x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

London clubs bring a changing of the guard

Premier League review: Clubs from the capital enjoyed a season to remember, but teams such as Liverpool and Portsmouth endured one to forget.

Tottenham's Danny Rose, unseen, scores a spectacular left-foot volley to help Spurs to a 2-1 win over Arsenal in April.
Tottenham's Danny Rose, unseen, scores a spectacular left-foot volley to help Spurs to a 2-1 win over Arsenal in April.

It has been a glorious season for Chelsea and a galling one for Liverpool, a year of crisis at Portsmouth and chaos at Hull. It did not bring Manchester United the record 19th title they craved, but Chelsea and Tottenham brought a changing of the guard. New champions and an interloper in the top four, in a year when the favourites appeared more fallible, meant a "Big Four" showed signs of mutating into a large eight. It was not a vintage campaign for English clubs, with the honourable exception of Fulham, in Europe, but it ranked as a great one for goalscorers, as the hauls of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Frank Lampard and Darren Bent show. So, as it comes to an end, how did each club fare? Who shone and who failed?

CHELSEA A glorious first year for Carlo Ancelotti, which could get still better if the title-winners do the double. Occasional crushing defeats were rendered irrelevant by a series of thrashings and a habit of winning the high-pressure games. Scoring 29 of their 103 goals, Didier Drogba was outstanding. Achiever: Didier Drogba. The most devastating forward in the league. Underachiever: Michael Ballack. Overshadowed by Frank Lampard. Again.

MANCHESTER UNITED Depleted by injuries and sales, they nevertheless almost won a record fourth successive title. Wayne Rooney was not a one-man team, but he made a remarkable difference. Honourable mentions, too, to Darren Fletcher, Patrice Evra and Paul Scholes as well as Sir Alex Ferguson. Achiever: Wayne Rooney. Reached new heights and compensated for the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo. Underachiever: Ben Foster. A dramatic fall from grace from the highly rated goalkeeper.

ARSENAL Defied predictions they would drop out of the Champions League reckoning, but could not sustain a title challenge. It may have been different had Robin van Persie stayed fit, or had Arsenal possessed a superior goalkeeper. Thomas Vermaelen and Cesc Fabregas topped Arsene Wenger's youthful class. Achiever: Cesc Fabregas. Never been as prolific or as important. It is vital he stays. Underachiever: Lukasz Fabianski. Significant errors in the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup.

TOTTENHAM A stellar season. Broke the monopoly of the "Big Four" while shaking off the tag of underachievers who were incapable of winning the major matches. Much of the team - Heurelho Gomes, Jermain Defoe, Ledley King, Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale - enjoyed a year to remember. Achiever: Michael Dawson. Went from reserve defender to first-choice and, often, captain. Underachiever: Jermaine Jenas. The forgotten man of Spurs.

MANCHESTER CITY Close, but no cigar. Their best Premier League finish, but they missed the top-four target. The brilliant Carlos Tevez, Shay Given and Craig Bellamy led the way, but Mark Hughes's investment in Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott backfired. Cue another summer of spending. Achiever: Carlos Tevez. An idiosyncratic bundle of energy, inspiration and goals. Underachiever: Kolo Toure. Did not convince either as a defender or a captain.

ASTON VILLA Serial nearly men: FA Cup semi-finalists, runners up in the Carling Cup and almost qualifying for the Champions League. The new-look defensive partnership of Richard Dunne and James Collins gelled well, while James Milner excelled in midfield. But this may be as good as it gets for them. Achiever: James Milner. Relished the move to a central role. Outstanding all year. Underachiever: Emile Heskey. Three league goals is not good enough.

LIVERPOOL Shocking. Out of the title race in October and the Champions League in November, most things that could have gone wrong did. Fernando Torres may leave, Rafa Benitez probably should but, after such a decline, it will be harder for Liverpool to reverse their slump. Achiever: ose Reina. Consistently excellent in a team where no one else was. Underachiever: Steven Gerrard. Fell a long way short of his best.

EVERTON If only injuries had not ravaged David Moyes's squad, but for a slow start and without the Joleon Lescott saga, Everton lost seven of their first 14 games, but only two of the final 24. Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini were especially impressive. Achiever: Steven Pienaar. Inventive and industrious, his best year yet. Underachiever: Joseph Yobo. Seriously off form in the slow start to the season.

BIRMINGHAM A terrific year. Brilliant recruitment. Joe Hart in goal, Scott Dann and Roger Johnson in defence, Lee Bowyer and Barry Ferguson in midfield. Admirable organisation and a fine team spirit made them hard to beat. Undefeated at home since September, they surpassed all expectations. Achiever: Roger Johnson. An old-fashioned defender who was one of the signings of the season. Underachiever: Franck Queudrue. Lost his place and ended the year on loan in League One.

BLACKBURN Sam Allardyce won few points for style but lots for substance. Direct and, at times, defensive, Blackburn were excellent at Ewood Park and ended up in the top half. The youngsters Steven Nzonzi, Martin Olsson, Phil Jones and Junior Hoilett offered most optimism. Achiever: Steven Nzonzi. Bought as a fringe player, he cemented a place in the midfield. Underachiever: El-Hadji Diouf. Apart from irritating people, what purpose does he serve?

STOKE Avoided second-season syndrome while remaining resolute, uncompromising and hard to play. Success of sorts for Tony Pulis, without really improving the style, though he struggled to deal with some of the egos. Lacked a regular scorer but, in Matt Etherington, had an excellent supply line. Achiever: Matthew Etherington. The top scorer also distinguished himself with his crossing. Underachiever: James Beattie. Fell out with Pulis and only scored twice.

FULHAM Could not repeat last year's seventh-place finish, but nonetheless had a better season, thanks to their remarkable run to the final of the Europa League. Bobby Zamora may be the division's most improved player while Roy Hodgson is a deserved manager of the year. Achiever: Bobby Zamora. Improved beyond all recognition in a brilliant year. Underachiever: Andrew Johnson. Injured for the most part, but a year to forget.

SUNDERLAND Started superbly and finished quite well, either side of a winter run of 14 games without a win. Steve Bruce may have tried to change too much too quickly in a radically altered squad but his biggest buy - 24-goal Darren Bent - also proved to be his best. Achiever: Darren Bent. Scored exactly half of Sunderland's goals. A great first year. Underachiever: Anton Ferdinand. Failed to win over Steve Bruce.

BOLTON A season of two managers, the sacked Gary Megson and the more popular Owen Coyle, who actually produced rather similar results. Megson's team failed to keep clean sheets while Coyle's often struggled to score, but it was just enough to keep them up. Achiever: Chung-Yong Lee. The winger looked a class act in his first season in England. Underachiever: Johan Elmander. No better than last season for the Sweden international. Too few goals from the club's record signing.

WOLVES Mick McCarthy was criticised for fielding his reserves at Old Trafford, but Wolves ground their way to safety. A mid-season switch to 4-5-1 made them solid, though it was a struggle to win games. At either end of the pitch, Kevin Doyle and Jody Craddock put in sterling service. Achiever: Jody Craddock. Solid in defence and chipped in with goals. Underachiever: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. Prolific in the Championship, ineffective in the Premier League.

WIGAN The great unpredictables beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal but also lost 9-1 to Tottenham and 8-0 at Stamford Bridge. Fluent football and dodgy defending went hand in hand in Roberto Martinez's first season in charge. Charles N'Zogbia and Hugo Rodallega, in particular, showed real quality. Achiever: Charles N'Zogbia. Speedy and skilful, he looks destined for a bigger club. Underachiever: Jason Scotland. Scored a solitary league goal in a chastening campaign.

WEST HAM Survived, but, with only 35 points, they probably did not deserve to. Despite the sales and the injuries, they should have done better. As only the irrepressible Scott Parker truly performed, it was underachievement on a large scale. Manager Gianfranco Zola yesterday paid the price by being sacked. Achiever: Scott Parker. The driving force and the inspiration. Prospered where others floundered. Underachiever: Jonathan Spector. Responsible for the concession of too many goals.

BURNLEY Attacked endearingly and defended disastrously. The awful away record - 17 defeats from 19 - and number of goals conceded (82), were damning, but may just have stayed up but for Owen Coyle's defection to Bolton. But the memory of the win over Manchester United will linger long. Achiever: Steven Fletcher. A workhorse in attack. Underachiever: Clarke Carlisle. Found out at this level.

HULL Difficulties on and off the pitch. High debts means relegation is especially dangerous, a lack of goals and wins long made it a likelihood. Showed the signs of a club who were panicking: Phil Brown was axed at the wrong time and his temporary replacement, Iain Dowie, achieved inferior results. Achiever: Stephen Hunt.Head and shoulders above his teammates. Underachiever: Paul McShane. Too error-prone, he can be a liability.

PORTSMOUTH A historic season, but in the wrong respects: relegation and administration was an unwanted double. The nine-point deduction finished them off, but the team, whether under Paul Hart or Avram Grant, performed better than the many owners, and could enjoy a fairy tale ending in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday. Achiever: Jamie O'Hara. Brought commitment and quality to the midfield. Underachiever: Tal Ben Haim. An expensive addition who has not merited a place in the defence.

Ace of the season... Roy Hodgson Guided Fulham to a 12th-place finish and the final of the Europa League, where they face Atletico Madrid tonight, in what will be their 64th game of the season Joker of the day... Peter Storrie Overseen the demise of the proud club who suffered the ignominy of being the first Premier League club to enter administration. @Email:sports@thenational.ae