Premier League 2019/20: End of season (for now) report card

Patrick Madden hands over the marks for each side with the current campaign suspended

Virgil van Dijk has once again been imperious at the heart of the Liverpool defence. Photograph:  Michael Regan/Getty Images

Virgil van Dijk has once again been imperious at the heart of the Liverpool defence. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

 

Arsenal: 9th

A dismal season for Arsenal ended with green shoots of revival - Unai Emery limped through to the end of November - with four of the Gunners’ nine league victories coming under Mikel Arteta. He has a huge job to do, but time is on his side.

Best player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored 17 Premier League goals – he turns 31 in June and is running out of time to return to the Champions League.

Grounds for optimism: Exciting 18-year-old Bukayo Saka had made 30 appearances in all competitions by March, scampering up and down the left.

Manager: Arteta contracting coronavirus was the signal for the season to grind to a halt, but this is a long-term project.

Mark: C-

Aston Villa: 19th

Aston Villa’s return to the top flight was supposed to be long-term, but they spent poorly in the summer and were lurching towards the drop when coronavirus arrived.

Best player: Captain Jack Grealish has shone consistently and inspired Villa to the League Cup final. Crashing his car during isolation wasn’t the brightest move but a big-money transfer awaits.

Grounds for optimism: Tyrone Mings was by far and away the pick of Villa’s summer signings. Exemplary in more ways than one when making his England debut in front of racists in Bulgaria.

Manager: Dean Smith took Villa to Wembley but a club of their resources and stature should not be on the verge of going back down. Summer transfer strategy was abysmal.

Mark: E

Bournemouth: 18th

After five seasons punching above their weight the Cherries finally seemed to be running out of road, but they still had every chance of survival with Watford, West Ham and Brighton all within two points.

Best player: Callum Wilson top-scored for Bournemouth with eight and it is arguably the brilliant performances of 21-year-old goalkeeper Adam Ramsdale which kept heads above water.

The Irish connection: The emergence of Ramsdale has denied Mark Travers a breakthrough season – he’s managed just five appearances in all competitions.

Manager: Eddie Howe never really entered the frame for the big jobs which became available during since the summer. Losing David Brooks was a blow but Bournemouth have stalled this term.

Mark: E

Young Irish Striker Aaron Connolly has made an impressive breakthough with Brighton. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images
Young Irish Striker Aaron Connolly has made an impressive breakthough with Brighton. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Brighton & Hove Albion: 15th

The Seagulls parted ways with Chris Hughton in the final weeks of last season, with Graham Potter supposed to bring an expressive philosophy with him from Swansea. However, the league table hasn’t changed much and relegation loomed large again.

Best player: Captain Lewis Dunk has been Brighton’s rock once again – it’s hard to see him starting next season on the south coast.

The Irish angle: The Euros being postponed to 2021 could be a boost for Aaron Connolly, who made 20 first-team appearances for Brighton this term as well as making his international debut.

Manager: Taking over after five years of Hughton and trying to implement a completely different style was always likely to be a slow process, and Potter will be given time to do so.

Mark: D

Burnley: 10th

Another year of mid-table safety for Sean Dyche’s Clarets, who are now a fixture in the top flight. They picked up points regularly enough to never really enter the discussion for relegation, and enjoyed a famous win at Old Trafford.

Best player: 20-year-old Dwight McNeil has sparkled in a mature squad. An early end to the season might help Burnley hold onto him for another year.

The Irish angle: Jeff Hendrick rarely shines for Ireland but remains a regular for the Premier League club, while Robbie Brady hasn’t played a full 90 minutes this season.

Manager: Dyche is secure at Turf Moor and could probably stay as long as he wants. The Burnley way isn’t always pretty but it has proven effective again.

Mark: B

Chelsea: 4th

It has been a weird season for Chelsea who started well before inevitably tailing off, but kept doing enough to keep themselves in fourth place. They could easily have been reeled in, however.

Best player: With injuries consigning N’Golo Kante to his quietest season in England, Mateo Kovacic became Chelsea’s driving force in midfield.

Grounds for optimism: Youth. A transfer ban meant Frank Lampard had to lean heavily on the likes of Mason Mount and Reece James, while Billy Gilmour’s late breakthrough was eye-catching.

Manager: The transfer ban meant Lampard had a free shot this season, and fourth place would have been mission accomplished. Admirable faith in youth but often outgunned tactically.

Mark: B-

Crystal Palace: 11th

The coronavirus halted Crystal Palace’s three-game winning run, which had moved them well clear of the bottom three and towards the European places. Another solid season in south London.

Best player: This has been a quiet season by Wilfried Zaha’s standards but Jordan Ayew has eased the burden, chipping in with eight goals including a winner at Old Trafford and in recent victories over Brighton and Watford.

The Irish angle: James McCarthy’s summer switch from Everton has proved a success – he’s been a regular in the Palace midfield, making 24 league appearances.

Manager: Roy Hodgson is 72 now but still has that enduring ability to inspire and connect with players young enough to be his grandchildren. Job well done, again.

Mark: B+

Séamus Coleman has faced a battle to hold on to his right-back slot at Everton with Djibril Sidibé. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images
Séamus Coleman has faced a battle to hold on to his right-back slot at Everton with Djibril Sidibé. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Everton: 12th

The odds on both Duncan Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti having a stint in the Goodison Park dugout this term would have been very, very long. The Toffees improved but need a major squad overhaul.

Best player: Dominic Calvert-Lewin led Everton’s line with aplomb and grew as the season progressed – his 13 goals, coupled with injuries elsewhere, had pushed him into the England reckoning for the Euros.

The Irish angle: It has been a frustrating season for Ireland captain Séamus Coleman, who has found himself vying with Djibril Sidibé to start at right back.

Manager: Everton were a rabble under Marco Silva and have improved massively under Ferguson and then Ancelotti. The three-time European Cup winner has bulletproof credentials but his squad needs surgery.

Mark: D

Leicester City: 3rd

Leicester were on a poor run before the season was halted but had still enjoyed a fine campaign, with Champions League football looking likely. They were even briefly – but never seriously – in the title race.

Best player: An honourable mention to the excellent Wilfred Ndidi but it has to be Jamie Vardy, the Premier League’s top scorer and electric as ever at 33-years-old.

Grounds for optimism: Caglar Soyuncu’s seamless transition into the first team as a partner for Jonny Evans meant replacing Harry Maguire was as easier task than it originally appeared.

Manager: Brendan Rodgers seems to have found his level at Leicester, and has an exciting, young squad playing attractive football. Holding onto players will be key.

Mark: A-

Liverpool: 1st

Liverpool were two wins from a first title in 30 years when coronavirus stopped play. Perhaps not as free-flowing as last season but they have turned into a ruthless, winning machine.

Best player: The leaders had the best defence in the league – conceding 21 goals in 29 games – and that’s largely down to the peerless Virgil Van Dijk.

The Irish angle: Caoimhín Kelleher was limited to four cup appearances this season. In hindsight, he couldn’t have done much worse than Alisson’s understudy, Adrian.

Manager: Jürgen Klopp lifted the silverware monkey off his back with last year’s Champions League win and was set to end 30 years of hurt this time round. Deified on Merseyside.

Mark: A+

Pep Guardiola’s failure to replace Vincent Kompany in the heart of the Man City defence, added to an injury to Aymeric Laporte has cost the side dearly. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola’s failure to replace Vincent Kompany in the heart of the Man City defence, added to an injury to Aymeric Laporte has cost the side dearly. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Manchester City: 2nd

A dismal title defence from Man City, who were set to hand their crown over to Liverpool in March. It would be the ultimately irony if they’d have won the Champions League following a two-year ban for breaking FFP rules.

Best player: Kevin De Bruyne managed to stay injury-free for most of an exceptional season, and was City’s best chance of lifting a maiden European Cup.

Grounds for optimism: Despite the doom and gloom City already had the League Cup in the bag with the FA Cup and Champions League to play for. Silverware is silverware.

Manager: Pep Guardiola’s failure to replace Vincent Kompany was followed by an injury to Aymeric Laporte, which meant Fernandinho had to drop to centre half. A huge oversight – the title was gone by Christmas.

Mark: C-

Manchester United: 5th

A season of peaks and troughs seemed to be coming to the boil at just the right time. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side were unbeaten in 11 with legitimate hopes of fourth place and two trophies.

Best player: Bruno Fernandes only needed nine appearances after his January arrival from Sporting Lisbon to lift the entire club. A transformative signing who makes those around him better players.

Grounds for optimism: Brandon Williams’s emergence at left back has been impressive but Mason Greenwood is a generational talent, a two-footed finisher with echoes of Robin Van Persie.

Manager: There have been some seriously low points but there is a sense Solakjær’s project is finally taking shape. His five acquisitions have all been a success – more are needed to challenge again.

Mark: B+

Bruno Fernandes has been crowned Premier League player of the month for February. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty
Bruno Fernandes has been crowned Premier League player of the month for February. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty

Newcastle United: 13th

The football has been agricultural but Newcastle were set for mid-table safety under Steve Bruce and had an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to for the first time since 2006.

Best player: Allan Saint-Maximin has proven a brilliant addition. Eccentric and electric, he’s offered pace, guile and power down Newcastle’s left, as well as doing plenty of donkey work.

The Irish angle: With Newcastle playing three centre halves for most of the campaign Ciaran Clarke enjoyed two lengthy spells in the side until he picked up an ankle injury in February.

Manager: Toon fans might have viewed Bruce as a downgrade on Rafael Benitez, and might not have enjoyed the football, but Newcastle were set to match last season’s points tally pre-coronavirus.

Mark: C

Norwich City: 20th

The Canaries, admirably, stuck to their guns and tried to deploy their expressive style in the Premier League. It has made for some great days – beating Man City at Carrow Road – but they were destined for the drop.

Best player: Todd Cantwell has been the star of Norwich’s season. A delightful footballer, he will surely follow in the steps of James Maddison and leave East Anglia in the next transfer window.

The Irish angle: 19-year-old striker Adam Idah highlighted his prodigious talent with an FA Cup hat-trick against Preston North End, and led the line against Man United at Old Trafford.

Manager: This was always going to be a tough season for Daniel Farke’s side with little investment in the summer, but his side have played good football and looked in good shape to bounce straight back up.

Mark: D

Enda Stevens (second from left) celberates with his Sheffield United team-mates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between against Brighton at Bramall Lane. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Enda Stevens (second from left) celberates with his Sheffield United team-mates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between against Brighton at Bramall Lane. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Sheffield United: 7th

The surprise package of the season, Sheffield United were many people’s favourites for relegation but were bidding for a place in Europe when the season came to a premature halt.

Best player: Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson has arguably been the best goalkeeper in the league this season – he won’t return to Old Trafford to sit on the bench.

The Irish angle: John Egan and Enda Stevens have been cornerstones of the league’s second-best defence – the Blades conceded just 25 in 28 fixtures.

Manager: Chris Wilder has taken Sheffield United from League One to the brink of Europe in just under four years – his team are far greater than the sum of their parts.

Mark: A

Southampton: 14th

It seems a long time ago that Southampton were beaten 9-0 at home in October. They looked doomed but their winter revival was impressive and they turned the tables on Leicester in January.

Best player: Danny Ings has led the line superbly for the Saints – his 15 league goals in 29 games would have left him firmly in the reckoning for the Euros.

The Irish angle: Michael Obafemi is still only 19-years-old but he made 20 appearances across all competitions, and scored in a 2-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on St Stephen’s Day.

Manager: It has been a slow teething process but Southampton’s form over Christmas and into the new year suggested Ralph Hasenhüttl’s philosophy was starting to become ingrained at St Mary’s.

Mark: C

Tottenham Hotspur: 8th

Last year’s Champions League finalists went stale under Mauricio Pochettino and they have struggled subsequently under José Mourinho. Not the first full season Spurs had hoped for in their new ground.

Best player: Son Heung-Min picked up where he left off and enjoyed another fine campaign, which was only disrupted by a three-game suspension and then a fractured arm.

The Irish angle: Troy Parrott made his league debut off the bench in December but was then denied a potentially valuable loan move in January.

Manager: Injuries to Harry Kane and Son have made life difficult, but it’s hard to imagine many Spurs fans who would still replace Pochettino with José Mourinho given a second chance.

Mark: D-

Watford: 17th

Watford looked doomed until their stunning revival under Nigel Pearson. A 3-0 win ended Liverpool’s hopes of an unbeaten season and proved they have enough to stay in the division.

Best player: Ismailia Sarr has flourished since Pearson’s arrival, scoring in the crucial wins over Man United, Aston Villa and Liverpool (twice).

Grounds for optimism: Despite beating Man United on December 22nd, the Hornets were rooted to the bottom at Christmas. Had they survived, it would have been an impressive turnaround.

Manager: Pearson’s appointment signalled a change of tack after the departures of Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores, and it appeared to be working until the season was stopped.

Mark: D+

West Ham United: 16th

This has been a truly miserable campaign for perennial under-achievers West Ham, who found themselves sleep-walking into a relegation battle and had to call on David Moyes to try and haul them out.

Best player: It says a lot about the current state of West Ham that 32-year-old midfield stalwart Mark Noble has arguably been their most consistent player.

Grounds for optimism: Should the season now be called off due to the coronavirus, the Hammers might be saved from a potentially very damaging relegation.

Manager: Moyes wouldn’t have been in most West Ham fans’ top 20 choices to replace Manuel Pellegrini, but to the Scotsman’s credit they he has made them look more organised.

Mark: F

Matt Doherty celebrates scoring for Wolves against Tottenham Hotspur. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images
Matt Doherty celebrates scoring for Wolves against Tottenham Hotspur. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Wolverhampton Wanderers: 6th

There were question marks over how a European campaign would affect Wolves domestically this year, but after a slow start they were challenging for the top four and looked set to reach the Europa League last eight.

Best player: Honourable mentions to the outstanding Ruben Neves and Adama Traore but it has to be Raul Jimenez, who’s scored 22 goals in 44 games since his loan from Benfica was made permanent.

The Irish angle: Matt Doherty enjoyed another fine campaign, making 39 appearances in all competitions, and will surely become Ireland’s right back in time for the Euros in 2021.

Manager: Wolves’ season started on July 25th and they had played 48 fixtures before the coronavirus crisis. That they were still fighting on two fronts, with momentum on their side, is testament to Nuno Espírito Santo.

Mark: A

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