From champs to relegation chumps; how they ranked this season...
Not much has changed at Arsenal. Another comfortable finish in the top four, a chance to retain the FA Cup to come and the almost perpetual defeat in the early knockout stages of the Champions League. There were seeds of promise and with further investment in key areas in the summer, they should be able to close the gap on Chelsea. Overtaking them is another matter entirely on the basis of this campaign.
Player of the season: Alexis Sánchez – started brilliantly although tired towards the end
High point: Winning at Manchester City
Low point: Getting the Harry Kane treatment at White Hart Lane
Manager: Arsène Wenger’s enthusiasm remains but has still to strengthen in key areas
Doomed under Paul Lambert, Tim Sherwood came in and, led by Christian Benteke, steadied the ship. An FA Cup final awaits and although they are still capable of the odd capitulation – see last week's shameful first half at Southampton – they survived on the basis of other teams being even worse off. Yet it would be no surprise to see them pull out a one-off performance to defeat Arsenal and end the campaign with an unlikely trophy.
Player of the season: Christian Benteke – when motivated, he is unstoppable
High point: Winning 4-0 at a shambolic Sunderland
Low point: Being hammered at Southampton
Manager: Tim Sherwood got the job done, even if not always convincingly
Sean Dyche endured very little criticism, perhaps justified when one considers the resources available to him, but it was still a very disappointing campaign for the Lancastrians who returned to the Championship without too much of a fight. Overly reliant upon Danny Ings' goals, things went pear-shaped in mid-January, from which point they lost 10 and drew three times in a run of 14 games.
Player of the season: Danny Ings – without his goals they would have been dead and buried by Christmas
High point: The 1-0 win at home to Manchester City
Low point: Going six games with a goal immediately after beating the champions
Manager: Sean Dyhce set his team up to not be easily beaten but season must still be considered a failure
Approach-wise, the season could be split into two parts but José Mourinho's team were the dominant force in both. Before January they played some beautiful free-flowing football. When the title loomed on the horizon they took an approach more concerned with effectiveness than aesthetics, even if the 'boring, boring Chelsea' jokes quickly grew tired.
Player of the season: Eden Hazard – imperious and deservedly voted PFA player of the year
High point: Their blitz of Swansea was the most clinical attacking display of the season
Low point: That roller coaster game at White Hart Lane which they lost 5-3
Manager: José Mourinho will be irked that he failed in Europe, but hard to fault him domestically
What a difference Alan Pardew has made at Selhurst Park. Battling to stay up under Neil Warnock's disastrous, brief reign, the arrival of the former player from Newcastle rapidly galvanised an under-performing squad. With a mid-table place secured rapidly, Palace still managed to effectively end Manchester City’s title challenge and also ruined Steven Gerrard’s Anfield going away party.
Player of the season: Yannick Bolasie – a shining light, who may well be playing on a bigger stage soon
High point: Ending Manchester City’s title fight on another memorable Monday night
Low point: Tony Pulis walking out on the eve of the season and the subsequent installation of Neil Warnock
Manager: Alan Pardew has overseen a remarkable upturn of fortunes after a difficult time on Tyneside
The Europa League hurt their league form significantly earlier in the campaign. Roberto Martínez made no secret that it was the priority due to the winner gaining entry to the Champions League, but a slew of below-par league performances put pressure on him. Once they were knocked out by Dynamo Kyiv, they won four of their next five in the league. Without Europe next season, they should climb a few places but this season’s squad is nowhere near good enough for the top four.
Player of the season: Phil Jagielka – one of few consistently impressive performers
High point: Scoring three without reply against Manchester United
Low point: Winning just once between November and the end of January
Manager: The jury remains out on Roberto Martínez – next season will tell a lot
From an Irish point of view, it will be quite worrying to see Steve Bruce’s team slip into the Championship but it is difficult to argue that they deserve to remain in the top flight after a desperate season, compounded by Jake Livermore’s recent drug ban. Only Burnley have won fewer games and although they will cling on to hope entering Sunday’s final fixture, it will take something special for them to climb out of the bottom three.
Player of the season: Ahmed Elmohamady – an ever-present in an unsettled side
High point: The victory over Liverpool which appeared to significantly strengthen their survival hopes
Low point: Losing the following three games to leave them in the drop zone entering the final day
Manager: Steve Bruce recruited poorly last summer and failed to get those players firing
That they have survived with a game to spare detracts somewhat from their remarkable turnaround over the last six weeks of the season. Nigel Pearson’s team looked dead and buried at the foot of the table before the 2-1 win over West Ham kickstarted run of six wins from seven, the other game being a defeat to the champions. If they can strengthen in the summer, mid-table security appears easily achievable.
Player of the season: Robert Huth – at the centre of their resurgence since joining from Stoke
High point: Coming from a goal down in the final minutes to win 3-2 at West Brom
Low point: When Pearson was sacked before being swiftly reinstated
Manager: Nigel Pearson – proven to be a very good manager despite his off-field misdemeanours
Failed signings, the departure of Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, via his agent, agitating for a move: there have been better seasons at Anfield. It took quite a while for Brendan Rodgers’ side to settle after the heartbreak of last season, but the move to 3-5-2 saw them improve, even if they left themselves with too much to do when it came to finishing in the top four.
Player of the season: Philippe Coutinho – lacking consistency but capable of changing a game
High point: The win over Manchester City which showed flashes of last season’s dazzling play
Low point: Losing 3-0 at Old Trafford despite creating more clearcut chances
Manager: The jury is on Brendan Rodgers, as the side regressed following the loss of Luis Suárez
Manuel Pellegrini has often said retaining a title is harder than winning it. A healthy excuse perhaps but with an ageing squad and signings who have been unable to perform to the required standard, it has been a difficult season. Rumours persist that the Chilean is approaching the exit door but whoever is in charge will need to overhaul a squad that is some way behind Chelsea’s if they are to challenge again.
Player of the season: Sergio Agüero – the most dependable striker in the league
High point: Bragging rights from another Manchester derby win at home
Low point: The skewering at Old Trafford when Yaya Touré and Vincent Kompany went missing
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini often casts the image of a broken man
For three-quarters of the campaign they have played within themselves but they have still achieved their primary goal with time to spare. The big money signings failed to shine, meaning a pair of unlikely heroes in Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini came in from the cold. Without David de Gea rescuing a shaky defence, though, a top-four finish may not have been attained. You get the sense they will be a much greater force next season.
Player of the season: David de Gea – their saviour over and over again
High point: Beating both their biggest rivals at home
Low point: Throwing away a 3-1 lead to lose 5-3 at Leicester
Manager: Louis van Gaal is unorthodox but after a sluggish start has got the results
Another season of discontent on Tyneside could yet end in relegation. It seems like aeons ago since they won five in a row in October and November. Having accrued a single point from the past 30 available, and with just two wins to their name since the turn of the year, they could well rely on Manchester United holding Hull at bay to survive.
Player of the season: Jack Colback – has added steel to an often guileless midfield
High point: Beating Manchester City 2-0 away from home
Low point: Ending with nine men and a 3-0 defeat at Leicester
Manager: John Carver was thrust into a tricky situation but has not done himself any favours
Factor in the punishment for breaches of financial fair play and relegation will hit QPR harder than Burnley and the other side to go down, but much of the blame should lay with Harry Redknapp who cried off with a knee problem when it became obvious that surviving was going to be a struggle. An ageing squad, with factions in the dressing room and a lack of width on the pitch, will need to be rebuilt but restrictions may halt a quick return from the Championship.
Player of the season: Charlie Austin – would have been dead and buried months ago without his goals
High point: The shock 4-1 win at West Brom gave them some hope
Low point: A gutless 6-0 defeat at Manchester City that confirmed their relegation
Manager: Chris Ramsey took a poisoned chalice from Harry Redknapp and must be absolve of a lot of blame for their demise
Stripped of so many key assets before the start of the season, many tipped them for a relegation fight. Nobody predicted them harbouring genuine hopes of fourth place well into the new year, and although they could not keep pace when it came to the final stretch – mostly due to a lack of depth in the squad – it was still a season of great success.
Player of the season: Morgan Schneiderlin – one of the best holding midfielders in the country
High point: Back-to-back wins against Arsenal and Manchester United
Low point: Four straight defeats before Christmas threatened to derail them
Manager: Ronald Koeman has turned out to be a brilliant appointment
So much for the old clichés. Stoke may never be able to break into the top six but they are quickly making a strong case to be considered the best of the rest – and playing some decent football to boot. Sure they can still go direct when the situation suits and they remain as defensively resolute as ever but they are now capable of mixing it up a lot more and deserve plenty of praise for it.
Player of the season: Bojan Krkic – unfortunately injured in January but up until that point had dazzled
High point: Beating Arsenal at home by playing good football
Low point: Always ahead of the curve in the league, it was disappointing they did not progress further in the FA Cup
Manager: Mark Hughes deserves more credit having led Stoke to their highest ever finish
Gus Poyet left with the club in a sorry state but even he could not be held culpable for some of the horrendous defensive errors which permeated a season of horror. To borrow a phrase from David Cameron, it appeared the Black Cats defence were suffering from brain fade at times. When you add in a shortage of firepower up front, it has been a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for Sunderland, other sides have had an even worse mix of ingredients and they had just enough to survive.
Player of the season: Lee Cattermole – a sturdy presence in an often flimsy team
High point: Jermain Defoe's moment of magic against Sunderland which left some players in tears
Low point: The battering served up by Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light
Manager: Dick Advocaat is boastful that he has never been relegated but he only escaped by the skin of his teeth
That Swansea have managed quite well without the prodigious talent of Wilfried Bony in the second half of the season says a lot for Garry Monk, who was a contender for manager of the year. They have stuck true to their possession-based style and have managed to remain comfortably ensconced in the higher reaches of mid-table. It would not be a wild claim to say they will remain a permanent fixture in the top half for some time to come.
Player of the season: Gylfi Sigurdsson – Tottenham must question why they let him go
High point: Ruining Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United bow on the opening day
Low point: Chelsea tearing them to pieces at the Liberty was a shock to the system
Manager: Garry Monk is well-appreciated at the club but under appreciated everywhere eles
Fighting competitively on all fronts was always going to take its toll but having advanced to the League Cup final and reached the last 32 of the Europa League, they lost their way towards the end of winter and a top four fight never looked attainable. The development of several young players offers plenty of optimism though, and if they can continue progressing there should be a renewed assault on the top four next season.
Player of the season: Harry Kane – faded in recent weeks due to fatigue but one of the stories of the season
High point: A toss between beating Chelsea and Arsenal at the Lane
Low point: Being pummelled away to Manchester City
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino struggled to keep pace when fixture list became congested
West Bromwich Albion
Tony Pulis looked a broken man when West Brom threw away a lead against Leicester in April, giving a 30-second press conference involving two questions before leaving the room shaking his head in disbelief. Meanwhile, some fans outside wondered if they would score another goal. In true Pulis fashion, a leaky defence shored up and in the end survival was attained quite comfortably. The magic touch remains, if only just.
Player of the season: Saido Berahino – expect him to depart for greener pastures soon
High point: Even if Chelsea were not up for it, winning 3-0 against the champions will be remembered for a very long time to come
Low point: The consecutive home defeats against QPR and Leicester, conceding seven times in the most un-Pulis fashion
Manager: Even if there were worrying moments, Tony Pulis kept up his fine record of keeping strugglers afloat
West Ham United
When West Ham confirm the departure of Sam Allardyce next week, many fans will rejoice but few can argue that he did what was required. The priority is survival so they can remain in the top flight when they move to the Olympic Stadium next summer but, after a terrific opening to this campaign, Allardyce was exceeding that goal. Because he plays a brand of football that's not the so-called West Ham Way does not mean he was a failure and he can consider himself harshly treated.
Player of the season: Aaron Cresswell – a revelation, now attracting attention from bigger clubs
High point: Home wins over Liverpool and Manchester City will live long in the memory
Low point: The 3-1 defeat to a 10-man Crystal Palace was bleak
Manager: Sam Allardyce is expected to leave despite broadly achieving what he was asked to do
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