants and with Bundesliga power Bayern Munich — and even though it wasn’t always easy for the Citizens with their new manager there were certainly signs of momentum as the season progressed.

“We just needed a little bit of time to know the players and for the players to know him,” Fernandinho said. “He had a new style of play and sometimes it’s not easy to adjust so quickly. It’s takes a bit of time. But I think we improved a lot since the beginning of the year, the beginning of the season. For sure for the next season it’s going to be completely different and much better.”

One area that Fernandinho and his side will need to improve upon next season is the team’s home form, which the midfielder also noted.

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While the Citizens posted 11 victories at the Etihad in 2016/17, Guardiola’s group mustered up seven draws, dropping 14 crucial points in the title race.

That’s something Fernandinho says must change next season.

“We solved some of our problems and we improved a bit on what we have to do, but of course we drew so many games, especially at home, and we lost so many points at home,” the Brazilian told PST. “Since the beginning we tried to play good football. We tried to make it attractive football, but sometimes that’s not possible. I think the way we finished the league this year was okay. For next year, for the next season, we are going to definitely be better than this year.”

The PL has proven be one of the toughest leagues to compete in for decades, making City’s recent success and consistency so impressive, even prior to Guardiola’s takeover.

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Guardiola’s first season in charge with the Citizens marked the seventh straight year in which the team has finished inside the top-four of England’s top flight, while the club has also qualified for the UCL for the seventh consecutive season after not having reached the competition prior to the 2011/12 campaign.

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For Fernandinho, although there may be disappointment for not winning the league, Man City is pleased with its success given the level of competition that the club faces on a week in and week out basis in the PL.

“It’s important because we’ve got many good teams in England and we fought great players and of course it’s four positions that go through to qualify for Champions League,” Fernandinho said. “It’s not easy. We are happy for that to secure third place and we’re going to try to do our best to finish better than we finished this year in Champions League as well.

“We have to be proud because the Premier League isn’t easy to finish in the top four. We play against good players and good teams, so we have to be proud to play in the Champions League every year.”