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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)

Report: Leicester to pluck Danny Ward from Liverpool

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With the announcement of Alisson’s signing on Thursday, Liverpool has spent over $200 million this summer, but it seems they’ve already begun to trim the squad and even out the net spend by a bit.

According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds have agreed to sell 25-year-old goalkeeper Danny Ward to Leicester City, with the clubs agreeing to a $16.2 million fee. The report also states the deal includes a 20% sell-on fee, meaning Liverpool will receive 20% of any transfer fee Leicester City receives for Ward during the life of his next contract.

[ MORE: Alisson signs for Liverpool ]

Ward has spent the last six seasons with Liverpool after signing from small non-league club Wrexham in 2012 as a 19-year-old. However, he has played more games for the Welsh international team (4) than he has for Liverpool (3). Previously stuck behind Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, the arrival of Alisson meant the club needed to make room.

Leicester City already has Kasper Schmeichel firmly entrenched between the sticks. However, especially after a stellar 2018 World Cup with Denmark where he was considered among the top choices for the Golden Glove award, Schmeichel is a wanted man and 31 years old and a contract with three more years remaining, Schmeichel’s time at King Power Stadium could be limited.

The addition of Ward at the very least would allow Schmeichel some time off. The Dane was stretched thin last season as not just the Premier League starter but also used in a few cup games with only Eldin Jakupovic behind him. Now, it’s realistic that Ward could receive time in Cup competitions, leaving Schmeichel to rest up for league games.

Reports: Conte to sue Chelsea over how firing was handled

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According to reports in Italy, and backed up by those in England, Antonio Conte is planning to sue Chelsea over the way the club handled his exit this summer.

Chelsea is reportedly planning to pay Conte the rest of his salary in full, but the reports state that the Italian is unhappy how long it took the club to confirm his exit, leaving him unable to secure a job commiserate with his experience level for this coming season.

The 48-year-old is set to receive nearly $12 million as compensation for the final year of his now-terminated contract, but is looking for additional damages given the timing of his departure. Despite the writing clearly on the wall, Conte had weeks of silence from the club, before being pulled back to London to begin pre-season training with the squad for just four days before he was then let go.

Upon his release, Conte released a relatively benign statement thanking the club, the fans, the staff, and the players, but notably did not thank the board or owner Roman Abramovich.

Things between Chelsea and Conte have been testy for some time now. It was reported earlier last month – before Conte was officially let go – that Chelsea was planning to withhold payment of Conte’s remaining salary and sue the Italian for costing the club money for former striker Diego Costa. Costa told the media he received a text message from Conte while on international duty last summer that he was no longer wanted at the club. If true, the club could have argued that Conte botched the situation and cost the club a significant amount of money. However, it seems the club has – for now – decided not to pursue the lawsuit, with reports stating that Conte is set to receive his salary in full.

WATCH: Jurgen Klopp crashes Alisson’s first Liverpool interview

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Jurgen Klopp has had quite the summer, and it’s just become even better.

Liverpool officially acquired Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson for a world-record transfer fee, and with the former Roma netminder filling his first obligations in Red, things didn’t go exactly as the club’s media staff had planned. While sitting down for his first interview with the club staff to be used in the official release, Jurgen Klopp couldn’t resist crashing the party to say hello.

[ MORE: Alisson to Liverpool official ]

The language barrier made things a bit awkward, as did the rolling cameras, but it’s pretty clear both sides are quite happy with the recent developments, with smiles all around. Take a look:

Klopp asked if Alisson was in the middle of his post-World Cup vacation, which he confirmed as true, but smartly followed up with “But now I am working.”

We’re sure they’ll catch up on a more complete basis privately later, but it was pretty cool to see their first interaction caught on camera.

Ajax tells clubs to back off their young Dutch stars

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In the past, Dutch giants Ajax have looked to make a profit developing strong Dutch talent from the youth level and selling them to big clubs all across Europe. Today, Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars has told clubs not to bother inquiring about their rising young stars.

“We have now reached a point where we simply say that we are not selling these players,” Overmars told Dutch publication De Telegraaf.

While Overmars did suggest they could reconsider in a year’s time, for now, young stars like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs De Ligt are Ajax players now and for the future.

“He [De Jong] is not for sale, and I have communicated this to all parties involved,” Overmars said. “It is the same for Matthijs. Clubs that are interested are free to come back next year. Of course, Davinson Sanchez’s move [to Tottenham] last year showed that it is not always easy to stand firm.

“They are still only 19, 20 years old. I have told these players and their agents that a transfer after this season could be an option if the right offer comes in. Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt are not for sale as far as we are concerned, not even for an insane amount. They should play about 40 games for Ajax first in 2018-19.”

De Ligt, now 18, is the most well-known name of the group, having made headlines when he because the youngest Dutch international since 1931, making his debut at just 17 years old. Meanwhile, a 21-year-old box-to-box midfielder, De Jong is often considered the most talented young star with the highest ceiling.

Finally, others that Ajax could see develop into special talent include 21-year-old wide player Donny van de Beek, 21-year-old right winger David Neres, 20-year-old striker Kasper Dolberg, 20-year-old defender Max Wober, 20-year-old defensive midfielder Carel Eiting, and 20-year-old Noussair Mazraoui among many others who received playing time towards the end of last season.

Ajax has been on the hunt this summer, not only keeping the youth talent to itself, but also spending on incoming stars Dusan Tadic and Daley Blind, both of whom return to the club after spells in the Premier League.