octobre 4, 2023

Premier League: Sky Sports football writers assess and deliver verdict on each team’s season | Football News

25 min read

With the 2022/23 Premier League season having drawn to a conclusion, Sky Sports’ football writers deliver their verdicts on all 20 teams…

Arsenal: An opportunity missed but the future is bright

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Arsenal and Wolves

Arsenal’s season can be viewed through different lenses. Having held an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, a position they occupied for 248 days of the campaign, there is no escaping the feeling of an opportunity missed.

But the collapse of their title challenge does not change the fact that they have taken a giant leap forward this season. Arsenal were considered by almost everyone – albeit not this writer – as unlikely to even finish in the top four, never mind fight for the title.

Yet, with the second-youngest team in the division, they have accrued the club’s highest points total since the Invincibles. A lack of depth, and Manchester City’s relentlessness, ultimately did for them, but the first three quarters of the season were utterly exhilarating.

It was a joy to watch their young stars flourish and the high points over the course of the campaign were numerous, including wins both home and away against Tottenham and Chelsea, as well as victories over Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle.

Their late loss of form, just as City were finding an extra gear, invited inevitable scrutiny of their character, but fans will remember the stoppage-time victories over Manchester United, Aston Villa and Bournemouth which made the impossible feel real.

Reiss Nelson’s 97th-minute winner against Bournemouth sparked celebrations unlike any seen before at the Emirates Stadium, and while they eventually fell short of their target, Arsenal’s season will be remembered as one which brought optimism flooding back. The future of this thrilling young team brims with possibility.
Nick Wright

Aston Villa: Two words. Unai Emery.

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery on the touchline the Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham. Picture date: Sunday November 6, 2022.
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery has guided the club to Europe

Where do you start with Aston Villa? Rarely has the Premier League seen a season of quite such contrasting fortunes, but that comes down to one man alone – Unai Emery.

The harsh tarring of his difficulties in interviews at Arsenal had been cast aside by his Europa League win at Villarreal in 2021, but there was still no guarantee his second spell in English football would work out more profitably than his first.

It did not take long to suggest it might. In the almost three years since he had left the Premier League, Emery set to work improving his English beyond recognition, but his results on the pitch are what has really caught the eye since he arrived at Villa Park.

Had the season started that day, Villa would be only goal difference away from a Champions League place, sandwiched between Newcastle and Manchester United in the table and only four points off second spot.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Brighton

That would be remarkable enough in itself, but the fact the club he inherited had just been thrashed 4-0 at Newcastle and won only three of their first 13 games amid an increasingly toxic atmosphere – well, you might as well be talking about two different clubs.

Emery’s main achievement has been both the simplest and the toughest. Villa had spent plenty of money unwisely since their Premier League return, but there was no way the squad he inherited should have been heading back to the Championship.

He turned his side from under to over-achievers overnight – not only winning five of his first seven games, but then putting a small bump in the road behind them to go on a 10-game unbeaten run, which has earned them a first European season since the days of Martin O’Neill.

Whereas Steven Gerrard never seemed to know his favoured style or line-up, Emery’s consistency of selection has laid solid foundations for their success – although there has been nothing simple about the tactical puzzles he has managed to solve time and time again this season.

Villa would have bitten your arm off for a top-10 position when Emery walked through the door, let alone a European tour. Can he repeat the feat next season?

Well, the man who has won more Europa Leagues than anyone else is finally getting the recognition he deserves on these shores. That respect should be enough to make clear this is no flash-in-the-pan season while he is in charge.
Ron Walker

Bournemouth: Making a mockery of pre-season predictions

It has been quite a turnaround for pre-season relegation favourites Bournemouth under Gary O’Neil.

His predecessor Scott Parker was dismissed just 26 days into the season after claiming his squad wasn’t good enough for the Premier League. The 9-0 loss at Liverpool pointed towards a long hard nine months of strife.

But O’Neil has galvanised the group and made a mockery of that assertion. There has been the need to negotiate American billionaire Bill Foley’s takeover, but January proved a crucial window for the Cherries. Dango Ouattara – signed for £20m from Lorient – and the loan of Matias Vina from Roma have stood out as significant upgrades.

A dramatic defeat back in February at Arsenal from a two-goal lead nonetheless instilled belief that salvation could be reached. From that moment, Bournemouth rose from the canvas and never looked back, winning six of their next nine games to be nine points clear of the bottom three with four games remaining.

Job done, with plenty to spare. O’Neil encouraged his players to prove just about everyone wrong, and Bournemouth have come through with flying colours.
Ben Grounds

Brentford: Quirky, enigmatic but now the top dogs in west London

Once upon a time, Brentford were bottom of the pile when it came to the west London hierarchy.

They stood in the shadow of the glitz and glamour of Chelsea, Fulham have also stood above them as Premier League regulars since the turn of the century – and don’t forget the time QPR tried to buy Brentford out of existence through a failed takeover of their neighbours in the 1960s.

Now, no more. Brentford ended this Premier League season as the highest ranked west London club in English football this season. Only title-chasing Arsenal and Tottenham, who they beat at the end of the season, were the only London teams to finish ahead of the Bees this season in the league.

Last season, Brentford were the plucky new kids on the block in their debut Premier League campaign and many expected them to suffer from ‘second-season syndrome’ this time around.

Instead, they went to the next level.

The Bees’ top-half finish saw them become better against the lesser sides in the league, while retaining their tricky status against the top teams. Brentford picked up four points away from home against the top two – they are the only club to win at Manchester City across all four competitions. They beat Manchester United and Liverpool at home, along with Tottenham and Chelsea away this season. They are deserved top-10 finishers.

Most importantly, Brentford have also shown they are more than Ivan Toney – who they will have to be without until the new year after he admitted to 232 FA betting breaches.

Every time Toney does not start, Yoane Wissa scores and Bryan Mbeumo comes out of his shell. The improvement of Kevin Schade and Mikkel Damsgaard next season, after acclimatisation campaigns this term, will help the blow – as well as the transfer window of course.

Ultimately, the Bees are a quirky club. Goalkeeper David Raya is one of the best playmakers, they play four left-footed players across the back four and anyone who has watched a Thomas Frank press conference knows how enigmatic he can be.

But they are improving each year under the Danish manager in terms of league position. Four years ago, they just made the top half of the Championship. This year, they were on the cusp of Europe.

With Brighton showing that you can upset the odds to reach the continental scene, Brentford are a team to watch next season.
Sam Blitz

Brighton: This is no ordinary club outsmarting the Premier League

If at the start of the season you knew Brighton would lose Graham Potter, Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard and Marc Cucurella then few will have been rushing to back them for a top-10 finish.

But this is no ordinary club.

In stepped Roberto De Zerbi, who put down the feather dusters used by Potter and replaced them with attacking battering rams. A clear upgrade. Off the Brighton production line came Moises Caicedo, Kaoru Mitoma and Pervis Estupinan to help the Seagulls soar into Europe for the first time in their history.

They have done it with the backdrop of some sensational football that has seen them post underlying performance data akin to Manchester City.

It is easy to forget that in 1997 Brighton almost fell out of the Football League – and almost out of existence. Owner Tony Bloom would have been in the stands that day. He is now running the show but is an owner who does not revel in the limelight – he stayed in the stands as the playing staff did a lap of honour to celebrate with the fans after their win over Southampton that secured their European adventure. His data-led model has provided the backbone of what has been a phenomenal period of recruitment both on and off the pitch.

Bloom – who made his fortune beating the bookmakers by building algorithms that outsmarted the market – is now outsmarting Premier League football clubs with the way he runs the show. What a story. What a football club.

Lewis Jones

Chelsea: Thank goodness that’s over

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle

It is hard to look back on Chelsea’s season as anything other than a total disaster.

After taking over the club a year ago, Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali oversaw a transfer spend of more than £600m, sacked two head coaches and have seen their team finish in the bottom half of the Premier League for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Despite spending more money on new players than any club in history over the past two transfer windows, Chelsea’s performances have regressed dramatically. Not only have they tumbled down the table, but they were brushed aside by Real Madrid in the Champions League and failed to win a game in either the FA Cup or Carabao Cup.

Chelsea lifted two trophies last season but never came close to silverware this time around, with their season essentially over after they were knocked out of Europe in mid-April.

In truth, Chelsea have barely resembled a functioning team since a run of three wins under Graham Potter at the start of March, with Frank Lampard unable to inspire any kind of turnaround since returning to the club.

Instead, Lampard has openly questioned his players’ effort levels in both training and matches as they have gone through the motions, counting down the days until a season that nobody saw coming finally ends.

The impending arrival of Mauricio Pochettino – and the promised clear-out of the bloated and underperforming squad that he will inherit – provides hope for the future, but lessons must be learned from this chaotic and dramatic season.
Joe Shread

Crystal Palace: Respectability restored but where do they go from here?

Crystal Palace’s campaign started with bundles of optimism. Patrick Vieira did well in his first season in charge, the squad was young and vibrant and there was hope that this might be the time for the Eagles to soar higher.

Nobody would have predicted Roy Hodgson would end up being the man to save the club’s season.

The signs were there early on – Vieira’s side had a modest start, winning five Premier League games – but a worrying slump in the first three months of 2023 saw the former Arsenal midfielder sacked, replaced by the man he had taken the reins from just 18 months previously.

The difference was immediate. Crystal Palace won their first game of the calendar year in Hodgson’s first game back – beating Leicester 2-1 with a dramatic late goal from Jean-Philippe Mateta – winning as many games under the former England boss in two months as they did as Vieira.

The squad was always able to be competitive in the top flight, housing some of the best young talent in the league, and now they have proven it. A special mention too to Eberechi Eze for his first England call-up, having scored six goals with one assist in Hodgson’s nine league games, having scored just four goals with three assists in the previous 28 Premier League matches.

It leaves Crystal Palace finishing in a respectable and, given their woes earlier in the campaign, a welcome 11th place. But the question remains – just who will lead Crystal Palace into the future?

As he may now hate people reminding him, Hodgson is 75. Talks will take place on his plans this summer and the turnaround he has bought about is nothing short of remarkable.

However, while he may steady the ship over the next year or two, Hodgson is not Crystal Palace’s long-term answer. That is the conundrum that the hierarchy must continue to address as they reflect on another season in the Premier League.
Charlotte Marsh

Everton clamber up mountain but change must come

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Everton and Bournemouth

The last time Everton were relegated in May 1951, Clement Attlee was Prime Minister, Cliff Britton was manager and Everest had yet to be scaled.

It took three years for the club to climb out of the old Second Division. Monday marks the 70th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s historic ascent.

Everton will have their platinum jubilee at the summit of English football, but their supporters have stared into the abyss throughout this 69th campaign.

Fans with headsets replacing transistor radios for such days will never go out of fashion. News from Leeds and Leicester reverberated around Goodison like wildfire. For Everton, of nine league titles and the most number of seasons of any club in England’s top flight, this had become their Everest.

Three successive home defeats and an aggregate 7-1 hiding in a week at Bournemouth earlier in the season in league and Carabao Cup struck an ominous chord.

Back in January and ever since, the board has been absent from Goodison on the grounds of their own safety. When those in power are vilifying their own fanbase, it is quite a feat for the players and fans to have mobilised yet again in the face of adversity.

Dwight McNeil prepared for Sunday’s game by watching The Last Dance to block out the build-up. Yerry Mina referenced Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ tale in his farewell post on the eve of the game.

And when the music stopped at this famous stadium, a goal out of nothing that meant everything kept Everton on the pathway to salvation. They had avoided their day of ignominy but are flying very close to the sun. With the sweeping relief must now come a summer of change.
Ben Grounds

Fulham: Putting down Premier League roots at the third time of asking

Yo-yo club no more. Fulham’s previous two promotions to the Premier League had been followed by relegation back to the Championship and though many tipped them to go the same way again that never looked likely once the season got going.

An entertaining draw with Liverpool set the tone and by late October, they were into the European positions and already nine points clear of the relegation zone. Marco Silva soon demonstrated that he had built a team capable of much more than anticipated.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was one of only four players to reach double figures for Premier League goals by the turn of the year but this was about more than one man. Joao Palhinha has been a revelation in midfield. Willian has defied time with some sensational performances.

Silva has improved others too, Harrison Reed adding a new dimension to his game in midfield. Fan favourite Tim Ream has been a leader at the back, Bernd Leno impressive in goal. The creative Andreas Pereira has looked a bargain for a fee of £10m.

The result is Fulham’s best league finish in over a decade, perhaps the only blot on the season being the manner of their FA Cup quarter-final exit to Manchester United. Silva and Mitrovic’s passion can certainly spill over. It has also fuelled their fine season.
Adam Bate

Leeds: Bielsa legacy in tatters after manager madness

Leeds escaped on the final day of last season but this time relegation felt inevitable – a four-manager campaign often does that.

Jesse Marsch was celebrating this time last year, Marcelo Bielsa’s successor dramatically keeping the club up after a 12-game rescue mission.

Leeds’ summer signings:

  • Joel Robles – Real Betis, free
  • Tyler Adams – RB Leipzig, £20m
  • Brenden Aaronson – Red Bull Salzburg, £24.7m
  • Darko Gyabi – Manchester City, £5m
  • Rasmus Kristensen – Red Bull Salzburg, £10m
  • Marc Roca – Bayern Munich, £10m
  • Luis Sinisterra – Feyenoord, £25.4m
  • Sonny Perkins – West Ham, free
  • Wilfried Gnonto – FC Zurich, undisclosed

A £140m summer spending spree, reinvesting the £100m raised from the sales of Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, to bring in nine new players raised expectations that this season would be different. A further £45.5m in January on four more additions was another statement of intent but Marsch was unable to mould his new-look side into a winning one.

Leeds’ January signings:

  • Max Wober – Red Bull Salzburg, £11m
  • Georginio Rutter – Hoffenheim, £35.5m
  • Weston McKennie – Juventus, loan
  • Diogo Monteiro – Servette, undisclosed

He was sacked in February with the club above the bottom three only on goal difference with their last victory coming in November. Marsch tried to implement a similar style to his teams at Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig but he simply failed to fix Leeds’ leaky defence.

Michael Skubala, the club’s U21 head coach, had a forgettable three-game spell while Leeds scrambled for a replacement, settling on Javi Gracia. Results improved initially until Crystal Palace left Elland Road with a crushing 5-1 victory and Leeds never recovered from there.

Director of football Victor Orta was axed the day before Leeds hit the panic button and sacked Gracia for Sam Allardyce with four games remaining. Allardyce claimed in his first press conference he is « just as good » as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta but four winless games later and Leeds’ fate was sealed.

Taking only nine points away from home all season showed a lack of versatility and grit to grind out results. Key players like Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo were either injured or misfiring. Talent like Wilfried Gnonto was underused.

Bielsa’s legacy is the club being back in the Championship where he found them.
David Richardson

Leicester: From Champions to Championship

Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions just seven-seasons ago. But fast forward 2,557 days and they have become the second side to carry the unwanted tag of ‘Champions to Championship’ – following on from Blackburn Rovers.

It was hard to see this fall from grace coming. Leicester have finished in the top half in each of the previous five seasons, missing out on Champions League qualification on the final day in both 19/20 and 20/21, prior to eighth place finish last season. But this league can swallow you up. Make one wrong key decision in terms of recruitment or strategy and teams will motor past you. The opposition boardrooms are just too shrewd now. One slip is all it takes.

Leicester’s recruitment has where it has all gone wrong. There has always been a next along the production line, a Riyad Mahrez, Harry Maguire, Wesley Fofana, N’Golo Kante or Ben Chilwell. The cupboard has run dry on that part. Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare and Wout Faes for £67m has been good money spent very badly. James Maddison and Harvey Barnes have flirted with season-saving performances, but both have faltered in the heat of a relegation battle, while Jamie Vardy’s legs went last season so a reliance on him has proved fruitless.

It is the Sky Bet Championship now. It could be a long road back if the common theme of bad boardroom decisions continues.
Lewis Jones

Liverpool: Revival comes too late to propel Reds into top four

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool

There can be no disguising the fact that Liverpool’s fifth-placed finish this season, to quote star man Mohamed Salah, has been a « failure » for Jurgen Klopp and his players after they came within two games of an historic Quadruple just 12 months ago.

The exertions of playing 63 matches in total and going head to head with champions Man City all the way to the final few seconds of the previous campaign seemed to drain the energy from the Reds, who after a shortened preseason, failed to win any of their first three Premier League games.

In fact, incredible as it sounds, Liverpool never once found themselves occupying a top-four berth in the entire season and not even a 1-0 win over City at Anfield in October could revive their faltering campaign as losses at newly promoted Forest, then at home to struggling Leeds soon followed.

The Reds went into November’s World Cup seven points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth and hoping that the unique midseason break would give them the chance of a reset by resting tired bodies and minds, before the action resumed the following month.

That proved a false hope as, after two unconvincing wins against Aston Villa and Leicester City to get proceedings under way again at the end of the year, their season reached a new low with sobering defeats at Brentford, Brighton and Wolves by an aggregate scoreline of 9-1.

Those one-sided, lethargic setbacks proved the turning point in the campaign for Klopp, who by now had nothing to lose as the season spiralled out of control and Liverpool slipped to 10th in the table, 11 points off the top four.

With a rare full week of training in the international week at the end of March, the German began working on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s new hybrid role – and with new ideas, came new energy as the Reds finished the season strongly.

However, it was too little, too late in terms of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. In the end, Liverpool’s dreadful away form – they lost eight times on the road, compared to just twice last time out – compounded by losing more players to injury than any other top-flight side, cost them dear as Klopp finished outside the top four for the first time (in a completed campaign) while in charge at Anfield.

But when you manage to collect 25 points less than you picked up the previous campaign, that is not surprising.
Richard Morgan

Manchester City: Haaland takes the City juggernaut to an unstoppable level

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Brentford and Manchester City

What more can you say about Manchester City?

Premier League champions for a third successive season. They have now won five of the last six titles and they are showing no signs of stopping.

A sensational run of 12 consecutive league wins in the final weeks of the season has seen Pep Guardiola’s side dismantle Arsenal’s charge for a first Premier League title since 2003/04. At one stage in January, City trailed the Gunners by eight points, but there was no panic from the reigning champions.

Let’s face it, City were not in too bad of a state last season in winning the title, but the addition of Erling Haaland’s firepower has taken this City juggernaut to another level. Throw in Kevin De Bruyne’s assists, Jack Grealish’s improved performances, Ilkay Gundogan’s leadership, Rodri’s control in midfeld, Nathan Ake’s importance in defence and John Stones’ ability to step out of defence, Guardiola has got this City machine firing on all cylinders.

The success potentially does not stop there. Attention now turns to securing the treble with City now two victories away from completing a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble – a feat only achieved once in English football by Manchester United in 1998/99.

City’s sights are firmly set on the FA Cup final against Manchester United on June 3 and the Champions League final against Inter Milan in Istanbul on June 10, and it’s difficult to see how they are stopped now and in the future.

The rest of the Premier League need to find some answers.
Oli Yew

Man Utd: Treble-ending second trophy would be an undoubted success

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Manchester United against Fulham in the Premier League

When Manchester United secured the Carabao Cup in February – their first trophy since 2017 – and looked set to stroll back into the Champions League, progress in their first season under Erik ten Hag was ahead of schedule.

The Dutchman became only the second manager in the club’s history – and first since Jose Mourinho – to win a trophy in his first season in charge at Old Trafford, and optimism was high that, at last, the club were back on track.

United’s end-of-season wobble, which very nearly opened the door to Liverpool in the race for a top-four finish, threatened to take some of the gloss off the campaign, but it was reapplied by sealing a return to Europe’s top table with a game to spare, and another coating can be added if they halt Manchester City’s treble hopes with victory in the FA Cup final.

Shockwaves would reverberate around Manchester were City to complete the treble but, as Ten Hag often emphasises, United are in no position to concern themselves with anything other than the task placed in the front of them. Win that final game of the season, and Ten Hag’s maiden campaign will be an undoubted success.
Jack Wilkinson

Newcastle: A sleeping giant wakes

Newcastle are back – and sooner than anyone would have expected. After Eddie Howe rescued them from relegation last season, improvement was expected. A first cup final in 24 years and a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2003 was beyond most supporters’ wildest dreams.

Despite the vast wealth of their ownership group, Newcastle have not just splashed the cash to reach this point. Recruitment has been measured and sensible. The real transformation has come in the way Howe has coached improvement throughout this team – both for individual players and their collective style.

Their excellent defensive record in the first half of the season was evidence of hours of work on the training ground. Their shift to a more attacking intent in the past few months demonstrates their adaptability. It all adds up to a level of performance across the season which rightly earned Newcastle a place back among the elite.

Anyone who saw the celebrations at St James’ Park in recent weeks, when the top-four place was achieved will know that Howe’s other big success this year is to unite this club. In the stands, in the dugout and out on the pitch, there is belief, confidence and ambition. That has been missing at Newcastle for a long time. But this is a club going places.
Peter Smith

Nottingham Forest: Survival against the odds

Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis threw the kitchen sink at Forest’s quest for survival last summer, splashing millions on 26 new recruits, which included four loan signings.

But fan favourite, Steve Cooper, had a job on his hands to gel the squad and build chemistry between players from the get-go, with Chelsea’s dismal campaign after a record-breaking spending spree being a prime example of how extreme overhauls can, initially, have a detrimental impact on performances.

And so it proved. Forest were languishing in the relegation zone for the majority the season until the turn of the year. The club steered clear of the drop zone for three months but slipped back into danger in early April, amid rumours Cooper’s job was on the line.

Marinakis took to social media and released a statement ‘backing’ the manager to end speculation – but it came with a caveat: « Results and performances must improve immediately ». Three successive defeats followed against high-flying Aston Villa and powerhouses Liverpool and Manchester United. Cooper remained in charge.

The turnaround came with a 3-1 win over Brighton and Forest proceeded to beat Southampton, draw with Chelsea and secured survival and ended Arsenal’s title hopes with a memorable 1-0 win at the City Ground.

Morgan Gibbs-White proved pivotal during the campaign, running farther than any team-mate, chipping in with five goals, eight assists and producing team-topping numbers for chances created, dribbles attempted and completed through-balls.


After securing survival against the Gunners, Marinakis posted: « We continue to write history together! » Southampton, Leeds and Leicester all sacked managers during the campaign to no avail; sticking with Cooper could well have been Forest’s saving grace.

Adam Smith

Southampton: Distrust and disunity leads to relegation disaster

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Roy Keane, Micah Richards and Jamie Carragher discuss which of the relegated teams are best placed to return quickly to the Premier League

It has been a sorry season for Southampton, characterised by a circus of commotion and erratic decision making. Three managers, a record number of games lost (25), a record amount of money spent and one relegation confirmed.

Sport Republic, Saints’ relatively new majority share-owners, have assumed a controlling say over the operational running of the club in the last week – having promised to be ‘hands off’ in their approach when completing their takeover back in January 2022. Such a pledge, idealistic or otherwise, has since been rescinded.

Sport Republic co-founder Henrik Kraft originally said he does not intend « to start any revolutions ». Presumably Kraft, now listed as ‘Southampton FC chairman’ on his personal LinkedIn page, did not imagine the mess that would transpire.

Harmony has eroded, replaced by distrust and disunity. So much so that Southampton’s entire board have all been removed, bar one (Toby Steele) who is currently serving out his notice.

Much less a revolution, more a complete overthrow. Identity all but lost.

Unsurprisingly, disillusion on the south coast is rife. Fans have been worn down by the perceived mismanagement of their club, with St Mary’s becoming a place to mourn rather than rejoice. Current manager Ruben Selles, a mere placeholder, is also set to depart.

Southampton are winless in their last 13 Premier League games (nine losses), their longest run since 1989. It’s going to take a monumental effort to turn such declining form around in the Championship – presuming much of Saints’ existing talent will follow high-ranking staff members out the exit door this summer.

There are 68 days between the end of the Premier League season and the start of the new Championship campaign. Better dust off the drawing board.
Laura Hunter

Tottenham: A spectacular unravelling of epic proportions

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Leeds against Tottenham in the Premier League

Having clinched Champions League qualification ahead of Arsenal in May and opened the new campaign with a thumping 4-1 win over Southampton in August, few could have predicted quite how spectacularly Tottenham’s season would unravel.

Spurs sat level on points with Manchester City at the top of the table in mid-September, the outlook seemingly bright, but a 3-1 reverse at the Emirates Stadium prompted a run which included seven losses in 12 Premier League games and they never really recovered.

Antonio Conte appeared increasingly detached and downbeat in the dugout and the situation came to a head when, having recovered from surgery to remove his gall bladder in March, he launched an extraordinary attack on his players after a late collapse against Southampton.

By that point, Tottenham had already lost all hope of silverware, crashing out of the FA Cup against second-tier Sheffield United, then exiting the Champions League with a lifeless performance at home to AC Milan in the second leg of their last-16 tie a week later.

Conte left under a cloud, only for the club to name his assistant Cristian Stellini as interim boss. It felt like another misstep and so it proved, the 49-year-old axed after a dismal 6-1 loss to Newcastle in which Spurs conceded five goals inside the first 21 minutes.

Still, though, there was no permanent appointment, with the popular but underqualified Ryan Mason next to step into the breach and Tottenham’s dismal form continuing, despite the best efforts of Harry Kane, who somehow plundered 28 Premier League goals as his team-mates floundered.

Most supporters will just feel relieved that a nightmarish campaign is finally over but, with the club seemingly no closer to naming their next manager, and with Kane’s future at the club once again in doubt, there is little clarity about where exactly they go next.
Nick Wright

West Ham: All roads lead to Prague

It has been a season to forget for West Ham domestically but could end up being one of their greatest in a generation if they’re successful in next month’s Europa Conference League final in Prague.

David Moyes’ side wilted under the weight of expectation following back-to-back top-seven finishes and a summer expenditure exceeded only by Chelsea and Man Utd. This was meant to be a season of progression, instead Hammers fans were met with regression. It nearly cost Moyes his job.

Reports suggested he was one game from the chop in January. But Moyes was triumphant in the game against Everton dubbed ‘El Sackico’ as he bested Frank Lampard, who was let go by the Toffees a few days later. Moyes just about clung on and those days seem like distant memories now.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Leicester and West Ham

Often derided as a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’, the Europa Conference League has provided salvation for West Ham and their manager this season. A near-perfect record in the competition has been the only redeeming facet of an otherwise sub-standard campaign.

Now Moyes and his players are one game from writing their names in West Ham history alongside the likes of Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst, who were part of the 1965 European Cup Winner’s Cup-winning side. It would be the perfect farewell for their captain, Declan Rice, too.

Beat Fiorentina on June 7 in Prague and all will be forgiven. Heck, with Europa League qualification and a trophy in the bag, it would be looked back on as a season to savour.
Zinny Boswell

Wolves: Home comforts turn a mess into comfortable survival

The first half of Wolves’ season was a mess. Despite considerable investment in the summer, Bruno Lage departed with the team in the relegation zone following one win from the first eight games and the situation deteriorated under caretaker boss Steve Davis.

Enter Julen Lopetegui. With Wolves bottom at Christmas, their stoppage-time winner at Everton on Boxing Day began the turnaround and fears of the drop dissipated long before the end of the season. It was top-half form during his 23 games in charge.

The January signings helped. Craig Dawson and Mario Lemina had a big impact, bringing experience to the team that had been lost following the decision to allow captain Conor Coady to leave. It was not always pretty under Lopetegui but he found a way.

The home form was critical. Twenty points from 11 games. He never did resolve the scoring problem but that did not matter given that Wolves conceded only seven goals in those games – a better defensive record than even Manchester City since Christmas.

What happens next is in doubt. Lopetegui has already described this as his greatest achievement and will want financial backing to progress – backing that may not be forthcoming. The future of Ruben Neves, the captain and best player, is unclear too.

A rebuild is required with heroes of the club’s back-to-back seventh place finishes, when they reached a European quarter-final, set to move on. But even if the future is not paved with gold, thanks to Lopetegui, Wolves embark on it from within the Premier League.
Adam Bate

Source link