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Midseason grades: Rating each Premier League club

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After reaching the halfway point of the 2016-17 Premier League, Pro Soccer Talk is handing out its awards over the next few days.

[ MORE: PST’s full midseason awards ]

Click on the link above for all of the midseason awards, while below we dish out grades to each PL team based on their performance so far this season.

[ MORE: PL standings  | schedule

Too harsh? Too lenient?

Let us know in the comments section below.

[ LISTEN: The 2 Robbies, Rebecca Lowe, midseason review


Chelsea's Eden Hazard, left, and Chelsea's team manager Antonio Conte celebrate after winning the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Chelsea: A+
16 wins out of 19 will get you top of the class. Antonio Conte has made a huge impact and Blues are the title favs.

Liverpool: A
Jurgen Klopp‘s project is gathering steam. Offensively incredible but still question marks in defense. Legit title contenders.

West Brom: B+
Tony Pulis‘ side have started to score goals by the bucket load. Combined with their tight defense, the Baggies are flying high.

Burnley: B+
Turf Moor is a fortress and it seems like Sean Dyche‘s side have learned from their PL experience two seasons ago. Great start.

Tottenham Hotspur: B+
Mauricio Pochettino‘s youngsters are back in the groove after their shock UCL exit. Spurs’ star players Kane and Alli back to their best.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Gareth McAuley of West Bromwich Albion (C) celebrates scoring his sides second goal with Jose Salomon Rondon of West Bromwich Albion (R) and Hal Robson-Kanu of West Bromwich Albion (L) during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Hull City at The Hawthorns on January 2, 2017 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Arsenal: B+
The Gunners are ticking over nicely as we hit halfway. Futures of Arsene Wenger, Sanchez and Ozil up in the air but title contenders.

Manchester United: B
Six-straight wins heading into halfway has confidence high at Old Trafford. Jose Mourinho’s stars in Zlatan and Pogba are stepping up.

Bournemouth: B
The Cherries continue to punch above their weight and look like they can finish in the top 10. Great work from Eddie Howe.

Manchester City: B-
Yes, Pep Guardiola‘s men are still in the title hunt (just) but we all expected a bit more, didn’t we? So did Pep. A work in progress.

Everton: C
Toffees have had an up and down start but Ronald Koeman is bringing through youngsters and had a good festive period. Promising.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Watford at Etihad Stadium on December 14, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Watford: C
Walter Mazzarri makes so many changes to his team that its hard to judge them. That said, Hornets started well but are currently in a slump.

Middlesbrough: C
Scoring goals is a massive issue for ‘Boro but Aitor Karanka‘s side are staying solid at the back. They should stay up quite comfortably.

Southampton: C
Europa League exploits (and shock exit) took its toll and Claude Puel is under pressure after a poor festive period. Scoring goals a huge problem.

Stoke City: C-
Everyone expected a lot more from the Potters. Injuries haven’t been kind to them but shaky defensive displays hampering Mark Hughes.

Sunderland: D
What did we really expect from the Black Cats? The perennial relegation battlers are fighting away under David Moyes. Get ready for a rally.

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Robert Huth of Leicester City reacts to the final whistle after the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Leicester City at Riverside Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

West Ham: D
Exiting Europa League in qualifying set the tone and the move to London Stadium a negative. Bilic’s side have recovered well from early struggles.

Hull City: D
Much like Sunderland, what else did we expect? Mike Phelan finally got the job permanently and January transfers are much needed. Hanging in there.

Leicester City: D-
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season far. The reigning champs have underwhelmed on the road and UCL has been the priority. Relegation battle.

Crystal Palace: F
Eagles have ditched Pardew for Allardyce and they know they’re in a relegation battle. With the quality in their squad, that’s shocking. Defensive issues galore.

Swansea City: F
A big fat F for the Swans. Firing two managers by the midway point not a recipe for success. Bob Bradley not given a chance. Paul Clement has a huge challenge.

SWANSEA, WALES - NOVEMBER 26: Bob Bradley, Manager of Swansea City looks on prior to the Premier League match between Swansea City and Crystal Palace at Liberty Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.