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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 here.

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.


Championship Playoff Final preview: Fulham vs. Aston Villa

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Imagine playing in one game where your performance over 90 minutes means the difference between over $300 million for your club or another year in the lower leagues.

That’s what is estimated to be on the line as Fulham and Aston Villa meet at Wembley on Saturday in the Championship playoff final at 12 p.m. ET hoping to earn the final spot in next year’s Premier League campaign.

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce will be searching for an unprecedented fifth Championship promotion after previously guiding Birmingham City and Hull City to the top flight on multiple occasions. He is 2-0 in the playoff final, having won it previously once with each former club, taking Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 after defeating Norwich City in a penalty shootout, and earning the victory with Hull City in 2016 via a 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Players Sam Johnstone and Robert Snodgrass have both won playoff finals before as well.

Fulham, meanwhile, has experience of its own on the touchline, as boss Slavisa Jokanovic has taken Watford to the top flight previously, finishing second in the Championship in 2015, but he has never experienced a playoff final before.

The Whites appear to be in the better form, having nearly ended the season in historic form with 24 straight unbeaten, but lost on the final day of the campaign, missing out on automatic promotion by just two points. They play a possession-based style under Jokanovic, and while it’s taken a while for the team to grasp the tactics, they look as deadly as ever. However, the last few games have exposed the team yet again, with the loss to lowly Birmingham on the final day before a 1-0 loss to Derby County in the first leg of their playoff semifinal, a scoreline which they turned around in the second leg at home.

The Fulham midfield duo of Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen has a claim to be the best pairing in the Championship over the past two seasons, and they anchor Jokanovic’s setup behind playmaker Tom Cairney. The club brought embattled Newcastle striker Aleksandr Mitrovic to London in January, and he’s brought a cutting edge to an attack that was just missing a target man up front. Young winger Ryan Sessegnon, who just turned 18 years old on Friday, has been the club’s most heralded player, and could move to a top Premier League side this summer, especially if the Whites fall at Wembley this weekend. Finally, USMNT defender Tim Ream has led the defensive improvement of a club that conceded 83 goals three seasons ago to halve that this campaign.

They’ll take that attacking prowess up against one of the league’s most pragmatic opponents, as Villa finished the regular season with the third-fewest goals allowed and shut out Middlesbrough across both legs in the semifinals. They feature former Chelsea defender John Terry anchoring the back line, and he partners with experienced 29-year-old James Chester who has played under Bruce before at Hull. Terry himself has won five separate trophies at Wembley Stadium, experience he will surely share with the squad.

Villa’s most dangerous player this season has been Albert Adomah whose blistering pace down the right has been something for opponents to deal with. However, he’s hit a cold streak, without a goal since scoring in a 4-1 win over champions Wolves back on March 10th.

Villa is looking to go back to the Premier League after relegation two years ago, while Fulham has spent four years in the second tier after being sent down back in 2014.

Transfer rumors: Fred to Man United; Icardi to Chelsea

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Brazilian midfielder Fred seems to be edging closer to a move to Manchester United after being chased by Manchester City for much of the last 12 months.

[ MORE: UCL final projected XI’s

The Shakhtar Donetsk star, 25, is a central midfielder who was supposed to be a long-term replacement for Fernandinho at City, but it appears Jose Mourinho has now swooped in to snap up the combative midfielder after Pep Guardiola‘s interest went cold.

Speaking in a press conference while away with the Brazilian national team, Fred believes that United have a bid in place for him with the midfielder previously valued at around $55 million.

“The talks had been in progress since January with City. Soon after, City and United talked to Shakhtar and my agents,” Fred said, via Globo Esporte. “And now, if I’m not mistaken, there was news of a very strong bid from United.”

Do United need Fred?

With Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay all at the club, the Brazilian’s arrival may well see Herrera, and maybe even Pogba, surplus to requirements.

Following Michael Carrick‘s retirement at the end of the 2017/18 season and Marouane Fellaini‘s contract soon to run out, Mourinho needs reinforcements in central midfield and Fred fits the bill as a two-way midfielder not scared to dig in and do his work defensively.


Chelsea have been linked with a move for Inter Milan’s star striker Mauro Icardi.

According to reports from Cadena Ser in Spain and Italian outlet Il Messaggero, Morata could head to Inter if Icardi ends up at Stamford Bridge.

Icardi, 25, was the joint-top goalscorer in Serie A in 2017/18 with 29 goals but the Argentine forward failed to make the final World Cup squad for La Albiceleste.

As for Morata, the Spanish forward also didn’t make the World Cup squad for his native Spain after a stop-start season at Chelsea under Antonio Conte. Morata, 25, was spotted meeting with the Juventus hierarchy earlier this week as the Real Madrid product spent two seasons at Juve from 2014-16 before heading back to Real en-route to Chelsea.

Would this be a good move for Chelsea?

Such has been Morata’s poor form in his debut season in the Premier League (yes, 15 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions is a decent return, but it’s not remarkable), they would no doubt have to send Morata and plenty of cash to Inter in exchange for their captain. Chelsea paid Real Madrid $80 million for Morata last summer and the reports claim they would have to send Morata plus $40 million to Inter to bring Icardi to the Bridge.

The latter has had plenty of temperament issues over the years but his status as a poacher is undoubted as his goals fired Inter back into the UEFA Champions League this season following their dramatic final day win at Lazio. Yet it’s tough to see Inter letting their skipper leave the San Siro this summer as he’s the key reason why they’re back in the Champions League.

UCL final preview: Real Madrid v. Liverpool

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  • Real Madrid aiming to win a third-straight UCL trophy
  • Liverpool hope to win sixth Champions League trophy
  • Real win would extend their record of most European titles to 13
  • Klopp has lost all five major finals as a manager

Real Madrid and Liverpool square off in Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday in the final of the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: UCL final projected XI’s ]

Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Mohamed Salah. Spain vs. England. Zinedine Zidane vs. Jurgen Klopp.

It promises to be an open, entertaining game with attacking stars littered throughout both teams, but we all know how often finals fail to deliver goals and excitement with so much on the line.

[ MORE: Klopp praises Real Madrid

In team news Real have a fully fit squad as Gareth Bale has returned from injury and has been among the goals with four in his last three appearances. Liverpool are without Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the likes of James Milner and Adam Lallana are fit to feature for the Reds.


What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on preparing for the final: “Nothing special in this week. We only have an agreement that I am responsible for the defeats, so they have nothing to lose. I think most of the players will be a bit nervous before the game, that is normal but in the game shoot, strike, cross, make headers, bicycle kicks if you want. Do all the things you want in a football game because it is only a football game, a big one for sure, but only a football game.”

Zinedine Zidane on the threat of Liverpool: “It may be the toughest final we’ve had. We’ll certainly not be thinking that Liverpool is weaker than other teams, because they’re not. They’ve earned their right to be in the final thanks to their performances. They’ve played well and knocked out top teams. It’s been a while since they reached their last final, but it’s a club with great history and knows how to play in these matches. We’ll have to be at our best on every level, not just physically. They’re an English team, so will never give up. But they not only rely on their physical attributes, but they are also good technically, with lots of speed and great players.”


Prediction

This promises to be an absolutely stunning game with so many wonderful attacking talents on the pitch at the same time. Liverpool are the slight underdogs and Real Madrid have plenty of experience after winning back-to-back UCL trophies, but you get the sense of an upset in the air. That said, I think it’s going to be another success for Ronaldo and Co. 3-2 to Real Madrid.

Germany’s ‘golden generation’ primed for World Cup defense

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BERLIN (AP) Germany coach Joachim Loew is brimming with confidence just over three weeks before what he calls the country’s “golden generation” begins its World Cup defense against Mexico.

“I have a very good feeling,” Loew said at the team’s training camp in South Tyrol, Italy. “I don’t know what will happen with this golden generation after the tournament. It’s possible there will be a break-up. But all the players are on fire for the World Cup.”

Germany is one of the favorites in Russia despite the retirements of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose since winning the tournament in Brazil four years ago.

Players like Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Mats Hummels and Thomas Mueller have grown into leading figures with the side, which wrapped up qualification with 10 wins from 10 games and 43 goals, a record number of goals for a European team in qualifying.

Now they are charged with attempting to make Germany the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962.

“I don’t have to coax new craving or new enthusiasm from the players,” Loew said in comments reported by news agency dpa. “The craving and ambition are still there, even among those who became world champions.”

Germany’s only worries concern the fitness of captain Manuel Neuer, defender Jerome Boateng and midfielder Mesut Ozil. Neuer hasn’t played since September with a hairline fracture in his left foot after being injured in training. Boateng is still recovering from a thigh injury sustained in the Champions League semifinals. Ozil missed Arsenal’s last few games of the season with back problems.

Team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt gave Ozil the green light to start training with the team and he was to decide Friday if Boateng should stay in Munich for further treatment or join the squad.

“We don’t want to make any mistakes,” Loew said of Boateng. “I think he’ll be able to at least take part in some team training next week.”

Neuer, too, is being given every chance to prove his fitness. Loew named four goalkeepers in his 27-man preliminary squad and is hoping that the 32-year-old Neuer won’t be the one sent home before FIFA’s June 4 deadline for final squads to be submitted.

“He can tolerate all the strains, even the most strenuous strains like jumping,” Loew said. “If he has the feeling he can perform at 100 percent he can be at the World Cup.”

Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen will keep the No. 1 spot if Neuer doesn’t recover fully.

Ter Stegen was to join the rest of the squad on Friday, along with Bayern’s Hummels, Mueller, Joshua Kimmich and Niklas Suele, as well as Chelsea defender Antonio Ruediger.

“It’s clear to everyone that the training camp is to get the required strength and power for the tournament. The fuel has to be there,” said Loew, who also hopes it boosts team spirit. “Everyone has to know that he is just a puzzle piece for success. Nobody can be world champion on their own.”

Loew recently signed a contract extension through the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022. The 58-year-old former assistant coach took over after the 2006 World Cup and has led Germany to the semifinal stage or further in every major tournament since.

Germany has two warmup matches, against Austria in Klagenfurt on June 2 and Saudi Arabia six days later in Leverkusen, to iron out any pre-tournament issues.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup