Your team rated in our Premier League end of season report card
Top marks for Man City, Leeds and West Ham as Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea get a passing grade and Arsenal and Tottenham fail miserably… Your team rated in our Premier League end of season report card
- The 2020-21 Premier League season reached its conclusion on Sunday
- We were denied an exciting finish to the title race and the relegation battle
- But we did see Liverpool and Chelsea deny Leicester a top four place at the last
- Manchester City get top marks after their third league title in four seasons
- Leeds United and West Ham exceeded expectations and receive high grades
- But Arsenal and Tottenham were among those who endured forgettable seasons
So that was the 2020-21 Premier League season.
While Sunday’s finale provided some excitement as Champions League qualification went down to the wire, we were denied a thrilling climax to the title race and the relegation battle.
Both were settled a couple of weeks back with Manchester City worthy champions for the third time in the last four seasons and few eyebrows raised in Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham being the trio to go down.
Manchester City lift the Premier League trophy on Sunday after another memorable season
It will always be remembered as the Covid season but, aside from a handful of outbreaks within squads leading to rearranged fixtures, enormous credit goes to everyone involved for keeping the show on the road.
When we look back on the campaign in years to come, however, the absence of fans from stadiums for the most part means we will see football drained of noise, passion and colour. That’s not something we wish to repeat.
With everything concluded it’s time to reflect on how each of the 20 clubs performed. Who exceeded expectations and who sunk well below them? It’s all in Sportsmail’s report card.
Final position: 8th (2019-20: 8th)
It’s been such a miserable year again for Arsenal, you do genuinely wonder whether they’ll now be mired in mid-table mediocrity for years to come.
There will be no European football at the Emirates Stadium next season for the first time in a quarter-century and the post-Wenger regression continues apace.
Mikel Arteta knew the scale of the rebuilding job that awaited him at his old club but it’s still been a hugely disappointing season and he’ll soon be gone if it continues in the next campaign.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured his new contract but then failed to match his goal returns from the previous two seasons, while Willian has looked nothing like his Chelsea best.
It was truly a season to forget for Arsenal as they missed out on European qualification
The only real optimism has come from the way youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe have stepped up and Arteta needs to be building the whole team around them.
Unlike the year before, cup competitions offered no reprieve for Arsenal and losing to their discarded former boss Unai Emery and Villarreal in the Europa League semi-finals stung.
With the Kroenke owners attempting to paper over the widening cracks by signing up to the European Super League, fan anger is reaching boiling point.
Arteta can’t afford to put a foot wrong come August but being out of Europe could actually help them put the jigsaw back together.
Final position: 11th (2019-20: 17th)
A season of forward progress for Villa, who at no point looked like being sucked into the relegation battle they only survived by the skin of their teeth last season.
The first half of the season, with Jack Grealish in dazzling form, was wonderful to watch with that 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool the obvious highlight.
The last few months, which saw Grealish sat out through injury, have been more inconsistent but even against the likes of Man City and Liverpool, Villa have proved tough to beat.
Ollie Watkins (left) made the step-up from the Championship to Premier League look easy
Their final week wins over Tottenham and Chelsea ensured it all ended with beaming smiles.
Ollie Watkins, with 14 league goals, proved money well spent as he made an effortless step up to the top-flight from Brentford and another summer of shrewd work in the transfer market should lead to a top half finish next season and maybe even a push for Europe.
Final position: 16th (2019-20: 15th)
A long, hard slog of a season but a passable one for Graham Potter and Brighton, who in the end finished comfortably clear of the bottom three.
Their miserly defence made all the difference in the end, with the Seagulls letting in far fewer goals than any of the sides around them in the final table.
Highlights included that 1-0 home win over Jose Mourinho’s ailing Tottenham in late January and the single-goal win at Anfield that followed it.
Brighton ultimately finished well clear of relegation danger after a long slog of a season
And the thrilling comeback win over Man City in front of fans last week capped off a solid enough season.
Now the summer transfer market needs to see firepower in attack added to that mean back line and Brighton might be able to contemplate a leap up the table. No Brighton player reached double figures on the goals chart.
Final position: 17th (2019-20: 10th)
A dreadful start, which saw five defeats from Burnley’s opening six games, had made convinced this was where their Premier League adventure ended.
That came after a turbulent summer of takeover wrangling and no spending money being made available for Sean Dyche to build on the impressive 10th place finish of the season before.
But Dyche has done what he does best and the Clarets managed to scrape together enough points to keep their heads above water.
Burnley had just about enough quality to finish ahead of Fulham and secure their survival
The way they beat Fulham to secure their survival with games to spare showed how they deserved a sixth season in the Premier League.
Goals were at a premium but Chris Wood always seemed to deliver when it was most required and the side assembled with the league’s smallest budget again proved more than the sum of their parts.
Now the club’s American owners need to stump up and help Dyche move them up the table again.
Final position: 4th (2019-20: 4th)
Assessing Chelsea’s season really depends on where you start from. And a decent campaign could yet become a very good one if they win the Champions League on Saturday.
In the context of the £200million-plus spend on Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Co last summer, they really should have finished higher than fourth and challenged for the title.
But if you look at it from the point where Frank Lampard was fired in late January, everything takes on a rosier complexion.
Thomas Tuchel has done a fine job steering a side who were leaking goals all over the place and in terrible form to Champions League qualification, matching last season’s finishing position.
Chelsea made it into next season’s Champions League and could yet win it this season
Losing the FA Cup final to Leicester was a disappointment, of course, but getting there was more of a bonus. Beating Man City in Porto this weekend will make Tuchel’s appointment look truly inspired.
The German has certainly made Chelsea watertight at the back and that has been the bedrock of their vastly improved form.
But they remain more efficient and functional than thrilling and you still expect a bit more from that very expensively-assembled forward line.
Perhaps that will come next season when Tuchel has a bit more time to work on his game plans. For now, he’s a long way ahead of expectations when he came in.
Final position: 14th (2019-20: 14th)
As Roy Hodgson steps down as Palace manager, he can reflect on another satisfactory season.
Their Premier League status was never in any doubt and last season’s finishing position has been matched, even if at no point did they look likely to better it.
There have been a few horror shows along the way – chiefly the 7-0 thrashing at home by Liverpool – but also some pleasing moments such as the class of Ebere Eze and Christian Benteke’s return to scoring form.
Roy Hodgson waved goodbye to Crystal Palace having secured them another decent finish
Choosing Hodgson’s successor will be a crucial moment this summer. Investment will definitely needed to move Palace up the table, most pressingly in defence.
Hodgson brought a stability that allowed Palace to become an established top-flight club. But there is the potential now to kick on with the right manager.
Final position: 10th (2019-20: 12th)
A month into the season and it appeared Everton were capable of mounting an unexpected title challenge. Alas, it wasn’t to be and even a charge towards European football fizzled out.
Debilitating injuries caught up with Carlo Ancelotti’s side at various stages of the season, notably when chief threat James Rodriguez suffered three separate spells on the sidelines.
But there were some fantastic moments along the way that confirmed the Italian boss has the club heading in the right direction.
Everton might have qualified for Europe had star man James Rodriguez not suffered injuries
The 2-0 win at Anfield in February finally ended their long wait for league success there, while Chelsea, Leicester, West Ham and Arsenal (twice) were also seen off.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison enjoyed excellent campaigns in attack and Rodriguez will offer even more if he remains fit.
But there were plenty of other frustrating moment where Everton took one point when it might have been three, or inexplicably lost to Fulham or Burnley.
With the right additions and a full pre-season, next season promises to be a bright one.
Final position: 18th (2019-20: Promoted from Championship)
It was always going to be a tall order for Fulham. With one of the shortest pre-season turnarounds and minimal squad investment (in contrast to the last time they came up), it unsurprisingly proved too much for Scott Parker.
Now that both the mega money splurge approach and the targeted recruitment approach have both led to a failure to stay in the top-flight, you do wonder what Fulham do next.
Fulham ultimately didn’t have enough quality to secure a second season in the Premier League
Likely too strong for the Championship but too weak for the Premier League, they could become the next West Brom.
Four consecutive defeats at the start of the season set the tone and despite a promising run in February and March, culminating with a win at Liverpool, offering hope of survival their form just collapsed thereafter.
More creativity from midfield or wide areas was required – striker Aleksandar Mitrovic ended up with the most assists, just four – while their defenders just looked out of their depth too often.
Final position: 9th (2019-20: Promoted from Championship)
What a remarkable season it has been for one of the Premier League’s most entertaining teams.
When Leeds scored seven goals and conceded seven in their first two matches back in September, everybody believed they would be a highly entertaining, but ultimately fleeting, feature of the top division.
But Marcelo Bielsa proved too canny for that and a really strong finish to the campaign propelled them to a top half finish that smashed all expectations.
A win over champions-elect Manchester City was a highlight of a brilliant season for Leeds
Bielsa was able to tailor his team’s game plan to meet the challenge of nullifying the elite sides (notably Man City, whom they took four points off), while at the same time preserving the tireless running and relentless pressing that is his hallmark.
There have been class acts all over the pitch, from Raphinha to Kalvin Phillips, Luke Ayling to Patrick Bamford, but everyone knew their role within the whole.
Leeds fans will be desperate for Bielsa to stay another year and who knows what they could accomplish from here.
Final position: 5th (2019-20: 5th)
Final day agony yet again for Leicester as they missed out on Champions League football by a solitary point.
Taken in isolation, it would rank as a colossal disappointment because Brendan Rodgers’ team had been inside the top four all season until the very last week.
But their brilliant FA Cup win over Chelsea means it’s still be a successful season for the Foxes, who really are the finest antidote to the closed shop of the European Super League.
Leicester won the FA Cup but narrowly missed out on the top four in a memorable season
It’s little wonder so many neutrals enjoy the way they disrupt the arrogant ‘Big Six’ by routinely beating them.
The way they play is pleasing as well, with the likes of Youri Tielemans, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wesley Fofana and Wilfred Ndidi enjoying superb seasons.
They may be back in the Europa League but the FA Cup could prove just the start of their achievements under Rodgers when they come back fighting next season.
Final position: 3rd (2019-20: 1st)
In March, Liverpool were looking on course for one of the worst title defences the Premier League has ever seen.
But an excellent finish to a testing season delivered a highly commendable third place finish and a return to Europe’s top competition for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
To achieve this while missing key personnel in defence for much of the campaign is a testament to the team spirit Klopp has created at Anfield.
Liverpool finished the season strongly to secure Champions League football for next season
There were also times when their vaunted front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino really did look either unsettled or off-colour. But, in the end, everyone stepped up and delivered.
Liverpool didn’t put a foot wrong during their final five matches to surge into the top four and you know they will come back swinging next season to properly challenge Man City.
With the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez fit again, some summer reinforcements and maybe a conclusion to speculation over Salah’s future, they’ll certainly be up there.
Final position: 1st (2019-20: 2nd)
A third Premier League title in four seasons that for a long time looked beyond Pep Guardiola’s team but in the end was made to look effortless.
It was never going to be a record-breaking win, especially after a far from convincing start, but once City hit their stride through the winter months, they were simply unstoppable.
Those 15 consecutive league wins between December and March (21 in all competitions) made an absolute mockery of what was supposed to be the craziest title race in years.
In the end, they finished 12 points clear of Manchester United and credit to Guardiola and his players for romping clear as the chasing pack faltered.
John Stones, Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden celebrate Man City’s title success
There were many exceptional players – Ruben Dias formed an impregnable central defensive pairing with John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan stepped up in so many games, Kevin De Bruyne was his usual brilliant self, and Phil Foden enjoyed a breakthrough year.
They racked up 83 goals without having a proper No 9 for large periods and if City do manage to sign a Harry Kane or Erling Haaland to replace Sergio Aguero then they could dominate for years to come.
Oh and before we forget, they still have the chance to win their holy grail of the Champions League this weekend.
Final position: 2nd (2019-20: 3rd)
They finished some way shy of Man City – something of a disappointment given a title challenge really looked on in January – but it was nonetheless a season of progress for United.
If they round off the season by beating Villarreal to win the Europa League on Wednesday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can rightly say he has the team heading in the right direction.
In the league, United proved no match for City when their rivals clicked into top gear but they deserved to finish clear of other contenders in seconds.
Another outstanding season by Bruno Fernandes enabled Man United to make some progress
Positives included the continued excellence of Bruno Fernandes, the leadership of Harry Maguire, Edinson Cavani’s renaissance, better displays from Paul Pogba and the goals of Mason Greenwood.
But the feeling persists that United must strengthen in at least four different areas to actually compete with City. They still lack the strength in depth in wide attack, central midfield and central defence to win the title.
With City only going to get stronger next season and Liverpool, Chelsea and others resurgent, major summer investment is required to keep pushing forward under Solskjaer.
Finishing position: 12th (2019-20: 13th)
Another season of the depressingly familiar for Newcastle fans.
A takeover that promised millions of pounds of investment didn’t happen, leaving Mike Ashley still at the helm. Manager Steve Bruce remains unpopular but a late upsurge in form means he’ll likely still be in situ come August.
In the end, a 12th-place finish makes everything look far more rosy than it is. But it says a lot when your best performer in those closing weeks was Joe Willock, an Arsenal loanee.
Joe Willock, signed on loan from Arsenal, proved to be Newcastle United’s bright spark
Sure, there were some nice displays from Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron, Callum Wilson et al but there’s nothing to suggest the current crop can deliver anything better than mid-table.
So Newcastle remain as far away from the glory days as ever and until the ownership changes, the perpetual sense of gloom and unfulfilled potential will remain.
Finishing position: 20th (2019-20: 9th)
Anyone hoping the Blades might take the Premier League by storm again and come within a whisker of qualifying for Europe would be sorely disappointed.
At least they avoided the ignominy of Derby’s record low haul of 11 points from the 2007-08 season but that was about as good as it got.
They spent every single week of the season in the bottom three and didn’t win a game until January, with the manager who’d delivered such success, Chris Wilder, eventually departing in March.
£23million signing Rhian Brewster suffered a torrid season as Sheffield United were relegated
Rhian Brewster, the £23m striker signed to power them to another top-half finish, failed to score a single goal. The element of surprise that stunned so many teams in 2019-20 vanished.
We knew pretty quickly that United were doomed and we now wait to see who comes in as manager to rebuild in the Championship.
Final position: 15th (2019-20: 11th)
A classic rollercoaster season for Southampton which consisted of a brilliant start to raise hopes of a European challenge followed by a desperate collapse to flirt with relegation danger before a smoother ride to come 15th.
They did reach the FA Cup semi-final as well, losing to Leicester, but the upshot of it all is that it’s tricky to read where the club is heading under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
It is difficult to read where Southampton are heading under manager Ralph Hasenhuttl
You feel they could either surprise everyone and finish sixth next season or they could slide the other way and suffer relegation.
Obviously the low point of the season came in again losing 9-0, this time at Old Trafford. Yet a month earlier they managed to beat Liverpool.
So who knows? Greater consistency would be handy but achieving it is clearly easier said than done.
Final position: 7th (2019-20: 6th)
Oh goodness me, where to even start?
So Jose Mourinho was hired to end Tottenham’s long and agonising wait for a piece of silverware. He gets them to the Carabao Cup final but is sacked six days beforehand.
Spurs led the Premier League in the autumn before a catastrophic collapse saw the end of Mourinho and interim boss Ryan Mason ultimately led them to the world’s worst consolation prize of the Europa Conference League.
On the plus side, they finished above Arsenal in the table. On the negative side, they finished behind all of their other main rivals.
Harry Kane’s demand to leave the club set the seal on a dreadful campaign for Tottenham
Then there’s the backdrop of fan fury at chairman Daniel Levy for signing up to the European Super League and you sense only reluctantly pulling out of it.
And star man Harry Kane – who amazingly claimed both the most goals and assists in the Premier League this season – is desperate to leave.
There’s never a dull moment but Spurs have become shambolic and they’ll be desperate to put this season to bed.
With a new manager to find and the Kane situation to resolve, it’s a pivotal summer ahead.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Final position: 19th (2019-20: Promoted from Championship)
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you do wonder why West Brom dispensed with manager Slaven Bilic, the man who took them back into the Premier League, so early in the season.
Fair enough, they’d made a poor start and taken a few hidings, but as it transpired Fireman Sam Allardyce wasn’t an upgrade at all as he suffered his first-ever relegation from the Premier League.
Sam Allardyce suffered his first Premier League relegation as West Brom struggled throughout
The Baggies weren’t a lost cause when he took over but they soon were despite the odd flicker of life in April. In the end, they were 13 points shy of safety.
Allardyce won’t be the man to try and bring them back up though you’d expect them to be among the promotion favourites. And the West Brom circle of life goes on.
WEST HAM UNITED
Final position: 6th (2019-20: 16th)
Nobody will admit it but an empty London Stadium suited West Ham this season.
Remember how fractious things were getting as they had a relegation close shave in the summer of 2020, with regular protests against the owners?
What a difference a year makes. Now they’re Europe-bound after a sixth-place finish and a season full of memorable results and performances.
David Moyes had the Hammers playing attractive football with the decision to take Jesse Lingard on loan from Manchester United an inspired one.
Declan Rice (left) and Jesse Lingard have been outstanding in a great season for West Ham
Top marks to Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Michail Antonio and the back line as well. Everyone has played their part in a memorable campaign.
Moyes has seen his managerial reputation restored but the summer will be key. Can they sign Lingard on a permanent deal? Can they keep hold of Rice? Who needs to come in?
But, for now, they deserve to bask in the glow of a great season.
Final position: 13th (2019-20: 7th)
All in all, a season Wolves will just want to commit to the record books and move forward from.
It’s sad that Nuno Espirito Santo is leaving but the season was an anti-climax after the high of their seventh-placed finish the year before.
Nuno Espirito Santo is leaving Wolves after a campaign that never really ignited
The head injury to Raul Jimenez that kept him sidelined for so long proved pivotal, while Adama Traore couldn’t reproduce his scintillating form again.
They never looked like challenging for Europe again nor appeared to be in relegation danger, so 13th was about right in the end.
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