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.

Chairman Mubarak: Other clubs are ‘jealous’ of Man City’s success

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Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak believes that other clubs — namely those who have fallen miles back of the back-to-back Premier League champions — are “jealous” of the club’s success.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante to miss Europa League final with new injury ]

The root of the perceived jealousy is, of course, Man City’s seemingly unlimited spending power which dwarves that of just about — if not — every other club in the PL. There’s a growing sense around the league — and around the world — that clubs like City, just to name one, are doing the game a disservice by distorting the transfer market and building an infallible super-team with the aid of unprecedented financial resources.

Mubarak believes that these feelings also stem from other clubs’ failed dealings in the transfer market: spending comparable — if not more — money on players who don’t justify that price tag the same way some of City’s big-money buys have done — quotes from the BBC:

“With success, there is a certain level of jealousy, envy, whatever you call it. That’s part of the game.

“It’s not easy for our competition, we know that. But the reality is, we didn’t buy the most expensive player in the Premier League [Paul Pogba], we didn’t buy the most expensive goalkeeper [Kepa Arrizabalaga], we didn’t buy the most expensive midfielder, we didn’t buy the most expensive striker [Romelu Lukaku].

“People make decisions, they’ve got to live by them. This is a well-run club.”

City’s financial dealings have regularly been in the headlines of late, as they are believed to have circumvented FFP rules by lying about sponsorship deals so as to balance a larger expenditure on transfer fees and player wages with revenue generated by the club.

Valverde under pressure after dismal end to Barcelona’s season

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MADRID (AP) A couple of weeks ago, few questioned Ernesto Valverde as Barcelona coach.

The team had just won a second straight Spanish league title under his command and was close to making it to the Champions League final after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semifinals.

The team was also through to the Copa del Rey final, where it would try to win an unprecedented fifth straight title in the competition.

Valverde seemed to be comfortably in control as the club moved closer to winning the treble.

Things quickly took a turn for the worse, though, and Valverde woke up on Sunday under added pressure and facing increased criticism.

Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, a result that followed the disastrous elimination against Liverpool in the Champions League and added to the team’s woeful end to what had been a great season.

“A month ago we were celebrating the league title. Fifteen days ago we were thinking we had a chance at a treble,” Valverde said. “And we came up short in the decisive moments in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.”

The disappointing ending brought out a wave of criticism of Valverde, who last year also finished the season under a cloud after another humiliating Champions League elimination – that time it squandered a big first-leg lead against Roma in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The criticism seems more pronounced this time, with some fans and local media calling for a change at the helm.

It didn’t take long after Barcelona’s loss to Valencia in Seville for club President Josep Bartomeu to come out and defend the coach.

“Ernesto has a contract and he remains the team’s coach,” Bartomeu said. “This loss was not the coach’s fault. The team created a lot of scoring chances but the ball didn’t go in, and what counts is how many times you score.”

Bartomeu had already defended Valverde after the demoralizing 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, saying the club was not considering a change in command for next season.

Valverde said he was not worried and felt supported by the club despite the disappointing ending.

“It’s a bad feeling, we won’t deny it, but we have to stay strong,” he said. “What we want as coaches is to have a chance to come back. It’s tough to lose, it means something went wrong. We have to take the responsibility for it.”

Even if Valverde stays as expected, it doesn’t mean there won’t be changes for Barcelona.

Several players played below expectations this season, especially former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, who was regularly jeered by fans and whose place with the club remains uncertain.

Bartomeu will likely have to go shopping in the offseason to try to improve the supporting cast for Lionel Messi, who had a fantastic year but wasn’t able to save the season by himself. When Messi looked ordinary, no one was able to take over his role as protagonist, and it proved costly in the decisive moments.

Young midfielder Frenkie de Jong is joining from Ajax and he should significantly boost the midfield, but Barcelona will definitely need to add to its attack, as Luis Suarez was the only true striker who performed consistently well. He couldn’t play in the Copa final after undergoing knee surgery and his absence was felt as the team struggled to capitalize on its scoring chances.

Veteran Gerard Pique is set to return for another season in defense, but there are still doubts about the fitness of Samuel Umtiti, who missed several matches this season because of injuries.

“We’ve been thinking about next season for a while, but it’s not the time to discuss the future,” Bartomeu said. “We ended with the Spanish league title, it was important. We couldn’t win the Copa, but we’ll just move on.”

Suarez defends surgery decision after Barca lose Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Luis Suarez has defended himself from criticism for undergoing knee surgery that prevented him from playing for Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.

The Uruguayan released a statement Sunday saying he had no option despite the timing of the final, which Barcelona lost 2-1 to Valencia on Saturday.

Suarez said he had to undergo surgery “against my will” after rupturing his meniscus against Liverpool in the Champions League semifinals.

He said the surgery earlier this month had nothing to do with a cartilage issue that he had been nursing since the beginning of the season.

Barcelona won the Spanish league but finished the season on a low after being eliminated by Liverpool in the Champions League and losing the Copa final to Valencia.

Suarez scored 25 goals in 49 matches this season, second only to Lionel Messi on the scoring charts for Barcelona.

U-20 WC roundup: Mexico hammered by Japan; Italy top Ecuador

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action at the U-20 World Cup in Poland…

[ MORE: USWNT wins final match before World Cup (video) ]

Mexico 0-3 Japan

Mexico’s heavy defeat at the hands of Japan means El Tri‘s stars of tomorrow, who have zero points from their first two games, cannot finish top-two in Group B and can only advance to the knockout rounds as one of four third-place teams.

Taisei Miyashiro (21st and 77th minutes) and Kyosuke Tagawa (52nd) bagged the goals on Sunday, as Japan picked up its first victory and set up an all-important finale with Italy to decide who finishes top of the group on Wednesday.

Ecuador 0-1 Italy

Andrea Pinamonti scored the only goal in Italy’s 1-0 victory over 10-man Ecuador to reach the six-point mark and guarantee themselves a top-two finish and a place in the round of 16.

Elsewhere in the U-20 World Cup

Senegal 2-0 Colombia [ HIGHLIGHTS ]
Poland 5-0 Tahiti [ HIGHLIGHTS ]

Monday’s U-20 World Cup schedule

Honduras v. Uruguay — 12 p.m. ET
Qatar v. Ukraine — 12 p.m. ET
USA v. Nigeria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Norway v. New Zealand — 2:30 p.m. ET