Premier League Grades: How did each team fare in 2014-15?

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All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League season review ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, the marks are in and it is time to dish out the grades for each team in 2014-15.

GRADE

source:

A
Swansea City: Nobody expected Monk’s men to get a record points tally. Superb season which deserved a top six finish. Sustainability is the key for the Swans going forward and this could only be the start.
source:  A
Southampton: Same could be said for Koeman’s Saints. After the mass exodus last summer the Dutchman worked miracles. So many highlights including 8-0 and 6-1 wins. A Europa League campaign next season would be a great reward.
source:  A –
Chelsea: Mourinho’s men marched to the title with four games to go and Hazard led a sublime team. In the second half of the season they lost their attacking panache. That’s the only reason they don’t get full marks.
source:  B+ Arsenal: Wenger is progressing this side. A third-place finish proves that and if they can keep everyone fit next season and add 1/2 star players this summer… Watch out.

source:

B+
Stoke City:  Mark Hughes is doing a great job at the Brit. A record points tally for Stoke and when they are on form and  firing on all cylinders, few can match them.
source:   B+ Crystal Palace: What a second half of the season it was. As soon as Alan Pardew replaced Neil Warnock, Selhurst believed again. A top 10 finish is the stuff of dreams for Pards and Palace.
source:   B Leicester City: Just four wins in the first 29 matches and then… BOOM! Nigel Pearson is unorthodox but got his boys playing late on as seven wins from their last nine suggests. One of the greatest “great escapes” in PL history.
source:  B
West Brom: Alan Irvine was fired in January and Tony Pulis arrived to do his best Harry Houdini impression once again. The Baggies survived comfortably in the end and bagged big wins vs. Man United and Chelsea.
source:  B
Tottenham: An up and down year for Spurs as Pochettino will be happy enough with his first season in charge at the Lane. Harry Kane’s emergence was a pleasant surprise and fifth place shows progress.
source:   B Manchester United:  The Red Devils made hard work of making the top four, didn’t they? Louis van Gaal had mixed results to start with but a strong Spring carried them through. Now, time to spend the big bucks wisely and assemble a title-winning squad. Slow progress so far.
source:  B  Manchester City: The Citizens had a down year but still finished second behind Chelsea. If Manuel Pellegrini remains he will likely make plenty of changes this summer. Fresh legs are needed but City aren’t far off. Some of the stuff they play is sublime.
source:  C West Ham:  Fourth in December, a potentially special season unraveled as the Hammers finished 12th. Sam Allardyce has now left as a new era begins in east London.
source:  C- Everton:  A season to forget for the Toffees who suffered from their Europa League exploits and injuries to key man Lukaku and Barkley. Roberto Martinez knows Everton must do better.
source:  D Newcastle: They stayed up by the skin of their teeth. John Carver took over on an interim basis in January when Pardew left and the Magpies lost eight-straight, only saving themselves on the final day. Surely they’ll be better next year?
source:  D
 Burnley: Yes, they were relegated. But Sean Dyche can be extremely proud of his players. That stuck in close in so many games and had Danny Ings found his goalscoring touch after Christmas, it may well have been a different story. Down, but their heads held high.
source:  D-  Aston Villa: Paul Lambert was fired and his replacement Tim Sherwood saved Villa after restoring some attacking intent. They’re in the FA Cup final too but a rebuild is badly needed.
source:  D- Sunderland: Dick Advocaat took over from Gus Poyet and saved the Black Cats but it was far from vintage stuff. Another team who needs a huge rebuild, but on their day they can give anyone a game. Season to forget.
source:  D- 
LiverpoolThis may seem a little harsh, but the drop-off from the Reds was alarming this season. After spending $150 million in the summer, it’s hard to see where that went. Losing Suarez hurt. Plus Sturridge being injured. But Rodgers is walking on thin ice after a sixth-place finish.
source:  F
Hull City:  The Tigers went down on the final day and a severe lack of goals (just 33) haunted Steve Bruce’s side. Expect plenty of players to leave this summer. From an FA Cup final to relegation in 12 months. Ouch.
source:  F
QPR: The less said about this season the better. After Harry Redknapp left in Feb. the reins were handed to Chris Ramsey and he did his best but the defense was shocking. Can QPR keep their yo-yo club status going and bounce back?

Barcelona sign Neto in goalkeeper swap with Valencia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Brazilian goalkeeper Neto will sign a four-year contract with the Spanish champions.

The transfer completes a swap a day after Barcelona sold Jasper Cillessen to Valencia.

Barcelona says it is paying 26 million euros ($29.5 million) plus possibly another 9 million euros ($10.2 million) in variables for Neto. Valencia paid Barcelona 35 million euros ($40 million) for Cillessen.

Neto will replace Cillessen, who played as a backup for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Spanish league and only regularly started in the Copa del Rey.

The 29-year-old Neto helped Valencia qualify for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish for the past two seasons in Spain. He also played in Italy at Juventus as a backup to Gianluigi Buffon and at Fiorentina after starting at Brazilian club Paranaense.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USMNT v. Panama: Three things we learned

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It wasn’t always pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team eked out a 1-0 win over Panama in Kansas City, Kan. on Wednesday night to win its group. Jozy Altidore scored the game’s only goal in stunning fashion, finishing an overhead kick to put Panama away and set up a quarterfinal bout with Curacao on Sunday evening.

Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s win:

[READ: All the latest USMNT news here]


Jozy Altidore is still the best we’ve got

Many U.S. Men’s National Team fans have called for the forced retirements of Altidore and Michael Bradley, among many others, after the debacle that was the last World Cup cycle.

Until tonight, Altidore wasn’t in the USMNT picture, in part due to Dave Sarachan using younger players and Altidore continuing to suffer a series of muscle injuries since October 2017. And yet, if tonight’s game showed anything in Altidore’s 83 minutes on the pitch, it’s that he’s still the best option for the USMNT up top. While Gregg Berhalter clearly prefers Gyasi Zardes right now based on their previous work history together in Columbus, Zardes doesn’t have the strength or skill that Altidore does. It’s hard to imagine Zardes executing an overhead kick and it going in as sweetly as Altidore did.

What does this mean going forward? Regardless of if Zardes starts the rest of the way, Berhalter knows that he has Altidore always around who can give the U.S. a goal, especially on home soil and when fit. But it also lays the marker down for Zardes, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and the other up and coming strikers that this is the level they need to meet, and beat, if they want to break into the starting lineup under Berhalter.

There’s speed to burn on the wings

It may not have had a huge impact on Wednesday, but in bringing Tyler Boyd and Christian Pulisic off the bench, Berhalter showed exactly why he’s brought so many speedy skill players along the wings.

While Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis couldn’t figure out the final pass or final touch in the box to score a goal, just their presence for 65-70 minutes tired out the backline, and the introductions of Pulisic and Boyd could have really unlocked the Panama defense. While it didn’t totally work on Wednesday, it could in the later stages of the tournament, especially in a potential rematch with either Panama or Jamaica in the semifinals and Mexico in the finals.

With Lewis and Morris likely available off the bench, that adds a new piece opponents have to worry about, both in terms of speed and dribbling ability.

Few impressed in a chance to earn a starting spot

It’s been nearly two years since the debacle in Trinidad and Tobago, and yet aside from maybe Matt Miazga or Nick Lima, there have been very few players who have done much to impress and prove they’re better than the previous cycle’s players. That continued on Wednesday with an MLS-heavy lineup. Wil Trapp, a midfielder with so much promise a few years ago, appears to have stalled. He had multiple turnovers and certainly didn’t look as sharp as Michael Bradley.

While Lewis and Morris have plenty of pace, their final pass was woeful and they didn’t do themselves any favors. Djordje Mihailovic was never going to push Pulisic out of the starting lineup, but Mihailovic didn’t exactly do enough to say that he should be the first man off the bench either, or to push Pulisic into a wing role with Mihailovic in the middle.

Aside from Matt Miazga and Omar Gonzalez in the middle, along with Altidore up top, no one in the lineup really did enough through the first 65 minutes to warrant another start in the tournament. It’s yet another disappointment as young players get chance after chance to prove they belong as starters, only to waste the opportunity, enabling the veterans to keep their role. More players need to keep pushing for those spots, whether through club form or national team performances. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the same situation as before.

 

USMNT remains perfect, tops Panama to win group (video)

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In his first start since the U.S. Men’s National Team’s infamous defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, Jozy Altidore showcased his strength, speed and technical ability to help lead the U.S. to victory.

Altidore’s outstanding bicycle kick goal proved to be the difference in a sometimes dour game as the USMNT topped Panama, 1-0, Wednesday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The win kept the U.S. perfect through the Gold Cup group stage with no goals allowed, and it has somewhat erased the memory of the USMNT’s horrible run-up to the tournament, with defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela now firmly in the rear-view mirror.

[MUST-SEE GOAL: Jozy Altidore]

With the win, both teams head to Philadelphia for the quarterfinals this Sunday. Panama plays the undercard matchup against Jamaica while the USMNT faces Curacao.

Coming off two wins to open the Gold Cup, Berhalter decided to use a completely changed starting lineup, featuring ten players from MLS teams along with Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga. Although there was some familiarity of the players on the field, it was at times a very poor match, with the USMNT struggling badly in the final third and even turning the ball over at midfield or leading the attack.

Despite winning the possession battle, 62-38, the USMNT didn’t do much with it. Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis, both of whom were subbed out, struggled on their crosses after beating a defender. The pair provided energy and hard running defensively but it didn’t lead to many chances. Altidore had the best of the first half when he was played into the box, but his strike from the right just went wide of the net.

In the 65th minute, Berhalter tried to inject some life in the game with the introduction of Christian Pulisic. It turned out a goal could come just after, but without the intervention of Pulisic.

Djordje Mihailovic drilled the corner kick to the far post where it was met by the head of Matt Miazga who sent it back towards goal. A missed clearance from Panama popped the ball up in the air above the back post, allowing Altidore the time he needed to lift off the ground and bicycle kick it in for the game’s only goal.

Berhalter later brought on both Tyler Boyd and Gyasi Zardes off the bench to try and score an insurance goal, but Panama’s defense held strong and the U.S. failed to threaten the rest of the way. However, the U.S. backline kept a third-consecutive clean sheet and key players such as Michael Bradley got the entire game off to rest before likely returning to the lineup this weekend.

 

 

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore puts USMNT in front with Bicycle Kick

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Jozy Altidore put his stamp on the game and gave U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter more to speak about with one fell swing.

Altidore finished off a corner kick in spectacular fashion, executing a perfect bicycle kick to put the USMNT up 1-0 in the 66th minute. The goal came one minute after the entrance of Christian Pulisic, which perhaps was on the mind of the Panama defense.

It was Altidore’s second-straight game vs. Panama with a goal. His last two were in October 2017, when the U.S. pummeled Panama, 4-0. Of course, a few days later, a tired USMNT failed to win at Trinidad and Tobago.