Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Premiership Report Card

The season is finally over, it's time to mark the end of term report cards for the clubs (based on Premiership performance only).

Manchester City, A
Hard to give anything less to the Champions. Yes they made it harder for themselves than they needed to but the trophy is what counts. They have scored a hatful of goals and played some excellent football to boot.

City need to find a way to stamp their authority better in the big games but they remain a force simply too good for the vast majority. A successful first season for Pellegrini, we're just waiting now for Mancini to try to take the credit.

Liverpool, A
So nearly for the Reds only to stumble at the final few hurdles. This season was probably their best chance as next season will be far tougher. There will be the Champions League to deal with, higher expectations and no 'element of surprise' - you certainly won't see Chelsea loaning them players next season.

Regardless, Liverpool have done fantastically well and deserve many of the plaudits that have come their way even if the press became sickening in their fawning over them in the last weeks turning many neutrals off.

It is hard not to feel sorry for Steven Gerrard but Liverpool must look to the future and continue to build and strengthen primarily at the back. Raheem Sterling looks a fabulous talent, keeping Luis Suarez is a must. A fine season.

Chelsea, C+
Possibly a little harsh on my own club given that they mounted a legitimate challenge but Chelsea missed a huge opportunity to win the league. Home wins against Norwich and Sunderland would have seen Chelsea going into the final day in charge.

Ponderous performances and some overly cautious tactics ultimately cost them the league and some legitimate striking options must be a priority over the Summer. Not a bad season but there is much work for Mourinho to do.

Arsenal, C-
We keep hearing about Wenger's 'top four trophy' but the reality is that Arsenal are going nowhere. Lots of pretty football and title talk around the turn of the year followed by the inevitable implosion in the Spring.

Whilst Ozil gave the Arsenal fans a huge filip in the Summer, he ultimately flattered to deceive and Arsenal need steel, quality and numbers to be recruited this Summer (haven't we said this before?) if they are to be anything else other than Champions League qualifying also rans.

Everton, B+
Whilst I don't believe that Everton have made the sparkling progress under Martinez that many believe they have, there is no doubt that keeping Everton in 5th place is a fantastic achievement, it's just one that Davie Moyes managed several times also we shouldn't forget.

Both Everton's football and ambition have improved but they were found wanting towards the end of the season when CL qualification became a realistic proposition.

How Everton replicate their success in the loan market this Summer will dictate whether they can continue to occupy such a lofty position, regardless a fine season for the men from Goodison.

Spurs, C
It's hard to mark Spurs with any real conviction. They remain a top six club with lofty ambitions but little else. Regardless of their transfer outlay in the Summer, their net spend was neglible resulting in a bloated squad of similiar quality and the loss of their one true match winner.

Managerial issues have also hindered the men from White Hart Lane and their near perrenial glass ceiling of the Europa League looks to be their lot in life.

ManUtd, F
Rubbish, awful, terrible, where to start for the previous seasons' Champions? Following Ferguson was always going to be the impossible job but Moyes' effort was still poor.

Only De Gea, Jones (potentially), Mata, RVP, Rooney and Januzaj (potentially) look like players of the standard required to win titles. Much rebuilding required although it is hard to believe they will be worse next season.

Like Liverpool this season, they may benefit in the league from having no European football.

Southampton, B+
Whilst Southampton faded after their wonderful start, they finished the season a highly creditable eight place. They have rightly won plaudits for their fine football and should be very proud of their season.

The paradox of such success however is that the vultures are circling over both their prize playing assets and their manager. How Southampton conduct their business this Summer will give us a good indication as to their level of ambition and prospects from here.

Stoke, B+
The time honoured 'be careful what you wish for' was wheeled out when Stoke parted company with Tony Pulis. Analogies to when Charlton parted company with the long serving Alan Curbishley were offered up and Stoke were expected to struggle.

After a sticky start, Mark Hughes steered Stoke to their best ever Premiership finish. Whilst it's hard to see where Stoke can go from here they have again confounded the critics and are well deserving of their mid table stability.

Newcastle, D
It's hard to feel anything less than pity for the Toon Army who in many ways resemble a faithful puppy constantly kicked by their owner.

Brief glimpses of a bright future are continually dashed by the hierarchy presiding over St James Park (we shall not call it anything else). The sale of Johan Cabaye caused Newcastle's season to implode and should they begin the season in anything like the form they have showed since February then they are in deep trouble already.

Alan Pardew's antics have become increasingly erratic and with his relationship with Mike Ashley the subject of much speculation, it could be another Summer of discontent for the Toon.

Crystal Palace, A+
Arguably the most incredible turnaround since the inception of the Premiership. Ian Holloway's madcap Summer supermarket sweep had left Palace with one of the biggest squads in Europe's top leagues but also one of the worst.

Tony Pulis required a large degree of persuading to take the reins but once doing so he has done a phenomenal job scoring points for the Eagles at near Europa League pace.

An outstanding job giving Palace the opportunity to cease their yo-yo habit.

Swansea, C
The fact that mid table obscurity is marked so low shows how far the Welsh club have come. It was however a season where managerial upheaval and an inability to cope with the rigours of European football badly affected their league form.

Swansea badly need to regroup this Summer and get back to being the tidy well run club they were previously.

West Ham, C
Many Hammers fans would probably argue for an 'F' but the reality is that West Ham's history dictates that mid table safety is not a bad outcome.

The natives are highly restless however with Allardyce's tactics and team selections and it is unlikely that he will last the Summer. The squad looks sub standard and a tricky period awaits the club.

Sunderland, D
It is probably more appropriate to mark three quarters of the season as an 'F' followed by an 'A+' but the reality is that it has been a poor season for the Wearsiders mainly of their own doing.

Di Canio was never the right appointment and there are rumours that Gus Poyet is also unhappy. The club badly needs some stability if they are not to flirt with disaster again.

Aston Villa, D
Very nearly an 'F' for the Villians but they live to fight another day. It is hard to establish whether Lambert's lack of progress is solely down to Randy Lerner closing the cheque book or whether the Glaswegian is also going in the wrong direction.

A new owner may or not help but it could be another tough season at Villa Park if matters are not sorted out quickly and we suspect they won't be.

Hull, B-
37 points is hardly anything to get excited about but merely staying up is a cracking result for Hull. They have at times played some good football and look to be building a capable squad slowly but surely.

Second season syndrome will have to be avoided if they wish to build on this term but there are reasons to be cheerful for the City fans.

West Brom, D
The Baggies were seriously threatening to lose their tag as a yo yo club but it has been a poor season at the Hawthorns. Unable to replace Lukaku's goals, Steve Clarke was prematurely jettisoned only for the slightly bizarre appointment of Pepe Mel seen as the answer.

With Shane Long also moved on, West Brom continued to struggle. A sound managerial appointment this Summer is a must if they are to have a better season next time around.

Norwich, F
The Canaries appeared to almost autopilot towards relegation this season. Poor transfer signings and an inability by Chris Hughton to find a tactical solution that worked saw them dragged remorselessly into the relegation mire.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel must rival for the poorest signing of the season and wages in the Championship will now be a burden for the team.

Fulham, F
Mohammed Fayed was an often eccentric owner but he gave Fulham remarkable stability. Shahid Khan has shown little understanding of football since he has taken over.

The sacking of Martin Jol was party understandable but the appointment of Rene Meulensteen and allowing him to break the bank for Kostas Mitroglou was far more questionable. Having then backed him in the transfer market, Khan then dispensed with him swiftly.

The 'emergency break glass' solution of Felix Magath failed to save the Cottagers and Mitroglou must be left wondering how he has gone in six months from scoring Champions League hat tricks to playing in the Championship and pushing Van Wolfswinkel for the worst signing of the season.

Cardiff, F
Like a bad soap opera, Cardiff's very public implosion has been painful to watch. Vincent Tan appears to be yet another owner with not the faintest idea how to run a football club. Whilst there are no doubt two sides to the Malky MacKay story, sacking him clearly did the club no favours.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's acceptance of the job seems a slightly bizarre one given how highly rated he was but the lure of the Premiership is great.

Unfortunately he is now in the Championship and what he requires is an owner to leave him to work without interference if they are to have any hope of returning to the top tier.

No Nonsense.