Premier League end of season grades


The 2018-19 Premier League season is in the books, so now it is time to reveal our grade book.

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Based on the expectations before, during and after the season, here’s how we feel each team fared across the gruelling, but exhilarating, nine-month season.

I’m sure you will all agree 100 percent with these grades…

Arsenal: B+
The run to the Europa League final has saved their season, and boosts their grade. Unai Emery has changed around the culture of this Arsenal team, but there’s only so much you can do in one season. They should have finished in the top four but collapsed late in the season, and their Champions League hopes now hinge on beating Chelsea in the Europa League final. The future of Mezut Ozil is uncertain, and although Arsenal have improved they are still shaky in defense.

Bournemouth: B
A really strong start saw Bournemouth pushing for European qualification but they took a nosedive in the second half of the season. Eddie Howe‘s men had a lot of injuries to deal with and that played its part, but Bournemouth have to stop slumping late in the season. David Brooks, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser were unstoppable at times.

Brighton: D-
They just survived, but it wasn’t pretty. Like Bournemouth, they started well but tallied off quickly and they failed to win any of their last 11 games. Chris Hughton‘s side need to score more goals and they can’t rely on veteran Glenn Murray to deliver. A step backward.

Burnley: D
Sean Dyche‘s side were impacted by Europa League qualifiers and they didn’t reach the group stage. That hit them hard for most of this season as they were embroiled in a relegation scrap, but when Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood got going in the second half of the season, plus Tom Heaton excelling back in goal, they looked like the old Burnley. Dwight McNeil is a talent but Burnley will be battling against the drop again next season.

Cardiff City: C+
Simply put, they had no right to be in with a shout of survival heading into the final two weeks of the season. Neil Warnock‘s side were the favorites to go down due to their lack of spending and having a squad that wasn’t even supposed to get out of the Championship. The tragedy surrounding Emiliano Sala‘s death dealt a huge blow to Cardiff in January, but they almost stayed up. They got the most out of their ability.

Chelsea: B+
All in all, not a bad season. Third place in Maurizio Sarri‘s first season in England sounds like a great campaign on paper, but we all know it was far from that. Chelsea were so inconsistent and the future of Eden Hazard still hangs in the balance. The Blues are back in the Champions League, which was the main aim, but a FIFA transfer ban looms large and Sarri will have to work miracles to kick this squad on in the summer. Reaching the Europa League final is a bonus, while they only lost in the League Cup final on  penalty kicks.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Crystal Palace: B-
A decent season for Palace, as they finished strongly and were very good away from home. Winning at Man City was their highlight and Roy Hodgson‘s experience saw him steer the Eagles to 12th place, as they were never really in a relegation battle this season. Keeping Wilfried Zaha will be tough this summer, but there is a nucleus of a very good squad of players at Selhurst Park as they bought wisely last summer.

Everton: B
The Toffees will not want this season to end under Marco Silva, as the Portuguese coach finally found his feet in the final months of the campaign. An eighth place finish papers over the cracks, but Lucas Digne, Kurt Zouma, Richarlison and Andre Gomes all proved to be great additions, and Everton can now seriously challenge for the top six next season if new investment arrives. They don’t have an out-and-out goalscorer, but Sigurdsson chipped in to help out with goals.

Fulham: F
A truly disastrous season for the Cottagers who were relegated in March and have had three different managers. They got rid of Slavisa Jokanovic in October, then Claudio Ranieri arrived and failed to reignite an expensively assembled squad full of individual talent. Scott Parker galvanized the players in the final weeks of the season, but it will be tough to see this Fulham team coming up next season.

Huddersfield Town: F
The same can be said for Huddersfield, as David Wagner left midseason and Jan Siewert‘s side showed some promising signs but only secured one victory under the young German coach. It was a miracle to see Huddersfield in the PL in the first place, and now Siewert has a really tough job on his hands. One of the worst seasons in PL history with just 16 points and three wins gained.

Leicester City: C
Promising signs for the Foxes who finished in ninth. Claude Puel was fired in slightly harsh fashion, but his brand of soccer didn’t suit this group of players. Brendan Rodgers is a perfect fit, as a young exciting side is led by James Maddison and wily veteran Jamie Vardy in attack, with Chilwell, Tielemans (only on loan) and Ndidi key. It will be exciting to see what Rodgers can achieve with this young group next season.

Liverpool: A+
Well, they didn’t win the title, but along with Man City they deserved to. Liverpool set a record for their highest points tally with 97, which is the third-highest in PL history. Jurgen Klopp‘s men were imperious and lost just once in the PL (at Man City) and have reached the UCL final for the second-straight season, so their long wait for trophy could be over if they beat Tottenham. Yes, Liverpool came so close to ending their 29-year wait for a league title, but draws against West Ham and Leicester around the turn of the year cost them dear.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester City: A+
Back-to-back champions, Manchester City won their last 14 games of the season to secure the title. It was incredible to see Pep Guardiola‘s men rip the PL apart for the second-straight season and rally from being seven points behind Liverpool in January. They are nailed on to be the first team in English history to win a domestic treble, and lost narrowly to Spurs in the UCL quarters to miss out on a chance to win the quadruple. This is a historic City team that will be talked about for decades to come. From Aguero to Sterling to Bernardo Silva to Aymeric Laporte, there were so many heroes for City. Guardiola has created a monstrous winning machine.

Manchester United: D
Awful season for United. They finished in sixth and their final day defeat at home to already-relegated Cardiff City summed things up. Jose Mourinho left after his early season meltdown and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived on a caretaker basis. A long unbeaten run for Ole papered over the cracks, but after he was given the job on a permanent basis the players regressed to their previous form and they were awful in the final weeks of the campaign. Paul Pogba and others have a lot to answer for. United are a long, long way from being title contenders, and finishing in the top four next season would be a huge success. Solskjaer has to be ruthless and lead a huge rebuild of this playing squad, but it is easier said than done.

Newcastle United: B-
The future of Rafael Benitez remains up in the air, but the Magpies finished 13th and had an amazing finish to the season. Newcastle now have a squad of players good enough to survive in the PL and the likes of Rondon, Almiron and Perez up front has finally solved their problem with a lack of goals. Newcastle need investment to kick on to the next level, but unless Mike Ashley sells the club, nothing will change.

Southampton: D
An absolutely shocking start to the season under Mark Hughes saw him sacked in December and Ralph Hasenhuttl appointed. That turned out to be an inspired hire, as the Austrian led Saints to safety with a few weeks of the season to go. Still, a lot of work for them to do as Nathan Redmond can’t do it all on his own. Saints need to cut plenty of deadwood this summer and integrate talented youngsters with a couple of top quality players throughout the spin of their side. Will their new Chinese majority owners, and new bosses behind the scenes, back Hasenhuttl?

Tottenham Hotspur: B+
After everything that has happened to Spurs this season, Mauricio Pochettino has proved once again he is a brilliant manager. From staying at Wembley eight months longer than expected to reaching the Champions League final without Harry Kane and several injured players, this has been an amazing season. With the new stadium up and running and Spurs in the top four once again, they have keep up with their rivals despite all of the odds.

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )

Watford: A-
Javi Gracia‘s side have reached the FA Cup final and finished 11th after flirting with European qualification for most of the season. After they reached the FA Cup final, they have lost their focus but this is still a fine season for the Hornets. Gerard Deulofeu has led the way and they have a squad full of powerful, reliable players. More to come from Watford next season.

West Ham United: C+
A strong finish to the season saw the Hammers finish in 10th, which is about what we expected. Manuel Pellegrini‘s side had a lot of injuries and a poor start to deal with, but his expensive signings added quality with Fabianski, Diop and Anderson key arrivals, plus Rice emerged as a genuine superstar. Exciting future for West Ham, who should push for Europe next season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: A
What a season for Wolves. They reached the FA Cup semifinal and finished in seventh with 57 points, which is the third-best season for a newly promoted team in PL history. Nuno Espirito Santo has some great players to work with thanks to the Jorge Mendes link, but he’s made the most of it and kept the philosophy of this squad together. Jota and Jimenez have been superb up top, with Doherty and Moutinho crucial. If Man City win the FA Cup, Wolves will be in Europe. Amazing.

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

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The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

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How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

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Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

More AP soccer: and