“This is a great club with a fantastic manager who helps establish young players, so that made it an easy decision in the end,” Stacey said. “I believe I can thrive here and I can’t wait to get started.”
Meanwhile at Turf Moor, Burnley has signed a left back and may reportedly be buying back one of its homegrown forwards.
The latter is Stoke City’s Erik Pieters, who arrives on a two-year deal with an option for a third. The Dutch fullback made 150 appearances for Stoke in the Premier League and spent last season in the Championship with the Potters.
As for the former, Sky Sports says Burnley is bidding $13 million to bring Jay Rodriguez from West Bromwich Albion. The one-time Southampton man turns 30 later this month.
Rodriguez made the first 128 senior appearances of his career with the Clarets, leaving in 2012 when his manager was Eddie Howe (now, of course, of Bournemouth. So this post comes full circle).
“I’m still young and developing as a player but at the same time I feel like this is probably the best place for me to develop those skills, especially being around a Premier League team and playing Premier League sides,” Kelly said. “I feel like it will speed up that process a bit more.”
High marks for: Keeping Newcastle in the PL and finishing 13th, with one of the league’s smaller wage bills, by beating the teams they needed to beat (eight of 12 victories came against teams that finished below them) | Low marks for: Going winless in the first 10 games of the season
Final thoughts: Newcastle could be a perennial top-half side, if only owner Mike Ashley would either 1) back his manager, or 2) sell the club. Benitez is far and away the brightest manager Newcastle could hope to attract and he continues to deliver above realistic expectations.
Dyche, Sean (Burnley) — C-
High marks for: Finding three teams to be worse than Burnley; going eight games unbeaten to start 2019 | Low marks for: Six losing skids of three games or more (two that lasted four games)
Final thoughts: This is Burnley’s level — scraping and clawing a few points clear of relegation — rather than last season’s 7th-place finish.
Emery, Unai (Arsenal) — C+
High marks for: Going 14 games unbeaten after losing twice to start the season | Low marks for: Failing to finish in the top-four, despite Tottenham and Chelsea falling apart down the stretch
Final thoughts: Emery’s first season following in the footsteps of Arsene Wenger could have gone better, but it could have gone worse. The more distance Emery puts between Wenger and present day, the easier the job will get. He sorely needs to win the Europa League to build a squad capable of returning to the top-four.
Espirito Santo, Nuno (Wolverhampton Wanderers) — A
High marks for: Leading a newly promoted team to a 7th-place finish, while playing an entertaining style of soccer | Low marks for: N/A
Final thoughts: If this is as good as it ever gets for Wolves, let’s all choose to remember Espirito Santo’s time at the club for what he did this season, not for how it might all come crashing down around him in future seasons. Sure, Wolves spent on par with the PL’s biggest clubs. Then again, Fulham outspent Wolves by $42 million last summer and finished 19th.
Gracia, Javi (Watford) — B-
High marks for: Taking Watford another step forward, up to 11th, in his first full season in charge after they narrowly avoided relegation two seasons ago and progressed to 14th last season | Low marks for: Once Watford were mathematically safe, their form fell off a cliff and they took a bit of a tumble down the table
Final thoughts: There was a time this season when Watford looked like they might be the surprise 7th-place finishers, then they lost six of their last nine games but still only finished seven points back of Wolves.
Guardiola, Pep (Manchester City) — A+
High marks for: Winning the title, for a second straight season, by winning 14 straight games to finish the season; needing 98 points to win the title, and getting 98 points; winning the title with Kevin De Bruyne, his best player last season, playing just 19 games | Low marks for: N/A
Final thoughts: If there were any remaining questions about Guadiola’s suitability to the PL, they have been answered by winning 198 points over two seasons. Whatever he chooses to do next, he will do it well.
Hasenhuttl, Ralph (Southampton) — B
High marks for: Taking over a bottom-three team right before Christmas and keeping them in the PL | Low marks for: N/A
Final thoughts: Saints had won just once in 15 games before Hasenhuttl was appointed, which means they won eight times in their final 23 games — a massive improvement, though it would have been very difficult to replicate Mark Hughes‘ record. A 3W-3D-3L run to finish the season was 1) enough to keep them in the PL, but more importantly 2) provided the only period of consistency all season.
Hodgson, Roy (Crystal Palace) — C
High marks for: Overcoming a truly horrific start to the season (just three wins from Palace’s first 16 games) to finish 15 points clear of relegation| Low marks for: Overseeing the truly horrific start to the season
Final thoughts: Hodgson deserves tons of credit for keeping the team onside when things were looking terribly bleak (16th place, one point clear of relegation after 16 games), but he deserves just as much blame for being in that position in the first place. In the end, he’ll have a job for life if he can deliver 12th-place finishes to Palace year after year.
Howe, Eddie (Bournemouth) — C+
High marks for: Winning six of their first 10 games and propelling Bournemouth into the conversation for a top-half finish | Low marks for: Losing 17 of the next 28 games and sinking to a 14th-place finish
Final thoughts: If not for a strong start to the season (20 points from their first 10 games, where might the Cherries have wound up? In the end, though, expecting too terribly much more out of a club with the budget of Bournemouth would be wildly unrealistic.
Hughton, Chris (Brighton & Hove Albion) — C-
High marks for: Doing enough — just enough — to keep Brighton in the PL | Low marks for: Finishing 17th, two points clear of relegation, and getting fired
Final thoughts: Hughton’s four-and-a-half-year tenure at Brighton will forever be remembered fondly, as he was the one who took them to the PL, kept them their for a second season, and secured a third season as well. That said, he might have taken the club as far as he could, making this summer the right time for a change.
Klopp, Jurgen (Liverpool) — A+
High marks for: Improving Liverpool by 22 points from one season to the next (they were 24 points better in relation to Man City); setting up a young Liverpool side for what should be a decade of title challenges | Low marks for: Liverpool had a seven-point lead on Jan. 13, but Man City took the lead for good on March 3 and never looked back
Final thoughts: What more could Klopp and Co., have done? 97 points would have won the title in all but two seasons in PL history: last season and this season, because of 198-point Man City.
Parker, Scott (Fulham) — Incomplete
High marks for: Snapping Fulham’s nine-game losing streak (five of which he was in charge of) by winning three straight | Low marks for: Losing those five games by a combined score of 13-4
Final thoughts: Fulham were already all but gone (10 points back of 17th, with just 10 games left to play) when Parker was appointed. Fulham lost his first five games in charge, then won three, then lost their last two. Let’s wait and see what the first-time boss can do in the EFL Championship.
Pellegrini, Manuel (West Ham United) — C
High marks for: The run of just three defeats in 13 games from mid-September to mid-December | Low marks for: The four games — four losses — with preceded the aforementioned 13-game run and had some wondering whether Pellegrini would survive his first season month in charge
Final thoughts: On paper, Pellegrini had a very strong squad with which to work. In practice, it was heavily skewed toward the attacking half of the field, and nothing could be a worse fit for his preferred style. Part of that is on him as he needs to adapt, and part of that is on the executives who hired him and assembled his squad.
Pochettino, Mauricio (Tottenham Hotspur) — A-
High marks for: Overcoming all of the self-imposed obstacles to limp across the finish line in fourth; reaching the Champions League final | Low marks for: Not walking into chairman Daniel Levy’s office and demanding he sign a player
Final thoughts: Name a manager who did more with less this season. Pochettino finished last season with an already-thin, injury-plagued squad. In the summer, Spurs signed not a single player. In January, Spurs signed not a single player. In January, Spurs, a team with hardly a central midfielder on the roster, sold one of their most influential players and midfielders, Mousa Dembele, in the name of recouping a whole $14 million. Yet, Pochettino pieced together lineups and gameplans nearly every time out that gave Spurs a chance to pick up points, and they did so more often than not until the final few weeks.
Rodgers, Brendan (Leicester City) — Incomplete
High marks for: Winning four of his first five games in charge while conceding multiple goals just once (the Foxes had conceded 11 goals in the five games pre-Rodgers) | Low marks for: N/A
Final thoughts: Much like Newcastle, Rodgers might be the height of who Leicester could realistically attract. If he’s committed to sticking around for the long haul, rather than using Leicester as a stepping stone, it seems like a match made in heaven and a long tenure, with plenty more top-half finishes, could very well be on the cards.
Sarri, Maurizio (Chelsea) — B-
High marks for: Getting Chelsea back in the Champions League next season and finishing 3rd despite significant struggles in his first season in the PL | Low marks for: His downright refusal to adapt his tactics for such a long period when it was all beginning to unravel and the fans were turning against him
Final thoughts: Eden Hazard papered over a lot of cracks for Sarri this season. If he’s not around to do the same next season, it probably won’t be Sarri we’re grading this time next year.
Siewert, Jan (Huddersfield Town) — Incomplete
High marks for: N/A | Low marks for: Losing 12 of the 15 games of which he was in charge
Final thoughts: Like Fulham, Huddersfield were already long gone (10 points off 17th with 15 games left) by the time they made a change, so bringing in Siewert was purely about planning for next season. A few more non-loss results would have been nice, though.
Silva, Marco (Everton) — B-
High marks for: Starting (just two defeats from Everton’s first nine games) and finishing (five wins from their last eight games) the season strongly | Low marks for: Disappearing from December to February (nine losses in 14 games) and (maybe) almost getting fired
Final thoughts: He is clearly the most talented and ambitious manager Everton have had in a long time, and that’ll show through even more so after a second summer of transfers to build a squad that better fits his style (e.g., younger, more mobile defenders).
Solskjaer, Ole Gunnar (Manchester United) — C
High marks for: The lengthy honeymoon period (12 games unbeaten, including 10 wins) after he was appointed; liberating Man United fans from Jose Mourinho | Low marks for: The dismal run-in (just two wins from their final eight games, including four defeats) after he was given the job on a permanent basis
Final thoughts: Did Man United really have to remove the interim tag when they did? Are they sure the guy who got fired by Cardiff, in the only top-level job of his career, is the right guy to take on a complete squad rebuild?
Warnock, Neil (Cardiff City) — D+
High marks for: Giving Cardiff a real shot at avoiding relegation, until the final two or three weeks of the season, despite the emotional hardship they faced when club-record signing Emiliano Sala died before he played a game | Low marks for: Being relegated; winning back-to-back games just once all season
Final thoughts: Warnock is expected to remain in his position next season, which makes all the sense in the world considering Cardiff will be seeking another promotion back to the PL.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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 Townsendscored 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.
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.
A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang double saw Arsenal finish the Premier League season on a winning note, and the Gabon international draw level with the Premier League top scorers as Arsenal topped Burnley 3-1 at Turf Moor on the final day of the season.
Aubameyang started the day off strong, hitting the bar in the opening minutes. A free kick from a lateral angle swung in to the near post and the Arsenal striker clattered the crossbar with a chested ball. Tom Heaton was also forced into action in the early going, with Aubameyang again coming close minutes later.
Arsenal was nearly broken down past the half-hour mark on a scrum in the box but a critical tackle from Mateo Guendouzi kept Burnley off the board. Just before the break, James Tarkowski got his head to a corner, but it fired just wide.
The Gunners had a familiar sight when Konstantinos Movrapanos went off injured past the half-hour mark, with Laurent Koscielny coming on in his place. The back line for the Gunners this season has been a revolving door with injuries dotting the landscape, and now with the Europa League final on the horizon, they will have to deal with another.
Burnley finally broke thanks to a poor back-pass from Jack Cork, leaving Ben Mee in trouble. Aubameyang snatched the wayward ball, and he finished cooly through on goal for the opener 52 minutes in, his 21st goal of the season.
The second came 10 minutes later with Aubameyang on the double, smashing home a looped cross from Alex Iwobi to the far post. The goal was notable in the Golden Boot race, but Burnley made sure the celebration was short-lived as a header from Ashley Barnes pegged the Gunners back.
Aubameyang had a glorious chance to not only seal his hat-trick but also to win the Golden Boot, and he somehow missed. Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s pinpoint cross came right to a sliding Aubameyang at the doorstep, but he managed to put it wide with the goal gaping.
19-year-old Eddie Nketiah finished off the scoreline with the final kick of the game as he scored from an absurdly tight angle, squeaking it through a defender’s legs right on the end line and into the far corner. The goal was somewhat noteworthy given that Aubameyang was wide open at the penalty spot calling for the ball, and another goal for him would have sealed not only the hat-trick but the Golden Boot outright. Instead, Nketiah took it himself and wrapped up the game.
With the win, Arsenal finished the season in fifth, just a point off the Champions League places with 70, inches behind rival Tottenham’s 71-point haul. Burnley ends up in 15th, right on the magical 40-point mark.