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Revisiting PST’s preseason Premier League predictions

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Back in August, we asked our staff to pick its 1-20 table and answer a bevy of roundtable questions.

[ MORE: Atleti wins Europa League ]

The crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear.

The table

— Five of six writers had Manchester City lifting the Premier League trophy, with Nick Mendola’s (me) audacious 90-point total the closest to City’s actual 100 points. Kyle Bonn picked Manchester United to win the league.

–Nick Mendola’s (me) equally audacious prediction that Burnley would finish 20th with 18 total points has had him apologizing on this page for months. Way to go, numbskull.

— No one called more than one relegated team correctly. Swansea had three people pick it for the drop, while I was the lone one to tab West Brom. JPW and Andy Edwards failed to name a single relegated team.

— Who had a team finishing the most spots higher than they did? JPW and Andy Edwards had 16th place Southampton finishing 8th. I had eventually relegated Stoke in 11th, while JPW had them 10th, and Andy Edwards had them 7th!

— Chelsea’s fifth place finish was a surprise to everyone; Only JPW had them finishing lower than second… in third.

— Surprised Arsenal finished in sixth? Kyle Bonn, Andy Edwards, and Matt Reed aren’t.

The roundtable

— We asked who’d go the further in the Champions League, and JPW was the only one to name Liverpool (although he hedged in a bit by saying the Reds and Man City).

— We asked who’d score the most league goals between Romelu LukakuHarry Kane, Alvaro Morata, Alexandre Lacazette, or Sergio Aguero? Four correctly went with Kane, with Kyle Bonn wrong with Lukaku and this humble writer wrong with Lacazette.

— We asked which Premier League player would feel worst about his decision to leave his previous PL club, and we were all wrong (except perhaps JPW’s choice of Wayne Rooney, but that’s debatable). Dan Karell said Virgil Van Dijk, Matt Reed said Nemanja Matic, and I said Kyle Walker. All are probably quite happy with the manner of their seasons.

— We asked who’d fare better between manager Marco Silva, Frank De Boer, or Mauricio Pellegrino. They were all fired, though Silva’s departure was least his fault. So JPW wins again.

— We predicted who’d get fired first. The winner was Frank De Boer, but we all named men who’d get the sack. Craig Shakespeare (JPW), Paul Clement (me), Marco Silva (Matt Reed and Kyle Bonn), and Mark Hughes (Dan Karell).

— We asked which newly-promoted club will finish higher. Four of the five said Newcastle, with someone trying to hide his bias by saying Brighton.

— We asked who’d finish highest and lowest of this group: Southampton, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Leicester City.

Leicester finished highest and West Brom finished 20th. Dan and I correctly tabbed Leicester, while four of us correctly pegged the Baggies as the lowest.

— As for who would get promoted from the Championship, so far we’re 1/12. That could move to three if Dan and Kyle are correct in picking Fulham. Matt tabbed Cardiff City.

Premier League season reviews: Clubs 9-5

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With the 2017-18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaigns of all 20 clubs.

[ MORE: Grades for all 20 PL clubs ]

Below we continue our season reviews by analyzing the key moments, the star men and how the managers performed for the teams who finished 9th to 5th in the PL table.

[ MORE REVIEWS: Clubs 20-15 | Clubs 14-10 ]

Let’s get to it…


Leicester City

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Final place: 9th with 47 points
Defining moment: The 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in November which ultimately signaled the end of the Foxes’ poor start to the season and saw them start a four-game winning run and leave the relegation battle in the rearview mirror.
Biggest victory: Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kelechi Iheanacho — the three Leicester attackers expected to turn in star performances the entire season — all scored in the Foxes’ 3-1 victory over 10-man Arsenal.
Low point: The dismissal of manager Craig Shakespeare feels like it occurred years ago now, but he was quickly shown the door after Leicester won just one of their first eight games this season. They would go on to win six of their next nine games (two draws, one loss).
Star man: For the second time in three seasons, Mahrez amassed double-digit goals and assists for Leicester (12 and 10 this season; 17 and 11 in the title-winning season of 2015-16), all while trying to force a move away from the club and missing a handful of games as part of the plan.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Craig Shakespeare (2/10), Claude Puel (5.5/10)
Grade for the season: C


Everton

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Final place: 8th with 49 points
Defining moment: When Sam Allardyce took over for the departed Ronald Koeman (and interim boss David Unsworth) on November 30, Everton sat 13th in the PL table, just five points clear of 18th and two points clear of 16th. The season could have gone either way quite easily, but Big Sam guided the Toffees to a record of 9W-7D-8L in his 24 games in charge.
Biggest victory: Seeing how Everton didn’t beat a single side that finished ahead of them this season, we’ll go with the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham United the day before Allardyce took over; it was the start of a seven-game unbeaten run and the period of the season which ended relegation fears.
Low point: Koeman lasted just nine games in the managerial hot seat after a free-spending spree in the summer transfer window, fired with just two wins and eight points to show for his efforts.
Star man: Wayne Rooney led the way in the goals column (10, all of which we scored before Christmas), but just about every statistical metric available pegged him as one of Everton’s worst-rated players this season. That feels like a fitting way to describe their season.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Ronald Koeman (2/10), Sam Allardyce (6/10)
Grade for the season: D+


Burnley

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Final place: 7th with 54 points
Defining moment: When Everton fired Koeman, Sean Dyche was strongly linked with the vacancy, but Burnley managed to keep hold of their longtime manager and achieve their best top-flight finish since 1974.
Biggest victory: Gary Cahill got himself sent off after 14 minutes, Burnley scored three times in 20 minutes, Cesc Fabregas was also sent off, then Chelsea so nearly clawed their way back, but Burnley won 3-2 on opening day. In many ways, it was the perfect preview of what was to come the following 37 games.
Low point: Losing to Swansea City, who would eventually go on to be relegated, in early February dropped the Clarets to 10 games without a win (the skid would reach 11 before breaking it with a five-game winning streak).
Star man: James Tarkowski embodied everything that Dyche’s men stood for: disciplined defensive solidity in spectacularly backs-to-the-wall fashion. He’s likely to be chosen for the PL Team of the Season, as the unexpected outsider to Manchester City’s monopoly.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Sean Dyche (8/10)
Grade for the season: A


Arsenal

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Final place: 6th with 63 points
Defining moment: Arsene Wenger announced on April 20 that he would leave Arsenal at the end of the 2017-18 season, a move that fans of the club had been calling for in truly toxic fashion for years now. Mission, finally, accomplished. Now, the post-Wenger reality finally sets in.
Biggest victory: The Gunners beat Tottenham 2-0 back in November for their only victory of the season against a top-six side.
Low point: The final day of the season. When Tottenham clinched a third-place finish on Sunday, they achieved third-, second- and third place finishes in successive seasons. Arsenal haven’t finished that high in three straight seasons since 2005.
Star man: Alexis Sanchez was sold to Manchester United in January, paving the way for the arrivals of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who combined to tally 12 goals and 8 assists in essentially one-third of the season at the club.
Manager(s) marks out of 10Arsene Wenger (5/10)
Grade for the season: C-


Chelsea

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Final place: 5th with 70 points
Defining moment: Bournemouth hammered Chelsea to the tune of 3-0 in mid-January, sending Antonio Conte‘s side into a tailspin from which they would never fully recover en route to finishing fifth, a full 30 points behind the champions.
Biggest victory: Olivier Giroud scored the only goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 home win over Liverpool earlier this month, a result which gave the Blues the faintest hope of still qualifying for next season’s Champions League — which they ultimately failed to do.
Low point: When the Blues lost 3-1 to Tottenham on April 1, not only was it the first time they’d done so at Stamford Bridge since 1990, but it left them highly likely to finish outside the top-four for the second time in three seasons. It was also their fifth loss in seven PL games.
Star man: Eden Hazard (12 goals, 4 assists) and Alvaro Morata (11 and 6) put up similar numbers over the course of the full season, though the latter scored just one PL goal between Boxing Day and the end of the season. Hazard, meanwhile, scored just once in the PL since Valentines’ Day.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Antonio Conte (6/10)
Grade for the season: D

2017/18 grades for each Premier League club

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With the 2017/18 Premier League season now over after a hectic Championship Sunday, it is time to take stock of how each team did over the course of the gruelling nine-month campaign.

Below we dish out a grade to all 20 teams based on how they performed this season and if they overachieved or underachieved.

It’s safe to say we have a real mixed bag…


Manchester City: A+
Basically perfect. Record points (100), wins (32) and goals (106) in a single PL season says it all. Pep Guardiola‘s side were imperious and with just two defeats throughout the season (at Liverpool and a shocking loss at home to Man United after leading 2-0) they never looked in doubt of securing the title, especially after their 18-game winning run which shattered another PL record. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva ran the show, while Ederson and Kyle Walker were huge upgrades in defense. Yes, they lost to Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinals, but Guardiola has built something special and this City team has the stench of a dynasty. Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and and Nicolas Otamendi have all improved drastically too, as Pep’s plan is in full-flow.

Burnley: A
A truly superb season from the Clarets as Sean Dyche led Burnley to a seventh-place finish and a first spot in Europe since 1967. A solid defensive setup with Nick Pope stepping in admirably for the injured Tom Heaton in goal was complimented by Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood up top. Dyche is working miracles on a shoestring budget at Burnley and the fact that several “bigger” clubs are sniffing around him makes perfect sense. The model PL club in just their second season back in the league and now they have a Europa League campaign to look forward to. Thursday nights under the lights at Turf Moor will be a wonderful spectacle for Burnley’s fans.

Huddersfield Town: A
In their first-ever season in the Premier League, the Terriers saw a fast start fade badly but two draws at Man City and Chelsea in the final week of action secured their PL status. David Wagner has the Huddersfield fans, players and staff all pulling in the right direction and despite a lack of quality in some areas they’ve survived with an incredible fighting spirit. Aaron Mooy and Jonas Lossl have been two of the standout players for the Terriers but it has been all about the team first mentality which has seen them survive. It will now be intriguing to see if they can follow in the footsteps of Bournemouth in establishing themselves as a PL club. The fairytale continues in West Yorkshire…

Tottenham Hotspur: B+
Yes, there will be plenty of talk about Spurs not mounting a proper challenge for the Premier League title as they did in the past few seasons but Mauricio Pochettino‘s side navigated a season at Wembley in impressive fashion to finish third. Just two defeats at home (to Chelsea and Man City) and another fine season from Harry Kane (30 goals) led Spurs to a top four finish and they came oh so close to making the UEFA Champions League last eight but came unstuck against Juventus despite dominating over two legs. Having the best record of any club in the UCL group stage means a lot and now moving back into their new stadium at White Hart Lane, Spurs can kick on. Dele Alli had an up and down campaign, while Christian Eriksen kicked on and Pochettino’s biggest problem over the summer will be signing players to new deals to stop Europe’s elite from trying to buy them. Daniel Levy runs a tight ship as chairman and you get the sense this Spurs team will stay together for at least one more season in their new stadium. Next season the talk about them not winning silverware will intensify if they start off slow but the latter rarely happens under Poch.

Newcastle United: B+
Rafael Benitez masterminded Newcastle’s survival with a strong defensive core as the Magpies were tough to break down and had some impressive wins, especially at home. With the cloud of Mike Ashley trying to sell the club hanging over the team for most of the season, Benitez focussed the group expertly in the second half of the campaign as they pulled away from the relegation zone. A top 10 finish has to be aim next season and a new owner could turn the Magpies into a top six club if money is available to spend on new players, especially in attack. Benitez has enhanced his reputation massively with the job he has done at St James’ Park and the big win against Chelsea on the final day underlines how much progress they’ve made.

Liverpool: B+
Could be an A if they win the Champions League final against Real Madrid in a few weeks, but Jurgen Klopp should be applauded for the way he has progressed this Liverpool side. Mohamed Salah is the undoubted star as the Premier League’s top goalscorer (32 goals sets a new record for a 38-game season) and the Egyptian is surely leading the discussion of the best players on the planet not named Messi or Ronaldo. Alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, Salah has ripped PL defenses apart all season long as Klopp’s “heavy metal” soccer has been sensational when it clicks. Salah’s brilliance totalled overshadowed Philippe Coutinho‘s departure to Barcelona in January for almost $200 million. Virgil Van Dijk‘s $100 million arrival strengthened Liverpool’s defense (even if there were still some shocking mistakes along the way), while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andrew Robertson have been great pick ups in the transfer market. The Reds look the most likely to seriously challenge Man City for the title next season given their defeats of Guardiola’s side in the league and UCL.

Brighton & Hove Albion: B+
Chris Hughton has to be one of the most underrated managers around. Much like Benitez at Newcastle, the newly-promoted Seagulls relied on a solid defensive unit led by Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk and had the likes of Pascal Gross, Jose Izquierdo and Glenn Murray to deliver goals and assists in attack. A wonderfully well-run club who could become a top 10 team in the next few years. Brighton have quietly gone about their business this season and have had big wins at home against Arsenal and Man United in the second half of the campaign to help seal their top-flight status for another season.

Manchester United: B

Solid season for Jose Mourinho as his team progressed from a sixth-place finish last season (remember: they basically binned the league to focus on the Europa League last season, so it’s a little skewed) to second place, but they’re still so far behind neighbors Man City. Plenty of unanswered questions remain for Mourinho to sort out this summer surrounding the futures of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and others. The fact that David De Gea is their clear Player of the Season (that’s now four POTY awards in his last five seasons) says it all. Romelu Lukaku has delivered 27 goals in all competitions but losing to Sevilla in the Round of 16 in the Champions League was a big blow. That said, Mourinho can still deliver the FA Cup and finish in second place which isn’t a bad season, all things considered. You feel as though plenty of deadwood will be cut this summer and given the new long-term contract he signed in January, Mourinho will get to spend big, especially defensively, to try and close the gap to City.

Crystal Palace: B
The Eagles had the worst start in PL history ever, losing their opening eight games without scoring a goal. Frank De Boer‘s appointment as boss just didn’t work out as Palace tried to change their brand of soccer but without a squad able to possess the ball and dominate the tempo of games. They reverted to type with Roy Hodgson coming in during September and a solid defensive base restored. Wilfried Zaha‘s return to fitness coincided with a huge upturn in results in the second half of the season as Hodgson led a massive turnaround with the Eagles finishing in 11th. They can be a top 10 team next season, easily, as long as Zaha sticks around. With ambitious plans kicking on to improve their stadium, the fanatical supporters at Selhurst should have plenty to be excited about over the summer.

Chelsea: C+

What a weird season for Chelsea. The reigning champions have seemed to be in a slump almost since the moment they won the title back in May 2017, as Antonio Conte‘s rhetoric has been constantly negative. The Italian coach calling out the Chelsea hierarchy (especially around Nemanja Matic‘s departure) was never going to go well but they came close to doing well in the Champions League but were edged out by Barcelona and Lionel Messi’s brilliance in the Round of 16. Alvaro Morata’s arrival for big money hasn’t gone as planned and Eden Hazard has had an up and down season with Conte falling out with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Diego Costa leading to awkward situations. They’ve made the FA Cup final against Man United as Conte could sign-off with a trophy in what is expected to be his final game in charge despite having another year on his deal. Plenty of change on the horizon with a new manager expected and perhaps the likes of Hazard and Thibaut Courtois leaving the Bridge.

Leicester City: C+
Pretty peculiar season for the Foxes but overall, has to be a success given the start they had. Craig Shakespeare lost his job following a run of just one win in their first eight games and Claude Puel not only steadied the ship but has pushed them into the top half of the table with runs to the last eight of both the League Cup and FA Cup. That said, Puel is under pressure and may well lose his job as the Leicester fans are unhappy with the slow, possession-based style he prefers. That cost Puel his job at Southampton too but you can’t argue with two top 10 finishes on his resume in his two seasons as a boss in the PL. Jamie Vardy has had a fine season with another 20 goals scored, while Harry Maguire has proved to be an inspired defensive signing and Riyad Mahrez recovered well from the disappointment of not getting his big move to Man City during the January window.

Arsenal: C+
The big story around Arsenal’s season is Arsene Wenger stepping down after almost 22 years in charge of the Gunners. This moment was coming but after a second-straight season finishing outside of the top four, now is a good time for Arsenal to move on. Wenger is a legend and his three Premier League titles, seven FA Cups and incredible consistency in securing top four finishes will see his legacy remain intact (just about) despite a slight regression in recent years. The Europa League almost handed Wenger a chance for a fairytale ending to win a European trophy and qualify for the Champions League via the back door but Atletico Madrid ousted the Gunners in the semifinals. Whoever takes charge after Wenger will have a hugely talented but top heavy squad to work with as Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Auabmeyang and Alexander Lacazette are capable of scoring plenty of goals but Arsenal’s defensive deficiencies must be eradicated if they’re going to make up ground and finish in the top four. Intriguing times ahead.

Bournemouth: C+
Four-straight seasons in the Premier League should not be scoffed at but the Cherries spent big last summer and although they picked up some big results in the second half of the season to pull away from the relegation zone, Eddie Howe acknowledged they’ve slightly underachieved after a ninth-place finish in 2016-17. Josh King had a down year, so too did Jermaine Defoe after arriving on big money, while Asmir Begovic had some shaky displays in goal. That said, big wins against Arsenal and Chelsea showed what Bournemouth are capable of and the emergence of Nathan Ake and Lewis Cook proves they have a bright future and Howe’s philosophy of playing attractive, attacking soccer is well and truly intact. Howe may feel like next season may be his last at Bournemouth with some big jobs potentially coming up.

Watford: C
The Hornets were flying early on (just one defeat in their opening eight games had them in the top four) but Marco Silva‘s head was turned by an approach from Everton and that cost the Portuguese coach his job following a massive mid-season slump. New boss Javi Gracia did very well to steady the ship but a season that promised so much has petered out. Keeping hold of Richarlison and Abdoulaye Doucoure will be the main aim for Watford over the summer. A string of defeats late in the season suggests that Gracia could be on thin ice if Watford start next season sluggishly.

Southampton: D
After an almighty scare the Saints survived but this is a huge wake-up call for the South Coast club who had finished in the top eight in each of the past four seasons. Mauricio Pellegrino just didn’t work as manager as his defensive tactics frustrated fans and players alike and amid Virgil van Dijk’s midseason departure Saints went on a run of just one win in 21 PL games and sunk into the relegation zone. Mark Hughes replaced Pellegrino with eight games to go and saved Saints with a fine end of season run which included wins against Bournemouth and Swansea. The talent level of their squad means this shouldn’t happen again (they drew more games than any other team during the season) but if Hughes is given the job full-time he needs to make quite a few changes to his playing squad, especially in central defense. Reaching the FA Cup semifinal was a bonus but staying up was a massive relief for fans. Saints’ new Chinese owners must spend big and redefine the direction of the club after years of selling their best players and letting managers such as Pochettino and Ronald Koeman leave.

Everton: D
Yes, the Toffees finished in the top 10 but this was a season which started with talk of pushing for the top four but soon turned sour with Koeman sacked in October. After huge sums of money were spent on the likes of Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen, the balance of the squad just wasn’t right. Sam Allardyce came in to steady the ship and Everton were never really in a relegation battle from December onwards. That said, there is plenty of fan unrest as Big Sam’s direct style of play isn’t to the liking of Everton’s fans who have routinely booed him. Allardyce has another season on his contract and wants to stay, while Rooney could be off and there are plenty of question marks around the Toffees despite a top 10 finish. With a new stadium move on the horizon, Everton’s fans are hopeful they can get the right manager in but new owner Farhad Moshiri seems to be slowing down any progress by delaying a long-term plan. A season to forget for Everton.

West Ham United: D-
A season of struggle on and off the pitch for the Hammers has ended with Premier League safety but there are so many issues to resolve. Slaven Bilic was sacked after a poor start to the campaign and with fans protesting against owners David Sullivan, David Gold and Karen Brady (which culminated with the ugly pitch invasions at the London Stadium against Burnley) there is a nasty vibe brewing in East London. The move to their new London Stadium home has never worked for the Hammers faithful and despite David Moyes coming in and doing what was asked to keep them in the PL, there hasn’t been much to get excited about. Marko Arnautovic‘s arrival has been key with the Austrian striker superb in the second half of the season with bags of goals and assists. An uncertain future lies ahead.

Swansea City: F
Relegation from the Premier League has been coming for the Swans and it was confirmed after a seven-year stay. Paul Clement couldn’t build on the great escape he masterminded late in the 2016-17 campaign and selling both Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente last summer was a huge sign of what was to come. The Swans looked dead and buried around the turn of the year when Carlos Carvalhal was surprisingly hired but the Portuguese coach had a great impact, at least initially, as they surged up the table. That impact soon wore off as they dropped back into the bottom three and their fate was all but sealed after a crushing 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton in the final week of the season. With Cardiff promoted back to the top-flight for next season Swansea are no longer the top dogs in Wales.

West Bromwich Albion: F
Well, where on earth do we start here? West Brom won their opening two games of the season, then didn’t win for another 21 games. Tony Pulis was fired amid fan unrest over the playing style and Alan Pardew was hired in a disastrous run which saw the Baggies win lose eight games on the spin amid the now infamous “Taxi Gate” taking center stage. Darren Moore took interim charge late in the season and West Brom almost saved themselves with stunning wins against Man United and Tottenham, but there was too much work to do and they were relegated. A squad of players who were solid under Pulis were asked to do something different and West Brom are a case of a club who tried to push the boundaries of what they were too quickly. They should be the favorites to be promoted back to the PL next season, especially if Salomon Rondon and Jay Rodriguez stick around. Boing, boing indeed.

Stoke City: F
Similar to West Brom, Stoke tried to reinvent their style of play but it was an awful campaign for the Potters who were relegated after a 10-year stay in the Premier League. Mark Hughes was fired in January and although Jack Butland (his tears after relegation was secured will be the enduring image of the season) did his best in goal, Stoke shed goals by the bucket load and had the worst defensive record in the Premier League. Xherdan Shaqiri did his best but Paul Lambert just didn’t inspire any confidence in his team, especially going forward, as they coughed up plenty of leads late on to seal their fate. Stoke’s fans are incredibly unhappy and given the poor recruitment decisions from the club (Saido Berahino, Jese and others) you can understand why. It may well be a long, hard struggle for Stoke to get back into the top-flight over the next few seasons.

 

Premier League Power Rankings: In tiers

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Liverpool has knocked Manchester City from the Champions League, but sits 19 points behind the leaders and City has a match-in-hand.

Manchester United beat City just weeks ago, but was bounced from the UCL even earlier. The Red Devils also took four of six points from Liverpool.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

Spurs are fourth in the table but also took four of six from Liverpool and could be level on points with the Reds by winning its match-in-hand.

So the question remains, who’s the best team in the Premier League right now? That’s why we’re revisiting our Premier League Power Rankings for the first time in a while, since City was the unquestioned No. 1 for months.

Will it change anything? Spoiler alert: Probably not.

Spots 20-14: Not safe yet

20. West Bromwich Albion: The Baggies are going down, but Darren Moore has at least instilled some life into a moribund bunch which was saddled with the dour and unsuccessful tactics of Tony Pulis before moving onto the peppy and hard-to-understand tactics of Alan Pardew.

19. Stoke City — The Paul Lambert jump has faded, and the Potters’ inferior goal differential and one more match played than both Southampton and Swansea City feel like a death knell.

18. Southampton — Yes, the Bottom Three is the same as the table, but Saints are a New South Coast Derby win away from sitting three points back of pulling Palace and perhaps Huddersfield Town and West Ham United back into the picture.

17. Huddersfield Town — If David Wagner cannot lead the Terriers past Everton this weekend, his side finishes at Man City, at Chelsea, and home to Arsenal. That’s a recipe for watching a six-point advantage on the drop zone melt away.

16. Swansea City — Still four points clear of the drop zone, Swans have the cup half-full of facing Saints and Stoke City. The two sides aren’t very good, but also the only teams to worry about when it comes to their Premier League lives.

15. Crystal Palace — Given their turnaround from the beginning of the season, it feels dirty to have them so low. But of the three clubs sitting six points clear of 18th, the Eagles are the one to have three matches left and not four.

14. West Ham United — A brutal schedule featuring two of David Moyes‘ old sides — Everton and Manchester United — means the Irons cannot breathe safely yet (especially with Swans, Saints, and Stoke set to take points off each other).


Spots 13-11: Foot off the gas (and is there any gas in the tank?)

13. Watford — Javi Gracia may have Watford safe, and that was his charge, but the Hornets look like the same team they did under previous bosses. The Hornets have two points from their last six, and would be much further down the table if they weren’t essentially safe.

12. Bournemouth — Eddie Howe is probably wondering how that Arsenal chair would feel right about now, as the Cherries have probably reached a glass ceiling. Now a derby against Saints can define the run-in to the season.

11. Brighton and Hove Albion — Perhaps satiated by a five-match unbeaten run that featured a win over Arsenal and beat downs of Swansea and West Ham, Chris Hughton‘s Gulls have two points in five matches including a derby loss to Palace.

10. Everton — Sam Allardyce‘s men nicked a win off of Newcastle last weekend, and it was about as satisfying as moribund draws against Liverpool’s B Team and Swansea City. There’s a lot of unrest at Goodison Park, and Sam Allardyce has to go. Because of the relative positive vibes at lower table sides Leicester and Newcastle, Everton sinks beneath them.

9. Leicester City — A fun team which has had infuriating lapses at the back. Jamie Vardy‘s as reliable as ever, and there’s a real question what they’ll do without Riyad Mahrez (allegedly) in the future. Wilfred Ndidi, Demarai Gray, and Fousseni Diabate look a big part of said future, but it’s a bit alarming that the Foxes haven’t been able to take advantage of the relatively open door to seventh since Claude Puel righted Craig Shakespeare‘s sinking ship.

8. Newcastle United — The Magpies saw their win streak snapped by Everton, but Rafa Benitez is playing with house money after coaxed a midtable season out of a Championship squad. A healthy Islam Slimani has moved Dwight Gayle to his rightful role as a spark plug off the bench, but don’t sleep on the wonders Benitez has worked in turning Mo Diame, DeAndre Yedlin, and Paul Dummett into serviceable Premier League players. The future is bright if Mike Ashley sells the team or at least opens his purse strings to make one of the longest road trips in the PL even harder for visitors to St. James’ Park.


Spot 7: One of the best stories in Premier League history

7. Burnley — A loss to Chelsea and draw with Stoke has sunk Sean Dyche‘s excitement, we’re sure, but Southampton’s departure from the FA Cup means seventh place means Europa League. It’s Burnley in Europe: Yes, for real!


Spots 6-4: The bargaining stage of grief

6. Chelsea — The Blues have won two-straight in the league and reached an FA Cup Final against old pal Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, but there’s as much uncertainty at Stamford Bridge as there is at the Emirates. The difference? We know Roman Abramovich will spend more to try to fix it.

5. Arsenal — The danger of slipping behind Burnley and into seventh on the table has passed, but the Arsene Wenger goodbye tour is focused firmly on the Gunners’ fate versus Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Europa League and the quite decent form of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as well as a resurgent and healthy Aaron Ramsey. Defenders need improving in a big way and there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding Wenger’s replacement. Don’t know what you’ve got til its gone?

4. Spurs — No trophy again this season, and there’s a very good chance Tottenham will miss out on third place by virtue of goal difference when all is said and done; When all’s said and done, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men will have drawn 1-1 or 0-0 against West Brom, Swansea, Watford, West Ham, Saints, and Brighton. That’ll render a decent record against top foes less impressive.


Spots 3-1: Power trio

3. Manchester United — The Red Devils are better than almost everyone thinks despite precious few standout seasons from its players (David De Gea, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard are among the pardoned). When it comes to talking progress, however, second place won’t cut it: Mourinho needs that FA Cup win over Chelsea, a trophy United hasn’t won since (checks his notes) oh, two seasons ago.

2. Liverpool — The Reds looked incredible in dicing up Roma for 80 minutes, but allowed Roma a sliver of hope. Moreover, the last four goals Liverpool has allowed have come in the 79th, 88th, 81st, and 85th minutes. Why won’t we put them ahead of City? Well, let me clarify: it’s not PST, it’s me. I’ll own this: As brilliant as Liverpool was against City, they were out-chanced 31-14 over two legs. Give me that scenario 100 times, and I’m betting on the 31 about 85-90 times. The Reds are almost there, and Naby Keita over Jordan Henderson would be a huge upgrade (especially if this success convinces Emre Can to stick around). Next year, yeah. This year, just no.

  1. Manchester City — The records continue to fall, and it’s funny to consider that should City had lost the first Manchester Derby and been knocked out of the UCL a round earlier — yes, even by Liverpool in the same manner — no one would be arguing for anyone other than City at No. 1.

Judging the Premier League’s in-season managerial changes

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Stoke City, Swansea City, and now Watford have all made managerial changes in the last month, and await the long-term response of their players to new bosses Paul Lambert (so far, so good), Carlos Carvalhal (mixed, but a win), and probably Javi Gracia, respectively.

That means 40 percent of Premier League clubs have ditched their Opening Day bosses this season. Some were overdue, others were debatable, and the latest — Watford’s sacking of Marco Silva after denying Everton’s pursuit of the boss — is a real head scratcher.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

How have the moves worked so far?

Crystal Palace
Frank De Boer — 0W-4L
Roy Hodgson — 6W-7D-7L

Hodgson is actually on pace to outdo Sam Allardyce‘s 8W-2D-11L campaign to save Palace’s 2016-17 season. FDB’s short-lived campaign is difficult to judge, his lone win coming in the League Cup against Championship competition, but there’s little debate as to whether Hodgson’s discipline has worked at Selhurst Park.

Everton
Ronald Koeman — 2W-2D-5L
David Unsworth (caretaker) — 2W-2D-1L
Sam Allardyce — 3W-4D-3L

Everton’s entire season has been the same tale: beat the lower half clubs but fail to meet expectations against almost anyone of merit. That’s taken a dive in recent weeks, as Allardyce has drawn West Brom twice and lost at Bournemouth. Jury’s out, and Allardyce has a lot to prove as another team brings him in and spends dough on his behalf.

Leicester City
Craig Shakespeare — 1W-3D-4L
Michael Appleton (caretaker) — 1W
Claude Puel — 7W-4D-4L

It’s now two-straight seasons of poor starts dooming the Leicester City manager, and Shakespeare understandably did not get patience considering the Foxes fired the architect of their stored PL run in Claudio Ranieri (who has Nantes fifth place in Ligue 1). Puel got a rough ride from expectation-heavy Saints fans, who’d probably love to have him back right now. This is an unqualified success, and Leicester may just make it back to Europe.

Swansea City
Paul Clement — 3W-3D-12L
Leon Britton (player manager) — 1D-1L
Carlos Carvalhal — 1W-1D-1L

It’s hard to gauge whether Carvalhal was the right hire, but Swans’ record has improved in the five matches since he was fired and the lone losses are to Liverpool and Spurs. The firing, it seems, was the right call.

West Brom
Tony Pulis — 2W-4D-6L
Gary Megson (caretaker) — 2D
Alan Pardew — 1W-4D-4L

The wins still need to come, but West Brom do look a more promising side and Alan Pardew’s desire to play two strikers certainly makes for better entertainment than Tony Pulis’ unit. Like Everton, the jury is still out. If we had to judge, we’d say it’s the right move for a fan base which prefers a more fashionable style of play (but also prefers being in the Premier League).

West Ham
Slaven Bilic — 2W-3D-6L
David Moyes — 4W-4D-4L

So far, Moyes is doing wonders for his reputation while performing feats that Everton is still seeking from Allardyce; West Ham has spent some money, and Moyes is getting performances out of Marko Arnautovic and using his width well (Arthur Masuaku has been impressive at full back).