Premier League 2019/20 Grades – Part One (Arsenal – Liverpool)
I know what you’re thinking; who writes a review of the season three days after it’s all over. Makes it rather stale, doesn’t it?
Well a) if you can wait three months for football to return amidst a global pandemic, then what’s three days? And b) this isn’t a review per se, more like a grading system.
Yes, the English top-flight is something of a school, and at the end of it all – 352 days later – Premier League grades will be given out. So, forget those reviews you’ve seen, read and listened to, they’re all pointless. This is the one that really matters.
P.S: Appreciate these while you can, because well, NBC…
Premier League Position: 8th
Season timeline: Laurent Koscielny wants out. Two wins from two. #EmeryOut. Emery is out. Ljungberg? Arteta. Olympiakos. Covid. Beat the top two.
High point: Beating England’s top two in the space of four days, following up a win against Liverpool with an FA Cup semi-final victory over Manchester City, as Arteta performed a Kylo Ren killing Snoke moment against former boss Pep Guardiola. By boxing metrics, they’re the champions of England.
Low point: Hapless defeat at Leicester? Hapless defeat at home to Manchester City? Or the collapse at Brighton post-lockdown?
The manager: Mikel Arteta got the job in December, and despite Arsenal’s lowest league since F. R. I. E. N. D. S. was on air, there is quite an air of optimism over the future, due to the fact that the Gunners look like they have a healthy structure on the pitch, if not off it. Also, it was the Spaniard testing positive for the coronavirus that made English football hit the snooze button in March.
What does the future hold: There’s an FA Cup final to come, meaning this season could still end in silverware. Long-term, there’s a sense that something is truly forming under Arteta, and a few signings might make them a scarier prospect.
Grade: 6/10. Arguably should be higher because of the end to the season. Then again, it could easily be lower thanks to pre-Covid and pre-Emery times.
Premier League Position: 17th
Season timeline: Jack Grealish. Jack Grealish. Jack Grealish. Jack Grealish. Jack Grealish. Jack Grealish.
High point: Jack Grea… okay, fine. The late winner against Leicester in January to send to the League Cup final.
Low point: Danny Drinkwater’s debut against Manchester City.
The manager: Lifelong Villa fan Dean Smith, after taking them up from the Championship, managed to keep them in the Premier League in his first full season at the club.
What does the future hold: Keeping Jack Grealish is as much a priority as it seems a lost cause. Should their talisman leave, the prospect of relegation is rather stark. The need for creativity up front, with or without their main man, can’t be overstated.
Grade: 6/10. Villa did manage to reach the holy land of 17th place, but surely you should do better than that after spending over £100 million in the summer.
Premier League Position: 18th
Season timeline: Healthy start. Typical drop-off. Relegation might really happen! Jon Moss v Dan Gosling. Solanke double!! Relegation.
High point: Winning at Stamford Bridge. Yet again.
Low point: Relegation. Summed up a tepid season for the Cherries.
The manager: Barring a few spells elsewhere as player and manager, Eddie Howe has been with Bournemouth for nearly all his life, but there’s a strong chance Sunday’s ultimately academic win at Everton might be his last game with the club. You certainly wouldn’t begrudge him moving on, but his stock has fallen this season.
What does the future hold: There’s uncertainty over the future of the manager, as well as a few of the players, some of whom might be picked off by top-flight sides. At least, a return to the Championship is likely to mean more wins and actual euphoria instead of waiting for death in the Premier League.
Grade: 4/10. Bournemouth’s slump in form in autumn wasn’t a shock, the surprise was that they didn’t find a way to arrest that slide this time.
Premier League Position: 15th
Season timeline: Tiki-taka under Potter. Dismantling Spurs. Jahanbakhsh!!Winless 2020. Villain Maupay.
High point: Aaron Connolly torturing Spurs’ defence in October.
Low point: The draws against Newcastle. Talk about drab.
The manager: Graham Potter came in with the prospect of revamping Brighton’s style of play. To an extent, that’s been done, and despite a dreadful run from January to lockdown, there’s a sense that the Seagulls will improve under the former Swansea manager.
What does the future hold: If Potter-ball succeeds; 15th place and survival by four points. If Potter-ball fails; Allardici?
Grade: 6/10. Let’s be honest, Brighton are not that exciting, and somehow churning 103 words on them is a task. How do The Athletic do it?
Premier League Position: 10th
Season timeline: Solid. Solid. Solid. Jay Rodriguez at Old Trafford. Mark Hughes? Point at Anfield.
High point: Jay Rodriguez scoring belters against Chelsea and Manchester United. Also they were the only team not to lose at Anfield in the league this season.
Low point: That plane. Of course, you can’t really pin that on the Clarets, but it says something about how football has been so lax in terms of dealing with discrimination that people feel emboldened to do that.
The manager: Sean Dyche continues to go about his business at Turf Moor with minimum fuss, and has led Burnley to two top-half finishes in three years.
What does the future hold: There are rumours that Dyche might call time on his tenure, and in June, there was talk of Mark Hughes (why!!!!!!!), but the Ginger Mourinho stays for now, albeit with fingers crossed for the next *checks note* 46 days before the season returns.
Grade: 7/10. An ability to find stability is one that shouldn’t be underestimated. Plus, those Rodriguez belters.
Premier League Position: 4th
Season timeline: Young uns. Pulisic treble. Oh Kepa. Lamps outwits Jose Twice! Oh Kepa!! Champions League.
High point: Outplaying Spurs both home and away.
Low point: Shipping four at Old Trafford.
The manager: Appointed thanks to unprecedented record of finishing sixth in the Championship with Derby County, Lampard had the task of reviving Chelsea from the doldrums of *checks notes* third place and Europa League triumph. Managed to get the Blues into the Champions League, all while playing with young under-14s. Can only kick on next season.
What does the future hold: The Blues are already active in the transfer market, securing the signatures of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner, with another eye on Kai Havertz. That might make them a force next season, especially if defending becomes outlawed.
Grade: 7/10. Despite obvious flaws over his game management and defending, Lampard has done a reasonably good job at Stamford Bridge. Plus, they could end the season with an FA Cup win.
Premier League Position: 14th
Season timeline: Does. Anyone. Truly. Remember. What. Palace. Did. Especially. Pre. Covid.
High point: Jordan Ayew’s master-class of a goal against West Ham in autumn (huh, one does remember).
Low point: Seven defeats in a row post-lockdown. Makes you wonder how they spent the hiatus.
The manager: Roy Hodgson usually starts the season as one of the managers many tip to get sacked. Mr Roy has continued to garner productivity out of Palace despite a relative lack of resources, but there’s the sense that fans are becoming disillusioned to a less than positive style of play, and the use of three defensive midfielders on a regular.
What does the future hold: Hodgson will probably start the season as one of the favourites to get a P45 early on, but this time – especially if signings aren’t made – he and the Eagles might call it a day.
Grade: 6/10. A steady mid-table place for the Eagles in which relegation was only really a remote possibility, and nothing more.
Premier League Position: 12th
Season timeline: Naïve optimism. Andre Gomes. Marco Silva Out. Duncan hugs the ball boys. Don Carlo’s eyebrows. Twelfth.
High point: A 3-1 win over Chelsea in December that lifted the mood in a previously dreary Goodison Park.
Low point: That defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup. Come on guys, at least take the derby seriously for once.
The manager: At the start of his tenure, Carlo Ancelotti looked to be building something with Everton, but the end to the season has brought more questions than answers. Football’s Mr Adaptable faces some test to prove (to Miguel Delaney?) that he isn’t outdated.
What does the future hold: This is Everton. Naïve optimism, manager under pressure, form picks up, and then optimism builds for the following season.
Grade: 5/10. It was a rather disappointing season for Everton, especially seeing the likes of Sheffield United and Leicester City roll with the big guns. Speaking of…
Premier League Position: 5th
Season timeline: Barnes at Bramall Lane. Nine!! Champions League football is coming back to the King Power. Or not. Golden boot.
High point: Nine goals at St. Mary’s.
Low point: The total system crash at Bournemouth, three games before the end of the season.
The manager: Brendan Rodgers can both be proud – second-highest finish in over three decades – and disappointed – post-Christmas collapse – at Leicester’s City. The Ulsterman has made them quite good to watch, but still faces the criticism of not being able to pick his team up when form starts to nosedive.
What does the future hold: A few additions, and bolstering the squad depth will be important if they’re to have another crack at the top four. A good start seems essential, else Rodgers might find himself under pressure.
Grade: 7/10. In other circumstances, finishing fifth and having their striker finish top scorer is almost ten over ten for the Foxes. But they lose a point or two for their alarming dip in form since December.
Premier League Position: Champions
Season timeline: Win every game? Nope? Unbeaten? Nope? Champions? At long bloody last.
High point: Lifting the Premier League in July to Coldplay and Kanye after 30 hurtful years of winning five European titles, and a few domestic cups.
Low point: Looking hung-over as they visited Manchester City in July.
The manager: A first ever league trophy for the German, despite back-to-back titles with Borussia Dortmund (the Premier League is all that matters!!!). The man from the Black Forest has not just led Liverpool to the title, but made them look so imperious, and arguably the best team in Europe (despite getting one-upped by Atletico Madrid).
What does the future hold: INVEST IN THE WOMEN’S TEAM, FOR F***’S SAKE!! After winning the title, the Red surely have to start to plan towards the refreshing the squad, and perhaps ruthless killing some of their darlings.
Grade: 9/10. Loses one point for spending over £1 million on a trophy presentation three months after furloughing staff. For shame.
***Check out Part Two – from hideous hoodies to Emperor Palpatine – soon enough***
*This post was edited on 30/07/2020 to show Arsenal finished 8th, not 5th*
Kunle Ajao121 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not