The top half of the Premier League Table showcased excellence, overachievement, and even a few disappointments. Things at the lower end, however, got much hairier over the course of the season. The Britons bore witness to boring and defensive football, almost unparalleled mediocrity, and more of Rafa Benitez’s miracle work at Newcastle. Read on to see how teams 11-20 did this season!
Samuel Cicci: Sure, we got the boring, top-level stuff out of the way, but let’s move on to the best part of the Premier League: the bottom half of the table. That’s right folks, the cruel spectacle of sport flexed its muscles and dragged three unsuspecting victims down into the bowels of the Championship, where they will likely remain for some time (hopefully forever, in Huddersfield’s case). Otherwise, several teams were neck and neck on points, but didn’t have much to play for as the season wound down. Once again, we’ll be judging organizations on a pass/fail basis based solely on Premier League performance. How did they do? Let’s find out!
11. Watford, 50 Points – Pass
Matthew Hein: First of all, they actually kept a coach for more than six months so you know they were doing well. A team that many picked for relegation, after flirting with the bottom three for multiple years, put together an excellent campaign. I’m glad to see those sharp yellow and black kits again next season. Many of their retread players stepped up, a testament to manager Javi Garcia. Etienne Capoue in particular had the best season of his career at age 30, leading the Premier League in interceptions.
SC: The double D’s, Deulofeu and Deeney, really had defenses sweating with their partnership this year. Will Hughes, while not hitting the highs many expected of him as a young lad, was a game acquisition and played in 32 of Watford’s Premier League games this season.
12. Crystal Palace, 49 Points – Pass
SC: Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Without those two, this season is a fail.
MH: And chances are, those two will be gone next season. If that’s the case, the Eagles could be a popular relegation pick.
SC: I’m still waiting for Tottenham to pick up Zaha. Someone needs to utilize his talent.
MH: Shout out to ol’ Roy Hodgson though. He may not manage the national team anymore but he really had Crystal Palace out-performing their talent level. Plus they put together perhaps the win of the season, beating Manchester City away.
SC: And Andros Townsend’s goal is one of the best you’ll see this decade. Real talk though, I’m not really sure if this team has an identity. Hodgson has done well to take 12th place with the pieces at his disposal, but Crystal Palace seem to live and die by Zaha’s production. The winger put up ten goals and five assists, but it’s just his all-around play that really makes thing tick.
13. Newcastle United, 45 Points – Pass
SC: If Newcastle had been anywhere except the bottom three I would have given them a passing grade. I mean, look at that squad. It’s not very good. Ayoze Perez is capable of moments of brilliance, and Salomon Rondon is a solid old-school center forward, but overall, many of these players are probably better suited to the championship. Rafa Benitez once again proved he’s too talented for Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, and will hopefully see some actual investment in the squad over the summer. Kudos must also be given to the four million pound acquisition of Swiss defender Fabian Schar, who has two of his own goal of the season contenders. The team’s record without him in the lineup? Zero wins, ten losses, four draws. With him, it’s 12 wins, seven losses, and five draws. That should help explain the shoddiness of the overall squad, and how impressive it is that they placed as high as 13th. It will also help when winter signing Miguel Almiron returns to fitness next season after suffering a tough hamstring injury in April.
14. Bournemouth, 45 Points – Pass
MH: Staying up while playing an exciting brand of football, I will pass Bournemouth even though it feels like with their talent they should be higher in the table. They scored the seventh-most goals in the Premier League on the backs of Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser. David Brooks also shone as young star in the making. Their issue was at the back, where they had the third-most goals allowed. While this made for some exciting games, if Bournemouth and Eddie Howe want to make more noise they will have to upgrade over Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic while holding onto their attackers.
15. Burnley, 40 Points – Fail
MH: While it is undeniably a success that Burnley are in the Premier League again another season, this is a failure out of spite. The opposite of Bournemouth, Burnley stayed up playing a gouge-your-eyes-out brand of football. I am not looking forward to another season of them putting 11 players behind the ball when playing against bigger teams. Who on the team sheet gets you excited about a Burnley game?
SC: No one.
Let’s also not forget that manager Sean Dyche claps his hands and cackles in glee the lower his team’s possession percentage is every game. I get it, you don’t have the resources to compete with top teams and have to find a way to stay up, but yikes. It’s impressive they’ve stayed in the league this long, especially considering Burnley’s disastrous run to start the season. Dyche did another great job keeping the Clarets alive, but how much more of this can spectators and the players take?
16. Southampton, 39 Points – Pass
SC: In December, the Southampton ship was sailing full speed towards that great iceberg of relegation. The Saints were in 18th place, and even below Huddersfield in the table But then Ralph Hasenhuttl came in, and what did he do? First, he won away to Cardiff, netting a crucial three points. Then, in his first home game, he gave a free beer voucher to every season ticket holder and proceeded to win 3-2 against Arsenal. Can someone give him a “Manager of the Year” award, please? Through the second half of the season, he was never afraid to change shape, and brought guys like Shane Long, Oriol Romeu, James Ward-Prowse, and Josh Sims in from the cold and coaxed out their talent. The Saints should be well poised to improve next season, but they’ll need more from players like Nathan Redmond.
17. Brighton & Hove Albion, 36 Points – Fail
MH: While staying up for another year is an undeniable success, BHA look poised to go down next year and did not inspire much hope for their fans. Their ownership may agree, as they fired their coach right after the season. They struck out completely on their big signing, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who they bought for 17 million from AZ Alkmaar.
SC: Who is that?
MH: Their 2nd leading scorer, behind 35-year old Glenn Murray, was a centre back who had five goals.
SC: I didn’t realize anyone on Brighton had scored besides Murray.
MH: Unless some players really blossom, I don’t think the people of Brighton have much to look forward to.
SC: You could say that future isn’t looking very…..Bright…..on.
Hughton’s sacking means that the English football landscape is now even more white-washed than it was before. Good job, England! Sounds like this league needs the Rooney Rule.
18. Cardiff City, 34 Points – Fail
SC: It’s unfortunate for Cardiff. Take a look at the squad; do any of those names jump out at you? They don’t to me, and let me tell ya, I play a lot of FIFA. Manager Neil Warnock has been around the block, and he did his best to squeeze every last drop out of this lineup. They dealt with a bunch of highly dubious calls down the stretch when every point mattered. If the Premier league had VAR, maybe Cardiff stayed up. Either, this squad just wasn’t ready for the big time, and back down they go to the Championship, where they can hopefully rebuild and take another crack at promotion next year.
19. Fulham, 26 Points – Fail
SC: Fulham took the Championship by storm during the 2017-18 season on the back of young talents like Ryan Sessegnon [MH: future Tottenham star], placing third and winning the playoffs to gain promotion to the Premier League. With their newfound top-level riches, they invested in a paper shredder and proceeded to destroy all their careful planning and squad preparation from the previous year. In came almost an entirely new starting lineup, and out went chemistry and results. Claudio Ranieri briefly came in to right the ship, but things were already too far gone. With only two wins between August and the end of December, the writing was on the wall. The midseason pickup of Ryan Babel sparked hope, with the former Liverpool forward scoring five goals, but it was too little, too late. The defense was more akin to a sieve, and their 81 goals conceded eclipsed even Huddersfield.
20. Huddersfield, 16 Points – Hudder Failure
MH: Wow. 3 wins. 22 goals in 38 games. That’s twelve less than anyone else.
MH: They did not make much effort to improve their squad in the summer and seemed content that they had managed one more season in the top league. Honestly, it was absolutely embarrassing and everyone should be ashamed besides maybe Aaron Mooy, who hopefully will be sold off of this shipwreck.
SC: The most staggering part is that this isn’t even the worst season performance in Premier League history. Why didn’t you heed the warnings of The Long Night, Huddersfield, why!?
Workmanlike Performance of the Season
Glenn Murray’s Elbow
How about that Glen Murray? Not only did he score 13 Premier League goals for a poor Brighton side, but he also used some of his other limbs to good effect. The Englishman racked up a whopping 80 fouls over the course of the season, surpassing second-placed James McArthur by 19. That’s the kind of fight you want to see while mired in a relegation scrap.
Honorable Mention – Luka Milivojevic Another big factor in Crystal Palace’s season was their Serbian midfielder. Milivojevic played every single minute of the Premier League season, and was almost automatic from the penalty spot, converting ten of his 11 opportunities (he finished the season with 12 total goals). Besides Zaha, trace Crystal Palace’s success to Milivojevic’s penalty consistency.
— Matt Hein and Sam Cicci
Header Image: Twitter @wilfriedzaha