The Premier League’s 2021-22 season was kind to some and not to others, whether predictably (like Man City and Liverpool battling it out for the title) or not-so-predictably (like Manchester United trying to find diamond-tipped tools to dig beneath its own rock bottom).
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So once again, our gradebook is open.
And we are 100 percent positive that you will not agree with most of what we had to say concerning your team.
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It’s weird, isn’t it? The Gunners found their footing and helped a bunch of young players take the next steps. Their season saw them rewarded for sticking with Mikel Arteta, even if the Gunners wilted at the last hurdle and finished outside the top four. There were a lot of positives in their fifth-place finish, especially since many pegged the Gunners to finish no higher than seventh. Martin Odegaard took the next step and high-profile signings Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale proved inspired transfers. On the other hand, the new contract handed to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turned out to be a huge mistake and Arsenal’s late derby loss to Tottenham should be judged harshly.
We guess it depends what you were expecting by Villa and how much you want to pat Steven Gerrard on the pack for briefly reinvigorating the season before looking an awful lot like Dean Smith’s Villa. The Villans’ record was 3W-1D-7L before Gerrard managed his first game, a 2-0 win over Brighton at Villa Park. Gerrard’s men won four of his first six Premier League matches in charge only to show themselves just as capable of long losing runs under “Stevie G.” Villa won just once in seven matches between Boxing Day and Feb. 19, then won three-straight, then lost four on the spin. Villa scored almost nine goals more than xG and finished in 14th place with 45 points and a minus-2 goal differential. Last year they were 11th with 55 points and a plus-9 goal differential. Now comes an even bigger test for Gerrard: Will he be able to sway more players of the ilk of Lucas Digne and Philippe Coutinho to give Villa a try?
Perhaps no team was rewarded less for good performances than the Bees, whose expected points haul was a full 10 points more than the 46 they claimed in their first Premier League season. Thomas Frank did an exceptional job leading the Bees into battle and signings like Christian Eriksen and Kristoffer Ajer proved inspired ones. Building on this season will provide tough in terms of bettering performances but perhaps not points. Brentford could’ve easily been a top-half team with a little rub of the green.
Brighton and Hove Albion
With all due respect to Neal Maupay, a fine player, and savvy veteran Danny Welbeck, the Seagulls might’ve just claimed Potter a Conference League place if they weren’t leaning on playmakers Alexis Mac Allister and Leandro Trossard in the hopes of pushing out center forward-like finishing. Potter navigated the Ben White sale with class and there were high-profile injuries that cost Brighton their Best XI on a handful of occasions. Marc Cucurella was absolutely brilliant and Moises Caicedo looks the real deal (in a small sample size). If Enock Mwepu can find consistency of form and the Seagulls get their aforementioned striker, look out. They also have to “look out” for rivals trying to put Potter in their manager’s chair.
Yes, they were relegated. But the club took interesting shots in the signing of Maxwel Cornet and Wout Weghorst (even if the latter was merely a reaction to Newcastle’s purchase of Chris Wood). It’s difficult to really assess their season without looking toward the next. Cornet and Weghorst won’t stay (you’d have to think), while Ben Mee, James Tarkowski, Nick Pope, and Dwight McNeil seem destined for new places. Ashley Barnes isn’t going to wedgie opposition into submission for a promotion claim. The Clarets have a lot of work ahead of them.
Third place in the Premier League is third place in the Premier League, but the reigning UEFA Champions League winners fell so short of the expectations heaped on them when the Blues secured the services of Romelu Lukaku. And while it’s tempting to give the club a pass for the overwhelming drama caused by the punishment of soon-to-be (probably) former owner Roman Abramovich, Thomas Tuchel also couldn’t make a passable attack out of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, and Lukaku — who again was supposed to be the signing of the season for the entire league. Mason Mount was fantastic and the Blues back line was about as good as anyone outside of Man City.
It’s easy to forget that Palace was devoid of a full roster heading into August, making the Eagles a popular pick to be relegated in Patrick Vieira’s first season as a Premier League manager. Vieira instead got the most out of his players and was aided big time by the arrival of Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher, who changed at least a half-dozen games with superstar caliber performances. Palace was also unlucky when it came to expected points, claiming 10 points less than advanced stats implied they’d produced through performances.
What a mess. Credit to the Toffees for avoiding relegation but it was mistake after mistake after mistake from the hiring of Rafa Benitez to the sale of Lucas Digne (Benitez-inspired) to the hiring of Frank Lampard (which, it turns out, wasn’t really any sort of upgrade from Rafa Benitez… and that’s only a surprise to Everton supporters who just really dislike the Liverpool legend). The Toffees were 3-0 when Dominic Calvert-Lewin began a long run on the sidelines but it was their defense that was terrible. Everton had six wins, four draws, and 11 losses when Lampard was hired to replace Benitez. The Toffees won five, drew two, and lost 10 with him. Not good. But, hey, they… made it?
Maybe Marcelo Bielsa ran Leeds’ players into the ground. Maybe it was the 57-combined games missed from Kalvin Phillips, Diego Llorente, and Patrick Bamford. Maybe the club just needed a change in leadership. Regardless, Leeds did not take the “next steps” to becoming a European contender under Bielsa, and can be very happy that Jesse Marsch was able to right the ship. Remember: the American boss’ only losses after claiming his first win were to Chelsea, Arsenal, and Man City (three games in-a-row).
There were injuries. Yes, there were injuries including the significant and unnecessary early loss of Wesley Fofana that lasted most of the season. But a manager with Brendan Rodgers’ reputation probably should’ve been able to rally more points than the 52 scooped up by the Foxes. And when you consider that Leicester’s expected points were almost 10 fewer, well, Foxes fans have to hope that the season was just a series of unlucky bounces compounded by injuries. Still, a disappointment.
How good did the Reds look this season under Jurgen Klopp, which firmed up the boss and his staff’s reputation as elite talent-identifiers and -developers. It’s likely that Liverpool’s last half decade is going to force us to reevaluate how we define dynasties, because the Reds’ only flaw is that they aren’t quite Manchester City. The Reds look certain to address central midfield this summer. Can an upgrade there push them past Man City. And if it doesn’t, should we just give them a pass?
There’s rarely been a force this powerful in world football. And while the spending deserves a lot of credit, you just have to look across town to see a team that spent a boatload of dough and looked abject.
You know that ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal? That, but with a lot of hair gel.
To start off without a win in 14 games and finish 11th is incredible. Many will point to the money spent in January — and that helped big time — but it was also a matter of former owner Mike Ashley being unwilling to fire Steve Bruce, who was not properly utilizing a squad that was bottom half, but not bottom of the barrel. That said, Bruno Guimares is going to make a lot of teams better and Newcastle’s convincing the Brazilian to buy into their takeover project is largely the reason the Magpies are safe to spend on Premier League talent this summer.
Way too predictable. Way too beatable. Ultimately, this season will be way too forgettable for those who aren’t Canaries fans. The loss (sale) of Emiliano Buendia proved too deep a wound.
Ralph Hasenhuttl had his men ninth on the Premier League table about two-thirds of the way through the season… and won just once the rest of the way. Maybe it was the energy spent getting to ninth one season after struggling to stay safe, but Saints were outright bad down the stretch. Imagine what would’ve been without James Ward-Prowse’s free kick magic. All that said, Saints also lost budding talisman Valentino Livramento down the stretch and that didn’t help hopes of a late resurgence. Better luck next year? Probably, but Hasenhuttl’s gotta deliver better.
You almost want to dock them a full ‘A’ mark because it’s clear that hiring Antonio Conte instead of Nuno Espirito Santo (not a bad manager in his own right) from August instead of waiting until midseason was the right move all along. Why it was so hard to accept that one of the world’s very biggest winners was worth the money and sacrifice of ego is beyond us, unless of course Spurs still feel burnt by Jose Mourinho. Any way, holding onto Harry Kane despite his outspoken desire to leave turned out to work out well by the time the English striker and co-pilot Heung-min Son were joined by Dejan Kulusevski in January. There’s a legitimate chance that Spurs will overtake Chelsea this offseason as “team most often mentioned as a dark horse rival to Liverpool and Man City.”
Poor planning cost them as much as injuries. Maybe it’s revisionist history to lambaste the Hornets for their managerial merry-go-round costing them Premier League status, but as we sit here exhausted by another long Premier League season, we’re happy to be using our edit button on the ol’ textbooks.
West Ham United
David Moyes is back where he belongs, getting credit for overachieving squads but being willing to trade that credit for just one big trophy. A three-time LMA League Manager of the Year from his time at Everton, Moyes boasts only the Second Division crown from his time with Preston North End and the Community Shield from his ill-fated stint at Manchester United. All that said, Moyes built on last season and got his team into Europe a second time. The Irons also fought to the brink of the Europa League Final, and neutrals would’ve joined the West Ham faithful in hoping he claimed a trophy. Now can they hold onto team MVP Declan Rice in the manner or will the team be without its best player and its mainstay, retiring Mark Noble, come August?
How would Wolves replace Nuno Espirito Santo, a man who had given so much to the club’s surge back into the Premier League’s regular crowd? With Bruno Lage, who was a cool and steady hand. But Wolves never got Raul Jimenez back in form and failed to take advantage of a first 2/3 of the season that propelled them into the European discussion, wilting down the stretch and losing a full letter from its grade. There’s some good young talent in the pipeline, but hanging onto Ruben Neves — a long shot — is task 1A, 1B, 1C, and 2.