Monday, May 23, 2011

The Premiership Season End of Term Marks

So, it's all over. Not exactly a vintage season but as usual with the world's most watched league plenty of drama and not a small amount of controversy. As the dust now settles it's time to give the assorted protagonists their end of term report cards. So, starting at the top.

Manchester United, 'A'
Hardly a vintage season for the Reds but a record nineteenth title was duly delivered and that is all that matters. Regardless of the result at Wembley this week they have backed up their domestic success with another sound European campaign. There is however rebuilding work to be done this Summer starting with the goalkeeping position.

Chelsea, 'C'
Second place is far from a disaster but a dreadful Winter left only a fleeting glimmer of real hope in lifting this year's title. Ancelotti has duly been axed by a board and owner that has lost touch with reality. Disappointment came also in the shape of a premature European exit and despite the signings of Luiz and Torres, further squad rebuilding is required as well as the hunt for another manager ready for sacrifice.

Manchester City, 'B-'
Mancini and their spin doctors will have you believe this was a glorious season with the twin targets of the Champions League and silverware both being achieved. The reality is however that with a modicum of management stability established and a squad that is the envy of most of Europe, a credible title challenge could and should have been expected. The removal of the transfer scatter gun and the successful recruiting of one or two top class players this Summer will dictate whether they can achieve what should be their minimum aim next season - The Title.

Arsenal, 'D'
Pretty football for much of the season with decent results up until February coupled with an utter collapse thereafter. This could apply to any of their previous five seasons, repeat ad tedium. Wenger continues to remain in complete denial and unless some money is spent this Summer then Arsenal will be in very real danger of losing their top four status with what may be a rejuvenated Liverpool. The sale of their disillusioned captain Cesc may provide some of the funds required, he has been a lesser force this year in any respect.

Spurs, 'B-'
Very tempting to give them a 'C' due to all their ludicrous talk of making a credible title challenge this season but they receive an extra notch for an entertaining but ultimately fruitless Champions League campaign. Spurs will now find they have hit a glass ceiling and their chances of returning to the top four next season look bleak yet again. Reinforcements at centre back and in the striking department look paramount and it is time that Wenger became not the only manager in North London to be criticised for his goalkeeping choices. Spurs will not achieve anything with Gomes in goal. A tough Summer will ensue with targets to identify as well as the likes of Bale and Modric to be kept.

Liverpool, 'C-'
More accurately a E for Hodgson and a B- (so far) for Dalglish. A season spent mainly in mid table for this once great club is however wholly unacceptable and they remain a million miles away from their neighbours in red who have now surpassed their title haul. This Summer will prove or otherwise the commitment of their new American owners and Dalglish's work will be properly assessed after a full season in charge. A return to the top four will be their minimum target next year.

Everton, 'C+'
Another uneventful season for the Toffees. One could assume that if David Moyes could somehow get his team to win the occasional match before Christmas then they could make a credible challenge for higher places but the reality is they have a threadbare squad - with some admitted quality - that will struggle to regularly trouble the top six. More ambition is required from the board.

Fulham, 'B'
Losing Roy Hodgson to Liverpool and trying to follow up the previous years' exploits of their superb run to the Europa League final was meant to be a bridge too far for Fulham. Mark Hughes looking to rebuild his reputation after his sacking from Manchester City endured a sticky start and things did not look good for the men from Craven Cottage. A rock solid second half to the season however has seen Fulham steadily climb the table with a respectable points total. A solid return to football from Sparky.

Aston Villa, 'D'
Awful season for the team from the second city. Having hit their own glass ceiling of sixth place for a couple of seasons, the parting of the ways with Martin O'Neil saw the Villans plunged into relegation trouble for much of the season before pulling themselves clear after the illness to Gerrard Houllier. Despite a seemingly decent chairman in Learner, the club's ambition and direction are both in question and another season of mediocrity would seem to be all their long suffering fans can hope for.

Sunderland, 'C'
Steve Bruce continues to flatter to deceive as a manager, yet another 'big club' who flirted briefly with relegation woes after a truly awful run of form after a promising start. A replacement for Darren Bent is required should the club wish to stay away from the bottom of the table next season.

West Brom, 'B-'
This blog was highly critical of the decision to sack Roberto Di Matteo and the 'hire them fire them' policy of Premiership clubs remains an issue. That being said however the pick up in results since Hodgson was brought in to keep the club in the Premiership is without question with the relative affluence of mid table being achieved.

Newcastle United 'B'
Despite the stupidity of Ashley's decision to sack the up and coming Chris Hughton and replace him with his crony Alan Pardew, the Toon shook off pre season predictions of a relegation battle and achieved the minimum of Premiership stability. One or two good signings and the use of the Andy Carroll money could see Newcastle pushing on next season although the quality of the manager and the board remains a huge issue.

Stoke City, 'A-'
Fabulous season for the Potters, a very safe mid table finish, a trip to the Cup Final and European football next season is a wonderful return for a club with this level of resources. It is a shame that they came up short in the cup final but it was no disgrace to lose to a vastly superior City side. The reality for Stoke however is this is probably as good as it gets and one would hope that they don't fall into the trap that the likes of Charlton did in the past allowing a manager who has worked wonders for them to leave trying to pursue further glories that are simply unobtainable in modern day football.

Bolton Wanderers, 'B+'
Owen Coyle has further enhanced his reputation with a solid finish in the league table and some good football being played in the process. Only their semi final hammering at Wembley at the hands of Stoke City slightly tarnished what was an otherwise excellent season.

Blackburn, 'D'
Rank stupidity from the people at Venkys oversaw the firing of the highly capable Sam Allardyce, the appointment of a novice manager and the distracting nonsense of transfer talk regarding Beckham and Ronaldinho. Theirs is an exercise in how not to run a football club summed up by their forcing of Keen to attend the monthly (lack of) progress meeting in Pune this past week despite the need to prepare the players for the final day. One fears for the club in both the short and medium term despite their final day survival.

Wigan, 'B-'
A nail biting finish to the season but safety was duly delivered. Martinez continues to stick to his principles and Dave Whelan must be applauded for his determination to stand by his man (Chelsea take note). Next year will be a struggle again but they continue to punch well above their weight.

Wolves, 'C+'
Again, survival was only achieved on the final day but they are still in the division and that is all that counts. Wolverhampton will again struggle next season but it is nice to see Mick McCarthy finally achieving something in the top flight, he has worked hard for it.

Birmingham City, 'E'
Hard to award an 'E' when they won a trophy but it is an irrelevance in the grand scheme of things now that they will be playing in the Championship next season. McLeish must shoulder much of the blame but it is clear that the board and owner has done little to support someone who is 'not their man' and a parting of the ways this Summer must be inevitable.

Blackpool, 'C'
Had they stayed up they would have been awarded the third 'A' in the class but alas they fell short as predicted by this blog. The Premiership was a brighter place for their presence with Holloway and his players giving their all in every match. A squad that in reality was only really good enough for the Championship at best meant relegation was expected but they should be applauded for pushing it so far. It looks likely that their squad will disintegrate this Summer and staying in the Championship next season may even be a tall order now the momentum has gone. A very cruel end to the season for this brave team.

West Ham United, 'E'
One of the poorest efforts in the Premiership in living memory. The capitulation at Wigan last weekend summed up their season. Whilst holding nothing against West Ham nor their fans, it is hard to shed a tear for Gold, Sullivan and Brady - the bad, the bad and the ugly in that order - who's arrogance and false swagger is so distasteful to all. The decision to sack Zola was questionable but understandable but the choice of Grant was a poor one and the board must take full responsibility for the club's relegation. Terence Brown doesn't seem so bad now.