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Premier League season reviews: Clubs 9-5

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With the 2017-18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaigns of 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 9th to 5th in the PL table.

[ MORE REVIEWS: Clubs 20-15 | Clubs 14-10 ]

Let’s get to it…


Leicester City

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Final place: 9th with 47 points
Defining moment: The 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in November which ultimately signaled the end of the Foxes’ poor start to the season and saw them start a four-game winning run and leave the relegation battle in the rearview mirror.
Biggest victory: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kelechi Iheanacho — the three Leicester attackers expected to turn in star performances the entire season — all scored in the Foxes’ 3-1 victory over 10-man Arsenal.
Low point: The dismissal of manager Craig Shakespeare feels like it occurred years ago now, but he was quickly shown the door after Leicester won just one of their first eight games this season. They would go on to win six of their next nine games (two draws, one loss).
Star man: For the second time in three seasons, Mahrez amassed double-digit goals and assists for Leicester (12 and 10 this season; 17 and 11 in the title-winning season of 2015-16), all while trying to force a move away from the club and missing a handful of games as part of the plan.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Craig Shakespeare (2/10), Claude Puel (5.5/10)
Grade for the season: C


Everton

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Final place: 8th with 49 points
Defining moment: When Sam Allardyce took over for the departed Ronald Koeman (and interim boss David Unsworth) on November 30, Everton sat 13th in the PL table, just five points clear of 18th and two points clear of 16th. The season could have gone either way quite easily, but Big Sam guided the Toffees to a record of 9W-7D-8L in his 24 games in charge.
Biggest victory: Seeing how Everton didn’t beat a single side that finished ahead of them this season, we’ll go with the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United the day before Allardyce took over; it was the start of a seven-game unbeaten run and the period of the season which ended relegation fears.
Low point: Koeman lasted just nine games in the managerial hot seat after a free-spending spree in the summer transfer window, fired with just two wins and eight points to show for his efforts.
Star man: Wayne Rooney led the way in the goals column (10, all of which we scored before Christmas), but just about every statistical metric available pegged him as one of Everton’s worst-rated players this season. That feels like a fitting way to describe their season.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Ronald Koeman (2/10), Sam Allardyce (6/10)
Grade for the season: D+


Burnley

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Final place: 7th with 54 points
Defining moment: When Everton fired Koeman, Sean Dyche was strongly linked with the vacancy, but Burnley managed to keep hold of their longtime manager and achieve their best top-flight finish since 1974.
Biggest victory: Gary Cahill got himself sent off after 14 minutes, Burnley scored three times in 20 minutes, Cesc Fabregas was also sent off, then Chelsea so nearly clawed their way back, but Burnley won 3-2 on opening day. In many ways, it was the perfect preview of what was to come the following 37 games.
Low point: Losing to Swansea City, who would eventually go on to be relegated, in early February dropped the Clarets to 10 games without a win (the skid would reach 11 before breaking it with a five-game winning streak).
Star man: James Tarkowski embodied everything that Dyche’s men stood for: disciplined defensive solidity in spectacularly backs-to-the-wall fashion. He’s likely to be chosen for the PL Team of the Season, as the unexpected outsider to Manchester City’s monopoly.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Sean Dyche (8/10)
Grade for the season: A


Arsenal

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Final place: 6th with 63 points
Defining moment: Arsene Wenger announced on April 20 that he would leave Arsenal at the end of the 2017-18 season, a move that fans of the club had been calling for in truly toxic fashion for years now. Mission, finally, accomplished. Now, the post-Wenger reality finally sets in.
Biggest victory: The Gunners beat Tottenham 2-0 back in November for their only victory of the season against a top-six side.
Low point: The final day of the season. When Tottenham clinched a third-place finish on Sunday, they achieved third-, second- and third place finishes in successive seasons. Arsenal haven’t finished that high in three straight seasons since 2005.
Star man: Alexis Sanchez was sold to Manchester United in January, paving the way for the arrivals of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who combined to tally 12 goals and 8 assists in essentially one-third of the season at the club.
Manager(s) marks out of 10Arsene Wenger (5/10)
Grade for the season: C-


Chelsea

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Final place: 5th with 70 points
Defining moment: Bournemouth hammered Chelsea to the tune of 3-0 in mid-January, sending Antonio Conte‘s side into a tailspin from which they would never fully recover en route to finishing fifth, a full 30 points behind the champions.
Biggest victory: Olivier Giroud scored the only goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 home win over Liverpool earlier this month, a result which gave the Blues the faintest hope of still qualifying for next season’s Champions League — which they ultimately failed to do.
Low point: When the Blues lost 3-1 to Tottenham on April 1, not only was it the first time they’d done so at Stamford Bridge since 1990, but it left them highly likely to finish outside the top-four for the second time in three seasons. It was also their fifth loss in seven PL games.
Star man: Eden Hazard (12 goals, 4 assists) and Alvaro Morata (11 and 6) put up similar numbers over the course of the full season, though the latter scored just one PL goal between Boxing Day and the end of the season. Hazard, meanwhile, scored just once in the PL since Valentines’ Day.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Antonio Conte (6/10)
Grade for the season: D

Hodgson vows to sign new Crystal Palace contract

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Roy Hodgson has revealed that he has been offered a contract extension to remain at Crystal Palace beyond the 2020-21 Premier League season, and also hinted that he is highly likely to accept it.

[ MORE: Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be “something incredible” ]

Following a period of turmoil and instability which saw them drop dangerously close to the relegation zone prior to his arrival in 2017, Hodgson has steadied the ship and guided the Eagles to 11th- and 12th-place finishes in his first two seasons and has them sitting just a point out of 12th with a dozen games to go this season. At no point in his tenure has Palace flirted with relegation, and that’s apparently enough to earn a new deal to remain in charge — quotes from Sky Sports:

“The club have presented me with a contract and although the chairman has been away this week I’ve had a cursory glance through it. It all looks fine to me so I am pretty certain that at some point soon we’ll sit down and get it signed.

“If I am going to stay, it will be because I believe funds will be made available because we’ve had the intention to improve the squad and the team for a while now.

“We all realize you can’t make improvements to the actual team without spending some money. But I would never make those type of demands, because you can’t make any guarantees in the transfer market.

“All you can do is have good intention and if I signed for another year, I would sign because I believed the intentions are true and that something will happen going into the next season.”

As for the transfer situation, that’s something that’ll need to be sorted out in very short order if Palace plan to maintain their current place in the PL’s hierarchy, otherwise they’ll learn a harsh — and quick — lesson about standing still while everyone else is moving forward.

Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be ‘something incredible’

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Jose Mourinho fancies himself either as a realist or a master of mind games — you be the judge, based on your own level of love or hate for the Portuguese manager — as Tottenham Hotspur embark upon their final dozen games of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur ]

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Stamford Bridge where he’ll take on his former club Chelsea (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), Mourinho attempted to put into perspective the level of heroics that will be required for Tottenham to finish in the top-four.

Perhaps he has a point, given the long-term injuries to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, forwards who account for 20 of Spurs’ 43 PL goals this season and who will also miss the majority, if not all, of the rest of the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“Tottenham without Harry or Sonny, without one of them, doesn’t win a match since 2014. That means a lot. That means that Sonny and Harry score the majority of goals that Tottenham scores. This season was so, so negatively special that we are going to be without them both at the same time for a lot of matches.

“If we manage to finish top four it’s something incredible. Incredible achievement for the boys. So we have to give everything we have.”

As for their chances of doing, so? Well, let’s just say Mourinho is more than happy to pile the pressure onto others and divert it away from his own team, as he has routinely done throughout his career — quotes from Sky Sports:

“At this moment, Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal, Sheffield United, Wolverhampton, Everton — we are the underdogs.

“We have ambitions to be there but we are one, two, three points behind Chelsea, so they have an advantage to all of us. That’s obvious. It’s not a big advantage but it is an advantage.

“Chelsea, in this moment, are favorites for the fourth position, considering Leicester has nine points more at this stage of the season.”

Over the course of their next nine PL games, Spurs will face all six sides currently within five points of fourth place. They will almost certainly be without both Kane and Son for the vast majority of those critical six-pointers.

USWNT pushed in depositions: Could they beat the German men?

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Carli Lloyd was pushed over and over on differences between women and men.

[ MORE: USWNT seek over $66 million in damages from U.S. Soccer ]

“Do you think the women’s national team could beat the German men’s team?” U.S. Soccer Federation lawyer Noah Finkel asked during a Dec. 20 deposition.

“I’m not sure,” the two-time FIFA Player of the Year replied.

Finkel inquired about a 2015 email interview Lloyd conducted through her agent’s assistant with the website Sportskeeda.

“You wrote men are faster and stronger, right?” Finkel probed.

“Yeah, if you take those away, yeah, it would be a contest,” Lloyd said.

Again and again, members of the champion U.S. women’s team were pushed to detail distinctions between their sport, which they dominate, and the men’s game, where the Americans struggle.

Lawyers for the USSF are trying to show it’s OK to pay the women differently than the men because the competition is different. The sides made excerpts of depositions public in court filings Thursday night.

“The tone during depositions is reflective of the kind of condescension that many USSF officials employ when talking to the players about pay and workplace conditions,” said Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the players, “including the plainly disrespectful and sexist attitudes from USSF and their representatives during CBA negotiations when they refused to offer anything close to equal pay.”

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule ]

The women sued last year, alleging the USSF violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 in reaching what they say is an inferior collective bargaining agreement with the women than the deal struck with the American men. They are seeking more than $66 million in damages.

The federation maintains the women have many benefits the men lack, including guaranteed salaries, health insurance, paid child-care assistance, pregnancy and parental leave, severance pay and access to a 401(k) retirement plan. Men get paid by the game and tournament, most earning the majority of their income from their club.

Reigning FIFA Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe was questioned about her response in an interview she gave to Pod Save America in which she said: “Our pay structure is different. We play different games. We’re different rankings in the world. Like, it’s just apples to oranges.”

The USSF said that from fiscal year 2009 through fiscal year 2019, the women’s national team had gross revenue of $101.3 million for 238 games, an average of $425,446, and the men grossed $185.7 million for 191 matches, an average of $972,147. The women had a $27.6 million net loss over 11 years and the men lost $3.13 million.

“The international soccer environment in which the MNT players compete is far more competitive by many measures than that in which plaintiffs compete,” the USSF said in one of its papers filed with the court. “The MNT players have lower odds of succeeding in the face of such greater competition. In short, MNT players must achieve more and/or better results against tougher competition in order to qualify for, and succeed in, tournament competition.”

Barring a settlement, the trial is scheduled to start May 5 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The women’s five-year labor deal runs through 2021 while the men play under the terms of a contract that expired Dec. 31.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone with JPW: Episode 1 ]

During her deposition on Jan. 15, former U.S. coach Jill Ellis testified she was told the men got chartered flights at times and the women didn’t. The USSF spent about $10.7 million on hotels for the men and approximately $7.3 milllion on the women during the fiscal years 2012-20. Air travel was about $6.3 million for the women during that period and $14.3 million for the men, many of whom play in Europe. The USSF increased first- and business-class travel for the women in 2017.

Speaking during her Dec. 20 deposition, Lloyd talked about personally training with the Medford Strikers’ under-18 boys team in New Jersey.

“It’s different in the sense that men are bigger, stronger, faster. That’s their makeup. There’s no — there’s no denying science in that regard,” she said. “But I am the most skillful player there. So if you take their speed and athleticism and their strength away, it’s the same game.”

Former USSF President Sunil Gulati, speaking during a Dec. 17 deposition, used a comparison with an NBA star to point out differences.

“LeBron James doesn’t get a bonus for getting 15 points and for the Lakers finishing out of the playoffs,” he said. “The expectations for him are different based on who they’re playing against, what – who he is, what the level is.”

Premier League Preview: Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur

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  • Chelsea (41 points) sit 4th in PL table
  • Spurs (40) chasing, up to 5th
  • Last meeting: Spurs 0-2 Chelsea

Jose Mourinho is set to make his latest triumphant return to Stamford Bridge, this time for the first time as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, one of Chelsea’s bitter London rivals, in the first fixture of the Premier League weekend on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Not only does the Mourinho storyline carry significant weight ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Bridge, so too does the two sides’ increasingly tight battle for a top-four finish. As recently as Jan. 17, Chelsea enjoyed a nine-point lead on Tottenham, but the Blues’ current run of just one win from their last six PL games has seen that advantage shrink to a single point with the very real possibility of flipping two points in the opposite direction once the full-time whistle blows. On the other hand, Spurs would already be miles clear if not for dropping a combined seven points from three games against the current 12th-, 19th- and 20th-place sides in recent weeks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Both Chelsea and Spurs are currently enduring injury crises which have just about crippled their respective attacking units. Frank Lampard‘s side has been without Christian Pulisic since New Year’s Day, while both Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring) Tammy Abraham (ankle) also missed this week’s defeat to Manchester United. As for Mourinho’s selection issues, Harry Kane (hamstring) has been out since Jan. 1 and will continue to be sideline for at least two more months, and now Son Heung-min could miss the rest of the season after breaking his arm during his two-goal outing in the dramatic victory over Aston Villa last weekend. Son had scored at least one goal in each of his last five appearances (all competitions).

Spurs have scored 43 PL goals this season; Kane and Son combined for 20 between the two of them. Dele Alli, who sits just behind them with seven, has scored just once in his last seven league games and 12 games across all competitions — coincidentally, Alli’s drought began one game before Kane tore his hamstring — after enjoying a red-hot resurgence (four goals in three games) on the back of Mourinho’s appointment. To compound matters, Spurs have had 48 fewer hours to recover and prepare for Saturday’s early kickoff, with Chelsea playing Man United in league play on Monday and the north London side suffering a narrow defeat to RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Injuries/suspensions

Chelsea: OUT – Christian Pulisic (groin), Callum Hudson-Odoi (hamstring), N’Golo Kante (leg), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Tammy Abraham (ankle), Andreas Christensen (face)

Spurs: OUT – Harry Kane (hamstring), Son Heung-min (arm), Moussa Sissoko (knee), Juan Foyth (groin)


Projected lineups

Chelsea: Caballero — James, Zouma, Rudiger, Azpilicueta — Jorginho, Mount, Kovacic — Willian, Pedro, Abraham

Spurs: Lloris — Aurier, Sanchez, Aldeweireld, Davies — Winks, Ndombele — Lo Celso, Alli, Bergwijn — Moura


What they’re saying

Lampard, on various injured players: “Christian Pulisic is still not fit. I can’t give you an exact date. It’s a difficult injury and we’re working on that. … Tammy has trained the last two days probably at about 70 percent having not trained much recently. He’s in the squad but I’ll have to make a decision on whether he’s fit. … N’Golo is not fit. It’s a muscle injury, similar to the one he came off with against Arsenal recently. Hopefully three weeks, something around that.”

Mourinho, on returning to Stamford Bridge: “To go back to play against Chelsea is the same as to play against West Ham or Crystal Palace. It’s the same for me, exactly the same. The situation is clear, I’m here for about three months, in three months I don’t think about myself, I think about the club, I think about the players and I think about the effort that the players made to be in this position now. We were 12 points behind fourth place. I remember in my first week speaking with the players about not having targets, let’s go match after match and get as many points as possible, because if we were thinking about being 12 points behind, we would lose immediately the motivation that we needed to try to climb such a difficult mountain.”


Prediction

Throw out the injuries to some of this game’s brightest attacking stars along with the fitness and fatigue concerns, because Chelsea v. Spurs almost always delivers a thrilling, goal-filled game. There will be at least three goals, including a late winner to Chelsea.