Chelsea worthy champions, Tottenham see progress, Man United disappoint: Premier League end-of-season report
As the 2016/17 Premier League season is resigned to the history books, Richard Jolly offers his assessment of each club. To move on to the next club, click the red arrow in the bottom right corner of the image, or if using a mobile device, simply swipe.
Star Man: N’Golo Kante
Worthy champions. The division’s most relentless winners staged a remarkable recovery after finishing 10th last season and slumping to eighth in September. Antonio Conte excelled with a change of shape. New signings N’Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso and David Luiz were key, but so were rejuvenated constants such as Eden Hazard.
■ Richard Jolly: Chelsea’s season turned when Conte turned to Alonso
Star Man: Harry Kane
A year of progress. Tottenham booked their highest league finish for 54 years, left White Hart Lane unbeaten in 12 months and played some scintillating football, showing a new tactical flexibility. Victor Wanyama proved an excellent signing, Dele Alli kept on getting better, Son Heung-Min emerged from the shadows and the defence proved frugal.
■ Richard Jolly: Tottenham honour legends of the past as they seek bright future
Star Man: David Silva
Proved unable to sustain their initial brilliance as it took Pep Guardiola longer to adjust to English football than he may have expected. David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and the precocious Leroy Sane nevertheless provided some entertaining football, but defensive issues were exacerbated by the signing of Claudio Bravo and a lack of continuity.
Star Man: Sadio Mane
Scintillating at times in autumn, struggling more in 2017, Liverpool nevertheless achieved their objective of a top-four finish. Jurgen Klopp did it in quixotic fashion, largely without specialist strikers or natural width as Liverpool went unbeaten against the top seven, making setbacks against lesser lights all the odder, but it amounted to vindication.
Star Man: Alexis Sanchez
Made history by getting 75 points and still coming fifth, Arsene Wenger’s lowest finish. A spring collapse proved costly, prompted protests against Wenger and banished memories of autumn’s long unbeaten run. Alexis Sanchez was outstanding again but Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil flattered to deceive, and Arsenal conceded too many goals.
Star Man: Antonio Valencia
Jose Mourinho talked of the title on his unveiling so United’s league season, featuring an interminable run in sixth and undermined by home draws, has to count as a disappointment, despite a 25-game unbeaten run. They scored too few goals, despite Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Herculean efforts, although the defensive record was fine.
Star Man: Romelu Lukaku
An overdue but impressive improvement. What Roberto Martinez got wrong last season, Ronald Koeman got right this. The defence became more frugal, the home form dramatically better. Koeman’s protégé Tom Davies was a revelation but Everton’s season revolved around the prolific Romelu Lukaku and the creative Ross Barkley. So might their summer.
Star Man: Virgil van Dijk
The league position may suggest a slight drop-off since last season and reaching the League Cup final could be compensation, but it was a year of dull regression. Southampton were too impotent and over-reliant on Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin for goals, even if they were defensively competent. Claude Puel’s position is under scrutiny
Star Man: Josh King
A great feat to record the best finish in their 118-year history, despite a New Year slump and a poor defensive record. It was a reward for Eddie Howe’s attacking ethos, with 16-goal Josh King the breakout star of their year. The dramatic 4-3 win over Liverpool will live long in the memory.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Star Man: Gareth McAuley
A comfortable campaign spent largely as the best of the rest, until a late relapse. Tony Pulis signed a new deal and cemented his position after fan unrest. Albion were defensively sound, with Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans and Ben Foster all impressing, but both Salomon Rondon and West Brom went on goal droughts. They created too little.
WEST HAM UNITED
Star Man: Michail Antonio
Few had more disappointing years. Dimitri Payet forced his way out of the club, the move to the London Stadium brought a series of thrashings and the signings were almost universally poor. The exuberant Michail Antonio helped compensate for striking failings but last year’s surge towards the top four feels a mirage.
Star Man: Kasper Schmeichel
If sacking Claudio Ranieri was the season’s cruellest moment, Leicester’s subsequent revival also suggested it was correct. Craig Shakespeare won his first five games in charge to banish relegation fears and bring a surge towards mid-table. But, Wilfred Ndidi apart, the signings failed and the title winners underperformed for too long.
Star Man: Joe Allen
A slow start, a poor finish and an inability to beat anyone other than the relegation strugglers in the middle: this has been much the worst of Mark Hughes’ four years at Stoke. Lee Grant, Joe Allen and Bruno Martins Indi excelled but too few others did in a season that suggests a club at a crossroads.
Star Man: Wilfried Zaha
Sam Allardyce’s rescue act was predictably successful, not least because, with a striker of Christian Benteke’s ability and a winger of Wilfried Zaha’s verve, Palace should not have been in a relegation battle. January signings Mamadou Sakho and Luka Milivojevic ensured they won it and proved sacking Alan Pardew was right.
Star Man: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Looked doomed until they sacked Bob Bradley, appointed Paul Clement and transformed a campaign that had been notable for bad decision-making, on and off the pitch. Solidity replaced shambolic defending, with Alfie Mawson especially important, but the creator Gylfi Sigurdsson and the scorer Fernando Llorente were the keys to an act of escapology.
Star Man: Michael Keane
Defied virtually every prediction to stay up with an unfashionable approach of generally playing 4-4-2 with British footballers. It was a terrific achievement, based on a formidable home record and featuring some crucial late winners. A fine defensive record owed much to Tom Heaton, Ben Mee and Michael Keane.
Star Man: Etienne Capoue
Beat Manchester United and Arsenal and in effect stayed up with a month to go, but it nevertheless felt disappointing. There were too many dreadful performances, culminating in a 5-0 final-day thrashing. The revolving-door recruitment policy did not fully succeed and manager Walter Mazzarri lost his job, to the delight of fans.
Star Man: Harry Maguire
The surprise was that Hull still had a chance to survive until the penultimate game. They began the season with no manager, no signings and only 13 fit players. Mike Phelan’s flying start proved a false dawn. Marco Silva offered genuine hope after his January appointment but Hull had the division’s worst away record. It cost them.
Star Man: Ben Gibson
Had only conceded 27 goals when Aitor Karanka was sacked but his emphasis on defence, to the extent of everything else, explained while serial 0-0 drawers won the fewest games and scored the least goals. A damp squib of a season ranked as a missed opportunity. Boro had the players and the resources to do better.
Star Man: Jordan Pickford
A truly abominable season. David Moyes ended Sunderland’s years of salvaging dismal campaigns with dramatic escapes from relegation, but only because they went down without a whimper after the worst start in Premier League history. Only Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford impressed in a side without spirit. Signings floundered as fans turned on Moyes, who has since stepped down.
Updated: May 23, 2017 04:00 AM