With the end of the Premier League season, it’s time to take a look at how my pre-season predictions for the table turned out. In order from worst to first, here’s the break down on how each club’s season went.
*First number is where the team finished, followed in parentheses by where I predicted they would end up and how many spots I was off by.
Queen’s Park Rangers – Finish: 20th, Predicted: (20th), Difference: (+0)
QPR looked like they had a fighting chance when they clocked in at the midway point of the season in 15th place, but the Hoops never sealed up their leaky defense and ended up exactly where most people thought they would… in last place. Queen’s Park Rangers spent their season playing an attacking style of soccer. They outscored six other teams in the Premier League behind 18 goals from standout striker Charlie Austin, and highlight reel tallies from Matt Phillips and Bobby Zamora. The big problem was the 73 goals given up on the other end, 10 more than any other squad.
The London based club had problems before the season even began, failing to unload some of their overpaid players. Now, QPR could face a massive penalty under the Financial Fair Play regulations to go along with their relegation to the Championship. If Queen’s Park Rangers aren’t careful they could follow the examples of Portsmouth, Wolverhampton, Blackpool and Wigan Athletic before them and fall further down the league hierarchy.
Burnley – 19th (19th) (+0)
It’s a shame to see Burnley heading back down to the Championship. They introduced us to the sponsorship of Dave Fishwick Minibuses and gave us some spectacular displays against Manchester City, taking four points from their two matches with the reigning champs. In the end, they just didn’t have enough quality to avoid the drop.
Burnley’s biggest struggle, as it is for a lot of newly promoted smaller clubs, was scoring. They only scored more than one goal in seven games all year, and won just two of those contests. The woes up front could get worse as England U-21 star and leading scorer Danny Ings appears to be planning on staying in the Premier League when his contract expires this summer. A few wise investments with the parachute payments they’ll receive for the next few seasons could see Burnley make a quick return back to the top flight. In the meantime, Bournemouth will carry the flag of small club in the Premier League next season.
Hull City – 18th (14th) (-4)
The Hull City Tigers came close to spending another season in the Premier League, but a draw with Manchester United coupled with a Newcastle victory on the final day of the season booked them a return to the Championship. The Tigers never really got going, failing to earn a point in all of November and flirting with the relegation zone the majority of the season.
Hull City have been in this situation before. After earning promotion in 2007-08, they were relegated back to the Championship after the 2009-10 season. They made their way back to the Premier League after just three seasons. If they want to make a similarly quick return they’re going to have to find more production from their front line. Club record signing Abel Hernandez scored just four goals in his first year in English football, and top scorer Nikica Jelavic found the back of the net just eight times, with only three of those goals coming in the final 19 matches. Their 33-goal total simply wasn’t enough.
Aston Villa – 17th (12th) (-5)
Aston Villa flirted with disaster for much of the season, as none of their offseason moves to provide more goals seemed to yield any results. The club went an entire month without scoring and ended up with the second fewest goals ahead of only Burnley. The Claret and Blue started to improve when they brought in manager Tim Sherwood. He managed to nearly double the number of goals scored in just a third of the number of matches that Paul Lambert was in charge for.
Young winger Jack Grealish had a standout campaign while Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke struggled through most of the season, but made up for it with a good run at the end. Benteke’s resurgence was an impressive streak of 11 goals in 12 games (across all competitions). Unfortunately for Aston Villa, that run of form was good enough that it appears he may leave for greener pastures this summer. A bad loss to Arsenal in the F.A. Cup final was the final blow in a forgettable season.
Sunderland – 16th (15th) (-1)
It was the same old song and dance for Sunderland, as for the third straight year they managed to survive after looking certain for relegation. The low point of their season was the 8-0 thrashing they suffered at the hands of Southampton, the largest defeat suffered by any team this season. Manager Dick Advocaat replaced Gus Poyet in March and managed to lead the team to safety, but he retired shortly after the season, which once again opens the question of who will lead Sunderland.
American striker Jozy Altidore’s struggles from last season continued and he was eventually sent to Toronto FC in MLS. He wasn’t the only player to have problems finding the net. Sunderland finished tied for the second-fewest goals with just 31 and did not have a single player score more than five. Jermain Defoe, the player the Black Cats got in the Altidore swap, managed four goals in half a season. There were problems all over the field with Jack Rodwell and Jordi Gomez were especially disappointing considering their pedigree. Midfielder Adam Johnson can be dynamic… when he’s not busy getting arrested off the field. Sunderland’s best players by far were Sebastian Larsson and goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.
Newcastle United – 15th (11th) (-4)
Not many managers get a website dedicated to their firing like Newcastle United’s Alan Pardew did. The irony was that Pardew managed to secure Newcastle comfortably in the middle of the pack by midseason, but appeared to be so fed up with the lack of support from the club’s fans that he bolted the team for Crystal Palace. The ensuing second half of the season saw Newcastle plummet to the basement and barely avoid relegation, while the Eagles of Crystal Palace soared into the 10th spot that the Toons had previously held.
Evidently, a change of manager wasn’t the solution that Newcastle’s supporters thought it was. The team one just three league games after the switch to manager John Carver, including a stretch that saw them go nearly three full months without a win, save for a victory on the final day of the season that ensured their Premier League status.
Things have just been a mess for Newcastle United. Leading scorer Papiss Demba Cisse missed seven games through suspension, goalkeeper Tim Krul allowed the second-most goals and players turned in disappointing performances at nearly every position. The lone bright spot was defender Jonás Gutiérrez’s return from testicular cancer to score in Newcastle’s final game.
Leicester City – 14th (13th) (-1)
The greatest escape of the season. Sitting in last place with just two months left in the season, Leicester City produced a stunning string of results, winning seven of their final nine games, to end up just about where I thought they would be at the beginning of the season.
Leonardo Ulloa, Jamie Vardy and Serie A legend Esteban Cambiasso provided the bulk of he offense, while goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel turned in some excellent performances in between the posts to keep the Foxes in the Premier League. If they want to survive another campaign they’ll have to make some improvements at multiple positions, but for now they can just enjoy the awesome form they showcased to end the season and hope it carries over to the next one.
West Bromwich Albion – 13th (18th) (+5)
My preseason pick of seeing West Bromwich Albion relegated may have been based more on hope than on outlook, but boring, boring Albion managed to drift to mid-table safety. Ironically, it was the arrival of Tony Pulis, a man known for “boring” tactics, in January that finally saw West Brom’s form tick up. Saido Berahino was by far the star man scoring 14 goals, 10 more than any other Albion player. Center back Joleon Lescott proved to be a fantastic signing while in goal, Boaz Myhill seems to have claimed the number one spot over Ben Foster.
The Baggies could have finished much lower and only ended up six points ahead of 17th place Aston Villa thanks to two wins against top five teams in the final month of the season. Before those victories against Manchester United and Chelsea, they had only gone 1-1-6 against the teams that finished in the top five. They’ll need a lot of improvement in the summer.
West Ham United – 12th (16th) (+4)
West Ham United’s early season form was one of the surprises of the Premier League. The Hammers played like a top five team until they came crashing back down to earth. Just two wins in the final four months of the season meant they struggled home to a 12th place finish, which meant the end of the much-maligned Sam Allardyce’s time in charge of the squad.
Much like their results, West Ham’s players also had a mixed bag of success. Diafra Sakho had a good season after transferring to West Ham, leading the team with 10 goals. On the other hand, Enner Valencia followed up his World Cup appearance for Ecuador with just four goals in a West Ham uniform. Defender Aaron Cresswell had a player of the year campaign after being brought in from Ipswich Town, while striker Andy Carroll had his year derailed by yet another injury. Without Allardyce’s pragmatic style of football, maybe West Ham can reinvent itself before next season.
Everton – 11th (7th) (-4)
Midseason fears of relegation proved to only be paranoia, but there’s no denying Everton had an awful campaign considering their preseason hopes. A defense with more leaks than… well, something with many, many holes in it, was the biggest culprit with opponents scoring seemingly at will. Goalkeeper Tim Howard wasn’t his usual self after perhaps using up and entire year’s worth of saves during his jaw-dropping World Cup performance for the U.S. against Belgium.
Romelu Lukaku settled in after initially struggling, following his permanent move to Everton. He ended up leading the team with 10 goals. Fellow striker Steven Naismith ended up cooling off considerably after a great start and ended with just six tallies. Ross Barkley never got used to playing out wide and should be returned to the middle of the pitch next season. Phil Jagielka and Kevin Mirallas were okay, while midfielder Steven Pienaar was just one of a host of injuries that didn’t help matters. Manager Roberto Martinez will have to figure out how exactly to fix things in the offseason, but at least Everton won’t have to deal with the distraction of the Europa League in the next campaign.
Crystal Palace – 10th (17th) (+7)
Crystal Palace were the polar opposite to Newcastle United. They found themselves treading water in the bottom three with 19 games played. Since January, they added 10 wins to their haul cementing their third straight season of Premier League football thanks to the guidance of Alan Pardew.
Scoring was a mixed bag for the Eagles this season. Nobody scored more than seven goals, but seven different players found the net at least four times. Jason Puncheon’s free kick-taking abilities are a big weapon, and Glenn Murray’s Cinderella career of finding the net continued when he was healthy and available to play. However, the emergence, or purchase, of a number one striker would help them considerably next year.
Stoke City – 9th (8th) (-1)
Stoke City produced their best Premier League season of all time, recording a club-best 54 points and tying their best position in the table. The Potters have continued their slow, steady improvement and their low-risk, high-reward moves have mostly worked out. Mame Biram Diouf played well up front as the young Senegalese player bagged 11 goals. Barcelona cast-off Bojan Krkic looked like he was finally adapting to the Premier League before an injury ended his season.
Midfielder Charlie Adam made headlines for scoring the best Premier League goal of the season when he blasted the ball past Chelsea’s Thibault Courtois from 65 yards out in April. Steven N’Zonzi had a spectacular year in the holding midfielder position. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was solid once again, but could move on this summer as teams higher up the table look for better options in between their posts. Young back-up Jack Butland only made a few appearances but the England international appears capable to take over if needed. Stoke just keep getting better and better, and could surprise a lot of people by challenging for a Europa League spot next year.
Swansea City – 8th (9th) (+1)
Similarly to West Ham, Swansea roared out of the gates to start the season, but fell back a bit as time went on. The second-to-last team to lose a game (not quite outlasting Chelsea), the Swans kept themselves near the top of the table even after they sold leading scorer Wilfried Bony to Manchester City.
Icelandic international Gylfi Sigurdsson was their all-everything with seven goals and 10 assists. French striker Bafetimbi Gomis finally found his form and ended the year with seven tallies. One of the standout performers was one who went under my radar for most of the season, Ki Sung-Yeung. The South Korean midfielder dominated the middle of the pitch and had a knack for timely forward runs, which led to eight goals.
Southampton – 7th (10th) (-3)
After a great 2013-14 campaign, Southampton made huge profits off the sales of a number of their top, young players. When they didn’t bring in too many reinforcements, it looked like Southampton would be stuck toward the back of the pack. Instead, the Saints had another excellent year challenging for a Champions League spot through the first half. Their reward is a potential repeat of last summer, with defender Nathaniel Clyne and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin at the top of a lot of clubs’ wish lists.
Several of the players Southampton managed to bring in had excellent first seasons, the best of those being goalkeeper Fraser Forster and forward Sadio Mane. The big, 6’7” keeper played well until an injury in March ended his season. Mane was second on the team with 10 goals, behind only Graziano Pellé’s haul of 12. That included him setting a Premier League record for the fastest hat trick, scoring three goals in a span of three minutes against Aston Villa. Mane is definitely challenging Stoke City’s Diouf for best Senegalese player in the Premier League. Overall, the future still looks very bright at Saint Mary’s.
Liverpool FC – 6th (4th) (-2)
Liverpool trundled home to a sixth place finish in the league, just beating out Southampton for the last Europa League spot, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it. Losing Daniel Sturridge to injury for most of the season put them in a rough spot and the roster never looked like it fit the system that Brendan Rodgers wanted his squad to play.
It’s a new era for the Reds as one-club man Steven Gerrard moves on to MLS. But the fact that he led the team in goals despite being a midfielder with a lot of miles on the engine should make Liverpool concerned about next year. Young phenom Raheem Sterling appears headed for the exit door as well, with Liverpool not meeting his big club expectations. Phillippe Coutinho was a bright spot as the Brazilian showed a penchant for highlight reel goals from the midfield, but on the other hand, Liverpool’s boatload of acquisitions from Southampton seemed to struggle along with new striker Mario Balotelli.
Tottenham Hotspur – 5th (6th) (+1)
Tottenham came up short of their goal of a Champions League spot, finishing six points behind Manchester United. Spurs definitely had some enormous bright spots, but for each of them, there seemed to be another player who struggled. Harry Kane was the toast of the team, tying the club record with 21 goals and an additional 10 in all competitions. The 21-year-old’s club and international future appear to be bright after bursting onto the scene this campaign. On the other hand, strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado had very difficult seasons and could both leave.
Left back Danny Rose had a good season, while young defender Eric Dier faded after a strong start. In the midfield, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli solidified spots, while club-record signing Erik Lamela and Paulinho both had rough spells. Tottenham might count themselves lucky to have gotten a fifth place finish. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris earned a lot of plaudits for his play and may be set for a move this summer, but Tottenham still gave up 53 goals in 38 games, better than only four teams in the league.
Manchester United – 4th (5th) (+1)
It’s been a zany, up and down year for Manchester United. Despite spending boatloads more money, Louis van Gaal couldn’t get much more out of the Red Devils than his predecessor David Moyes did. United had nowhere to go but up after a 4-0 dismantling by MK Dons in the League Cup, and a couple of good stretches were enough for them to beat out Tottenham and return to the Champions League.
Even with all the marquee players brought in during the offseason, it was mostly the established players like Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and David De Gea who did the heavy lifting. Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria never really met expectations. Now, club player of the year De Gea appears poised for a move to his hometown team Real Madrid, and United must be wondering exactly how much more cash they have to shell out if they want to finish better than fourth next season.
Arsenal – 3rd (3rd) (+0)
I managed to nail my top three selections, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea rounding out the table. The Gunners made a late surge and looked like they might at least push Chelsea for a title challenge, before fading to third with draws in three of their final six games. Still, Arsene Wenger should be proud of the progress his team made.
Alexis Sanchez proved to be one of the best transfers in the Premier League this season. Along with striker Olivier Giroud, the pair accounted for 30 of Arsenal’s 71 total league goals. The Gunners often played the type of attractive football that Wenger has always longed for. David Ospina replaced Wojciech Szczesny in goal midway through the season, and looked to play well enough to nail down the starting spot on a permanent basis moving forward. A better start to next season should see Arsenal in the race right up until the final match.
Manchester City – 2nd (2nd) (+0)
A stretch of just two wins in seven games between January and early March effectively ended Man City’s chances of mounting a serious title challenge. But the Citizens still left their mark on the Premier League, finishing out with a run of six straight victories and scoring the most goals. Striker Sergio Aguero is still world class, winning the Premier League’s golden boot with 26 goals, while David Silva chipped in to help City score more than any other team. Joe Hart was occasionally erratic but is still a top-class keeper.
Manchester City’s biggest failing was against the other teams who finished in the top four (Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United), as they picked up only six of a possible 18 points in those matches. An improved performance in those bigger matches is Man City’s best chance of regaining the Premier League title next year. If club captain and longtime top player Yaya Toure leaves the club this summer, the Citizens could have a very new look. Not to mention their apparently never-ending search for a better manager.
Chelsea – 1st (1st) (+0)
Chelsea were my pick to win the whole shebang and essentially led the league wire-to-wire, never really facing too much of a challenge from either Manchester City or Arsenal. The Blues locked up the title with some games to spare and Jose Mourinho delivered a couple of snarky remarks about the rest of the league making it too easy for his team. Chelsea suffered the fewest defeats, conceded the fewest number of goals and saw the majority of their transfers pay off with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas proving to be integral parts of the team.
Chelsea even picked up some points for class at the end of the season when club legend Didier Drogba was carried off the field during his final appearance for his longtime club. Chelsea appear to be favorites to win the league again next year and Mourinho may find his only challenge is trying to mount a more successful campaign for Champions League glory.