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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

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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

(Dave Thompson/PA via AP)

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

Cole returns to Chelsea as youth team coach

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One of Chelsea’s best players in club history is back at his old stomping grounds in a new role.

Chelsea finally confirmed over their social media channels that former left back Ashley Cole is back at the club coaching in the academy, helping the next generation of stars grow and learn the games. Specifically, Cole is coaching the U-15 squad.

[READ: Top Premier League Storylines]

“I’m also doing my badges at the moment and so being here at Chelsea means I have the chance to coach every day, whereas maybe if I wasn’t working at a club it would be hard for me to get the hours in,” Cole told Chelsea’s website. “I’m learning not just how to be a coach and how to speak to people in a different environment but the side of coaching that you don’t see like planning the sessions and setting up the equipment.

“As a player, you just turn up for a session and do it. If it’s a possession drill, you just arrive and try to keep the ball but now I’m getting to understand that there are always ideas behind a particular session or practice. Organization has to be key and those are the little details that it takes to be a great coach.”

While plenty from Cole’s era have moved into the media for lucrative punditry roles, it’s nice to see players like Cole and his former teammate Frank Lampard, now Chelsea coach, go into coaching to help pass on some of the great lessons they’ve learned during their careers. .

Cole said in the interview that he wasn’t sure what was next after playing three seasons for the LA Galaxy and then joining Lampard at Derby County for the second half of last season. He added that he got his first taste of coaching kids while with the Galaxy, helping some of the academy players and taking part in video sessions.

“The Academy are very good at giving ex-players a route back to the club and a chance to learn as coaches,” Cole said. “They’re eager to bring in people who understand what it means to be at Chelsea and what it means to wear the badge. You have to be a top player to play for Chelsea so they want those top ex-players influencing and trying to help the next generation develop and be better players.”

Spanish FA once again opposes La Liga match in U.S.

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For the second consecutive season, La Liga and Relevant Sports have proposed a league match to take place this winter in the U.S.

And once again, the La Liga proposal doesn’t have the support of its national soccer federation.

[READ: La Liga wants to move Villarreal-Atletico Madrid to Miami]

Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), told reporters on Thursday that it would oppose the match taking place outside of Spain’s borders, keeping a consistent line in the sand on how far globalization can go in soccer.

“It would disrupt the competition,” Rubiales said, via AS. “To play a game in Miami, La Liga needs permission from five bodies that it doesn’t have.”

The five bodies Rubiales referred to are the RFEF, FIFA, CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer and MLS.

Last time around, Relevant Sports and La Liga announced a long-term, lucrative marketing contract to expand the brand’s footprint in the Americas, and soon after, petitioned to move Girona’s home game against Barcelona to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home stadium of Relevant Sports owner Stephen Ross and his Miami Dolphins.

Ultimately, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Relevant Sports were unable to get permission from the RFEF or FIFA to hold the event outside Spain and it went off as expected in Girona. At the time, Spain’s player’s union and fans groups opposed the move. Tebas has filed a lawsuit in Spain to try to force the RFEF to approve their request, but it seems unlikely to be awarded and it surely doesn’t provide any good will between the two parties.

There’s been plenty of talk about bringing league games abroad before, but it has just been talk so far. The Premier League considered adding an extra game to the season to be played all over the world, but never went through with creating plans for matches.

Associations – not leagues, to be clear – have brought things like Super Cups abroad. For example, the RFEF moved the 2018 Spanish Super Cup to Tangiers, Morocco, while the France Football Federation has brought its national Super Cup match to both the U.S. and Montreal, Canada in recent years. However, the argument in favor of bringing those games abroad is they’re basically meaningless. Meanwhile, one result in a league season could – in theory – determine whether a team is relegated or not, especially if the margin is three points or less.

We could see another legal fight on our hands, so watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.

Rodgers excuses Maddison’s behavior after England departure

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Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison made headlines for the wrong reasons after he was pictured last week watching the England match at the Czech Republic from a casino.

Despite the negative attention from Maddison’s decision to watch the game at that venue, he has the backing of his club manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The kid went away with the international team and took ill while he was away,” Rodgers said, via the Guardian. “He wanted to stay and hopefully be ready for the second game. But the England medical staff – which I can understand, as he had flu and they didn’t want that to spread to his teammates – decided it’s best for him to leave the camp. So he leaves, gets some tablets with our guys at the club, then he feels better.

“He watched the game at home on his own on the Friday and then goes out at half-time – probably he’ll make better decisions in his life but he went to a casino on his own to sit and watch the second half by a poker table. The suggestions are he left England purposelessly and then goes to a casino but that’s totally not the case at all. But his eyes have been opened now to the wider world in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight he’s made a mistake.”

Considering all that went on during England’s international break, from the poor performance in Prague to the horrible racism endured in Bulgaria, this is a bit of a silly scandal. To be honest, as long as Maddison is taking care of his body and himself, why does it matter if he was at a casino, or a pub, or anywhere?

However, there’s no denying that the optics look bad. Folks didn’t know that he arrived to England camp with the flu, or a flu-like illness at least, and the England medical staff are right to send him away to make sure no one else gets sick. He may have been feeling better by Friday and wanted to get out of the house. I think we’ve all been there after being sick for a few days.

The most important lesson for Maddison is to learn that his actions, out of context, can be misunderstood. In terms of soccer, after Ross Barkley’s performance for England, Maddison will have to prove in his club form that he should still have a place in the England team for the near future. There’s only two more international dates left before the 2020 Euros, so time is running out for Maddison to make an impact to Southgate.

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

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Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.