Monday, May 14, 2012

The Premiership - End of Term Report

So the season has ended, Citeh are champions and ManYoo's premature but brief gloating put a smile on most people's faces. Newcastle missed out on the Champions League and Bolton were relegated but at least still have Fabrice Muamba's decapitation followed by spontaneous combustion and miraculous Easter resurrection to blame (so that's alright then Owen Coyle). All that is left to do is hand out the end of season report card (for Premiership performance only).

Champions - Manchester City - A
Little else can be awarded to the winners as the job has been done. City sailed as close to the wind as could be and given the club's traditional penchant for disaster it was all the more incredible. Much work needs to be done to remove the disruptive influences in the dressing room and a top quality centre back to partner Kompany is still required. Mancini has been through the ringer this season but the quality of football was often excellent and the title is well deserved.

Runners Up - Manchester United - A
Again, hard to award much else given they finished with 89 points and given that the team is punching above its' weight due to the presence of Ferguson. Europe showed up their true level however right now and quality reinforcements must be found to compliment the likes of Rooney and some promising youngsters, central midfield is a priority.

3rd - Arsenal - C
Little to like about Arsenal's season given that they finished so hopelessly behind and for much of the season were even further off the pace. The team needs substantial investment to rectify the long standing deficiencies that everyone but Wenger is able to see.

4th - Spurs - B
A good season for Spurs who even enjoyed the illusion of a title challenge for a few months. The club has good attacking options but a soft centre and the Summer will be highly interesting to establish whether the club moves forward or has reached its' maximum.

5th - Newcastle - A+
Confounded most pre season predictions with some fantastic performances and a wonderful final position. Will have to endure predatory raids for the crown jewels in the team this Summer but this season is one that the Geordies can finally be proud of.

6th - Chelsea - F
The first 'fail' is awarded to the Stamford Bridge side who have been utterly dreadful for nearly the entire season. The ill judged appointment of Andre Villas Boas belies a wider problem of almost no long term planning due to the manager merry-go-round that they have endured. The reality of financial fair play may have draconian implications for their rebuilding, food for thought for the owner.

7th - Everton - C+
The mark might seem harsh but the reality is that Everton give themselves such an impossible task with their form in the first half of every season that they can never aspire to anything better. The Jelavic signing gave the club a huge lift but another Summer of soul searching awaits the blue half of Merseyside with Moyes' future also being debated.

8th - Liverpool - F
In a word, rubbish. Dalglish can whip out as many soundbites as he likes and make references to 'respect for the club and fans' (ad tedium) but the reality is that Liverpool have been dreadful and have finished a staggering 37 points behind the winners and 17 points behind the Champions league places despite a huge financial outlay since the departure of Torres. They are only 5 points ahead of two of the newly promoted teams and the West Brom of the manager they sacked last season. Enough said.

9th - Fulham - B
Fulham continue on their merry way as the least offensive club in the Premiership with even their closest neighbours Chelsea still quite liking them. Martin Jol has enjoyed a good season at the Cottage after the parting of the ways with Zamora. Clint Dempsey's future will be paramount to their Summer.

10th - West Brom - B+
Woy has again done a good job with a mid to lower table team and given that is England's position at the International table he might not be the worst candidate for manager after all. A top half finish for the Baggies is an excellent return and the fans must surely be happy. The choice of new manager will be an important one.

11th - Swansea - A+
Phenomenal season for the newly promoted club winning points as quickly as they won friends with their attractive passing play. The second season always remains a perilous proposition but the Welsh club are another surprise package that have confounded pre season predictions and should be lauded for doing so.

12th - Norwich City - A+
A slightly more pragmatic approach has been no less successful for the Canaries with Paul Lambert looking to be the latest Scottish managerial success story. Resources are limited and life in the Premiership will remain tough but with the right purchases in the Summer, they like Swansea can harbour hopes of a longer top flight stay.

13th - Sunderland - C-
Big investment at the Stadium of Light has not been translated to results which have again been poor after the initial O'Neil honeymoon period. Hard to see where the club goes from here although given time, O'Neil will ensure they remain competitive if uninteresting.

14th - Stoke - D
It's a measure of how far Stoke have come that 14th place is seen as vastly disappointing. Stoke failed to build on their breakthrough season last year and their one dimensional style is seemingly being figured out despite additions of quality in the Summer. The board need to make sure that Pulis is not jettisoned having 'taken the club as far as he can' as the likes of Charlton will testify to the folly of such decisions.

15th - Wigan - C+
Wigan are a hard team to evaluate as 15th place and 43 points are a tidy return for such a small club. The problem is however that like Everton, their form for most of the season is so poor that they offer little hope of anything other than a relegation battle. Unlikely the club can progress further.

16th - Aston Villa - F
It was always going to be tough for McLeish and it has proven so. Shorn of Downing and Young, what little attacking verve there was could not be replaced by the likes of N'Zogbia who has been massively disappointing whilst Stephen Ireland remains a poor man's enigma.

17th - QPR - E
Given the investment made at the start of the season and again in January, avoiding relegation on the final day is poor. Neil Warnock is not a Premiership manager and with a full Summer to work on matters, it must be hoped that Mark Hughes can get the squad in to some kind of order. The club would do well to dispense with the poisonous influence of Joey Barton however.

18th - Bolton - E
Hopeless for much of the season after losing some of their better loan signings and admittedly some injuries to important players. Some late form was too little too late and one can't help but wonder how different things might have been had they not become so self obsessed over the hopelessly exaggerated Muamba episode. Coyle's stock has not risen since he left Burnley.

19th - Blackburn - F
Few points and even fewer clues at Ewood it seems as to how to sort out the mess that is Blackburn Rovers. The fans turned on both the owners and the manager - seen as their stooge - long ago and the club has been in a downward spiral in truth since Allardyce was so stupidly sacked. The prospects are grim up North.

20th - Wolves - F
Dead last says it all for the doomed club from the Black Country. Large investment was made in the Summer but it derailed the club rather than enhancing performances on the field. McCarthy was powerless to stop the rot but even then his sacking with no better alternative was ludicrous. Uncompetitive for most of a season that became embarrassing.

Manager of the Year - Alan Pardew (Newcastle Utd)
Hard to see it being repeated but Newcastle have been the unquestionable success story of the season narrowly missing out on the Champions League whilst playing some excellent football. Pardew's star has risen again after some failures and it will be interesting to see how he builds on it next season.

Player of the Year - Yaya Toure (Man City)
Other players have caught the eye more but Toure has proven he was worthy of having come from Barca with a level of influence and quality that was unmatched in central midfield this season. City lost their way badly after he was injured yesterday and their form dipped around and after the African Nations. He has proven to be a player of the highest calibre.

Worst signing of the season - Roger Johnson (Wolves)
Fernando Torres, Andy Carroll and Carlos Tevez were all signed in previous seasons so the least coveted award must go to Roger Johnson. 7M was meant to buy Wolves some defensive solidity but instead he has been a disruptive influence and shown awful form, more to blame than anyone for their relegation.