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Premier League season reviews: Clubs 14-10

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With the 2017/18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaign for all 20 clubs.

[ MORE: Grades for all 20 PL clubs ]

Below we continue our season reviews by analyzing the key moments, the star men and how the managers performed for the teams who finished 14th to 10th in the PL table.

[ MORE: Clubs 20-15 | Clubs 9-5 ]

Let’s get to it…


Watford

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Final place: 14th with 40 points
Defining moment: Sacking new manager Marco Silva just six months into his reign. The Portuguese coach had his head turned by interest from Everton and everything fell apart after a superb start which had them in the top four. Sacking Silva in January undoubtedly refocused the players and saved Watford’s season.
Biggest victory: The comeback 2-1 win against Arsenal in October which pushed Watford into the top four and had the Hornets faithful dreaming of European qualification.
Low point: Losing 4-1 at home against newly-promoted Huddersfield in December was a crushing blow for Silva and he never really recovered. The defeat came amid a run of just one win in 11 games.
Star man: Abdoulaye Doucoure was the star man for the Hornets (and their top scorer with seven goals) and it will be very surprising if he remains at Vicarage Road over the summer. The two-way midfielder can score and defend and has a little bit of everything. Seems ready for a top six club. Richarlison should also get a shoutout for his fine start to the season.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Marco Silva (4/10), Javi Gracia (5/10)
Grade for the season: C+


West Ham

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Final place: 13th with 42 points
Defining moment: After four defeats in five and ugly scenes as fans ran onto the pitch during a home defeat to Burnley, David Moyes‘ men went into a crunch relegation clash against Southampton knowing they had to win. They did and they were 3-0 up at half time. Emphatic.
Biggest victory: Following zero wins in eight games, West Ham beat London rivals Chelsea 1-0 at home to spark Moyes’ men into life. Arnautovic’s early goal stunned the Blues and the Hammers could’ve won by a bigger margin.
Low point: The 3-0 home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion under Slaven Bilic has to be up there but there’s no doubt that the ugly scenes in March during their defeat to Burnley was the low point. Fan protests against owners David Sullivan, David Gold and Karen Brady will continue as fans revolt against their stadium move to the cavernous London Stadium.
Star man: Marko Arnautovic is the clear winner here. Many raised eyebrows when West Ham paid Stoke $28 million for him last summer but after a dodgy start (a red card against Saints didn’t help) he flourished in a central role under Moyes, scoring 11 times as the top scorer.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Slaven Bilic (3/10), David Moyes (7/10)
Grade for the season: D-


Bournemouth

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Final place: 12th with 44 points
Defining moment: It’s a long time ago now but after losing their first four games of the season, trailing Brighton 1-0 at home in the South Coast derby wasn’t ideal. Andrew Surman and Jermain Defoe then struck twice late on to seal victory and Bournemouth’s tag of the “comeback kings” continue throughout the season.
Biggest victory: The win away at Chelsea on Jan. 31 came amid a massive purple patch as the Cherries shook off early-season woes to win four times in six games. Howe’s boys pushed themselves away from the relegation zone with their exploits from Boxing Day until February.
Low point: Probably the opening two months of the season which were demoralizing with six defeats in eight games, but they had a tough schedule with losses to Tottenham, Man City and Arsenal.
Star man: Nathan Ake was sublime for most of the season after he joined permanently following his successful loan spell at Bournemouth in the first half of last season. The Dutch center back has a bright future in the game.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Eddie Howe (7/10)
Grade for the season: C+


Crystal Palace

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Final place: 11th with 44 points
Defining moment: When Frank De Boer was fired after just four games in charge. Roy Hodgson came in and worked wonders with Palace. Plus, Zaha’s return from injury was a huge boost and season-defining. He’s probably the best player in the PL who doesn’t play for one of the “top six” clubs.
Biggest victory: So many huge wins down the stretch with five victories in their final eight games, but you have to say the win against reigning champions Chelsea to snap their seven-game losing streak to start the season. That gave the Eagles players, fans and Hodgson belief they could get out of the relegation zone.
Low point: That start. Woof. Seven defeats on the spin (without scoring a single goal) to kick off the season in record-breaking fashion. Enough said.
Star man: There is only one star man at Palace: Wilfried Zaha is the top boy at Selhurst. His pace, trickery, goals and assists mean Palace will have to brush off several big-money offers for him this summer.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Frank de Boer (0/10), Roy Hodgson (9/10)
Grade for the season: B


Newcastle United

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Final place: 10th with 44 points
Defining moment: The 3-0 home win against Southampton pulled them away from the relegation zone in March and sparked a run of four-straight wins which pushed them into midtable. Kenedy was unplayable during that stretch and the Rafalution was in full flow.
Biggest victory: The 1-0 home win against Manchester United in February was huge. Newcastle had won just twice in 13 PL games before that, but taking down Jose Mourinho’s side comfortably not only gave every at Newcastle hope they’d survive, it was also so sweet for Rafa…
Low point: Probably the 3-0 home defeat against Watford early in the season. That came smack bang in the middle of a run without a win in nine games.
Star man: Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka made a massive impact when he arrived on loan from Sparta Prague in January, while Kenedy had a huge impact after his loan arrival from January. But Jonjo Shelvey turned it on in the second half of the season and his passing coupled with a defense led by Jamaal Lascelles made the difference. In all honesty, Newcastle’s success was due to a total team effort but Shelvely’s quality on the ball gets him the nod.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Rafael Benitez (9/10)
Grade for the season: B+

Struggling Atleti in unfamiliar territory under Simeone

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MADRID — This is uncharted territory for many Atletico Madrid fans.

Few other times in recent years have they seen their team struggle so much under Diego Simeone.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

Few other times have they seen their coach fail so often while trying to put the team back on track.

Atletico hit a new low under Simeone on Thursday when it was eliminated by third-division club Cultural Leonesa in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey. The 2-1 loss in extra time was the team’s worst result in the cup competition since losing to third-tier club Albacete at the same stage in 2011-12.

Two days after that loss in 2011, Atletico hired the then-mostly unknown Simeone to replace Gregorio Manzano, a move that kick-started one of the club’s most successful eras and led to a Spanish league title, two Europa League trophies and two Champions League final appearances.

Atletico did go through difficult moments under Simeone, including when the team failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League a couple of seasons ago.

“There were always complicated moments in past seasons, maybe after we didn’t make it in the Champions League, or when we lost in the Champions League finals,” Simeone said. “After being at the club for so long, things like this can happen, although they shouldn’t happen.”

There is a greater sense of urgency about the team’s struggles this time.

In addition to Wednesday’s embarrassing Copa del Rey elimination, Atletico lost the Spanish Super Cup final to Real Madrid on Jan. 12, and already is eight points off the Spanish league lead after 20 matches.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Before, there used to be a notion that Simeone would quickly turn things around and put the team back on track, but this time there aren’t many signs things will improve again soon.

Atletico has yet to impress since undergoing its biggest squad revamp under Simeone at the end of last season, when it lost Antoine Griezmann and other veteran players such as Filipe Luis and Diego Godin. Young Portugal forward Joao Felix, who arrived to replace Griezmann after a transfer from Benfica worth more than 120 million euros ($133 million), has yet to meet expectations.

More concerning, Atletico is not being nearly as effective as it used to be, when it always seemed to find a way to win matches despite not playing well.

The team remains solid defensively — it has the second-best defense in the Spanish league with 14 goals conceded — but it hasn’t been able to do much in attack recently.

“Everything is harder when you can’t score,” Simeone said.

Only seven teams have scored fewer goals than Atletico’s 22 in the 20-team standings.

Diego Costa has been mostly out injured, and Victor “Vitolo” Machin and Alvaro Morata haven’t done much in attack. Morata is the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and no one else has more than five.

“We have to be humble enough to be self-critical,” Simeone said. “We need to keep working to try to be ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us. We have a very good squad and I’m sure that the results that we want will start arriving soon.”

Atletico biggest chance to rebound will come next month against European champion Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be on Feb. 18 in Spain.

Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong

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Jose Mourinho seems to be quite happy that the Premier League will implement its first-ever winter break next month, allowing players a bit of rest and recovery time during a marathon campaign, but says its timing makes the break almost worthless for clubs competing in European competitions.

[ VIDEO: Haaland has played 59 minutes, scored 5 goals for Dortmund ]

The next four weeks will play out as follows for Tottenham Hotspur: FA Cup against Southampton this weekend; PL fixture against Manchester City next weekend; the following weekend off which results in two weeks without a game; PL fixture against Aston Villa the following weekend; Champions League first leg against RB Leipzig three days later.

In Mourinho’s perfect world, that first round of PL fixtures following the break would be held a week earlier, leaving the seven English clubs competing in the Champions League and Europa League with a week and a half between games before setting out once again to chase European glory. Instead, Tottenham, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea will all have a quick turnaround from PL action to UCL competition — quotes from the Guardian:

“It is what it is. I’m not happy that the break comes in the wrong moment. The break should be before the Champions League and, in the end, before the Champions League we don’t have the break. We have to play Aston Villa on the Sunday, playing [RB Leipzig three] days later. So we don’t really care about the break, honestly.”

Mourinho’s point is a solid one: if the winter break is going to exist — and it should — then why shouldn’t its benefits be maximized? Non-European sides — typically those with smaller squads — would still have the full two weeks between games, while those in Europe are able to better leverage their slightly larger squads with only 10 or 11 days between games — still a lengthy break relative to the rest of the season.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

It’s only the first year of the winter break in the PL, so perhaps hopefully they’ll receive Mourinho’s criticism — and that of any other managers — constructively.

Serie A: AC Milan extends unbeaten run since Zlatan’s arrival

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BRESCIA, Italy (AP) Ante Rebic scored his third goal in two matches, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was superb and AC Milan won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Brescia on Friday to climb into the Europa League places in Serie A.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

Rebic, who scored twice in a win over Udinese last weekend, pounced on a loose ball directly in front of the goal following a cross from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 71st minute.

Since Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan over the holiday break, Milan is unbeaten with four wins and a draw across all competitions.

Donnarumma produced several difficult saves to deny Dimitri Bisoli and Ernesto Torregrossa.

Also, Milan fullback Theo Hernandez hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.

The Rossoneri moved up to sixth place, four points behind fifth-place Atalanta.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

“Our goal is to qualify for Europe,” Donnarumma said. “We’ve got to continue like this and not rest for a moment. There’s another big Italian Cup match coming up with Torino midweek and we want to reach the semifinals.

“We’ll take it one game at a time and try to keep this momentum going.”

Brescia was without Mario Balotelli, who was suspended for two matches after protesting a booking last weekend that ended up with the striker being sent off.

Brescia remained one point above last-place Genoa.

FA Cup: Sheffield Wednesday into 5th round; Derby headed for replay

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Sheffield Wednesday became the first club to reach the fifth round of the 2019-20 FA Cup by beating Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Friday.

[ MORE: Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed ]

The Owls took a 1-0 lead into halftime after Morgan Fox squeezed his shot past the goalkeeper from a tight angle, and Sam Winnall put the EFL Championship side 2-0 up by slotting the ball home just before full-time. QPR pulled a goal back through Nahki Wells just moments later, but it wasn’t enough and the game finished 2-1.

It’s the second time in three seasons that Wednesday has reached the fifth round after doing so just twice in their previous 17 seasons.

[ MORE: Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild ]

Elsewhere, fellow Championship side Derby County, featuring Wayne Rooney who played all 90 minutes, couldn’t see off League Two side Northampton Town and will be forced into the dreaded replay after struggling to a scoreless draw away from home.

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.