The dust finally settled; Manchester City are back-to-back champions of England, while Liverpool fall just short yet again. Chelsea and Tottenham round out our champions league qualifiers, while Huddersfield and Fulham set new standards for mediocrity. So relax, pour yourself a glass of Blue Note Bourbon, and read on to see how the Top 10 teams fared in the first half of our 2018/19 Premier League Review.
Samuel Cicci: Hello fellow readers, and welcome back to our gripping Premier League coverage!
Matt Hein: The season played out in a way many would have predicted, with no real surprises in the top six or relegation. Ahead of the 2018/19 season, many pundits picked Manchester City to win the league in a close race over Liverpool, but that did not lessen the drama.
SC: To give all the competitors a fair shake, we’re going to grade each Premier League team on a Pass/Fail basis. Did they meet their goals? Was a good position good enough? Or did they flop spectacularly. To clarify, these grades will reflect only a team’s Premier League performance.
Let’s take it from the top!
1st. Manchester City, 98 points – Pass
SC: Back-to-back titles for Manchester City. While they didn’t match last season’s points total, the Citizens constantly had to look over their shoulder down the stretch due to Liverpool’s impressive title bid. Manchester City are fully worth their championship, stringing together some staggering winning runs and claiming a vital victory over Liverpool during the winter to keep the race close. Ultimately, that extra little bit of quality and depth got them over the line. If Pep Guardiola gets to make the four new signings that he wants over the summer, expect yet another year of excellence next season.
2nd. Liverpool, 97 points – Pass
MH: A perhaps controversial choice for a grade due to how the season played out, Liverpool came into the competition with title aspirations and sat in pole position at the midpoint of the season, becoming the only team since their own 13/14 Gerrard-slip season where the leader at Christmas did not end up winning. However, their points total would have won literally any other Premier League season besides last year. They provided a thrilling challenge to a team that has unlimited resources, the season after selling Coutinho, who many thought was their best player. Only one team can win the title, and they came about as close as you can while playing entertaining entertaining football with lovable stars.
SC: Could an argument be made for fail? Liverpool came into the season with one objective: win the title. In that regard, they failed. It might be cruel, considering the numbers they put up all season long, but the wait for the 19th league championship drags on.
3rd. Chelsea, 71 points – Pass
SC: As is the norm at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had yet another topsy-turvy season. It started out well, with new Italian manager Maurizio Sarri taking the team on a 12-game unbeaten run to start the season. But over the course of the year, poor results, perceived under-utilization of popular youth academy products, and a rebellious goalkeeper threatened to undermine a fast start out of the blocks. And with Abramovich’s Visa troubles, questions over Sarri’s future refused to go away. But, come the business end of the season, Chelsea maintained a semblance of consistency, which led them to third place in the Premier League and automatic Champions League qualification qualification. So, yes, Sarri met his and Chelsea’s goal for the season after a year in the Europa League. Let’s be honest, though: the only reason Chelsea are in the Champions League is because of Eden Hazard. That’s what top players do. So 2018/19 is a pass, but if the Belgian exits, as is expected, then Chelsea’s two-window transfer ban is making the future look awfully murky.
4th. Tottenham, 71 points – Pass
MH: Spurs obstacles this season: rash of injuries to key players, not adding any players in the last two years, constant delays moving into a new stadium, and a deep Champions League run. Yet they still managed to hang onto their Champions League place. While this was certainly aided by the ineptitude of their rivals, Pochettino managed to finish top four and above Arsenal yet again. They even showed what they could manage at full strength, briefly surpassing Manchester City and seemingly poised to mount a title challenge near Christmas.
5th. Arsenal, 70 Points – Fail
SC: I like Unai Emery, I do. But clearing out the rot from Arsenal’s squad was always going to be tough. In the Premier League, Arsenal stumbled back and forth between convincing victories and shocking displays of ineptitude. Their away form proved to be fatal, with eight losses on the road ultimately proving their undoing. A Champions League place was in their grasp as the season finale closed in, but consecutive losses to Wolves and Leicester (conceding three goals each time) hammered the final two nails in their coffin. The hierarchy also failed to agree terms with midfielder Aaron Ramsey, one of the squads better players and a veteran from the Arsene Wenger days. The Welshman is now set to leave for Juventus on a free transfer. Even worse, Shkodran Mustafi is still one of the team’s center backs. Considering the inconsistency among the top four contenders, Arsenal missed their chance.
MH: You could say the end to their season was almost…. Spursy. *drops mic*
6th. Manchester United, 66 points – Fail
MH: Whew boy. Do United regret keeping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? The Jose Mourinho third-season sacking is so routine by now that it should be written into his contract. The new coach bounce was somewhat predictable, as Solskjaer did radical things like play his best players and not park the bus every game. But they fell apart again at the end of the season as almost everyone on the team underperformed, with even stalwarts like David De Gea hitting a rut. A complete overhaul of the squad does not seem like an overreaction at this point.
SC: And considering how quickly United handed Solskjaer the job, despite their insistence that they’d been conducting a thorough search for Mourinho’s replacement, it begs the question of whether Ed Woodward and the Manchester United hierarchy even have a plan in place for their squad. There are already rumors that Anthony Martial is only still there because the owners favor him; that kind of disconnect between the manager and the top brass won’t make things smooth going forward.
7th. Wolverhampton Wanderers, 57 points – Pass
MH: Wolves had high expectations for a promoted team and fulfilled them. Their squad showed the benefits of heavy investment and playing half of the Portuguese national team. They stumbled a bit out of the gate but made up ground by consistently taking points of off top-6 teams. Their expected goals (XG) suggested that they could have been even better, and considering their young attackers Neves and Jota are only 22, many will pick them to challenge for a European spot next year.
8th. Everton, 54 Points – Fail
SC: It might seem curmudgeonly, but Everton’s season had so much promise. Marco Silva is a young manager who can slug it out with the best of them when he gets it right, and if things had gone according to plan, this Everton squad might have been able to crack the top six. The talent is certainly there: Richarlison has proven to be a decisive, if inconsistent, goalscorer, while Gylfi Sigurdsson has taken his game up a notch on Merseyside. Lucas Digne ousted Leighton Baines at left back with quality performances and some spectacular goals (four goals and four assists this campaign), and Idrissa Gueye remains an indomitable force in the center of the pitch. It’s not easy to crack the top table, but this Everton side should be so much better. A long stretch of negative results proved their undoing, but wins against Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal down the home stretch show what the side is capable of. With a little midfield reinforcement, Silva and Everton may be able to fulfill their potential next season.
9th. Leicester City, 52 Points – Pass
MH: Besides a disastrous and partially unlucky spell mid-season that got Claude Puel fired, Leicester were a very good side. They have spent their money well, as new additions like James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira shone for the side. Brendan Rodgers had the Foxes playing attractive football in his return to the Premier League. If they continue finding talent to add to their core, challenging for Europe is not out of the question, even as their talisman, Jamie Vardy, ages.
SC: And since Leicester had been looking for an excuse to fire Puel for quite some time, I guess you have to say this season was an unqualified success?
10th. West Ham United, 52 Points – Pass
SC: What a wildly inconsistent season for West Ham. It’s like they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to hang with the big boys or capitulate in increasingly creative ways. In the end, their position of 10th place leaves them split right in the middle. Overall its a success, with the Hammers moving up three spots in the table and finishing 10 points better off than last season. They have some brilliant attackers like Felipe Anderson and Marko Arnautovic, while Manuel Pellegrini has a history of taking unfancied teams to some pretty spectacular heights. While cracking the top six may be a bridge too far, West Ham are well poised to keep improving next year if Pellegrini can find consistency.
— Matt Hein and Sam Cicci