Aitor Karanka

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Premier League 2016-17 season reviews: M(UFC) to W(est Ham)

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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 over the course of the campaign.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Below you will find the second half of the PL analyzed (Manchester United to West Ham United), with the first half ably handled by Joe Prince-Wright this morning.

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

Let’s get to it.


Manchester United

Pogba (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Final position: 6th (Europa League group stage)
Star manPaul Pogba — It’s clear that he’ll never justify his price tag to some critics, but once he found his footing in late Fall there was no turning back for one of the most complete players in the world. Only David De Gea played more minutes for the Red Devils.
The Gaffer: Jose Mourinho — There were typical odd Mourinho moments, and his fixture congestion talk was tiresome, but all-in-all he navigated the Europa League all the way to the final despite an absurd rash of injuries to defenders and long absences for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Juan Mata, and Paul Pogba amongst others.
Mark out of 10: 6/10 – Sixth is no prize for Manchester United, but a win on Wednesday against Ajax may bump this mark up to 7 (perhaps 8 given the injuries).
Season summed up in a word: Patience.


Middlesbrough

Gibson (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Final position: 19th (Relegated)
Star manBen Gibson — The 24-year-old defender played all 3420 Premier League minutes for Boro, and was the most consistent performer on a team that defended like a top half side.
The Gaffer: Aitor Karanka / Steve Agnew — Karanka has a right to feel a bit hard done-by after leading Boro to the Premier League, but he couldn’t orchestrate goals and that is what doomed the Smoggies down to the Championship.
Mark out of 10: 4/10 – Even with relegation, Boro didn’t embarrass itself like their Northeast neighbors Sunderland.
Season summed up in a word: Inoffensive.


Southampton

Romeu (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Final position: 8th
Star man: Oriol RomeuThe hard-nosed tackler with an eye for the smart pass showed us what Barcelona and Chelsea saw in the center midfielder.
The Gaffer: Claude Puel — Not back in Europe, and that’s a disappointment, and seems destined to start next season somewhere else. Is that fair for a League Cup final campaign, one that probably deserved better than a loss?
Mark out of 10: 6/10 – An injury to stellar center back Virgil Van Dijk is likely what kept them from contending with Everton for seventh place. Their Europa League return was decent, and Puel (or whoever) will need to boost the club back into the Top Seven discussion early if he wants to stick around St. Mary’s.
Season summed up in a word: Acceptable.


Stoke City

Martins Indi (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Final position: 13th
Star man: Bruno Martins Indi — The Dutchman was a beast in the back for Stoke, but heads back to Porto this summer unless Mark Hughes can work a sale.
The Gaffer: Mark Hughes — An injury to Geoff Cameron hampered their season, but the Potters stumbled too much given their talent.
Mark out of 10: 3/10 –  There’s a difference between leveling off and dropping off, and Stoke massively underachieved when it comes to taking any sort of step forward.
Season summed up in a word: Underwhelming


Sunderland

Pickford (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Final position: 20th (Relegated)
Star man: Jordan Pickford — The young backstop won’t be long for the Stadium of Light.
The Gaffer: David Moyes — From word one the Scottish boss said his club wasn’t good enough for the league, which sure didn’t help them en route to relegation. Oddly enough, he could’ve been the right man to lead an undermanned rebound to the Championship. Instead, he’s resigned.
Mark out of 10: 1/10 – There was nothing to like from the Northeast, but Jermain Defoe, Didier N’Dong, and Pickford were bright spots.
Season summed up in a word: Moribund.


Swansea City

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Final position: 15th
Star manGylfi Sigurdsson — The Icelandic star is simply the reason Swans stayed alive long enough to see their season rescued by Clement and Co.
The Gaffer: Francesco Guidolin / Bob Bradley / Paul Clement — Not one of these men were given enough talent to keep the team in the Premier League, so credit to Clement for getting it done.
Mark out of 10: 3/10 – Selling Ashley Williams and not adequately replacing him as a leader or center back could go down as the worst move in a long time.
Season summed up in a word: Fortunate.


Tottenham Hotspur

Kane (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

Final position: 2nd (Champions League group stage)
Star man: Harry Kane — Two Golden Boots before he’s turned 24, and the latest Englishman to have a deserved comparison to Alan Shearer.
The Gaffer: Mauricio Pochettino — He’s one of the best managers in the world, and Spurs are fortunate to have him.
Mark out of 10: 10/10 – From the development of Dele Alli to the steadiness of their back line, Spurs could be the next dynastic club in the Premier League.
Season summed up in a word: Precipice.


Watford

Capoue (Scott Heavey/PA via AP)

Final position: 17th
Star manEtienne Capoue — Impressed in possession and finishing touch. In some ways he may be like Gylfi Sigurdsson as a player best suited to stand out on a lesser squad than contribute on a well-oiled machine.
The Gaffer: Walter Mazzarri — Like Quique Flores, another Watford manager sent packing by an impatient brand.
Mark out of 10: 6/10 – Avoided the other end of the yo-yo worry.
Season summed up in a word: Alive.


West Bromwich Albion

Foster (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Final position: 10th
Star man: Ben Foster — Saved points for the Baggies on so many occasions.
The Gaffer: Tony Pulis — Yes he was in the running to be Premier League Manager of the Year, but that feels a bit hollow, like honoring a domestic mainstay for talking down his club’s chances and then keeping them from the drop. At some point, like with Stoke, stagnation makes staying alive less impressive.
Mark out of 10: 6/10 – Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, and Foster helped defend to the death, but the club dropped off a cliff.
Season summed up in a word: Sated.


West Ham United

Reid (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Final position: 11th
Star man: Winston Reid — The New Zealand captain was a steady presence in a tumultuous season.
The Gaffer: Slaven Bilic — Given the club’s massive aims, this season will be combed through in a fine manner. But the Dimitri Payet saga clobbered the team after the Frenchman welched on his commitment to the club. Bilic deserves another chance.
Mark out of 10: 5/10 – The chairman will want more than this, and he has to get it early this Fall.
Season summed up in a word: Wobbly.


Middlesbrough devastated after Premier League departure confirmed

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It’s hard to say it was fun while it lasted but Middlesbrough’s short Premier League tenure officially came to an abrupt end on Monday.

[ MORE: Chelsea cruise past Middlesbrough as title hopes draw near ]

The Boro’s latest 3-0 defeat at the hands of presumptuous PL title chasers Chelsea ensured the club’s trip back down to the Championship after just one season in England’s top flight.

[ MORE: Five takeaways from Chelsea vs. Middlesbrough ]

Middlesbrough joins Sunderland as two of the three sides confirmed for relegation this season, and while it may not be surprising to see the Boro head back down to the second-tire of English soccer, it is still heartbreaking for both the players and the staff.

Over the course of the 2016/17 season, the Boro have racked up just five PL wins, none of which have come against sides currently in the top half of the table.

Much of the club’s lack of success can likely be attributed to the team’s former manager, Aitor Karanka, who was sacked by Middlesbrough back in mid-March.

Caretaker manager Steve Agnew has guided his side to four positive results (1W, 3D) since taking over, including a 2-2 draw in their previous match against Manchester City, however, the Boro simply haven’t been able to display the quality necessary to stay up another season.

“We’re absolutely devastated,” Agnew said. “We worked so hard to get back in the Premier League last season. To lose tonight and lose our Premier League status is a massive and bitter disappointment.

“Now we have to finish off strongly before a summer of reflection. It’s about Middlesbrough Football Club and how we can turn it around next season to get this club back where it belongs.”

Agnew isn’t the only one reflecting on the disappointment though.

Defender Ben Gibson, who is the only Boro player to play every minute of the PL season up until this point, expressed his hurt after the loss.

“It’s not just tonight, it’s a full season,” Gibson told Sky Sports. “From top to bottom we haven’t been good enough. Players, staff, myself.

“They [Chelsea] were much better in every department. It could have been 4,5,6-0. It was the lowest point of my career. We’ve got to put it right.

“In fact it’s the lowest point of my life, not just my career. It means that much.

“The fans didn’t stop singing, wherever we’ve been this season they’ve been the same. The fans deserve Premier League football and we have to find a team to do that

“We have to reflect on what’s gone wrong.”

Five takeaways from Chelsea v. Middlesbrough

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LONDON — If the blue ribbons weren’t already being tied onto the Premier League trophy, you can go ahead and do that now.

[ MORE: What now for Fabregas?

After Antonio Conte‘s side beat Middlesbrough 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday, Chelsea need three more points to be crowned Premier League champions (they play West Bromwich Albion on Friday when they can seal the deal) while Boro were relegated back to the Championship at the first attempt.

Here’s five takeaways from a routine win for the champions elect.


FABREGAS IS MAGIC

Within the first 12 minutes of the game Cesc Fabrgeas had hit three pinpoint long passes over the top of Middlesbrough’s defense which twice found Marcos Alonso and then Diego Costa couldn’t quite get on the end of the third pass. He missed a glorious chance when Hazard pulled it back to him on the edge of the box but moments later made up for it as his inviting pass found Diego Costa to slot home the opener. He also found Victor Moses with another delicate chip but his shot was saved and Fabregas had a goalbound volley deflected wide in the second half before teeing up Nemanja Matic for Chelsea’s third.

Yet another defense unlocked by Fabregas who has now picked up four assists in his last three appearances for Chelsea.

After coming into the starting lineup for the injured N'Golo Kante, Fabregas was pulling all the strings for Chelsea in the deep-lying midfield role. The Spanish midfielder turned 30 last week and although he oozed class throughout his status as a regular in Conte’s midfield is questionable at best. Fabregas has started just 11 PL games this season, with 15 appearances from the bench.

Should Fabregas stay at Stamford Bridge this summer and battle for his place once again next season and be content with more appearances due to European competition returning for Chelsea? He may do just that. On this form Chelsea certainly wouldn’t let him move to another Premier League club but rumors persist that a move to AC Milan or Inter could be options. Despite his lack of gametime throughout the season, Fabregas backed up what Chelsea’s fans sing about him. He is indeed magic. Especially when the opposition give him that much time and space to operate in.


CHELSEA READY TO CLINCH AT THE HAWTHORNS

Friday night in West Bromwich in the West Midlands is where this Chelsea team are likely to seal the title.

Throughout the win against Boro, Chelsea’s fans sung “we’re gonna win the league, we’re gonna win the league!” in lackadaisical fashion. A sixth league title (fifth in the Premier League era) is all but confirmed.

Conte’s men need three more points to seal the title and they’ve responded superbly to the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United on Apr. 16. Since then they’ve won three-straight games and the threat of Tottenham only loomed for a few days before the Blues’ ruthless machine once again sped away.

With no European action to tire them, Conte’s passion on the sidelines, a supreme midfielder in N’Golo Kante, stunning displays from Eden Hazard, the goals of Diego Costa and a rock solid defense led by David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea’s procession to the title has been predictable for some time.

Jet-propelled by their 13-game winning run in the middle of the season following Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation after the loss at Arsenal, nobody has been close to matching this Chelsea team all season.

If they beat West Brom on Friday they’ll confirm what we’ve known for some time: Chelsea is the best team in the Premier League by a country mile.


ALONSO THE GREAT

Marcos Alonso hit the crossbar after two minutes. He then scored with a vicious strike at the near post after 34 minutes and had another show just miss Costa at the back post in the second half.

The Spanish full back has been a revelation at left wing-back this season and has vindicated Antonio Conte’s decision to pay Fiorentina $29.7 million for him. It was one of those signings, along with David Luiz, in the final minutes of the summer transfer deadline which made you sit up and say “why have Chelsea done that?”

Alonso’s displays have answered that question. He adds balance, especially in attack and he is neither a full back who simply likes to defend and not one who simply likes to bomb forward every time he gets a chance. With reports rife that Ryan Bertrand could sign from Southampton this summer, it is hard to understand why Chelsea need a new left back. In this 3-4-3 formation Alonso (and Victor Moses) is so important. Yes, they aren’t the biggest stars but they’re getting the job done comfortably.

After stints at Bolton and Sunderland in the past, 26-year-old Alonso will finally be able to call himself a Premier League winner soon. His displays this season are certainly deserving of that medal.


GUZAN READY TO RETURN TO MLS

Brad Guzan‘s goal was peppered with efforts on Monday as the U.S. national team goalkeeper saved well early on from Alonso but was then caught out at his near post by Alonso for Chelsea’s second. All three of Chelsea’s goals nutmegged Guzan as the Illinois native didn’t have his best day.

Guzan, 32, is probably relieved to be heading back to Major League Soccer with Atlanta United next month after an eight-year stint in England. He battled his way back at Aston Villa after virtually being released but then manager Paul Lambert brought him back to become Villa’s starter and he shone at Villa Park. After their relegation from the PL last season he landed at Boro but quickly found himself second choice behind Victor Valdes for much of this season.

Since mid-April he’s started five games on the trot and is at least ending his time in the PL with playing time, even though it’s on a team which has been relegated.

Guzan comes under the “he’s a good age for a goalkeeper” category with arguably his best years ahead of him and he’ll be the USMNT number one for many years to come.


BORO BELITTLED

At times it was excruciating to watch Boro play on Monday. Caretaker boss Steve Agnew tried his best to spur on his players from the sidelines but it was no use. Chelsea were in a different universe, let alone world, to Boro.

After Aitor Karanka‘s sacking in March, there seemed to be only one outcome for Boro. Relegation was confirmed on Monday but it had been coming since the turn of the year as their meager return of 26 goals in 36 PL games is the worst in the PL.

Is Agnew the right man to move them forward? Time will tell. Loyal chairman Steve Gibson will need to follow Newcastle United’s model of spending big to come straight back at the first attempt next season. First and foremost he needs to get a new man in charge to help give Boro a new identity.

They’ve huffed and puffed and hung in games for most of the season, but that’s about it.

PL Sunday preview: Arsenal’s last stand; Swansea-Boro a relegation battle

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This is it for Arsenal: one last crack, with a clear path, at finishing in the Premier League’s top-four. As for Swansea City and Middlesbrough, fighting relegation is their reality…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Swansea City vs. Middlesbrough — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

With nearly 100 percent certainty, one of Swansea and Middlesbrough will finish in the bottom-three and be relegated at season’s end, if not both. Ahead of Sunday’s six-pointer at the Liberty Stadium, Paul Clement‘s Swans sit 17th, clear of 18th-place Hull City on goal differential. Boro, meanwhile, are 19th, five points back of Swansea after firing manager Aitor Karanka two weeks ago.

Boro are without a win in their last 11 PL games (four draws, seven losses). Coincidentally, their most recent victory came against Swansea, 3-0 on Dec. 17.

INJURIES: Swansea — OUT: Nathan Dyer (achilles), Angel Rangel (foot) | Boro — OUT: Calum Chambers (foot); QUESTIONABLE: George Friend (calf), Daniel Ayala (hamstring)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Title race back on after Chelsea lose? ]

Arsenal vs. Manchester City — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

For as disastrous and dysfunctional as Arsenal’s 2016-17 season has been thus far, they’re far from out of contention for yet another top-four finish — but make no mistake: they won’t get there with a loss on Sunday. Heading into this weekend’s monumental clash with fourth-place Man City, Arsene Wenger‘s sixth-place Gunners sit seven points behind Pep Guardiola‘s side with a game in hand. A win at home on Sunday, coupled with three points from that game in hand, would see that gap shrink to a single point.

Arsenal lost their final two league games before the recent international break, a pair of 3-1 defeats to Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion, while City are unbeaten in their last seven league games (four wins in that span), though they enter Sunday’s clash at the Emirates Stadium riding two straight draws. Wenger’s future is as uncertain as it’s ever been, as he claims not even he knows what will happen this summer.

“I’ve always been very clear in my mind,” Wenger said. “I will remain like that. I think it’s a subject that at the moment is not sorted completely out. I have nothing more to add to that. … But anyway, do I stay two months or two years? My commitment will be exactly the same. The time I spent here does not influence my attitude at all.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Petr Cech (calf), Santi Cazorla (achilles), Kieran Gibbs (knock) | Man City — OUT: Gabriel Jesus (ankle), Vincent Kompany (knock), Ilkay Gundogan (knee surgery); RETURNING: Kevin De Bruyne (groin)

Stream Live: Middlesbrough v. Manchester United

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Midddlesbrough host Manchester United on Sumday (Watch live, 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams desperate for a win but for very different reasons.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Boro are without a manager after Jose Mourinho’s good friend Aitor Karanka was fired on Thursday with the Teesside club in the relegation zone, the lowest scorers in the PL and they also have the lowest number of wins.

United have reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Europa League but finishing in the top four remains their priority and they’ll look to make the most of Arsenal’s slip up on Saturday.

In team news Boro make four changes with Downing, Negredo, Bernardo and Barragan coming in.

United make six changes to the team which faced Bournemouth last weekend as Rashford, Bailly, Young, Smalling, Lingard and Fellaini  come in.


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Middlesbrough

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