Pitchside

Making the grade: How did your team perform this season?

Pitchside

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At the end of a frequently-dramatic Premier League season, we marked each team on their performance across the campaign, as well as picking out key players, biggest flops and some telling moments.

How did your team do? And do you agree with the final grade?

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MANCHESTER CITY: A

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Spent most of the season lurking in the shadows but came through when it really mattered as they secured a second title in three seasons, and a second trophy for Manuel Pellegrini following the League Cup. They coped well with injuries as well as dips in form from the usually reliable Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart, before drawing on the extreme talent of their expensively-assembled squad to take them over the line. Cracking the 100-goal mark demonstrated Pellegrini’s commitment to entertaining football, which was rewarded.

Player of the Year: Yaya Toure. Probably the Premier League’s outstanding player behind Luis Suarez, the Ivory Coast star was imperious throughout the season, whether using his admirable strength, subtle skills or set-piece mastery. A flood of goals from central midfield proved so important for his team.

Flop of the Year: A £22m signing from Fiorentina in the summer, much was expected of a player who had scored 13 goals in Serie A the previous campaign but Stevan Jovetic taking the field was a rare sight indeed. Two Premier League starts was not enough, despite his succession of injuries.

Their season in one moment: Toure’s epic run through Aston Villa in the final minute to score the final goal in a 4-0 win on May 7. It showcased the brilliance of their leading man and symbolised the fact it was City who had the necessary stamina to win the marathon that is the Premier League.

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LIVERPOOL: A+

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Glorious failure. A genuine title challenge was not supposed to be on the agenda at Anfield but, freed from the demands of European football, Brendan Rodgers cultivated a wonderful young team with goals on the brain and in the second half of the season they somehow stormed to the front, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge becoming one of the most potent partnerships in Premier League history. Naivety - and a slip from Steven Gerrard - hamstrung them at the end, but this season was still a triumph.

Player of the Year: Luis Suarez. No further explanation required.

Flop of the Year: Iago Aspas. The ‘forward’ failed to score a single Premier League goal after his £7.2m move from Celta Vigo and, in the recent 2-0 defeat to Chelsea, was guilty of possibly the worst corner of all time.

Their season in one moment: Scoring four goals in the first 20 minutes when blowing Arsenal aside with a frighteningly assured and accomplished attacking display. The crackling electricity in Rodgers’ team was enthralling to witness.

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CHELSEA: C-

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Had a nine-point lead at one stage in March but Jose Mourinho’s repeated rejection of his team’s title chances proved correct when a succession of poor results against the Premier League’s lesser teams undermined their credentials. Chelsea’s first season without a trophy in three years also witnessed a reversion to some stunningly-negative football.

Player of the Year: The PFA Young Player of the Year was Eden Hazard and there’s little doubt he was Chelsea’s outstanding player, offering some rare imagination and invention as a floating playmaker with a real sting.

Flop of the Year: Fernando Torres. Again.

Their season in one moment: Sacrificing flair for industry when selling Juan Mata to Manchester United in January and bringing back Nemanja Matic.

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ARSENAL: B-

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As Arsene Wenger was keen to point out, Arsenal spent 128 days on top of the table which can be construed as nothing other than a vast improvement on recent seasons, but dig a little deeper and it is clear that their favourable fixtures were stacked in the first half of the season. When it really mattered, they were humiliated by Manchester City (6-3), Liverpool (5-1) and Chelsea (6-0) as well as suffering the ignominy of failing to beat David Moyes’ Manchester United. Still, fourth place is fourth place, and their season will really be defined at the FA Cup final next weekend.

Player of the Year: Per Mertesacker. The BFG completed the transition from slightly suspect, gangly squad member to assured, languid leader. Aaron Ramsey was exceptional but injury took its toll.

Flop of the Year: Mesut Ozil has been an easy scapegoat due to his price tag but no one tops Nicklas Bendtner as a sheer waste of space. Stopped being relevant after failing to move during January and was seen more often on Instagram than the pitch in 2014.

Their season in one moment: Signing injured, ageing midfielder Kim Kallstrom on transfer deadline day when they desperately needed a striker.

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EVERTON: A

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Finding a successor for Moyes after 11 years was a rather less fraught process than the one which took Everton’s previous manager to Old Trafford. Roberto Martinez improved the side markedly – most notably with his clever use of the loan market – and made Everton a more expansive, flexible and entertaining team. They ran out of steam at the end of the season but this was a season of clear improvement, with two wins over Man Utd, one over Arsenal and one over Chelsea – fixtures Moyes was never able to master.

Player of the Year: Seamus Coleman, Gareth Barry and Sylvain Distin all had fantastic seasons but for pure unadulterated exhilaration we can’t look past Ross Barkley and the stunning performances he has produced on a regular basis. Surely must go to the World Cup.

Flop of the Year: Lacina Traore had a big reputation when arriving on loan from Monaco in January but a knee injury quickly put him for the rest of the season out after a goal on debut. Hardly his fault, but there it is.

Their season in one moment: Nothing demonstrated Everton’s transformation from a Moyes-standard solid entity set up to defend to a fluid outfit out to beat the big boys better than the sight of Coleman indulging in some juggling down the touchline and then making fun of Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla as one of the big four were humiliated at Goodison.

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TOTTENHAM: C

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It is rather remarkable to think that Tottenham won 12 of their first 15 games in all competitions this season but still, Andre Villas-Boas had to be sacked, apparently, after a summer of extreme turmoil thanks to the sale of Gareth Bale and the signing of half a team. A 6-0 defeat to Manchester City and 5-0 home loss to Liverpool spelled doom for AVB, paving the way for the hilarious reign of Tim Sherwood, who blustered his way through the rest of the season while slating his players in public, hurling items of clothing and providing regular moments of comic relief.

Player of the Year: Hugo Lloris made a compelling case in goal – even playing on after a nasty knee to the head from Romelu Lukaku knocked him out – but Christian Eriksen is our pick after adding real invention to a side that limped through the season.

Flop of the Year: Roberto Soldado in any other season, but it surely has to be the £25.7m club record signing Erik Lamela, who made only three Premier League starts and scored once in the Europa League. And to think people said he could replace Gareth Bale.

Their season in one moment: When Tim Sherwood furiously removed his gillet and threw it to the ground in despair as he watched Spurs lose to Arsenal at White Hart Lane. It summed up his bombastic but ultimately fruitless style of management.

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MANCHESTER UNITED: E-

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Where to start? Moyes was a hopeless replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson as he introduced functional football at a club that should be setting the standard, allowing the mystique of Old Trafford to dissipate rapidly as a succession of decades-long waits for smaller clubs to win at United were ended. The job was too big for Moyes, who through his methods limited the scope of United’s play and allowed them to be overtaken by so many of their rivals. A season of painful regression which cost them Champions League football.

Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney, who scored 17 goals and claimed 10 assists in the league. Though David De Gea performed manfully in goal, no other United player came close to Rooney's contribution. Mind you, they don’t get paid £300,000 per week either.

Flop of the Year: Well, Moyes of course. But also Marouane Fellaini, whom he spent £27.5m on, only to see his once trusty aide at Everton let him down time and again.

Their season in one moment: In truth, there were so many moments that were symbolic of United’s downfall but the one that sticks in our mind is Darren Bent’s injury-time equaliser for Fulham at Old Trafford in February. This was the game when Moyes went ultra-Moyes: A calamitous result and those 81 crosses with Rene Meulensteen rubbing it in when saying his opposite number’s tactics were: “easy to defend against”. Defender Dan Burn said United’s style reminded him of his non-league days.

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SOUTHAMPTON: A-

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Mauricio Pochettino’s first full season as Southampton manager was a huge success as Saints settled on a tidy and successful style of play and players such as Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw continued their impressive development. The signing of Dejan Lovren helped forge a tight defence but Saints’ success lay in their accomplished midfield.

Player of the Year: The Saints have had a fine season, which has been a testament to collective endeavour, but still one player sticks out: Adam Lallana. His wonderful form as a supporting attacker has seen him installed as a strong contender for a starting role at the World Cup, which would have seemed hugely unlikely at the start of the campaign.

Flop of the Year: Who else but Pablo Osvaldo, who came into the club as their record £15m signing from Roma but scored only three goals in the league before being suspended for fighting with Jose Fonte and packed off to Juventus on loan.

Their season in one moment: When Shaw was called up to the England squad for the first time in February, joining Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Rodriguez in Roy Hodgson’s selection. It was a proud occasion which said much about Southampton’s incredible progress in recent years.

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NEWCASTLE: D

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Oh dear. The first half of the season was promising enough as Newcastle ended the year in eighth place, but the arrival of 2014 brought a change in fortunes as Alan Pardew presided over a dismal run of defeats which saw them plummet in the table. Underinvestment in the team took its toll and as results continued to disappoint, supporter fury only grew at Mike Ashley and Pardew, who had to sit out a few games after headbutting David Meyler.

Player of the Year: Yohan Cabaye. Says it all that this award goes to a player who left the club in January, departing for PSG. He managed to squeeze in seven goals from midfield and Newcastle’s dismal form in the second half of the campaign owed much to his absence.

Flop of the Year: Joe Kinnear, who sadly departed as director of football in February having failed to sign a single player on a permanent deal in two successive transfer windows.

Their season in one moment: Nothing said more about Newcastle’s propensity for farce than Alan Pardew sticking the nut on Meyler.

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STOKE CITY: B

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Mark Hughes made a big deal of changing Stoke’s style after being tasked with replacing Tony Pulis and certainly had some success, increasing the number of passes they made and reducing the club’s reliance on set-pieces. A first top-10 finish in the Premier League was vindication of his appointment. Still, a rather brutal bullying of Arsenal demonstrated that key tenets of the Pulis reign had not been abandoned completely.

Player of the Year: Marko Arnautovic proved to be something of a revelation with seven assists and four goals following a £2m move from Werder Bremen in the summer. Known to be rather temperamental, the Austrian actually knuckled down and added some unpredictability to the Stoke attack.

Flop of the Year: John Guidetti arrived as a loan signing from Manchester City in January with a big reputation and an even bigger head, but made only six appearances as a substitute without getting on the scoresheet.

Their season in one moment: Charlie Adam stamping on Olivier Giroud and Stoke moaning about the FA’s decision to charge and then ban him.

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CRYSTAL PALACE: A

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It is important to remember that having started the season under the control of the wacky and flawed Ian Holloway, Palace lost nine of their first 10 Premier League games and on November 2 had a paltry two points. But the appointment of Tony Pulis was a masterstroke as he extracted the best out of players such as Mile Jedinak and Joel Ward, as well as achieving the notable feat of making Marouane Chamakh look like a striker. A 1-0 home win over Chelsea in March was the highlight of their season and it sparked a run of five successive wins – something Manchester United failed to achieve at all. Finishing top of the bottom half of the table is simply extraordinary given the start they made.

Player of the Year: Mile Jedinak, though really this is rather misleading. Pulis is quite clearly Palace’s man of the season, and quite possibly the manager of the year.

Flop of the Year: For similar reasons, Ian Holloway.

Their season in one moment: The 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park which basically ended Liverpool’s title ambitions was their season in microcosm: an awful start followed by an unbelievable response.

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SWANSEA CITY: C

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Winning the club’s first major trophy was not enough to spare Michael Laudrup as he was dispensed with in Febraury via email. The Dane was reported to have fallen out with chairman Huw Jenkins over a trip to Paris, when he also gave his players two days off despite losing to West Ham on the Saturday. Garry Monk was handed the reins and almost dragged the club into the relegation zone when overseeing a string of poor results which are hardly cause for optimism when he starts next season on a new three-year deal.

Player of the Year: Wilfried Bony had plenty of expectation surrounding him having scored 31 times in 30 Eredivisie games for Vitesse in the previous campaign and breaking the 15-goal mark in the Premier League was a fine return for a dangerous striker.

Flop of the Year: Michu. Just two league goals for last season’s hero.

Their season in one moment: In January, defender Chico Flores was reportedly spotted grabbing a brick in a training-ground argument with Monk. The police were called but the matter was left in the club's hands.

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WEST HAM: C-

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A Sam Allardyce team will never be relegated from the Premier League, but then again, a Sam Allardyce side will not entertain either. Style has been sacrificed for safety, and the West Ham board is reported to be mulling over whether to sack the manager after a tepid season which failed to enthuse supporters. Allowing Ravel Morrison to leave the club on loan in January hardly helped.

Player of the Year: Mark Noble. Perennially under-rated, the midfielder enjoyed a handful of goals and assists as well as maintaining his consistently good form. Unspectacular but careful with the ball, he kept things ticking over. Adrian was also brilliant at times between the sticks.

Flop of the Year: Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello share the honours after the Italian duo failed to do anything of note following their loan arrivals in January.

Their season in one moment: When Jose Mourinho said Sam Allardyce’s side were playing “football from the 19th century”. It drew this response from the ever-pragmatic and never-aesthetic Allardyce: “He can't take it can he? He can't take him because we've out-tactic-ed him, out-witted him. He just can't cope. He can tell me all he wants. I don't give a s***e, to be honest. I love to see Chelsea players moaning at the referee, trying to intimidate him, Jose jumping up and down in his technical area. It's great to see.”

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SUNDERLAND: B

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The greatest of great escapes? At one stage Sunderland looked buried but a stunning run of four wins in a row, including victories at Chelsea and Manchester United, plus a draw away at Manchester City got them safe. They probably deserved relegation having started the season with Paolo Di Canio and the mysterious Roberto De Fanti in positions of power but Ellis Short finally got it right with the appointment of Gus Poyet, who also took Sunderland to the League Cup final.

Player of the Year: Connor Wickham. Okay, so he only started nine games, but Sunderland’s entire season came down to the run-in and Wickham conjured up five crucial goals in three games in the draw at City and wins over Sunderland and Chelsea. Vito Mannone was more consistent, but Wickham more decisive.

Flop of the Year: Take your pick. Summer signings David Moberg-Karlsson, Cabral, Modibo Diakite, Valentin Roberge, Jozy Altidore, El Hadji Ba, Emmanele Giaccherini, Charalampos Mavrias and Andrea Dossena all offered little.

Their season in one moment: When the loathed Di Canio was finally sacked after 13 games in charge following what the Telegraph described as “a player rebellion of unprecedented scale in this country”. Players reportedly said the abrasive Di Canio had been acting “like a dictator”, rather fittingly.

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ASTON VILLA: D

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Safety was all Villa could really hope for given the lack of quality in their squad, but still, they didn’t have to make it such a horrible experience. Paul Lambert oversaw a prolonged slog of a season with few bright spots, bar perhaps a 1-0 home win over Chelsea in March which gave them their first back-to-back wins of the season.

Player of the Year: There were briefly calls for Fabian Delph to be named in the England squad and they were justified too. The midfielder had a fine season on a personal level, even despite Villa’s struggles, and chipped in with three goals and two assists, the highlight being his imaginative back-heeled finish against Chelsea. Added class to an otherwise rather joyless team.

Flop of the Year: Nicklas Helenius. Remember him? No probably not. Villa found £1.2m in their limited budget to sign the Danish striker from Aalborg and he last made a Premier League appearance in October.

Their season in one moment: When Lambert signed Grant Holt on loan in January and justified it by saying the lumbering striker was a “proper man”.

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HULL CITY: B

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Expected to go straight back down after a monumental overachievement in promotion, Hull ultimately stayed up fairly comfortably and have reached the FA Cup final, which will guarantee European football next season. They've been pretty entertaining too, in a quaint, old-school way, and managed all this on a relatively small budget and under the shadow of open fan revolt regarding a proposed name change. The fundamental difference between Assam Allam and Cardiff owner Vincent Tan is that, while eccentric, Allam didn't meddle with matters on the pitch.

Player of the Year: Curtis Davies was consistently excellent in the centre of defence and proved an unlikely hero for Hull having underachieved for a few seasons. Tom Huddlestone ran things in midfield but Davies was the foundation for Hull’s success.

Flop of the Year: Danny Graham, whose loan spell ended in January after one goal in 18 games and subsequently went to the Championship with Middlesbrough.

Their season in one moment: When the FA rejected Allam’s bid to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers in April – a triumph for supporters.

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WEST BROM: D

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Another club who changed their manager mid-season, West Brom dispensed with Steven Clarke in December with the club 16th in the table to bring in Pepe Mel. The Spaniard spent most of his time off the pitch getting an education in French anti-Semitism thanks to the Quenelle controversy but got enough points together to just about ward off relegation on the final day.

Player of the Year: Youssouf Mulumbu was Mr Consistency in a difficult season, the defensive midfielder chipping in with two goals and two assists as well as proving composed in possession.

Flop of the Year: Nicolas Anelka. The striker probably didn’t imagine that the phrase “a dolphin sodomising a man” would be prominent in his season, but it was, thanks to the Quenelle judgement that saw the FA impose a five-game ban on the striker, who promptly quit the club. His refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing was a stain on the Baggies’ season – as was the club’s inability to deal with the controversy properly.

Their season in one moment: Going 3-0 up at home to Spurs after 31 minutes, only to draw 3-3. It was the second time in two home games they had conceded in injury time to draw 3-3, summing up a campaign that had brief moments of promise before calamity struck.

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NORWICH CITY: D

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It took Norwich a long time to be convinced that Chris Hughton should be sacked and they finally wielded the axe on April 7.

Player of the Year: The fact that at one stage Carlo Nash was leading the poll for the Supporters’ Player of the Year despite not making a single appearance is instructive, but still, we better pick somebody and Robert Snodgrass was joint top scorer with six goals from midfield so he looks as good a bet as anyone.

Flop of the Year: Ricky van Wolfswinkel. The Dutchman scored on his Premier League debut in August but has had a disastrous time ever since, managing just nine shots on target across the entire season. Given his transfer fee of £8.5m that works out at nearly £1m per accurate effort.

Their season in one moment: When Hughton's replacement, Neil Adams, was dubbed 'the new Alan Partridge thanks to his previous work at a local radio station.

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FULHAM: E

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It is a special season indeed which witnesses three managers at one Premier League club, and remarkably, after so much chopping and changing, Fulham lacked the stability required to stay in the top flight. Martin Jol should have been binned off much earlier, Rene Meulensteen must have felt aggrieved at his brief spell, while Felix Magath briefly promised to pull off a great escape, only for Fulham to finally be subjected to the relegation that has been on the horizon for years. An unbroken run of 13 years of top-flight football is over.

Player of the Year: The best of a bad bunch - a very bad bunch - was Steve Sidwell, who top-scored from midfield with seven goals.

Flop of the Year: Shahid Khan. Bought the club from Mohamed Al Fayed and oversaw immediate relegation while working through three managers. Not the greatest of introductions to football.

The season in one moment: Signing Kostas Mitroglu for £11m in January only to discover he was only fit enough to make one Premier League start in the second half of the season.

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CARDIFF CITY: D

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Not the smoothest season, to say the least, for a club that seemingly remains in a perpetual state of turmoil. Owner Vincent Tan attracted yet more criticism as manager Malky Mackay left the club and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stepped into the maelstrom, unable to keep them in the Premier League. Cardiff broke their transfer record three times in the summer but it was not enough to give them the quality required to secure points on a regular basis.

Player of the Year: Jordon Mutch regularly looked a cut above his team-mates and scored seven times to top score for the Welsh club. His haul of five assists was also the joint most in a Cardiff squad lacking outstanding performers. A dangerous presence who deserves another shot at the Premier League with a different club next season.

Flop of the Year: Tan would have been the biggest flop had anything other than rank embarrassment been expected from him. As it is, we will have to go with Andreas Cornelius, signed for £7.5m from Copenhagen, who made eight sub appearances before rejoining the Danes on loan.

Their season in one moment: When Tan sacked head of recruitment Iain Moody and replaced him with Alisher Apsalyamovby, a 23-year-old Kazakh who had previously been on work experience at the club and was a pal of Tan’s son.

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