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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+

Jose Mourinho appointed new Tottenham manager

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Jose Mourinho has been appointed the new head coach of Tottenham Hotspur, set to take over less than 12 hours after Mauricio Pochettino was fired on Tuesday, the club confirmed in a statement early on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Pochettino paid the price for Levy’s mistakes ]

Mourinho was the first name linked to the newly vacant managerial post at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and chairman Daniel Levy wasted no time whatsoever. Given his expedient appointment, Mourinho is likely to take Wednesday’s training session and be in the dugout when Tottenham visit West Ham United on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

The former Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid (among others) manager has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract which will run through the 2022-23 season. Levy described Mourinho as “one of the most successful managers in football.”

“In Jose we have one of the most successful managers in football. He has a wealth of experience, can inspire teams and is a great tactician. He has won honors at every club he has coached. We believe he will bring energy and belief to the dressing room.”

Mourinho, on his appointment: “I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters. The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me.

What did we learn about USMNT during Nations League?

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The inaugural Nations League group stage is complete, and the U.S. men’s national team managed to finish top of Group A (on the final day of play) and secure its place in the semifinals next June.

[ MORE: USMNT cruises past Cuba to reach Nations League semis ]

So, what did we learn from the final four (semi-competitive) games of 2019?

No matter the competition, the chance creation isn’t there

Inevitably, eventually, the USMNT ends up attacking its opponents in one of two ways: with long, direct balls up to the forward line, or exclusively through wide attackers and constant crosses into the box. In beating Canada and Cuba by a combined score of 8-1 during this international window, Gregg Berhalter’s team relied almost exclusively on these “tactics.” Predictably, it’s also the default setting when facing tougher competition, such as Mexico and Uruguay earlier in 2019.

Neither of those plans are bad plans, per se, only neither of those plans are what the federation has pursued as its stated goal for the last decade: possession-based soccer featuring ample chance creation from midfield.

Five coaches have taken charge of the USMNT this decade, all with varying levels of promising the above stylistic improvements. Upon completing the USMNT’s final game of the decade, it’s fair to say that all five failed.

The worst part of all is that the presence of Christian Pulisic hardly cures anything. Sure, he’s the craftiest attacking player the U.S. has ever produced, but even a primary playmaker like Pulisic requires a stable midfield behind him to filter the ball upfield and give him a stage on which to perform. Weston McKennie was stellar against Canada on Friday, but he’s proven that, at just 21 years old, he can’t be counted on to that degree game in and game out.

The good news: they’re both 21 years old and have north of 50 caps between them. One day — and it could come soon — everything should click for each of them, at which point we could see them move to operate at a totally different level.


The full backs are suddenly a bright spot

Perhaps it’s a tad hasty to claim the full backs are trending positively, but the current crop of right backs sure looks deeper and more talented than ever before. Sergiño Dest chose to play for the USMNT and is now cap-tied, Reggie Cannon is coming along nicely, and DeAndre Yedlin has proven himself, at the very least, a non-problem plenty of times.

That’s three more reliable full backs than the USMNT has had since Steve Cherundolo retired in 2012. Unfortunately, they all play on the same side of the field.

Tim Ream and Daniel Lovitz, who started at left back  don’t inspire the most confidence or excitement at left back, but perhaps a defense-first option is the way to go given the attacking instincts of all three players on the opposite side.

If Berhalter has truly settled on John Brooks and one of Aaron Long or Matt Mizaga as his starting center backs, then the USMNT heads into 2020 with a relatively stable, non-fluid situation along the backline since… maybe the 2010 World Cup.

Small victories, but victories nonetheless.

USMNT cruises past Cuba to reach Nations League semis (video)

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The U.S. men’s national team ticked all the boxes — most notably, the one reading “win and advance” — in its 4-0 victory over Cuba to reach the semifinals of the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League as the winners of Group A.

[ MORE: Miami and Nashville stock rosters in expansion draft + trades galore ]

Jordan Morris continued his scintillating late-season surge, carrying over his red-hot form for MLS Cup winners Seattle Sounders, and scored his second and third goals of the current international break to put the game out of reach before halftime. Josh Sargent also scored twice, once in each half.

The goals started extremely early and showed little sign of letting up from there. Josh Sargent put the Yanks ahead in the 36th… second. A mass scramble ensued after Paul Arriola crossed the ball into the six-yard box and Sargent got the final touch to tally his fourth senior goal.

Morris got the USMNT’s second in the 26th minute, when he tucked home a simple one-on-one chance set up by Jackson Yueill’s diagonal ball into the box, with a bit of help from Weston McKennie’s head.

Morris got his second of the game 13 minutes later, once again the result of a penalty-area scramble and a bit of pinball in the box. Aaron Long took two chances to get the ball across the face of goal, and once he finally did it looped over the goalkeeper’s head and found Morris crashing the back post. The ball appeared goal-bound without a touch from Morris, but better safe than sorry.

Sargent finished the scoring and bagged his second of the game, and the fifth of his international career, off a clever backheel by Tyler Boyd in the 66th minute. McKennie crossed the ball from right to left, overhitting it just a bit, but Boyd was able to touch it before crossing the endline and find Sargent in all kinds of space atop the six-yard box. He took the chance with his left foot and left very little to doubt.

The result sent the USMNT miles ahead of Canada in the final group standings. Despite finish tied on nine points, the Americans finished with a +12 goal differential compared to their northern neighbors’ +6.

Miami and Nashville stock rosters in MLS expansion draft

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Major League Soccer expansion teams Nashville and Miami filled out their rosters for next season via the league’s expansion draft Tuesday.

[ REPORT: Spurs, Mourinho in discussions to replace Pochettino ]

The two teams selected five players each from a pool of 222 left unprotected by their current MLS teams.

Miami added defender Ben Sweat, a Florida native, from NYCFC with its first selection. Sweat, a first-round draft pick by the Columbus Crew in 2014, has played three seasons in New York. This past season he appeared in 18 games with 13 starts.

Miami also added Cincinnati defender Alvas Powell, LAFC midfielder Lee Nguyen, Columbus midfielder Luis Argudo and Seattle backup goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.

“We’re excited about what we were able to accomplish with this draft,” said Inter Miami Sporting Director Paul McDonough. “We feel we are gaining momentum ahead of the 2020 season.”

With its first pick, Nashville selected Minnesota striker Abu Danladi, who played in 24 games this past season with four starts and a pair of goals.

[ MORE: Pochettino paid the price for Levy’s mistakes ]

Nashville also selected Portland defender Zarek Valentin, New England defender Jalil Anibaba, Atlanta forward Brandon Vazquez and Sporting Kansas City defender Jimmy Medranda.

Nashville traded Valentin to the Houston Dynamo for goalkeeper Joe Willis. The expansion team also acquired goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for allocation money and a 2020 International roster spot, and got allocation money from Cincinnati in exchange for Vazquez.

Nashville also acquired defender Daniel Lovitz from the Montreal Impact in exchange for allocation money and a 2020 international roster spot.

[ MORE: Where to next for Pochettino? ]

Miami traded allocation money for Cincinnati’s No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, a Nashville native, helped to announce Nashville’s picks at an expansion draft party. Earlier this week, Nashville announced it would host Atlanta United in the team’s first official match on Feb. 29.

Inter Miami’s first home match will be March 14 against the LA Galaxy at the new Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

The Galaxy also re-signed midfielder Sebastian Lletget.