The 2015/2016 Premier League season is now officially over, and it’s fair to say that over the past nine months we have witnessed one of the most unpredictable league campaigns in history.
Teams who were expected to battle it out near the top end of the table, fell way short of such expectations, whilst teams who were near certainties for relegation surprised many, by escaping the dreaded drop. And of course there’s Leicester City, the greatest footballing story of all time.
Over the course of the season, each one of the twenty Premier League clubs has had their own ups and downs, and whilst many clubs will be satisfied with their performance over the duration of the campaign, for some, the summer will prove to be a time of true reflection on what has been a disappointing last nine months.
Here, at Free Bets, we have decided to give a club-by-club verdict on each Premier League side, awarding them an overall grade for their performance this season, and picking out both a highlight and a low point for each side.
Verdict: Many expected Eddie Howe’s side to be relegated straight back down to the Championship this season, but that has been far from the reality. The Cherries have defied all the odds, and achieved safety quite comfortably. The club must look to kick-on next season, but can be very proud of their achievements this campaign.
Highlight: Bournemouth’s 1-0 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Low Point: A £7.6m fine for breaking Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules that could restrict summer transfer plans.
Verdict: It’s a case of what might have been for Arsene Wenger’s side. Despite the Gunners pipping North London neighbours Spurs to second place, this was a real opportunity for Arsenal to claim their first Premier League title for more than a decade. It seems like the same old story as far as Arsenal fans are concerned, and supporters will expect major investment this summer, so that the club can challenge for major honours next season.
Highlight: Finishing above Spurs for the 21st consecutive season.
Low point: The 3-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford signalled the start of yet another mid-season title collapse.
Verdict: Unfortunately, it’s been coming. The Midlands side has been run like a complete shambles over the last couple of seasons, and it finally resulted in Villa’s relegation to the championship. This relegated Villa side might be remembered as the worst Premier League side ever, which is far from what Villa supporters deserve.
Highlight: 1-0 victory against Bournemouth on the opening day of the season.
Low point: The Joleon Lescott Twitter fiasco, which took place hours after a 6-0 drubbing against Liverpool.
Verdict: If you would have told football fans this time last year that Chelsea would finish the 2015/16 season in mid-table and Jose Mourinho would be sacked after losing nine of his opening 16 league games, people would have thought you were crazy. Chelsea’s remarkable demise from Premier League champions to mid-table obscurity is one of the stories of the season, and much work is needed from incoming boss Antonio Conte, to lift spirits and performances at Stamford Bridge next season.
Highlight: The 2-2 home draw against Spurs in April, which ended Tottenham’s Premier League title hopes.
Low point: It’s difficult to pick just one, but Jose Mourinho’s departure from Stamford Bridge, months after guiding the Blues to Premier League glory is a major disappointment.
Verdict: Despite an encouraging first half of the season, Palace’s awful mid-season slump has cost them, and instead of finishing in the European places, the South London side finished the season looking over their shoulders at teams in the relegation zone. Despite a poor league campaign, Palace have had an excellent cup run, culmating in an extra-time defeat in the final against Manchester United.
Highlight: 2-1 win over Watford in the semi-finals of the FA Cup
Low point: One of only three teams to lose against Aston Villa all season.
Verdict: At the start of the season Everton’s football was free-flowing, attacking, and exciting to watch. By the end of the campaign, the Merseyside club were absolutely abysmal, and looked a shadow of thier former selves. Roberto Martinez inevitably paid the price with his sacking on the penultimate weekend of the season.
Highlight: The 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea at Goodison Park.
Low point: The 4-0 Merseyside derby defeat to Liverpool at Anfield at the end of April.
Verdict: Where do you even start? From miraculously surviving in the Premier League one season, to top-flight champions the next, there will never be a greater sporting story than that of Leicester City. Claudio Ranieri’s side have played without fear, and their teamwork, solidity, and the speed in which they have ripped sides apart, has been a joy to watch this season. What a story, what a season.
Highlight: There are just so many, but the 3-1 victory against Manchester City at the Etihad in February gave the Foxes real belief that they could do the unthinkable.
Low point: None.
Grade: A +
Verdict: Since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp, there seems to be a lot more optimism at Anfield, and that has been backed up by some fantastic performances too. But despite having a Europa League final to look forward to, their inconsistencies in the league have cost them making any sort of charge for the top four, and this must be addressed, if the Reds are to challenge high up the table next season.
Highlight: The thrilling quarter-final Europa League comeback against Borussia Dortmund at Anfield.
Low point: Surrendering a two goal lead against Southampton, to lose 3-2 in March, to kill off any hopes of a top four place.
Grade: B –
Verdict: It’s safe to say that Manuel Pellegrini’s last season in charge at the Etihad did not go as he would have liked. Despite reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, their collapse in the Premier League title race is quite alarming, and incoming boss Pep Guardiola has a lot of work to do next season to rebuild a City team who should really be challenging for top honours, both domestically and in Europe on a consistent basis.
Highlight: Reaching their first ever Champions League semi-final, after a 1-0 victory over PSG.
Low point: A woeful attacking display during the Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid.
Verdict: It’s tough to make sense of all that is going on at Old Trafford. The club failed to make the top four this season, and the football for the majority of the campaign has been appalling, yet United boss Louis Van Gaal has somehow held on to his job. To be fair to the Dutchman, there has been signs of some sort of revival in recent weeks, and there is an FA Cup final against Crystal Palace to look forward to, but this is Manchester United we are talking about. Simply not good enough.
Highlight: The 2-1 FA Cup semi-final win against Everton.
Low point: A tepid exit to arch rivals Liverpool in the Europa League round of 16.
Verdict: Simply too little too late from Newcastle owner Mike Ashely. The Magpies chief should have dismissed head coach Steve McClaren from his post at St James’ Park a lot sooner, and it is now a case of what might have been under Rafa Benitez.
To be fair, the owner wasn’t afraid to spend money in the January transfer window, but it was not enough to avoid relegation to the championship. It is now vital that they retain the services of Benitez.
Highlight: 5-1 victory over Tottenham on the last day of the season
Low point: The 0-0 draw to Aston Villa on the penultimate game of the season, which killed off any hopes of escaping the drop.
Verdict: Norwich bow out of the Premier League this season with their heads held high. Canaries boss Alex Neil has come so far so quickly and must take great credit for his side’s efforts this season. The lack of squad depth, and especially the lack of a proven goalscorer has cost them dearly.
Highlight: The 2-1 victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Low point: A crushing 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland in April, which turned out to be a defining point in their season.
Verdict: It’s been another season of improvement for Southampton, under the stewardship of Ronald Koeman. Despite the summer sale of Morgan Schneiderlin to Man United, and the constant speculation surrounding the futures of Sadio Mane, and Victor Wanyama, the Dutch boss finds a way of keeping everything under control, and ensures his side are constantly improving. Their sixth place finish means the Saints will be playing Europa League football next season.
Highlight: Beating Arsenal 4-0 at St Mary’s on Boxing Day.
Low point: Crashing out of the Europa League at the qualifying stages, after a 1-0 defeat to FC Midtjylland.
Verdict: Stoke boss Mark Hughes has matched the club’s highest ever finish from last season (ninth), as he continues to mould the team in his own image. Potters fans have been treated to some exciting football this season, and the summer arrivals of Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay are further indication that Stoke’s stock continues to rise.
Highlight: A thrilling 4-3 victory away to Everton on boxing day.
Low point: Missing out on a place in the Capital One Cup final, after losing 5-4 to Liverpool on penalties.
Verdict: Manager leaves, bring in new boss, survive, repeat. It’s the same old story as far as Sunderland fans are concerned, but they won’t be bothered about that this time around. After the departure of Dick Advocaat in early October, with the club languishing near the foot of the table, Sam Allardyce was the next in line to take up the ever changing managerial hot-seat at the Stadium of Light. The 61-year-old used all his Premier League knowledge and experience to turn things around and keep the Black Cats up, at the expense of North East rivals Newcastle.
Highlight: Beating Everton 3-0 at the Stadium of Light in May to secure their Premier League status for another season.
Low point: A humbling 6-2 defeat away to Everton in November.
Verdict: The definition of topsy turvy. Swansea started the season well, only to go on an abysmal run which left the Swans facing a real relegation battle, that culminated with the sacking of Gary Monk.
Enter Francesco Guidolin, the man who bizarrely arrived at Swansea in January as an unknown quantity outside of Italy.
Four months on and he is known as the man who saved the club’s season, and the transformation from relegation candidates, to a mid-table side has been quite staggering.
Highlight: Appointing the unassuming Francesco Guidolin in January.
Low point: Axing the talented Gary Monk in December.
Verdict: At the start of the season many fans in North London were worried that their side may not make it into the top six, but that is now all a very distant memory. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been arguably the best footballing team this season, and despite being pipped to second by North London rivals Arsenal, Spurs fans side should look at this campaign as a real success and a sign of things to come.
Highlight: Beating Manchester United 3-0 in April, the first home win over United for 15 years.
Low point: The final day 5-1 defeat to Newcastle, which allowed rivals Arsenal to pip them to second spot.
Grade: A –
Verdict: After gaining promotion to the Premier League last season, new boys Watford firmly established themselves in the top-flight, and enjoyed an FA Cup adventure which ended with a semi-final defeat to Crystal Palace. After such a great first season back in the Premier League, the decision to part ways with Quique Sanchez Flores is rather bizarre, and ends the season on a slightly sour note.
Highlight: 2-1 Victory at Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final in March.
Low point: The bizarre departure of Quique Sanchez Flores.
Grade: B +
Verdict: Whilst Tony Pulis has once again comfortably kept up the Baggies, there is no doubt that West Brom fans will want to see their side kick-on next season. Some of the football has been a bit uninspiring to watch, and it looks as though that the Saido Berahino saga has overshadowed West Brom’s season. The whole situation has been a handicap for Ton Pulis and he’ll want to get it resolved in the summer.
Highlight: The 1-0 home victory over Manchester United in March.
Low point: The FA Cup fifth round defeat to Reading, which resulted in Chris Brunt being hit in the eye with a coin, by a disgruntled Baggies supporter.
Verdict: Under the guidance of Slaven Bilic, West Ham have gone on to firmly establish themselves as a top seven side in the Premier League. The Hammers may have missed out on a Champions League place this season, but with a new stadium imminent, fans in East London can feel that something bigger is on the horizon.
Highlight: The thrilling 3-2 win against Manchester United in the final game at Upton Park.
Low point: The 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester United.