Javi Gracia

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Just how wrong? Revisiting Premier League predictions

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Own it.

That’s how I look at Premier League predictions. When you’re right, be happy about your good fortune. When you’re wrong, raise your hand.

But there’s another level to it: Why was I right or wrong? Did a team let me down, or did I vastly overrate/underrate their potential?

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Twenty months ago I pegged Burnley to get relegated with an almost record-low amount of points. The Clarets qualified for the Europa League, and I ate my words (even if Sean Dyche‘s men seemingly out-performed every metric on Earth in spite of stats, like some old man claiming Man City wins because of “better chemistry, not talent”).

Cardiff City
Predicted finish: 20
Actual finish: 18

How wrong was I? Not. As much credit as the Bluebirds got for grinding every week, and as much of a difference as the late Emiliano Sala could’ve been to their fortunes, they completed passes at an almost absurdly-bad 63.9 percent rate while having just 39.1 percent of the ball. It was bad.

Huddersfield Town
Predicted finish: 19
Actual finish: 20

How wrong was I? Not. Huddersfield Town managed a league-worst .4 attempts per game from inside the six-yard box, and were one of only five teams to attempt less than six shots per game from inside the 18.

Watford
Predicted finish: 18
Actual finish: 11

How wrong was I? Pretty wrong. Javi Gracia‘s men were strong against bad teams — for the most part — but never sprung another real upset after beating Spurs to go 4-0 early in the season. Record against the Top Six? 1W-0D-11L.

Bournemouth
Predicted finish: 17
Actual finish: 14

How wrong was I? Eh. The Cherries were never really in trouble thanks to a 6-2-2 start, but man did they ride their luck.

Burnley
Predicted finish: 16
Actual finish: 15

How wrong was I? I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of how much talent appears to be on a Sean Dyche roster, he’s a rich man’s Tony Pulis and should not be doubted.

The face Sean Dyche makes before he fist fights an entire village. Terrifying. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Southampton
Predicted finish: 15
Actual finish: 16

How wrong was I? With respect to Mark Hughes, I thought Saints’ season would come down to when he was sacked and who they identified to replace him. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s in a good place.

Brighton and Hove Albion
Predicted finish: 14
Actual finish: 17

How wrong was I? A bit wrong, and I pretty much blame Pascal Gross, who back slid from 7 goals and 8 assists in his Premier League debut to just three and three in Year No. 2. The Seagulls didn’t score a single goal from outside the 18.

Wolves
Predicted finish: 13
Actual finish: 7

How wrong was I? It’s not simply about buying players — see: Fulham — but about acquiring hungry players. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and several others had points to prove, and Jimenez especially made it well.

Newcastle United
Predicted finish: 12
Actual finish: 13

How wrong was I? To be honest, this went about as I expected given the brutal fixture list to start the season. Had I known Miguel Almiron would’ve transitioned so nicely from MLS to the PL, I might’ve had them 10th.

 (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Fulham
Predicted finish: 11
Actual finish: 19

How wrong was I? Very, but to my defense so were most people. On paper, the Cottagers improved more than even Wolves.

Crystal Palace
Predicted finish: 10
Actual finish: 12

How wrong was I? The stats kinda back me up, and it may be worth noting for next season that the Palace’s results didn’t match its performances. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojevic, and Wilfried Zaha gave them difference makers in all thirds of the field, and it’s surprising they didn’t push a bit higher on the table.

Leicester City
Predicted finish: 9
Actual finish: 9

How wrong was I? Not. The Foxes were pretty infuriating all year. Maybe Brendan Rodgers‘ ego and power will match the player power that’s run the club since they won the title. That said, the inconsistency and tumult shouldn’t be a surprise in a season the club had to deal with its owner dying on a match day.

West Ham United
Predicted finish: 8
Actual finish: 10

How wrong was I? Not really. I thought it would take Manuel Pellegrini some time to put his men together, but I didn’t predict the Irons would get a total of 37 appearances from Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini, and Carlos Sanchez.

Everton
Predicted finish: 7
Actual finish: 8

How wrong was I? It took Marco Silva longer than expected to get his men humming, but think of this: If Jordan Pickford doesn’t give Divock Origi a derby winner, Everton is going to Europe. I know, I know… chaos theory. But still.

Richarlison (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur
Predicted finish: 6
Actual finish: 4

How wrong was I? Like many, I was stunned that Spurs didn’t spend this summer and thought injuries would hurt them. They did, but only to the extent that Tottenham wasn’t able to sustain a title challenge. Spurs rarely gave the ball away, and the only teams that averaged fewer “times dispossessed” than Tottenham’s 9.2 per 90 were teams that never had the ball: Brighton, Cardiff, and Burnley.

Arsenal
Predicted finish: 5
Actual finish: 5

How wrong was I? Spot-on. It was going to take time for the Gunners to come together following a first managerial change in ages, but Arsenal had the offense to challenge for the Top Four. Surprisingly for Arsenal, they averaged just eight dribbles per game, 12th in the PL. Unai Emery had them more cautious than usual.

Chelsea
Predicted finish: 4
Actual finish: 3

How wrong was I? Not. Maurizio Sarri is not for everyone, but he knows how to get results. Granted Gonzalo Higuain was his guy, but he did it without a top striker.

Liverpool
Predicted finish: 3
Actual finish: 2

How wrong was I? Well, considering the Reds had one of the best runners-up finishes of all-time, quite wrong. Mostly, I didn’t expect Mohamed Salah to deliver again and he mostly did (save for a late winter slump).

Manchester United
Predicted finish: 2
Actual finish: 6

How wrong was I? Real wrong. Almost as wrong as United looks for canning Jose Mourinho. The manager needed to leave town, but there was a reason he was playing so packed-in. Ask yourself this: If Ed Woodward gave Mourinho the use of Toby Alderweireld, would Spurs and United be flipped?

Manchester City
Predicted finish: 1
Actual finish: 1

How wrong was I? On point. How good was City? For a club that ranked No. 1 in possession, they were only dispossessed 10.3 times per match. That was the 8th fewest total in the league.

LIVE, FA Cup Final: Man City v. Watford

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The FA Cup final takes place on Saturday at Wembley Stadium as Manchester City and Watford do battle (kick off, 12 p.m. ET) for the final domestic trophy of the season in England.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup final ]

If Man City and Pep Guardiola win they will secure a historic domestic treble of trophies, becoming the first team in the men’s game to win all three trophies available to English teams in the same season.

But Watford are more than capable of producing a shock win, with Javi Gracia‘s men possessing a solid defensive unit and the likes of Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu in attack who can cause City problems.

Below are the starting lineups from both teams, as Man City start Gabriel Jesus up front with Sergio Aguero on the bench. Watford start Pereyra, Deulofeu and Deeney in attack and Heurelho Gomes starts in goal in what could be his final game as a professional before retirement.

You can click on the link above to follow live updates from the final, while we will have reaction and analysis from Wembley.


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Season Review: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Watford

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After looking over the bottom five finishers in the Premier League this season, we look through the next five teams, a smattering of clubs both happy to avoid the relegation scrap and looking to use this finish as a launching pad for the coming campaign.

[ REVIEW: Huddersfield, Fulham, Cardiff, Brighton, Saints ]

Managers in this group also could find themselves candidates for jobs down the road, and teams like Burnley, Bournemouth, and Watford may end up in a battle to keep one of their most prized possessions. How did these five teams perform this year?

Burnley

Finishing position/points total: 15 / 40pts
High point
: Eight straight unbeaten through January.
Low point
: Sitting 19th in early December with just 2 league wins

Our opinion: Burnley had a roller coaster ride this year, but Sean Dyche managed to pick the club up from 19th in early December to finish without worry over the last few months. Nailing the magic 40-point total on the nose, it’s hard to argue with where they finished given the rough first half.  
Star player
: Chris Wood
Most memorable goal
: Ashley Barnes‘ finish off an exquisite Johan Berg Gudmudsson delivery capped off an eight-match unbeaten run that defined Burnley’s season. They’d go on to lose their next four, but that stretch combined with a solid finish to the campaign gave them life and avoided a relegation battle.


Manager grade: Sean Dyche: B
Hopes for next season
: Keeping Burnley up will be the consistent goal until the club can build a financial base to challenge for a top half finish. Sean Dyche managed to meet the goal relatively comfortably this season after a rough start to the campaign, but how much longer can they keep hold of him?

Bournemouth

Finishing position/points total: 14 / 45pts
High point
: Sitting 6th in mid-October with 6 wins in the first 10 games
Low point
: A 7-game stretch through the holidays conceding 20 goals and earning just 4 points

Our opinion: It was a solid season for Bournemouth, although without the fabulous start to the season, things may have ended quite differently. After the first 11 games where lost just twice, the club picked up 25 points over a 27-match span, a relegation-type pace. Eddie Howe is a good manager who may end up at a bigger club sooner rather than later, but Bournemouth’s consistent inability to defend despite good back-line talent will give a potential suitor pause.
Star player
: Ryan Fraser
Most memorable goal
: This strike by David Brooks from outside the box helped Bournemouth to a big 2-0 win over Brighton when the Cherries were beginning to nosedive down the table.


Manager grade: Eddie Howe: C
Hopes for next season
: Bournemouth is about where they’re going to be, and survival is the perennial goal. They may be a candidate for the drop once again, but with as much firepower as they have, it shouldn’t be on the cards for them. An improvement at the back would be helpful over the summer.

Newcastle United

Finishing position/points total:
High point
: A 2-1 win over eventual champions Man City in late January, Pep Guardiola‘s final loss of the season.
Low point
: No wins in the first 10 matches of the season.

Our opinion: Rafa Benitez stumbled early after another summer of penny pinching from Mike Ashley, but he recovered enough to lift Newcastle out of the relegation battle, and convinced Ashley to splash the cash for Miguel Almiron in the winter, a move that proved positive until Almiron got hurt. Benitez is arguably the most valuable asset at the club and he did well to keep this squad out of the bottom three.
Star player
: Ayoze Perez is the team’s star goalscorer but Matt Ritchie is the man who makes the team tick.
Most memorable goal
: Matt Ritchie’s late penalty to beat Man City gave Newcastle its most famous win of the season, but Fabian Schar’s absolute howitzer to take the lead over Burnley in February is easily the stunner of the year for Newcastle. That win capped off a 6-match stretch that included four wins and just three goals conceded.


Manager grade: Rafa Benitez: A-
Hopes for next season
: If Benitez is to be believed, Newcastle has European potential, but it will take a few years to realize that potential. Should they keep Benitez around, Newcastle should be a top half contender if Ashley can be convinced to open the wallet this summer.

Crystal Palace

Finishing position/points total: 12 / 49pts
High point
: Five wins in seven to end the season, including a 3-2 win over Arsenal
Low point
: Eight games without a win through October and November

Our opinion: Aside from the brutal start to the year which saw Palace gain just nine points from their first 13 games, Crystal Palace had a very good campaign – it would have likely featured a top-half finish with a better start to the year. Ugly losses still dot the season occasionally (this is the Premier League, after all, nothing is guaranteed), but Hodgson has built this side into a consistent performer week in and week out.
Star player
: Wilfried Zaha
Most memorable goal
: Andros Townsend scored a ripper against Burnley (who seem to have been victimized plenty by great goals this season) but there is no question that his volley against Manchester City is Crystal Palace’s best of the campaign and maybe the entire Premier League this season.


Manager grade: Rod Hodgson: B-
Hopes for next season
: Crystal Palace always has the potential to end up sucked into the relegation scrap with a bad run of form, as the start to this season showed, so staying up should always be priority #1. However, with that in hand, the club should be challenging for top-half finishes if they would like to continue growing. 53 goals conceded is less than all but one club below them in the table, meaning the defense performed well, and if they can attack like they did during the run-in this season (11 goals scored against Arsenal, Cardiff, and Bournemouth) they’ll be poised to make that happen.

Watford

Finishing position/points total: 11 / 50pts
High point
: Beating Tottenham for its fourth straight win to start the season.
Low point
: Losing six of nine to finish the season.

Our opinion: At its best, Watford is a fantastic group that absorbs pressure and counters with vicious intent. At its worst, it gives up four goals to Bournemouth or West Ham. Overall, Watford did quite well this season, and while the four straight to start the season set lofty expectations that were unsustainable, finishing 11th in the Premier League is a laudable accomplishment even with the disappointing finish to the campaign.
Star player
: While Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, and Gerard Deulofeu shared the goalscoring this season, defender Craig Cathcart logged more minutes than anyone on the squad this season and bagged the winner against Tottenham early in the season.
Most memorable goal
: Watford bagged a host of good goals this season, but this brilliant solo run from Roberto Pereyra is the best of the bunch.


Manager grade: Javi Gracia: B+
Hopes for next season
: Somehow, Watford made finishing 11th appear disappointing, proof that they were strong for most of the long season. Watford even challenged for a spot in Europe before being outlasted by Wolves, so fans will hope that next season they can finish the deal and earn a top-7 spot.

West Ham 4-1 Watford: Irons smash Watford to finish season in style (video)

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  • Noble scores twice
  • West Ham finish with 52 points
  • Holebas red card in 48th minute
  • Watford suffer major loss before cup final

On the same day his former club won its second-straight title, Manuel Pellegrini had himself a great end of the season as well. West Ham routed ten-man Watford, 4-1, at Vicarage Road, finishing the season with 52 points and securely in mid-table in the Premier League standings. It was West Ham’s third consecutive win to finish the season, following victories over Tottenham and Southampton.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham captain Mark Noble scored twice while Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini each added one of their own in the road victory. Meanwhile, Gerard Deolufeo scored the lone goal for Watford, though he had to be substituted midway through the second half on suspicion of injury. It was a rough end of the season for Watford, which now prepares for the FA Cup final a week from today.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

West Ham was in the ascendancy early in the first half, and it showed as the Irons got on the board first. Combining with Michail Antonio, Noble passed through the heart of midfield before running at Watford’s defense in the 15th minute. Noble then cut back to his left foot and slotted a strike home, past Ben Foster to put West Ham up 1-0.

Antonio again played a role in his side’s second goal, as he battled with Watford’s Craig Cathcart and Kiko before squirming free. Despite being off balance, Antonio’s strike clattered off the bar. Luckily for West Ham, it went right into the path of the wide-open Lanzini, who headed into an open net.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Javi Gracia‘s halftime team talk must have worked because Watford came out with more intensity and fight in the second half. The hosts used a bit of luck as well to cut the lead in half and for the moment, get back into the game.

A poor back pass from Pablo Zabaleta, perhaps with some of his mind on how his former Manchester City teammates were doing, put Fabian Balbuena and Lukasz Fabianski in no-mans land. Deulofeu, who had a quiet first half, ran down the ball, poked it past Fabianski and scored to make it 2-1 just 20 seconds into the second half.

However, Watford’s hopes to secure a point took a big hit two minutes later. With Antonio through on goal, Jose Holebas pulled him down just outside the box, leading to a straight red card for the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

West Ham poured it on as the second half went on, with Jack Wilshere seeing minutes in the second half and Noble and Arnautovic scoring to make it a 4-1 scoreline.

From bad to worse: Watford give up rare goal, then Deeney is sent off

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In a one-minute, 38-second span, Watford’s expectations for its match against Arsenal were completely flipped on their head.

[WATCH LIVE: Watford v. Arsenal]

First, goalkeeper Ben Foster‘s lackadaisical touch in the six-yard box allowed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to close him down, resulting in a block that saw the ball ricochet into the net. Then, 98 seconds later, Watford captain Troy Deeney was shown a straight-red card after an assistant referee spotted Deeney leave an elbow into the head of Arsenal central midfielder Lucas Torreira.

That left Watford down a man and down a goal. Perhaps to make matters worse, Watford manager Javi Gracia doesn’t have a star like Gerard Deulofeu available on the bench to add that attacking spark that Watford will need without Deeney on the pitch.