Review of Premier League Teams - Part One: Arsenal has reason for hope despite falling short of the title again, Aston Villa impressed, while Chelsea and Everton had ups and downs, and Burnley struggled.


Another Premier League campaign reached its climax on Sunday and quite a lot looks familiar.

Manchester City are champions again, becoming the first team to win the English top-flight four times in a row, ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool. Meanwhile at the opposite end, the three clubs that came up – Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton Town – are the three going straight back down again.

In the middle there was intrigue, however, with Aston Villa storming into the Champions League, Manchester United looking like also-rans, and Chelsea riding a rollercoaster.

Following the season’s conclusion, we grade all 20 clubs in our annual report cards, beginning with Arsenal through to Fulham.

It was a case of so near, yet so far, for Arsenal once again as they missed out on the title

It was a case of so near, yet so far, for Arsenal once again as they missed out on the title

ARSENAL

Finished – 2nd

2022-23 finish – 2nd

So near and yet so far again for Arsenal. While Mikel Arteta’s side were destined to come second to an irrepressible Manchester City, there remains a genuine feeling something special will happen.

Building on last season’s second-placed finish, Arsenal were more entertaining, more ruthless, more united and more resilient, exuding a self-confidence not seen since the peak Wenger era.

Take your pick of star performers from Declan Rice, Gabriel, William Saliba, Ben White, Bukayo Saka, Kai Havertz… the list could go on. But naming so many, it proves the effectiveness of the collective.

Now Arteta must find the missing pieces of the jigsaw – notably a 20-goal centre forward – for them to finally get the better of City next time.

While there’s absolutely zero shame in missing out to Pep Guardiola’s relentless champions, Arsenal need to ensure they keep pushing forward having emerged as the only ones who might realistically end City’s domination.

GRADE: A

There was still much for Mikel Arteta and his players to be proud of despite finishing second

There was still much for Mikel Arteta and his players to be proud of despite finishing second

ASTON VILLA

Finished: 4th

2022-23 finish: 7th

A simply outstanding campaign – hats off to Unai Emery and his freewheeling Villa side, who will grace Europe’s leading competition next season for the first time since 1983.

With their incredibly high defensive line, quite a bit of Villa’s game is based on risk, but boy did that pay off with the whole team willing to drain the tank for Emery and buy into his vision.

There are countless star performers but Ollie Watkins and his 40 goal contributions in all competitions is surely deserving of a Euro summer with England.

Despite some debilitating injuries and a deep Europa Conference League run, Villa were able to keep up the pace and hold off Tottenham to claim fourth spot.

Completing the double over Arsenal and beating City at Villa Park will rank as season highlights.

They might need some summer reinforcements to avoid embarrassment in the Champions League but a whole lot of fun awaits them and they deserve it.

GRADE: A+

Ollie Watkins was outstanding as Aston Villa qualified for the Champions League next season

Ollie Watkins was outstanding as Aston Villa qualified for the Champions League next season

BOURNEMOUTH

Finished: 12th

2022-23 finish: 15th

There were plenty of gulps when Gary O’Neil was replaced by the largely unknown Andoni Iraola last summer but there was no need to fear.

Bournemouth and relegation weren’t mentioned in the same breath for the majority of the season and they achieved their highest Premier League points tally.

Iraola’s high energy and attack-minded style is easy to get on board with, with Lewis Cook and Ryan Christie the fulcrums in midfield and Dominic Solanke enjoying a superb scoring season.

Smashing Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford – and it might easily have been five or six – was a definite high point, part of a great December run that alleviated any relegation anxiety.

The Cherries should only push on from here if they place full trust in Iraola.

GRADE: A

Bournemouth - and striker Dominic Solanke in particular - enjoyed a very positive season

Bournemouth – and striker Dominic Solanke in particular – enjoyed a very positive season

BRENTFORD

Finished: 16th

2022-23 finish: 9th

A definite regression on the surface which might have some wondering if Thomas Frank has taken Brentford as far as he can.

But then look at the mitigation. The Bees were without star striker Ivan Toney for half the season and there’s no question he would have scored a few (in the end, he managed just four post-comeback).

They also suffered debilitating injuries to other key players at various points, yet Brentford were never really in the relegation conversation.

With all that in mind, credit to Frank for working well with what he had available and ensuring Brentford continue to look like the Premier League furniture.

Quite a big summer awaits, especially if one of the big boys swoops for Toney.

GRADE: C

Brentford did well enough considering they were without Ivan Toney for half the season

Brentford did well enough considering they were without Ivan Toney for half the season

BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION

Finished: 11th

2022-23 finish: 6th

With just one win from their last 10, Brighton’s season fizzled out amid unsettling speculation over Roberto De Zerbi’s future.

It transpired De Zerbi will be leaving – presumably to a European powerhouse – and the power pack Italian coach leaves behind fond memories.

A first European campaign, which saw memorable wins over Ajax and Marseille before Roma crushed them, created a brilliant buzz around the Amex.

The extra games did, however, create fatigue and injuries which had a knock-on effect in the league, where Brighton finished a solid, but unspectacular, 11th.

Picking De Zerbi’s replacement – with Ipswich’s Kieran McKenna a reported frontrunner – and empowering them to blend old and new players, will be the critical thing this summer.

GRADE: B

Brighton have a big call to make on Roberto De Zerbi's successor as the Italian moves on

Brighton have a big call to make on Roberto De Zerbi’s successor as the Italian moves on

BURNLEY

Finished: 19th

2022-23 finish: 1st (Championship)

After Burnley walked the Championship last season, Vincent Kompany genuinely believed they could play the same way in the Premier League and prosper.

It didn’t take long for him to be disabused of that notion as Burnley won only once before December and lost their first seven home games (only the second team in English league history to do so).

Things didn’t get any better from there, with only Sheffield United worse in the end. It was a campaign to highlight the brutal gulf that remains between first and second tier – for most that make the leap.

Clarets fans would say the writing was on the wall after some strange summer recruitment that changed a little too much but Kompany must bear responsibility for meek surrenders in too many games.

Whether Burnley continue with him as they face the Championship again remains to be seen.

GRADE: E

Burnley's struggles really did highlight the gulf between the Championship and top division

Burnley’s struggles really did highlight the gulf between the Championship and top division 

CHELSEA

Finished: 6th

2022-23 finish: 12th

As Chelsea beat Bournemouth to qualify for Europe on the final day, it might be tempting to conclude that all’s well that ends well.

But really, given all the money lavished on Chelsea’s squad, finishing sixth is the bare minimum of what might be expected and they rode a rollercoaster to get there.

More than once during another turbulent season, fans were clamouring for Mauricio Pochettino to be sacked and there were dreadful low points (losing at home to Forest, away to Everton, home and away to Wolves and 5-0 to Arsenal).

But in the final weeks, Pochettino turned it around and his team started to show real promise and that added to two good cup runs makes it decent enough.

Chelsea are a considerable way off being a title-challenging force, however, and with Todd Boehly and Co you really don’t know what will happen next. At least it isn’t dull.

GRADE: B-

Things didn't turn out too badly for Chelsea despite some low points earlier in the campaign

Things didn’t turn out too badly for Chelsea despite some low points earlier in the campaign

CRYSTAL PALACE

Finished: 10th

2022-23 finish: 11th

They genuinely didn’t want the season to end at Selhurst Park. Sunday’s stunning 5-0 thrashing of Champions League-bound Villa – their sixth win in seven – left fans drooling.

The close season forces Palace to confront the fact they’ll be surely inundated with offers for star players Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze and Jean-Philippe Mateta – and at least one will surely be sold.

But with Oliver Glasner bringing such incredible energy to Palace, if they can keep this team intact, next season is bursting with promise.

That’s a big contrast to the start of the season when Roy Hodgson was struggling to get things going and, in particular, the alarming winless run in November and December.

But Glasner has ensured that is but a distant memory and he’ll build for next season around those talented attackers and Adam Wharton, who is already looking an £18million bargain.

GRADE: First half of season – D; Second half of season – A

Crystal Palace didn't want the season to end as they smashed Aston Villa 5-0 on Sunday

Crystal Palace didn’t want the season to end as they smashed Aston Villa 5-0 on Sunday

EVERTON

Finished: 15th

2022-23 finish: 17th

The most important thing is that Everton survived – and by an astonishing 14-point margin in the end. Given the absolute circus at Goodison Park and seemingly endless drama, that’s no mean feat.

Most obviously, we had the two separate points deductions for breaking the Premier League’s PSR rules, which shaved eight points off and left Sean Dyche’s capable-enough side sailing close to the wind.

Then there’s the ongoing takeover saga with 777 Partners and a present ownership who leave much to be desired.

Dyche and his manner of playing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but nobody can fault the resilience and bunker mentality he brings. That has proved invaluable, with Everton winning five of their last eight having gone 13 winless.

What Toffees fans would give for just a boring, bog standard, drama-free season.

GRADE: C

It was another rollercoaster season for Everton with drama on and off the pitch

It was another rollercoaster season for Everton with drama on and off the pitch

FULHAM

Finished: 13th

2022-23 finish: 10th

Some seasons can be tricky to gauge. On the one hand, Fulham slipped back a few places. On the other, they reached a Carabao Cup semi-final, were well clear of relegation and proved there’s life after Aleksandar Mitrovic.

The big Serbian striker’s departure to Saudi Arabia a week into the season did expose a lack of succession planning and replacing his goals proved a challenge.

Rodrigo Muniz and Andreas Pereira celebrate a goal for Fulham during a decent campaign

Rodrigo Muniz and Andreas Pereira celebrate a goal for Fulham during a decent campaign

Rodrigo Muniz came good eventually but the Brazilian could do with a little bit of help, with Raul Jimenez suffering an injury just as he found form.

Highlights included wins over Arsenal and Man United, plus five-goal demolitions of Forest and West Ham in the same week, but being edged out by Liverpool over two Carabao semi-final legs seemed a missed opportunity.

GRADE: C+



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