Football Season Review

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Champions: Manchester City

Josep Guardiola's second season in charge of Manchester City proved to be a record breaking one as the Citizens strolled to the title with four games to spare while also becoming the first side to pick up 100 points in the Premier League. Another summer of heavy investment paid rich dividends for City who once again started the campaign on fire but unlike the previous season, there were no hiccups as they dropped points just once in their opening 20 games to quickly build a mammoth gap at the top of the league table. City did look a bit vulnerable in the defense but were rarely troubled at the back as teams struggled to cope with a ruthless attack as the 106 goals scored in the campaign set a new record in the Premier League along with the most wins in a single season. Performance-wise, there will be little for Guardiola to be worried about as there were a number of positives to take out of the campaign. Kevin De Bruyne once again led the assists charts by creating 16 goals, and despite some niggling injuries, Sergio Aguero managed to score 21 goals from just 22 starts. It was on the flanks though where City saw major improvement as Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling hit double figures both in goals scored and created, with the latter finally justifying the huge fee City were willing to part with when they bought him from Liverpool. Despite the record breaking season, there are a couple of chinks in the armor for City who will once again be spending big during the summer to further strengthen their squad and will be the team to beat next season

Player of the Season: Raheem Sterling

№2: Manchester United

Manchester United were the best of the rest as they finished in their highest position since Alex Ferguson's departure, but once again failed to mount a sustained title challenge, finishing the season 19 points behind winners Manchester City. A solid start to the campaign meant United kept pace with City in the opening weeks but struggled to match the sort of consistency shown by their city rivals, though a second place finish does represent a marked improvement over the previous season. There were disappointments in the cups though, with United suffering shock exits to Sevilla and Bristol City in the Champions League and League Cup respectively, and while they did make it to the final of the FA Cup, there was no fairy-tale ending with Chelsea managing to pip their rivals to the trophy. United though had to deal with negative news both on and off the field, with fans time and again expressing their frustration over perceived overcautious football. Meanwhile, Mourinho also publicly criticised a number of his players, with the biggest name being that of Paul Pogba which raised speculation that the midfielder's stay at the club could be a short one. Luke Shaw continued to be sidelined while Anthony Martial also struggled to impress as he was in and out of the starting line-up throughout the campaign. Barring David De Gea, Romelu Lukaku was United's most consistent player, and the striker topped the scoring charts with 27 goals while also providing a focal point to United's attack. However, reinforcements are needed further back on the field if United are to provide a more realistic challenge to City for the league title next season.

Player of the Season: Romelu Lukaku

№3: Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur bolstered their credentials as an established top four side as they secured Champions League qualification for a third straight season, overcoming a late scare to finish third in the league table. A fairly easy set of opening fixtures meant Spurs were off to a good start, with the defeat against Chelsea their only blot in the opening nine games, but they soon hit a blip in form that left them outside the top four for large portions of the campaign. It was not until the festive period that Spurs finally hit top form but with Chelsea also in good nick, Mauricio Pochettino's side were pushed all the way up to the closing weeks of the campaign in the top four race. A crucial win over the Blues finally handed them the initiative, and despite a couple of poor results late on, Spurs did just enough to hold onto their Champions League qualification spot and climb above Liverpool, thanks to three straight wins in their final three home games at Wembley. While another top four spot represents a successful campaign for Spurs, their ability to win trophies has been called into question. They failed to capitalise on their commanding position in the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Juventus, and suffered a narrow defeat against Manchester United in the FA Cup, while there was an early exit from the League Cup. Despite Spurs being without two of their first choice defenders in Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose for large portions of the campaign, the replacements were more than adequate as Tottenham ended the season with the third best defensive record. Meanwhile, Pochettino's side continued to impress at the other end with Harry Kane top scoring with 30 goals, while Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Heung Min-Son also impressed, though they will need to perform on a more consistent basis if they are to emerge as genuine title challengers next season.

Player of the Season: Harry Kane

№4: Liverpool

For the second season in a row Liverpool finished in 4th place and played similar football that saw them scoring lots of goals, but also conceding too many. However, the most memorable part of the season for the Reds was their Champions League adventure that started with the play-offs in August, but saw Klopp’s men going all the way to the final in Kiev, where two awful goalkeeper’s errors brought a painful defeat vs. Real. This way the opportunity for a memorable campaign was replaced by the simply average one. Klopp’s most important action during this campaign was last summer when he bought Mo Salah and the explosive Egyptian had an amazing season in which he scored 43 goals, making him the best summer transfer of 2017! Liverpool never looked like title-contenders after starting the season with just three wins in the opening nine rounds and painful away defeats vs. Man City and Tottenham. That said Anfield proved to be a solid fortress and the Reds went unbeaten on home turf in the Premier League all season. Probably the best form of the club was hit between October and January when the Reds enjoyed fourteen-game unbeaten run in the league, they won ten of these matches, but as Man City never slowed down their pace the title looked out of reach come Christmas. Liverpool’s defending improved in 2018 after the January signing of Van Dijk, but the main playmaker Coutinho left during the same month and with the injuries of Lallana, Can and Oxlade-Chamberlain the Reds found themselves short on options in the middle of the park come spring time. Liverpool’s away form was what didn’t allow them to finish higher than fourth place in the league, with the results in March and April also affected by the fact that Klopp prioritised the Champions League and was using supporting players on the domestic stage. Eventually the season ended with bitter disappointment in Kiev, but Liverpool were amongst the best teams going forward in the whole of Europe and if Klopp uses the extra cash he has this summer to strengthen the midfield and the back line the Reds could be much stronger next season.

Player of the Season: Mohamed Salah

№5: Chelsea

Chelsea not only failed to defend their title this season, but they will be missing from the Champions League next year too as inner turmoil and poor 2018 form saw them finishing outside the top four. Coach Conte started having problems even before the season begun as he put all his trust in the new centre forward Morata, with Chelsea’s top goalscorer for the past three years Diego Costa going to war with the boss in July and never setting foot in London again until his departure in the winter. Early in the campaign Conte looked like genius by signing Morata as he scored 6 goals in the opening 6 rounds. Unfortunately his form entered constant decline after that and for the rest of the campaign he managed to find the back of the net just 4 more times. Hazard and Willian also had ups and downs in their form all season, both of them have been heavily linked with transfers away since the autumn, plus veteran Cahill was no longer the solid rock at the back and after making some costly mistakes in September and October he even lost his starting spot for several months. Despite all these bumps on the way Chelsea’s results in 2017 were solid and they ended the calendar year sitting in third place. The League Cup was also exciting the fans with the Blues reaching the semi-final of this competition, but in January they were eliminated at this stage by Arsenal and also this was when their overall decline began. Between January and March Chelsea won only two of their eight Premier League games to drop out of the top four, they never recovered from that, plus Conte’s men suffered early elimination in the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona. Conte continued to cause controversy and at some point in the winter he omitted defender David Luiz from the first team, never to restore him there, also the signing of Giroud wasn’t welcomed very well, especially with Costa scoring goals for fun back in Spain. Chelsea didn’t find a way to catch the top four in the Premier League before the end of the year, they made too many unexpected mistakes on the way, but at least some silverware was won as the Blues lifted the FA Cup in the cagy final against Man United.

Player of the Season: N'Golo Kante

№6: Arsenal

Arsenal suffered their worst ever campaign in over two decades in what was Arsene Wenger’s last year in charge after 22 years at the helm. From the off it became evident that the Gunners will continue to struggle on their travels, they were very poor on the road the previous season, and despite winning all of their opening seven home matches in the Premier League Arsenal earned a single point from their first four away outings, they also scored just one goal in these games, and this immediately saw them playing catch up. Come December Arsenal’s camp was shaking by turmoil with the team’s big star Alexis Sanchez wanting out, the big summer signing Lacazette struggling for form and many fans passionately demanding Wenger’s head. This toxic atmosphere didn’t help the players and a home defeat against Man United at the start of December signalled the beginning of the end. This 1:3 loss saw Arsenal slipping out of the top four and they never returned there again. The away form in 2018 got even poorer, injuries to members of the shaky anyway defence unsettled the squad, with the Gunners not earning their first league points on the road until the final round of the season. This was why they never got even close to challenging for a top four finish. With the runs in the two domestic cups also unnaturally short and semi-final defeat to Atletico Madrid in Europa League Arsenal finished the campaign without silverware. Some promise for better future was hinted by the goals and good combinations offered by the winter arrivals Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang, but Wenger eventually cracked under the pressure and he is resigning after 22 years in charge, which could see several seasons of rebuilding at the Emirates.

Player of the Season: Aaron Ramsey

№7: Burnley

A historic campaign for Burnley who defied pre-season expectations of a relegation struggle to book their place in Europe for the first time in nearly six decades. They finished seventh in the league table which was enough to secure Europa League qualification. Having just about secured their Premier League status the previous campaign, Burnley showed early signs of being a different side this season as they pulled off a shock win over defending champions Chelsea in their opening game of the season. Burnley made themselves hard to beat, and while consistency was an issue with regards to victories, they were picking up points on a regular basis, and by the time the festive period rolled in, the Clarets found themselves within touching distance of the top four. Burnley's excellent campaign did threaten to go off the rails following long term injury to Tom Heaton, while top scorer Chris Wood also struggled with niggling injuries. However, Nick Pope proved to be more than an adequate replacement for Heaton, with his performances ensuring that the England keeper did not walk easily back into the team even after regaining fitness while Ashley Barnes chipped in with crucial goals over the course of the campaign. A solid defence though was the biggest strength for Burnley with Ben Mee once again enjoying an excellent season though it was James Tarkowski who made sure that Burnley did not feel the absence of the departed Michael Keane with some consistent displays in the centre of the defence. Burnley did hit a rough patch of form around New Year's day, going on an 11-match winless run in the Premier League, but five straight victories starting from March ensured they would be finishing at least seventh in the table. In fact Burnley could have even bettered their position and finished above Arsenal had they not ended the campaign with just two points from their final five games.

Player of the Season: James Tarkowski

№8: Everton

A campaign that started with much optimism among the fans ended with Everton searching for their third manager in less than a year despite finishing a decent eighth in the league table. The Toffees splashed out in the transfer market, bringing in a number of big name players including Wayne Rooney from Manchester United, but lack of an adequate replacement for the departed Romelu Lukaku proved to be their Achilles heel as they endured a disastrous first half of the season that saw them drop into the relegation zone by the end of October. A heavy defeat to Arsenal proved to be the final straw for the Everton board who dispensed with Ronald Koeman, and after a brief period of David Unsworth taking over as the interim coach, Sam Allardyce was appointed as the permanent replacement much to the displeasure of the fans. Results improved immediately for Everton with Allardyce unbeaten in his first six games and winning three of his opening four matches, but the former England coach never really managed to win over the fans who, time and again, expressed their unhappiness over the style of football. A dip in form and criticism from the fans did not help Allardyce who, for all his proclamations of preparing for the next season, looked to be a dead man walking. The Toffees hit a good run of form in the final weeks of the season, winning four and losing just two of their final nine games to finish eighth in the league table though it was not enough to help Allardyce hold on to his job. He was sacked at the end of the season, with Everton reportedly looking to bring in former Watford coach Marco Silva or Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paulo Fonseca.

Player of the Season: Jordan Pickford

№9: Leicester City

Leicester had a difficult start to the season and for at least a third of it they looked a team in deep trouble, but positive results during the winter months steadied the ship and after enjoying calm spring the Foxes secured top ten finish without too many flashes in their campaign. Four defeats in the opening six rounds and just one league win come mid-October saw coach Shakespeare sacked after round 8, with Leicester sitting just above the relegation zone at that point. Claude Puel was appointed in charge for the home clash against Everton in round 10 and the 2:0 win that was achieved in this match started an impressive run until mid-December that brought 5 successes, 2 draws and just 1 defeat against the future champions Man City. This cemented the mid-table position for the rest of the campaign. January was difficult month for Puel as the team’s best player Riyad Mahrez demanded a transfer out, but Leicester blocked his move to Man City on deadline day and the frustrated Algerian didn’t even turn up for training for several weeks after that. The entire team was affected by that and this was one of the reasons why Leicester recorded just 2 wins between rounds 18 and 29. Late in the campaign Mahrez was playing again and with the atmosphere calmer Vardy enjoyed another great scoring season, while the summer arrival Maguire was the only solid defender in the back line that shipped in 60 goals. It was the leaky defence that put pressure on Puel late in the campaign when Leicester were playing only for pride, but really the gaffer shouldn’t harshly criticised as he secured safety with seven rounds to spare and also under him Leicester reached the quarterfinals of both cup competitions.

Player of the Season: Jamie Vardy

№10: Newcastle United

Newcastle achieved way better than expected top half finish on their return to the top flight, with the main merit for this great achievement given to the talented manager Rafa Benitez. The loved by the fans gaffer decided to stay after the promotion, despite the fact that he was not given money in the summer to strengthen the squad and for the best part of five months before Christmas Newcastle were on the verge of being sold, until the talks collapsed just before the end of the year. Using pretty much the same line-up as in the Championship the previous season Newcastle had to work hard for every point and 4 wins in the opening 9 rounds at least gave some early base on which to build on. The most challenging period for the team was between late October and mid-December with Newcastle earning a single point from the nine matches they played during this stretch. Only crucial and very fortunate 3:2 away win against West Ham right before Christmas kept the Magpies just above the drop zone come the turn of the year. This was when the season dramatically improved, with Benitez again not given big money to sign players in January, but still he managed to add three new faces to the line-up and especially goalkeeper Dubravka and winger Kenedy played major roles since joining. Newcastle started 2018 on a run of just one defeat in eight and despite drawing five of these games they kept adding points on the board and this saw them opening breathing space in the battle for survival. Come springtime the influential playmaker Shelvey hit top form and Newcastle won five of their last six home matches not just to secure safety with four games to spare, but also to achieve top ten finish.

Player of the Season: Jonjo Shelvey

№11: Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace had an awful start to the campaign that saw them making an early managerial change and setting two unwanted Premier League records – losing all of their opening seven games and also failing to even score a goal in them. A lot to do with this poor start to the season had the fact that the team’s big star and most important player Wilfried Zaha got injured in round 1 and he didn’t recover until mid-October. Frank De Boer was given the job only in the summer, but after just 4 rounds he was sacked and Roy Hodgson was trusted to save the Eagles from what seemed inevitable relegation come September. Hodgson’s first three games in charge didn’t bring any improvement, but then Zaha returned for round 8 and it was his goal that brought the famous 2:1 win over Chelsea and put the first points on the board. Palace enjoyed eight-game unbeaten run between rounds 12 and 19 and this was followed by a heroic 0:0 home draw against Man City on New Year’s Eve, which saw the Eagles welcoming 2018 just outside the relegation zone after being bottom for more than half of the time before that. Benteke was a major disappointment in attack and he even lost his starting spot late in the season, while Zaha’s importance was undisputable as in February he got injured again and missed three games, with Palace losing them all. The defenders had strong periods mixed with poor displays, but the one constant and very influential performer was Luka Milivojevic. Despite playing as a holding midfielder, or even part of the back line at times, he scored 10 goals and the Serbian was not only in the top five in terms of successful tackles made and interceptions, but was also the best set piece taker in the Premier League at the end of the campaign. It was exactly the contributions from Milivojevic and Zaha in key games during the second half of the season that saw Palace securing their safety with a game to spare. Ending the season on a run of four wins and two draws helped the Eagles to finish as high as they did, but up until round 37 they didn’t have guaranteed safety and it was another campaign that saw Palace narrowly avoiding the drop.

Player of the Season: Luka Milivojevic

№12: Bournemouth

Another solid campaign for Bournemouth who finished in a fairly comfortable mid-table position in 12th place though lack of consistency meant that they missed out on a chance to secure a top half finish for a second season running. The campaign got off to a disastrous start for Bournemouth who picked up just four points from their opening eight games, which included defeats in their first four matches, while being shut out on five occasions. The poor start meant the Cherries struggled to pull clear of the relegation zone for large portions of the first half of the season with Howe even attempting to switch formation in order to turn things around, but with limited success. Bournemouth did enjoy a good run of form during the festive period, which included excellent victories over Arsenal and Chelsea, but defensive problems resurfaced in the final weeks of the campaign, and Bournemouth could only manage just three more wins from their final 12 games to cap off a frustrating campaign for their fans. Howe was handicapped a bit by injury problems to two of his key players with Joshua King and Junior Stanislas making just 27 and 17 starts respectively: should Bournemouth keep the duo fit, coupled with new additions, then they should enjoy another successful campaign next season.

Player of the Season: Joshua King

№13: West Ham United

A season that threatened to go out of control finally ended on a fairly comfortable note for West Ham who finished the campaign in a mid-table position, sitting nine points clear of the relegation zone and just two away from the top half of the table. Despite once again spending big in the transfer market by bringing in Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez, West Ham struggled to get going and managed just two wins from their opening 11 games which left them sitting just outside the relegation zone and led to Slaven Bilic's dismissal. The Hammers' decision to appoint David Moyes as Bilic's replacement was not welcomed by the fans though the former Manchester United coach did stabilize the results somewhat and even succeeded in bringing the best out of Arnautovic who was having a dismal season so far. Injuries played a major role in West Ham's inconsistent performances under Moyes with a number of key players out for long periods. The Hammers remained uncomfortably close to the relegation zone for large portions of the campaign, and only a late surge in form, which saw them collect seven points from their final three games, ensured they finished 13th in the table. While Moyes did fulfill his brief of helping West Ham pull away from the relegation zone, the Scottish coach failed to win over the fans and has since been let go. The Hammers face a crucial summer both in terms of player recruitment and a permanent successor to Bilic if they are to enjoy a far more comfortable campaign next season.

Player of the Season: Marko Arnautovic

№14: Watford

Watford failed to secure top ten finish yet again, but the Hornets were at least solid enough to stay out of the bottom three all season and despite changing managers midway through the campaign and dealing with long-term injuries to at least five-six players almost constantly the Hornets should celebrate the fact that they didn’t have too many turbulences this campaign. Promising start for the signed in the summer coach Marco Silva saw Watford securing four wins and three draws in the opening eight rounds and come October the Hornets were even knocking on the top four. Doucoure and Chalobah formed formidable midfield partnership early in the season and it was very unfortunate that the latter suffered a season-ending injury in round 5. Kaboul also played his last match in round 4 and these problems to two of the regular starters unsettled Watford in the long term. The problems started in late October with Watford losing 8 of 11 between then and Christmas. Coach Silva only just has refused to take charge of Everton at the beginning of this poor stretch. He must have regretted that as come round 24 in mid-January he was surprisingly sacked after Watford began 2018 with one draw and two defeats. Javi Gracia took charge then and his first five games at the helm brought ten points, which again lifted Watford way above the teams in trouble. Quickly the sacking of Silva proved harsh though as it was the many absent through injury players that were affecting the performances, not so much the style of play or the effort put in, and even under Gracia Watford had difficulties late in the season as they earned just two points between rounds 30 and 36. Despite that the point tally was good enough to keep the side safe comfortably and many wonder how far the Hornets could have gone if all their starters had been fit.

Player of the Season: Abdoulaye Doucoure

№15: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton enjoyed a successful return to the Premier League as they defied pre-season predictions of being relegated. They ended the campaign in a fairly comfortable fashion, finishing seven points above the relegation zone despite a dip in form in the final weeks. After a shaky start to the season, Brighton quickly hit their stride and were in and out of the top half of the table for majority of the campaign. Coach Chris Hughton deployed a well drilled side that was rarely outplayed by their opposition, with only Liverpool and Chelsea managing to score more than two goals against them until April. Despite the club spending a sizeable amount in boosting their firepower upfront, it was an old head that played a key role in guiding them to safety. Glenn Murray chipped in with crucial goals at regular intervals and had Brighton been more clinical in front of goal, especially against teams sitting around them in the league table, Hughton could very well have guided the Seagulls into a top half finish. There are areas that need improvement if Brighton are to enjoy another successful campaign next season with the Seagulls especially poor on the road where they were shut out on 12 occasions, managing to score just 10 goals over the course of the season. Brighton will also need to improve on their finishing ability, with the club scoring just 34 goals over the season, representing the second worst attack amongst the teams that survived the drop.

Player of the Season: Pascal Gross

№16: Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield defied the odds on their return to the top flight after 45 years of absence and despite being seen as doomed to go down straight away the Terriers stuck in to their task all campaign and guided by the inspiring coach Wagner they achieved survival to stun those pundits that underestimated the quality of the players. Huddersfield opened the season with four clean sheets in the opening six rounds and this quick start established the team in the middle of the table. Despite winning only in rounds 1 and 2 and then having to wait until late October for their next league success the strong start calmed everyone in the squad. Mounie and Depoitre were leading the attack with mixed success, Van La Parra had rare moments of brilliance that helped, Mooy was the creative engine in midfield, Schindler and Zanka were solid in defence, but arguably the best player during the season was goalkeeper Lossl, who was making on average 4.9 saves per match. Huddersfield’s most famous moment this campaign was in round 9 when an outstanding home display against Man United saw the Terriers winning 2:1 and giving themselves even greater breathing space in the battle for survival. Naturally for newcomers things got difficult at times and in two separate stretches Huddersfield endured five-game losing streaks. However, crucial wins over Bournemouth and West Brom in back-to-back rounds at the end of February kept the Terriers in control of their own destiny for the rest of the season. Huddersfield won only one of their last ten games, but key draws in important games were more than enough to see the safety secured with a round to spare, which was all the fans and the team wanted in first place.

Player of the Season: Jonas Lossl

№17: Southampton

Southampton looked destined to drop back into the Championship for large portions of the campaign but a late escape helped them just about manage to secure their Premier League status for another season. The decision to change the coach in the final two months ultimately proved to be the right one. Having let go Claude Puel for what the club perceived to be less than exciting football, Southampton brought in Mauricio Pellegrino to fire them back into European contention. But they were in trouble right from the start, with a second round exit from the League Cup to Wolves giving early warning signs. Southampton did pick up victories with some regularity, especially against teams who were also struggling for form. A decent run of results at the start of the new year raised hopes of a turnaround, but a heavy defeat to Newcastle United left the Saints on the verge of dropping into the bottom three, resulting in Pellegrino's sacking with the Argentine coach being replaced by Mark Hughes. Southampton took their time to settle under Hughes and a return of just one point from his first four games in the Premier League meant that the Saints were cut adrift from safety. Hughes though was able to turn things around just in time, as crucial victories over Bournemouth and fellow relegation strugglers Swansea City saw the Saints climb out of the relegation zone, thanks to some key displays by Dusan Tadic who ended the campaign with six goals and three assists. Though their final game did end in a defeat, Swansea too failed to pick up any points which helped Southampton clinch their Premier League status for another season.

Player of the Season: Dusan Tadic

№18: Swansea City

After narrowly avoiding the drop last season Swansea suffered painful relegation this time around despite changing managers halfway through the campaign and improving their results late in the season under Carvalhal. Slow start to the season, 5 points collected from the opening 7 games, put immediate pressure on Swansea and coach Clement, who saw his main summer signings turning into failures very quickly. Bony suffered with injuries all campaign and hardly impacted the forward actions, Sanchez was the same in midfield, with Clucas and Abraham looking unprepared for regular top flight action. Things got even worse for the Swans in the autumn and after collecting just 4 points between rounds 9 and 18 Clement was sacked, with Swansea sitting bottom of the table come Christmas time. Carvalhal was appointed for the away clash vs. Watford on New Year’s Eve, which the Swans won 2:1 and at least in his first two months at the helm the Portuguese gaffer sparked revival. Four wins and four draws between rounds 23 and 30, plus the best ever FA Cup run for Swansea, the quarterfinals were reached in this competition, helped the team to even exit the bottom three come March, but this was when Carvalhal’s honeymoon ended. Being very poor in their forward actions all campaign, Swansea scored just 3 goals in the last 9 rounds and had the fewest shots attempted on their travels from all Premier League teams, they fell in trouble again after collecting just two points from seven games right at the end of the campaign. Still the chances of survival looked good with the last two clashes being both at home and against the level on points Southampton and the already relegated team of Stoke. However, the Swans lost both these games and this was what saw them failing to avoid the drop, a threat that was hanging over them for three consecutive years and eventually saw them fail.

Player of the Season: Alfie Mawson

№19: Stoke

Stoke City's 10-year stay in the Premier League came to an end as they suffered another poor campaign, with a return of just seven wins seeing them finish two points and one place above the foot of the table. Stoke did make a decent start to the season, securing a shock win over Arsenal, but the campaign quickly went off the rails and they could only manage three more victories until the end of the year while crucial defeats against fellow relegation strugglers Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and West Ham saw them drop into the bottom three. A disappointing defeat against Coventry City in the FA Cup third round proved to be the last straw which saw Mark Hughes sacked. Paul Lambert took over on a temporary basis and he was off to an encouraging start, losing just once in his opening six games. However, the Potters could only manage two wins under the former Wolves' coach with the second win coming on the final day of the season after their relegation had already been confirmed. Stoke were poor all over the pitch with the first half of the season seeing them leak goals; the club ended the campaign with the joint worst defensive record in the league, and while Lambert did shore up the defence somewhat, it came at the cost of scoring goals at the other end. The club managed to score more than once on just two occasions in the 15 games he had been in charge. Things were not helped with off the field disciplinary issues with three of their marquee signings in Ibrahim Afellay, loan signing Jese and Saido Berahino being dropped from the first team. The Potters understandably lacked firepower upfront, with Xherdan Shaqiri top scoring with just eight goals, leaving them three points short of securing their safety from relegation.

Player of the Season: Xherdan Shaqiri

№20: West Bromwich Albion

West Brom’s poor summer selection and continuing dreadful form from the previous season, plus the failed managerial change halfway through the campaign, saw the Baggies never really looking like a team capable to avoid the drop and despite the very late revival under their third coach of the season they were doomed ever since February to go down. Back-to-back 1:0 wins in the first two rounds fooled the fans that Pulis would be able to succeed with the rudimental type of players he liked to buy, but these two wins were followed by a dreadful twenty-game winless run in the league, halfway through which Pulis was sacked and Pardew appointed in charge. Playing some ugly football under both managers West Brom simply couldn’t turn things around and Pardew needed nine league games before recording his first win at the club. Having very similar destructive-type of midfielders in their ranks and being unable to control the ball very well West Brom were boring to watch all season and Pardew definitely didn’t improve anything after his arrival. The relegation was practically confirmed in early March with the Baggies collecting a single point from nine games during early spring, which saw Pardew sacked after round 32. Moore took charge for the last few games and he sparked some revival – 3 wins, 2 draws and just 1 defeat – but by that point it was too late for any change of the fortunes and West Brom finished bottom of the table, a place in which they spent more than half of the campaign.

Player of the Season: Jake Livermore