I’ve been meaning to do this overview all week, but I’ve finally come to it! This is going to be an annual post, just as I plan to do an annual post previewing the season closer to the start of the next one where I’ll talk about pre-season, international performances, and the transfer market before making season predictions.
Today, though, I’m going to review each club, starting at the bottom of the table and working my way up. I’ll do a brief overview, and select a top player for each club for the season. Here we go!
As a Birmingham City fan, their relegation wasn’t exactly something worth crying over. We’ll get a derby in the Championship next season, I got to watch them suffer (although I did feel a bit sorry for their fans because it was very ugly football), and this will probably be good for them in the long run. I think most people would agree that their utterly pathetic football is the direct result of long-time dysfunction in the club, and now they have an impetus to sort it. Will they manage? Who knows. I could easily see them fall down to League One next year, and maybe even lower. One does have to spare a bit of pity for supporters of any massive club that has such a fate. But personally, my pity is limited.
Player of the Season: I’ve selected Joleon Lescott. He wasn’t perfect, but let’s just be real here. Their players mostly gave up, all season long, and there was something really frustrating about them. I totally understand why their fans were angry with them. I’d have been furious, were they my club. But Lescott gave me the only glimpses in the games I bothered to watch them of someone who still cared enough to do his job, and sadly, to me, that’s the most they had to give this year.
I had high hopes for these guys. My bff studied abroad in Norwich, and there’s something nice about different color kits on the pitch (although sometimes they were hard to look at early in the morning, which was when the matches were here). Not only that, but Nathan Redmond, former Birmingham City player, played for them, which was all I needed to be cheering them on at every turn. Unfortunately, I think their team just wasn’t ready for the challenges of the Premier League yet, and I hope that this experience doesn’t discourage them, but instead gives them the glimpse they need to pop back up and do even better next time around.
Player of the Season: Nathan Redmond. Yeah, call me biased. But he was one of their most exciting players, and I think he was a severely underused asset to this club. Some of their brightest moments were courtesy of Redmond’s creativity, and I hope to see a lot more of him in future.
So, my dear friend Tess, my one friend living in the UK (studying there), sometimes talks football and cricket with me. We talked quite a bit for a while about Newcastle, as her dad is a Newcastle supporter. During a particularly bad run of cricket, she told me he was having a miserable time every time he checked on the world of sport, between England and Newcastle. At the time, I had a glimmer of hope that they might stay up, but of course, that was before Sunderland switched managers and while Swansea was going through a rough patch. Things just kept going poorly for them, from bad to worse to catastrophic, and I really blame the players.
It was impossible not to feel terrible for the Newcastle supporters, maybe the way I would have felt for Aston Villa fans if they weren’t, you know, Villa fans. They had all the tools, and somehow it just never happened, and I even pitied Steve McLaren for a bit. That pity didn’t last forever, however, but the guy should have been put out of his misery ages before. The players proved they could do it under the new manager, and I doubt it was entirely that Rafa is that much better of a motivational force. Even if just a little bit, I firmly believe that the Newcastle players downed tools.
Player of the Season: Rafa Benitez. Okay, no, he’s not a player. Yes, that’s cheating. But honestly, I can’t pick any of them. I thought about Coloccini, but mostly I was frustrated with him, and I thought about Mitrovic, but he spent more time out on cards and suspension than playing, it sometimes seemed. Benitez was the single best thing to happen to Newcastle this season, and my only regret with him was that they didn’t bring him in sooner. He hardly had the time to accomplish anything, and he clearly needed a couple of weeks to settle in. I hope he sticks it out there, because they love him, and I think it’s a good fit. Championship is a good league, in my humble opinion, and I see no shame in sticking with a relegated side.
Generally, there’s not a lot to be said about Sunderland that hasn’t been said a million times. They pulled off the Great Escape this season, with Big Sam really making a difference in mentality and belief. Whether he’s that great of a coach or not, I think there’s a lot to be said for his reputation instilling belief in a team that’s down on rough times. They managed a big turnaround, and toward the end of the season I even enjoyed watching them play. I don’t see them pulling a Leicester next year, but I think that if Big Sam can keep things going in this way, they may not be in the battle again.
Player of the Season: Jermaine Defoe. Obvious, I know, but when you’ve got a consistent goal-scorer it can make a world of difference in a relegation fight. He was someone they could depend on, even when the chips were down, and he’s still such a wonderful striker to watch.
This is the bad-luck tale of the season, for me. They had this incredible start, and I followed them at the beginning with such a buzz of excitement. I had Callum Wilson on my fantasy team, and I was sure he was going to score me major points. Eddie Howe was so vibrant and promising, and they were really one of my pre-season darlings, them and Leicester. Unfortunately, were chips fell well for Leicester, they fell terribly for Bournemouth. Injuries upon injuries upon injuries, and there was just no sense to it. Callum Wilson’s injury broke my heart (but I swapped him for Vardy, so it turned out okay in the end), and I actually cried. My mom can testify to that. Not a great showing, but they stuck it out, they stayed up, and I believe they’ve got all the ingredients to creep up the table next season, provided it a bit more luck.
Player of the Season: Josh King. Again, bit of an obvious one, but sometimes obvious is good.
There was a bit of underachieving going on here. It’s difficult for me to say why it happened. Some would blame it on bad luck, or not getting the decisions, and I know their manager has made these claims. Maybe there’s a bit of that. I don’t know. I don’t like making those excuses. I feel like they were tired, with their long and impressive cup runs. Just today, they lost to Man U in the FA Cup final. Long runs like that, no silverware to show for it, and rather a poor league result to go along with it? I know “wasted energy” is a bit harsh, but I’ve just not been overly impressed. I feel they could do better, and they’re just not.
Player of the Season: Yannick Bolasie. No real technical reason other than that I love him, he’s a stalwart of the club, and he’s DRC (which I’ve got a soft spot for). That, and nobody really captured me from Palace.
West Bromich Albion
Is it sad that the only thing of remark to say about Pulis’s side is the whole Said Berahino mess from the beginning of the season? He wanted to go, he was wanted, and in the end he was told no and he pouted on Twitter. Benched for ages, finally comes back, has a pretty good season, and that was that. I mean, I’m a Stoke supporter. I know that there’s often nothing remarkable or pretty about Tony Pulis play. That’s fine. But I can’t even name most of their players, that’s how uneventful West Brom were for me this year. I mean, they’re repping their region. And that’s great. But they’re not doing it with…especially memorable or breathtaking football. Maybe next year?
Player of the Season: Not necessarily the best player, but good or bad or not even playing, this was definitely the year of Saido Berahino. I thought about Rondon, but in the end I decided that as I’m not calling it “best” player of the season, and nearly all the things to talk about were from him, Saido gets the crown this year. Call it the dunce cap, if you’d like.
They had a great season. Yes, poor patch at the end, but you know what, it was a great season. I mean, what more could be asked of Quique? NOTHING. That’s what. Nothing more could have been asked of him, and I’m boggled that they’ve sacked Quique Sanchez Flores, my darling bohemian scarf man version of Hugh Laurie. I tuned in to Watford matches just to see if he was wearing his scarf, and I ALWAYS watched his post-match interview. Something about him made me happy, and he did nothing WRONG. I just don’t understand. It’s very upsetting.
Player of the Season: Troy Deeney. Because I can’t name Quique’s Scarf as a player. Bit of a stretch, even for me.
Bit middling. Not a ton of drama, not much verve to speak of. They picked themselves out of their rough patch – perhaps because of tossing their manager, although I don’t like believing that. Sometimes a bright spot, but usually just sort of there.
Player of the Season: Again, I’ll go obvious here and say Gylfi Sigurdsson. He’s the only person I even consistently remember from them, half because of his name and half because he made consistent contributions to the side. Also, speaking of cool names, Angel Rangel gets an honorable mention purely because HONESTLY there’s no better name in the league.
This was depressing, and I’ll just out with it and blame Roberto Martinez. They massively underachieved, the back half just imploding. I mean, WHERE was the defense? I had Stones on my fantasy team at the start of the season, but I tossed him for Monreal quick because I just couldn’t see anything worth banking on. Even Tim Howard had a down season, not even being the go-to player for some time toward the end. Offence is well and good, but clean sheets go a long way.
Player of the Season: Romelu Lukaku. Call it obvious, but he often was a bright spot in my fantasy team, and sometimes the best thing about this team. Sometimes the only thing about this team.
I don’t even know where to begin. Chaos is the best descriptor of the season here. Between the Dr. Eva situation (which just staggered me for the whole of the saga) to Hazard’s disappearance, Costa’s… whatever that even was, and Mourinho’s legendary sacking, it was such a strange first half of the season. The only player I would hang my hat on being there the whole season was John Terry, because he’s so class. When Guus came in, night and day. It’s like all of them (bar Hazard) were suddenly their old selves again, especially Costa. Huge surge at the end was what pulled them back up the table, and the change was made early enough that they’re about where they deserve to be, I think.
Player of the Season: Eden Hazard. Yes. I said no nice words about him above. And most of the season, I was sitting there saying, “Where even is he?” and other, less bland things. Lots of negative things. AND THEN he scored that gorgeous goal, in my mind the goal of the season, against Tottenham to seal Leicester’s fate. All the things I said all season long, I took them all back in that moment and I sang his praises. And now apparently he’s himself again? Time will tell, I guess, but for the moment he’s apparently back to being a superstar.
What a year of ups and downs. I told myself I’d settle for ninth again, so I can’t complain. And who would have thunk we’d finish above Chelsea, eh? Not I. Still, we had some glorious moments with our new front line with our record signing, and we had some really goal-driven performances. We could do with a tighter back four, but I feel that if we could have done without so many injuries (particularly to Jack), we could have bettered ninth. Maybe next season.
Player of the Season: Jack Butland. This man is an angel, a glorious keeper who will one day be number one for England. Maybe one day quite soon (cough, next year, cough). I’ve been praising him to the skies for years, and now people are realizing it. If he’d not been injured on international duty (I cried my eyes out, for real), who knows how the season might have ended? We had a horrible time with keeper injuries toward the end, and I think next season could be a bright future.
I followed them fairly closely, as my brother-in-law is a Liverpool supporter. I think this is a team with a very bright future, but…maybe they overachieved slightly. I think all of the press and Liverpool and whoever are on a bit of a Klopp high, but the good news is that he’s coming back. He’s coming back without the burden of European football and all its extra games, and he’s coming back with a better understanding of the league and its demands, and who knows? Maybe the future is bright!
Player of the Year: Adam Lallana. I hear about Sturridge all the time, but since he almost never plays, I have a hard time believing in his greatness as a player. To make it big, you’ve got to actually make it onto the pitch. And it’s unfortunate that he’s always injured, but Lallana has had the role of stunning me repeatedly with how much I enjoy watching him play. I forget about him all the time, but whenever he does something well I smile and say, “Oh, yeah, him! He’s great!” It’s crazy, because of course he’s great, but I just feel that way all the time.
West Ham United
Full disclosure. I don’t like them. I just don’t. There’s no real reason. That being said, they had a fab season. Payet was a wonderful acquisition who will be critical for them moving forward, and Carroll because highly relevant at the end of the season. Their win over Man U was delightful right at the end of the season, and who knows? Maybe they’ll win me over at this rate.
Player of the Year: Maybe a tad boring, but Dirk Cresswell for me was the backbone here, the consistent and important defender. I had him on my fantasy team in spite of not liking West Ham, and I never regretted it. I have a lot of respect for Cresswell.
There was some truly beautiful football played here, and I had a lot of respect for Long and Pelle in particular. I think they deserved fifth, truth be told, but perhaps with the money from the TV deal, they’ll pull it out next year.
Player of the Season: Graziano Pelle. A highly underrated player. Plus, his hair. I mean really, his hair.
Full disclosure. I despise them. That aside, hideously boring football until it suddenly wasn’t because injuries backed Van Gaal into a corner and he had to play the kids who just luckily were fabulous. That wasn’t Van Gaal brilliance, let’s be clear. That was desperation that just turned out well for him. As frustrating as it was that Leicester didn’t clinch it against them – which would have been the best narrative on so many levels – that was a truly spectacular match. Martial and his hideous transfer fee were a big story, but I appreciate that he seems to have been worth it, somehow. Rooney and his lack of importance were also a big story, but let’s just be real – we’ll not know if he’s still good in the box or not because they only played him in the box when the rest of the team hadn’t the pulse to MAKE it work. So as far as I’m concerned, jury is out on where Rooney should be played.
Side note: Although I can’t find that Man U or Mourinho or Van Gaal have confirmed this, the BBC has officially stated that they “understand” that they’re set to appoint Jose, via Dan Roan and Simon Stone. Probably we’ll hear within the week. Good or bad? I’m not really sure, and I don’t like his antics, HOWEVER, him and Pep will be interesting, to say the least, across the city from each other…
Player of the Year: He didn’t play for much of it, but I feel Marcus Rashford is the player to watch here. He came up locally, thus no massive fee. He sort of ended up in the squad by default, but what a fortuitous default that was. And now he’s been named to the provisional England squad. Will he make the final 23? Probably not, but what an experience. This young man could be the future of English and Manchester football, and it will be quite something to see how he develops.
Because I despise so many of the top sides, I put all my fantasy eggs in the Man City basket, and I have to say they let me down. Yes, Pellegrini had a raw deal, and a was largely undermined by the statement of his replacement so far from the end of the season. But to me, they’re a hideously expensive squad that was never going to gel very well. My notes from the beginning of the season say “poor cohesion” and I stand by that. Certain people stand out, of course, and injuries were not great, but on the whole I don’t think they were anywhere near worth their pay grade.
Player of the Season: Vincent Kompany. Stats don’t lie – although the way their used can be a massive distortion. Still, they were many times better with Kompany than they were without, and his role as a captain was clearly a game changer.
Young side, obviously. Promising, for sure. One of the most promising Tottenham sides in ages. They definitely lost the plot a bit toward the end of the season, and maybe that’s a sign of youth, but there’s a lot of promise there. Alli was greatly promising, for sure, and yes. Harry Kane, golden boot, blah. Yes, he’s a great striker. But full disclosure, have you ever had people you just really don’t like looking at them? Like, for no good reason, seeing their face and hearing their voice makes you feel angry, maybe even violent? I’ve got a few of these, like William Shatner (difficult as a Trekkie), and Harry Kane is definitely one of these for me. He could be a really fabulous guy, but I can’t stand him. So I’ll probably never pick him as player of the season. Ever.
Player of the Season: Luckily, I’ve got Eric Dier. So critical, to me one of the best holding midfielders ever, a staple on my fantasy team. Unlike other members of this team, I so often forget how young Dier is because he’s just so class, and mature, and it seems like he’s been playing forever.
Okay, here’s the deal. I totally called them coming in second, even when it seemed like Tottenham would come in second. I didn’t really picture the Tottenham implosion, but I’m a huge supporter of Arsene Wenger, and the back line is lovely. Petr Cech was a wonderful last line of defense, but as the only real signing, I understand the frustration of their fans. A very important signing, but they can do better. Like… a striker, perhaps?
Player of the Season: Koschielny. Love him. He’s been my back line since Butland’s injury, my last line of defense, and I think he’s been a really great member of this team. Not perfect, by any means, but an exciting, solid player.
I wont ramble on here. All the love, though. So much done right. Whenever I play football video games (which I don’t do often because my video game capacity for success is low), I set up like this team, and my mentality was like this team. I always ask myself why more teams don’t play this way, and the only answer I can see is that it just wasn’t in fashion. But we can’t all be Barca, can we? Leicester proved that we can love this kind of play. I have so many people I could talk about, but this is already a short novel going, so I’ll just give a list of people who were basically perfect all season: Mahrez, Vardy, Konte, Drinkwater, Morgan, Ulloa, Ranieri. Special shout out for darling Damarai Gray, signing from BCFC and someone I was loath to part with, but he’s already done so well for them. He and Jack have secured my affections for Leicester and Stoke going into next season.
Player of the Season: Kapser Schmichael. You all thought I was going to say Gray or Vardy, right? Right? Ha. Schmichael is super class, and I have a thing for keepers of a certain caliber. He fit the bill, and there’s just something about the unsung hero of a team… I mean, clean sheets are down to the keeper in the end, and he’s done a beautiful job week in and week out. Can’t wait to see him in Europe next season!
That’s all for that this year. Cheers!