The 2018-19 Premier League season is officially in the books, and while we know who finished where, it’s time to discuss who did (or didn’t) live up to expectations.
Manchester City are champions; Liverpool are record-breaking runners-up; Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal round out the top-five, in the order.
Finishing position/points total: 5th / 70 points
High point: Beating Tottenham back in December might be the greatest single accomplishment of Arsenal’s season, which says a lot about where the club is today.
Low point: Three straight defeats — to Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City, by a combined score of 9-3 — at the same time Tottenham were tripping over their own feet and leaving the door wide open for a top-four heist.
Our opinion: Arsene Wenger left, but did anything really change around the Emirates Stadium?
Star player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Most memorable goal: The goal that wasn’t — Aubameyang’s 91st-minute penalty kick against Spurs — was one of many moments that wound up being the difference between fourth and fifth.
Manager grade: Unai Emery: C+
Hopes for next season: In a perfect world for Arsenal, Spurs won’t sign a player for the third straight transfer window and Arsenal will have signed a soon-to-be world-class replacement for the departed Aaron Ramsey, at which point Arsenal could accidentally finish above Spurs for the first time in four seasons.
Finishing position/points total: 4th / 71 points
High point: Reaching the Champions League final is the obvious answer, but we’re only talking about the PL here. Finishing the season’s last game with 11 upright players was quite the accomplishment given Spurs’ season-long injury crisis.
Low point: Predictably, a club that signed no new players in the summer, and is still competing in the Champions League, ran out of gas down the stretch. Spurs won just three of the final 12 games, while losing seven.
Our opinion: Mauricio Pochettino has proven himself to a miracle worker year after year, and he deserves better from chairman Daniel Levy.
Star player: Harry Kane
Most memorable goal: Son Heung-min didn’t score his first PL goal until the end of November, but it was worth the wait and kicked off a brilliant second half of the season for the South Korean.
Manager grade: Mauricio Pochettino: A-
Hopes for next season: If Spurs sign some players in the summer — hardly a given — the existing core has yet another level (or two) to reach. They’re as likely as anyone else to solidify their place as the third-best side in the PL.
Finishing position/points total: 3rd/ 72 points
High point: Starting the season unbeaten in their first 12 games, though in hindsight the early-days discussion of a three-horse race for the title was premature and misguided.
Low point: Losing 3-1 to Spurs to break the unbeaten start was bad, but losing 6-0 to Man City (just days before losing in the League Cup final to them) was worse.
Our opinion: For a team with just one capable midfielder (N'Golo Kante) for the vast majority of the season (Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on strong once given a chance to play), finishing third almost seems like an overachievement.
Star player: Eden Hazard
Most memorable goal: Hazard is irreplaceable, which Chelsea will quickly find out if he leaves this summer.
Manager grade: Maurizio Sarri: B-
Hopes for next season: If Hazard can be convinced to stay another season — until the transfer ban has passed — they’ll scrap for a top-four place again. If he leaves and Christian Pulisic is the only player they can register, it could be a long season.
Finishing position/points total: 2nd / 97 points
High point: How about the 30 games that they won? Or, the 37 games that they didn’t lose?
Low point: The lone league defeat, to Manchester City at the start of January, comes to mind.
Our opinion: Finishing with 97 points is bafflingly impressive, but conceding just 22 goals in 38 games is equally impressive. To match Man City step for step all season was something not many thought the Reds could do. 97 points would have won the title in all but two seasons — last season and this season.
Star player: Virgil Van Dijk
Most memorable goal: You’ll notice it doesn’t say “best” or “favorite” goal. Divock Origi‘s 96th-minute winner was stranger than anything else.
Manager grade: Jurgen Klopp: A+
Hopes for next season: They’re still young and awaiting breakout seasons from Naby Keita and Fabinho. If either of those players ascend to PL stardom next season, they could very well end City’s run.
Finishing position/points total: 1st / 98 points
High point: Leroy Sane’s game-winning goal to top Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. Without it, Liverpool might have never lost the lead in the title race.
Low point: Losing three of four games during the December holiday period to fall seven points behind Liverpool.
Our opinion: The team that broke ever conceivable PL record last season, then went out and signed a player of Riyad Mahrez‘s ability, bordered on unbeatable once again. Though slightly more defensively fragile this season, Pep Guardiola‘s men are worthy champions.
Star player: Raheem Sterling
Most memorable goal: Vincent Kompany‘s winner against Leicester City in the penultimate game of the season, with Liverpool two points ahead after playing earlier in the weekend. He’ll never ever score another one like it.
Manager grade: Pep Guardiola: A+
Hopes for next season: Newsflash: They’re going to be good again, and again, and again. Here’s hoping for another brilliant title race between City and Liverpool, one with even more many twists and turns.