The Premier League 2020-21 season is over and it is time to dish out grades for all 20 teams.
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That’s right, we are not going to mess around here and as we always do at ProSoccerTalk, we tell it how we see it.
So below is a look at all 20 teams as we analyze their season and dish out a grade to each.
Safe to say you will agree with 100 percent of these grades, right?
Let’s get to it.
Premier League 2020-21 team grades
What a weird season for Arsenal. Started poorly despite a lot of positive vibes after winning the FA Cup and Community Shield in 2019-20. Rallied in the second half of the season as Mikel Arteta’s side picked up the third most PL points since Boxing Day. Still, a second-straight eighth place finish isn’t good enough and they were knocked out of the Europa League semifinals by Unai Emery and Villarreal. Ouch.
Amid fan protests against the Kroenke family and a first season out of Europe for 25 years, all is not well. Strangely, though, Arteta is probably delighted to not be in Europe and he can work on his young squad tactically next season. Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli and Tierney are the future of this team. The likes of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Xhaka may have to move on soon.
Aston Villa: B+
Brilliant season for Villa, as Dean Smith’s side flirted with European qualification for most of the campaign. They ended up finishing 11th but in just their second season back in the top-flight, that was a huge improvement after surviving relegation on the final day in 2019-20. Jack Grealish took his game to a whole new level, while Ollie Watkins and Emiliano Martinez were superb and they also smashed Liverpool 7-2 and beat Spurs and Chelsea late in the season. Can Villa push for Europe next season? With some savvy signings, you’d think so.
Brighton and Hove Albion: C
The ‘expected goals’ kings of the Premier League, as Graham Potter’s side dazzled between both boxes but couldn’t take the numerous chances they created. Watching Brighton is fun and they dominate games, but somehow they finished 16th in the table. The Seagulls will do well to hold on to Potter long-term, and they need to buy a couple of clinical finishers to take them to the next level. Everything else is in place, as long as they keep Bissouma, White and Lamptey too.
They stayed in the Premier League, which is always the main aim for Sean Dyche and the Clarets, but this was a tough season. They had some big wins, with the victory at Anfield the biggest highlight, and Chris Wood’s goals and the play of Nick Pope saved them from getting sucked into a relegation scrap late in the season. They finished just one place out of the drop zone and squad investment from their new American owners will be key to pushing towards the top 10 next season.
They got the job done of finishing in the top four, but they made it hard for themselves and snuck in on the final day. Frank Lampard was fired midseason and Thomas Tuchel oversaw an incredible turnaround as they became an unlikely defensive juggernaut. New signings Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy had mixed campaigns, which probably cost Lampard his job, as Silva and Mendy were the main positives.
After defeat in the FA Cup final to Leicester, Tuchel needs to win the Champions League to make this season a real success. That sounds silly to say, but this is Chelsea and the squad they have should be winning these kind of trophies. Still, if they can sign a clinical finisher this summer, Tuchel could have them challenging for the title next season. He has mostly got his tactics spot on in a 3-4-2-1, and he has N’Golo Kante too.
Crystal Palace: C+
Roy Hodgson said farewell to the Premier League as he stepped down at the end of the season, and up to 12 Palace players will be following him out of the door. So many are out of contract and there is expected to be a massive rebuild at Selhurst Park, with the likes of Frank Lampard, Eddie Howe and other young coaches linked with the job. With Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze (before his long-term injury) leading the attack, Palace were midtable throughout the season. Nothing more, nothing less. Getting their next managerial appointment right will be the biggest challenge they’ve faced since they were promoted back to the Premier League.
A season that promised so much ended in bitter disappointment for the Toffees and Carlo Ancelotti. After spending big last summer, again, they started off brilliantly and looked ready to push for a top four spot, even late in the season. But their terrible form at home cost them dear and new signings Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez all ran out of steam. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ben Godfrey had good campaigns but Richarlison was disappointing as Everton finished 10th. A step back for Ancelotti despite some big moments, and wins, especially away at Liverpool.
Never looked like they truly believed they could stay in the Premier League. Scott Parker tweaked the system and made them more defensive and tougher to beat, and it worked for a while, but their transfer business cost them dear. Late additions in both windows weren’t enough and although Fulham’s instant return to the Championship was inevitable in the end, it could have been very different. Parker may move on elsewhere, but with several loan signings now returning to their parent clubs, the Cottagers will look very different next season in the Championship. Fulhamerica have become the archetypal yo-yo club.
Leeds United: A
What a breath of fresh air Leeds were under Marcelo Bielsa! After 16 years away from the Premier League, they finally returned to the top-flight and a ninth place finish was brilliant. A fine end to the season will see plenty of positive vibes growing over the summer. Patrick Bamford scored lots of goals, Raphinha dazzled, the likes of Kalvin Phillips and Illan Meslier were sublime, and overall, Bielsa’s boys never changed their playing style. They took a lot of teams by surprise and won at Man City and at home against Tottenham. Can they prevail next season now that teams know all of their secrets? Bielsa will surely have more than a few tricks left up his sleeve, or under his bucket…
Leicester City: A-
There will be a strange sense of Deja Vu around Leicester this summer. An almost identical season to last, as they were in the top four throughout the entire campaign but slipped out in agonizing fashion on the final day. Still, they won the FA Cup and went on a deep run in the Europa League. Rodgers had to deal with plenty of injuries too. Tielemans, Ndidi, Iheanacho, Castagne, Evans and Vardy were all sublime, and there is a sense that Leicester can keep it going for next season. Still, there will also be a sense they may have missed their chance of finishing in the top four with the big boys retooling this summer.
What a rollercoaster of a campaign for Jurgen Klopp. The 2019-20 champs looked set for another title push despite catastrophic injury problems early in the season as they lost both starting center backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez to serious knee injuries in the space of a few days. Eventually, that lost told, and injuries kept piling up throughout the season. But when they figured out two young and inexperienced center backs in Phillips and Williams could step in and midfielders could go back to their normal positions, they regained their momentum.
Eight wins out of 10 to finish the season was brilliant and they achieved their goal of a top four finish on the final day. Alisson’s winning header at West Brom will live long in the memory, and Salah was very good too. Firmino and Mane dropped off, but these players getting a proper rest this summer, plus Van Dijk, Matip and Gomez returning, will surely see Klopp’s boys contend for the title next season.
Manchester City: A
Imperious is the best word to sum them up. From about November on, nobody could get near them. Guardiola rotated his team masterfully and with Sergio Aguero injured for most of the season and Gabriel Jesus not at his best, Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden, Mahrez, Sterling and Gundogan ran the show. City were defensively superb as John Stones and Ruben Dias formed a great partnership, while in a congested season due to the pandemic, having such a big squad to rotate well made a big difference. Everyone expected City to win the title, and they did.
With the Premier League title, a third in four seasons, won, plus another League Cup, City were gutted to not win the FA Cup too, but they could win the trophy they really want, the Champions League. They are red-hot favorites to beat Chelsea in the final in Porto and that would mean that Guardiola has truly delivered on his promise to turn City into a European powerhouse.
Manchester United: B+
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer led United to a second-place finish and there was a lot of progress made, but it still feels like they are a long, long way behind Man City. Early on they made a habit of leaking early goals but fighting back to win in true Fergie style, and their incredible away form proved how dangerous they are on the counter. Bruno Fernandes, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire were the standout players, but United still need a center back and another holding midfielder to make them title contenders.
Edinson Cavani’s contribution up top was a bonus late in the season, so too was Mason Greenwood’s, as Marcus Rashford was consistent throughout and Paul Pogba also had his moments. The possibility of winning the Europa League is huge for Solskjaer, as he aims to win his first trophy as United’s manager. If they can beat Villarreal in the final, that feels like a big psychological barrier overcome.
Newcastle United: C+
All’s well that ends well, right? What a bizarre season for the Magpies, as fans wanted Steve Bruce out from the start but somehow they rallied and finished 12th after a great run at the end of the season. That was largely due to Saint-Maximin, Wilson and Almiron being back fit, plus the emergence of Joe Willock as he dazzled during his loan spell from Arsenal. Given the injuries Newcastle had, several players being hit hard by COVID-19 complications and the general fan unrest towards owner Mike Ashley and a dashed takeover attempt, Bruce did a solid job. They aren’t the prettiest to watch but when Newcastle have all of their star attacking players fit, they can cause anyone problems. The fans, rightly, want more from their club.
Sheffield United: F
Absolutely miserable season, but they did manage to salvage a bit of pride late on. Chris Wilder was fired after falling out with the owner and that was unthinkable 12 months ago. The Blades’ poor end to 2019-20 carried over to 2020-21 and at times it looked like they would be the worst team in PL history. They weren’t, but scoring goals was a huge issue and they lost a lot of tight games they won in the previous seasons. This was one of the biggest sophomore slumps ever seen in the Premier League as they were relegated and finished bottom. None of their big signings really worked either, and that was a huge reason why they went down.
Talk about a season of two halves! Southampton were top of the table in November and flying under Ralph Hasenhuttl, with Danny Ings banging in the goals. Then, injuries arrived and a huge downwards spiral in the second half of the season almost saw them dragged into a relegation scrap, and they lost 9-0 again, this time to Manchester United. In the end they finished 15th and reached the FA Cup semifinal where they lost to eventual winners Leicester. Not a bad season. But the end to the season was awful and Hasenhuttl needs Saints’ owners to spend big this summer to stop their slide. That isn’t going to happen, and many believe they will be relegation candidates in 2021-22.
Tottenham Hotspur: D
It all started so well for Jose Mourinho, but he didn’t even see out a first full season in charge of Spurs. They were top of the table heading towards the festive period but then they unravelled. Dropping points after going ahead early in games was their big problem, as Harry Kane and Heung-min Son were sublime early on but defensively they kept making the same mistakes. Hojbjerg had a good season, but he was the only standout from the new signings. They did reach the League Cup final, but lost, and the way they crashed out of the Europa League was embarrassing.
Gareth Bale finished with a flourish, mostly after Mourinho was fired, but his loan move didn’t really work out. All of that adds up to a lot of turmoil this summer as Kane could leave, Tottenham don’t have a manager and Daniel Levy has a lot of pressure on him from Spurs fans. Finishing in seventh and qualifying for the Europa Conference League isn’t ideal for next season either.
West Bromwich Albion: D
They never looked likely to stay up and sacking Slaven Bilic and replacing him with Sam Allardyce didn’t work. Matheus Pereira was very good, so too was Sam Johnstone (who had a lot of reps) but defensive issues plagued them all season. The Baggies will be at the top of the Championship next season because that is what they do, but they were never equipped to stay up and were relegated without much of a fight.
West Ham United: A+
An incredible campaign for David Moyes and West Ham, as they finished in sixth and qualified for the Europa League group stage. That is some achievement as West Ham secured their highest-ever PL points tally and did it in style. Michail Antonio was excellent, when fit, and so too was Declan Rice. Moyes used a 3-4-2-1 system which worked well as the likes of Soucek and Coufal were brilliant additions. Jesse Lingard then gave them a great push in the second half of the season, as his loan arrival was exceptional.
All in all, Moyes deserves a huge amount of credit for turning a team many tipped for relegation at the start of the season into genuine top four contenders heading into the final weeks of the season. Now, let’s see if West Ham can cope with a Thursday-Sunday schedule next season, and the return of more of their own fans…
Wolverhampton Wanderers: C-
One thing dominated Wolves’ season: the horrific head injury to Raul Jimenez. The Mexico star fractured his skull in late November and Wolves were never the same. They missed not only his goals but also his link-up play and Nuno Espirito Santo’s side never looked like pushing for European qualification. Nuno has now left too, and it will be intriguing to see if Wolves still have plenty of cash to spend on new players, or if this marks a new era at Molineux. Still, what a job Nuno did over four seasons and surely a big job beckons for the Portuguese coach. As for Wolves, they will be praying that Jimenez returns as the same player and they can push higher than their 13th place finish this term.