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Premier League season reviews: Clubs 20-15

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With the 2017/18 Premier League season now done and dusted, it’s time to review the campaign for all 20 clubs.

[ MORE: Grades for all 20 PL clubs ]

Below we kick off our season reviews by analyzing the key moments, the star men and how the managers performed for the teams who finished 20th to 15th in the PL table.

[ MORE: Clubs 14-10 | Clubs 9-5 ]

Here we go…


West Bromwich Albion

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Final place: 20th with 31 points (relegated to Championship)
Defining moment: Hiring Alan Pardew and then winning just one of their next 21 PL games.
Biggest victory: Away at Manchester United 1-0 to not only keep their survival hopes alive for a few more games but also hand the PL title to Man City.
Low point: A stretch of eight-straight defeats from February to March when all but ended any hope of survival.
Star man: Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon was a beast up top, scored 10 goals in all competitions and has a $25 million release clause in his contract so we will likely see him in the Premier League next season.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Tony Pulis (4/10), Alan Pardew (1/10), Darren Moore (7/10)
Grade for the season: F


Stoke City

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Final place: 19th with 33 points (relegated to Championship)
Defining moment: The worst defensive record in the league, a 7-2 hammering at Man City underlined just how bad this Stoke defense was. Yes, they were playing City, but the way they were dismantled unearthed all of their issues.
Biggest victory: Not many to choose from but it was probably the early season 1-0 win at home against Arsenal as Jese scored the winner. Man, that seems like a long time ago.
Low point: They got ahead several times in games late in the campaign but couldn’t hold onto leads. Specifically the way they crumbled to lose at home to Palace, after leading, stands out. Jack Butland‘s tears will be the enduring image of a sad, sad season.
Star man: There is no way Xherdan Shaqiri will still be at Stoke next season and a big World Cup for the Swiss winger should seal a move elsewhere in the PL or to a top club overseas. He had eight goals and seven assists but couldn’t drag the Potters to safety.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Mark Hughes (3/10), Paul Lambert (2/10)
Grade for the season: F


Swansea City

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Final place: 18th with 33 points (relegated to the Championship)
Defining moment: Following their 4-1 win against West Ham, it seemed as though everyone at Swansea relaxed after their shocking start to the season. The Swans rose to 13th and everything was looking rosy.
Biggest victory: Beating Liverpool at home in January was a huge boost and the Swans were in full flow at that point after Carvalhal’s arrival in late December. They beat Arsenal in the next home game and had a run of four wins in six as they looked almost safe from relegation…
Low point: Losing at home to Southampton in the final week of the season. A draw would’ve probably done the trick but the Swans didn’t show up and all but sealed their fate by losing 1-0.
Star man: Lukasz Fabianski was a machine in goal all season long as the Polish international was in tears on the final day once relegated had been confirmed.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Paul Clement (3/10), Carlos Carvalhal (5/10)
Grade for the season: F


Southampton

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Final place: 17th with 36 points
Defining moment: Beating Bournemouth at home with four games to go reignited hope they could save themselves from relegation. Mark Hughes had liftoff after being put in charge for the final eight games of the season as nobody really gave Saints a chance.
Biggest victory: The win away at Swansea during the final week of the season in what had basically become a relegation playoff. Saints held their nerve and Manolo Gabbiadini‘s late strike all-but secured their safety. The relief on the face of Hughes and his players at the final whistle said it all.
Low point: A run of just one win in 21 games under Mauricio Pellegrino as the club stuck with the Argentine coach as long as they could but the players just never responded to his defensive tactics.
Star man: Alex McCarthy came in midway through the season to replace Fraser Forster in goal and didn’t put a foot wrong as he was crowned Southampton’s player of the season. Dusan Tadic was also big down the stretch with his two goals against Bournemouth crucial.
Manager(s) marks out of 10: Mauricio Pellegrino (2/10), Mark Hughes (8/10)
Grade for the season: D


Huddersfield Town

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Final place: 16th with 37 points
Defining moment: Digging deep to draw 0-0 at both Manchester City and Chelsea in the final week of the season to secure their status in the Premier League. Remarkable resolve.
Biggest victory: Beating Manchester United at home early in the season gave David Wagner‘s men plenty of belief that they belonged in the top-flight.
Low point: A run of five-straight defeats in January and early February which saw them slump from midtable into the relegation zone.
Star man: Jonas Lossl must get a shout out for his performances in goal, especially late in the season, but throughout the campaign Aaron Mooy was the man who made the Terriers tick. They missed him badly when he was out injured.
Manager marks out of 10: David Wagner (9/10)
Grade for the season: A


Brighton & Hove Albion

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Final place: 15th with 40 points
Defining moment: Three home wins on the spin in February and March which culminated by beating Arsenal. Chris Hughton‘s side were almost safe from that point on.
Biggest victory: Beating Manchester United at home in the final week of the season to finally secure PL safety.
Low point: Four defeats in five around November/December time which saw the Seagulls drop back into the relegation discussion. That was pretty much it.
Star man: Pascal Gross had a fine season with the German playmaker scoring seven goals and added eight assists, while you have to applaud the defensive duo of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk at the heart of the Seagulls defense.
Manager marks out of 10: Chris Hughton (8/10)
Grade for the season: B+

Shambolic Southampton hurtling towards relegation

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For so long they’ve been the poster boys of how to run a Premier League club.

An academy envied around the globe. A sell high, buy low player recruitment policy which has worked superbly. Overachieving season after season. Plucking managerial gems from overseas to work wonders. Europa League campaigns. Cup runs. Everything they’ve done has gone smoothly with four-straight top eight finishes in the PL table.

Until now. With just one win in their last 18 Premier League games, Southampton are staring relegation in the face in one of the biggest surprises of the current Premier League campaign.

But when you look at Southampton right now, should we be this surprised?

The South Coast club are hurtling towards relegation as their increasingly shambolic season hit a new low on Saturday in the 3-0 defeat at West Ham with players not only looking out of their depth but also showing a distinct lack of desire in a pivotal moment.

With seven games to go Saints occupy the final relegation place and despite everything they’re just two points from safety. They may still get out of this but it will likely be down to the poor form of Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Swansea rather than their own good form in the final months of the season as they face five of the current top nine in their remaining games.

In his first Premier League game in charge of Southampton, Mark Hughes saw his team roll over early on and lose 3-0. It was the second game in a row Southampton had lost 3-0 to direct relegation rivals and they are running out of chances to save themselves from being relegated from the Premier League for just the second time in club history.

On the face of it, their squad has the talent to easily be sitting in midtable but with 13 draws (the most in the PL this season) they’ve often seemed scared to be positive and take the game to their opponents. On paper they should be battling Leicester, Everton and Watford to finish in seventh or eighth place. But something isn’t right. They are a nice team to watch, at times, with plenty of possession and sideways passes but there is not cutting edge, no drive and no real purpose to their play.

Too often it appears that their players are drifting, going through the motions and living off the success of the past few seasons when everyone exclaimed: “What a wonderful season from Southampton. How do they carry on doing this?”

This squad, which has been so hungry for success over the past six years since Saints were promoted back to the Premier League, seem to have suddenly lost their appetite. With long-term contracts dished out to Fraser Forster, Jack Stephens, Ryan Bertrand, Cedric Soares, Oriol Romeu and others, it appears this Saints team are in cruise control as huge deals were handed out mostly as a reward for performances in the past few seasons. The players must take most of the blame.

But the fans and board also have to take their share of their blame. Claude Puel was fired last season amid plenty of fan unrest for finishing in eighth place and reaching a cup final because his team were “too boring” to watch. How costly could that unrest prove?

Nothing changed under Puel’s replacement, Mauricio Pellegrino, who was fired at the start of this month after just five wins in 30 PL games. And nothing appears to be changing quickly under Hughes. You can question the desire of this group, but maybe they aren’t as good as we think. The sacking of two managers on the spin by the board in the expectation that some kind of miracle turnaround will occur must also be questioned.

Quite simply the culture of endlessly selling on their best players for huge profits, then replacing them with young, hungry players from elsewhere in Europe, has come back to bite them. Hard.

Nathan Redmond was supposed to be the direct replacement for Sadio Mane. He hasn’t been anywhere near Mane’s level. Wesley Hoedt came in as Virgil Van Dijk‘s replacement and has since lost his place in the Dutch squad for his shaky displays. Charlie Austin replaced Graziano Pelle but has been injured most of his time at Saints. Victor Wanyama was replaced by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Mario Lemina who were both at fault for the first two goals at West Ham.

When you start to add all of that up, it starts to make sense why Southampton are in the position they’re in. They no longer have a clear playing identity. Their recruitment team have stopped unearthing gems for relative peanuts. Their academy has stopped churning out ready-made internationals a la Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana.

Austin, Saints’ top scorer this season with six goals, returned from a three-month injury layoff on Saturday and looked stunned when speaking to the media after the defeat at West Ham.

“It just wasn’t good enough and we got what we deserved,” Austin said. “Seven games left, we’ve got to get out of this hole. We’ve given ourselves a massive mountain to climb now. We’ve got the players to do it but off that performance, we need to improve fast. We need to win and we need to win fast. That is it.”

Austin sounded hollow when he said he believed in this current set of players and the new management team to turn this around.

Saints have Arsenal away, Chelsea at home and Leicester away in their next three Premier League games, with the distraction of an FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea at Wembley on Apr. 22 also looming.

They simply have to cause upsets, just like they used to in the past at their tight, atmospheric home at the Dell. During the 1990s they pulled off great escape after great escape as one of the smallest clubs in the Premier League. Their current manager Hughes was part of some of those Saints teams and he needs to instill some kind of spirit, some kind of togetherness in a squad of international caliber players who seem to think they are too good to be playing in a team battling against relegation.

For Hughes, his first 45 minutes in charge of Saints in the Premier League was a horror show as he admitted the performance “surprised him greatly” given what he had seen in training since he took over.

“It maybe emphasized some of the problems the team has had of late in this season. We’re going to have to turn it around very quickly,” Hughes said. “We are running out of games. There has to be an understanding that we are in trouble here and we need to turn it around quickly.”

Among the players there doesn’t seem to be an understanding, or a realization, of the deep trouble they are in. Only games against Bournemouth and Swansea in their final seven outings represent realistic chances to gain points to save themselves.

The last time Southampton were relegated from the Premier League, in 2005, they spiraled into financial meltdown and almost went bust as they ended up at the bottom of the third tier on -10 points and were saved by a Swiss billionaire at the last moment. Their fall won’t be as dramatic this time around but these players don’t seem to have grasped the severity of the situation they’re in.

Under Chinese ownership since the start of this season, the Gao Family will not have expected to have bought 80 percent of Southampton for $294 million and see them struggling in the relegation zone.

Nobody did. And especially not the players. Not even now.

That is the biggest problem of them all and one that you can’t see Saints solving in the next seven games.

Southampton’s shambolic season has reached the pivotal juncture. It is now sink or swim time.

Right now you’d bet your mortgage on Saints sinking like a stone towards the second tier.

Southgate praises rising star, possible no. 1 Pickford

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With fewer than three months to the start of the 2018 World Cup, the majority of Gareth Southgate‘s England squad has largely sorted itself over the course of the current Premier League season.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

With everyone healthy and available — a big ask, granted — the likes of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Danny Rose, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane practically pick themselves for the starting 11, with Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy having secured significant roles off the bench.

One position, however, which remains far from set in stone is the man in goal. Joe Hart has long since fallen from his former place as the cemented no. 1, meanwhile Jack Butland and Fraser Forster failed to make the most of their sporadic chances over the course of the last couple years.

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Enter: Jordan Pickford, who started and played all 90 minutes — and massively impressed Southgate — in the Three Lions’ 1-0 victory over Holland. Southgate singled out the 24-year-old Everton goalkeeper for praise following the game, remarking that Pickford’s ability to start the process of playing the ball out of the back “allows [England] to play in a different way” — quotes from BT Sport:

“He transferred what we know he can do into an important game, a game away from home, so that was good for him.

“I think (it was) not the test that we faced in November (friendlies against Germany and Brazil) in terms of the pressure on our defense and the experience of the players.

“But, nevertheless, I think that’s 11 clean sheets from our 16 games and that gives us a good base to build from.”

“I think it allows you to play in a different way. There are moments where the goalkeeper or a defender can come and put the ball into the stand or play it forward hopefully.

“But if you can play with composure and play through and out of pressure then it (eases) off the opposition in terms of their pressure and eventually they stop running and you have more time in different areas of the field. The profile of all of that defense and goalkeeper allowed us to do that.”

Don’t look now, but this appears to be the most settled and established England side heading into a major tournament… well, probably in my lifetime. What if England are good — or, worse — really good?

Pardew the latest to scratch head at transfer fees

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West Bromwich Albion manager Alan Pardew is the latest to find himself baffled at the prices on the transfer market.

To be fair to the Englishman, 56, it doesn’t sound like he’s raving in ‘old man yelling at the sky’ fashion. Rather he thinks the numbers are hard for fans to gauge and perhaps it’s causing a disconnect.

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And for him, at least, it’s a challenge to sort out whether the prices he’s being quoted are reasonable relative to the market. That makes sense, considering that as Newcastle boss in 2012 he sold Fraser Forster to Celtic for about $3 million and PSG bought Yohan Cabaye — then 28 — from him for $26 million.

Both fees would be a little different right now, we think (from the BBC).

“It’s difficult with the prices now to gauge what’s good value,” Pardew said. “We live in a hyper-inflated world because of the TV money received by the football clubs. Therefore, transfers and wages are going way out of kilter with real life. I think we’re all losing the plot with the figures. It’s just becoming, ‘Oh okay,’ and not even reacting to things any more.”

Now, to play devil’s advocate, if Pardew is actually just old man yelling at the sky, he’d better get out of the manager’s box. The fees aren’t changing for top clubs, which is why Jonny Evans is at risk from a Man City bid but not Newcastle United or Crystal Palace. And the TV money he talks about is going to allow clubs like WBA to hold onto players by offering better wages if they choose that route.

But it’s a fair sentiment regarding how to gauge these numbers. While it’s usually a bit laughable when fans and writers estimate whether clubs have paid too much or sold for too little, managers and administrators risk looking foolish if they agree too low or too high a fee relative to other teams.

Manchester United 0-0 Southampton: Red Devils booed after draw

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  • United draws third-straight league match
  • Red Devils slip into third
  • Saints rise two points clear of the drop zone
  • Lukaku injured in first half

Manchester United dropped points for a third-straight Premier League match, as Southampton picked up one from a scoreless draw at Old Trafford on Saturday.

David De Gea made three fine saves for United, who wasted an advantage in shot attempts and was held tightly around the Saints 18.

The Red Devils lost star striker Romelu Lukaku early in the match to an apparent head injury.

Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino was rewarded for his risk of taking Fraser Forster out of the Saints’ Starting XI for the first time in 76 matches, as Alex McCarthy kept a clean sheet.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

David De Gea started the game in a manner befitting his outstanding year, getting low to slap away James Ward-Prowse‘s rip.

Romelu Lukaku had to leave the game after 13 minutes after a head-to-head collision with Wesley Hoedt.

Good work from Rashford, on for Lukaku, allowed a left-footed chance for Juan Mata in the 27th minute, but  McCarthy made the save.

United figured it had a penalty when a short-range ball struck Maya Yoshida‘s arm, but Craig Pawson was not interested in the idea.

Jesse Lingard nearly added a third goal to his weekly haul when he turned a Pogba header across goal, but the ball scooted wide of the far post.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

De Gea was needed again in the 50th minute, stymying Shane Long with a superb right leg save.

Ashley Young may be in Team of the Season form, but he may miss some time for United after cameras caught him throwing an elbow into the midsection of Dusan Tadic.

United did little to trouble new goalkeeper McCarthy despite an abundance of possession as the match neared the hour mark.

Pogba tapped in a free kick from an offside position, much to his chagrin in the 82nd minute.