Premier League 2018/19 Season Review

That’s it. That’s the season. 380 games, 1,072 goals and one black cat later, and Manchester City have only gone and won the blummin’ thing again. There were things to savour despite the predictable denouement however; Liverpool’s endless pursuit, Tottenham’s squatting rights, Manchester United (general), Watford being good, actually? The return of Brendan, Neil Warnock becoming the face of Brexit, Fulham spending their way to 19th place, tons of splendid games and goals, and of course the opportunity to look back on those pre-season predictions and feel the hot burning shame of your father being caught touching himself while watching Anne Widdicombe speak at a Brexit rally.

THIS IS THE REVIEW.

Manchester City

Pre-season prediction: 1st
Mid-season prediction: 1st

What We Said Then
“Despite going into Christmas in second place, City clearly have a few more gears to crank through before they’re playing at full potential. With De Bruyne now ready to be reintroduced into the first team, and Aguero well rested, it would be a big surprise to see the Cityzens anywhere but top come the end of the season.”

What We’re Saying Now
Two points fewer than last season, eleven fewer goals, two more defeats, and a winning margin of just a point compared to the nineteen of 2017/18. Diminishing returns it is then, and surely its only a matter of time before the light aircraft are hired, bedsheets are daubed and #PEPOUT starts trending on Twitter. No? Of course not. Manchester City become the first team since their neighbours a decade ago (yes, Manchester United used to win this thing as well) to retain the Premier League, having earned a staggering 198 points across the last two seasons. This time out they even made it interesting by splashing the cash on just one player – and not even a fullback – and teasing us all with an uncharacteristic wobble in December that saw three defeats in four as City plumbed the unthinkable depths of third. Between the Boxing Day defeat at Leicester City and the end of the season, however, Pep’s men dropped just three points – the defeat at Newcastle the kind of freak result that often derails a title bid, but inspired the reigning champions to string together a run of fourteen victories, during which they trailed for just 83 seconds. A preposterous squad of footballers coached by a man firmly on his way to becoming the best the game has ever seen. The Blue Moon has now risen, and there’s a long night ahead. 

Sleeper Hit Bernardo Silva
It’s mad to think that modern Manchester City legend, loyal servant, World Cup winner and all-round wizard David Silva would one day only be the second best player in the squad bearing his surname, but here we are. After a decent first season in Manchester during which Bernardo showed flashes of the player that impressed so much at Monaco, the Portuguese’s second campaign in the Premier League has seen his stock rise as one of the league’s outstanding playmakers. A constant goal-threat drifting in from the right, seemingly always waiting to pounce on the merest hint of a goalscoring opportunity, and able to deliver a killer pass from anywhere across the park, Silva Jr looks set to continue the good work of his namesake for years to come.

Season-Definer  Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
A title decider in January? What a preposterous idea! And yet, thanks to the relentless nature of both Manchester City and Liverpool’s quests for glory, the destination of the Premier League trophy can be traced back to a baltic night at Eastlands, where City withstood the frenetic early pressure from Klopp’s men, John Stones prevented an opening goal by eleven millimetres, and Leroy Sane settled a pulsating game by thumping an effort in off the post eighteen minutes from time. Back then we all thought there’d be plenty more twists and turns before the season ended. There weren’t.

 

Liverpool

Pre-season prediction: 2nd
Mid-season prediction: 2nd

What We Said Then
“In the week before Christmas, Dejan Lovren announced that Liverpool could go the whole season unbeaten, which is as good as surrendering the title, but it does as least look like we’ll have something closer resembling a title race than most predicted pre-season.”

What We’re Saying Now
Liverpool. Mates. Any other year (apart from last year). Any other team except Pep Guardiola’s banterless automatons. In practically any other league in world football. This would have been the year. To start a season twenty games unbeaten, and to end it with another seventeen games without defeat. To go on two separate nine-game winning streaks. To be seven points clear. To lose just one game. To reach ninety-seven points. Football in 2019 is grounded in schadenfreude; dreadful memes poking fun at teams who can spark real unadulterated joy posted in the meanest of spirits. Socially-challenged slugs who take to their keyboards and relish their Nelson Muntz moment, pointing and laughing at supporters who’ve witnessed breathtaking games, unforgettable moments and unthinkable disappointment. Perhaps it’s po-faced to want to banish the banter, albeit momentarily, in lieu of applauding Liverpool for a momentous season. Perhaps its sycophantic to hope that Jurgen Klopp and his players can somehow build on the Reds best ever points tally and go one better to lift the title next season. Perhaps its time we retired the word ‘bottle’ from the football lexicon altogether.

Sleeper Hit  Georginio Wijnaldum
Newcastle fans might have afforded themselves a wry smile when Liverpool were convinced to part with £20m for the services of a player who’d a) just been relegated and b) only seemed impactful during fixtures played at home. Indeed, during his first two seasons on Merseyside the Dutchman struggled to shake suggestions he went ‘missing’ during away games, but under Klopp’s tutelage, Wijnaldum has blossomed into an all-action midfielder. Posting the highest passing accuracy of any Liverpool player with 91%, Gini has spent the season dicatating play from the centre of the pitch, screening the most resolute defence in the league, and offering a goal threat with his runs from deep. His cameo from the bench against Barcelona in that staggering Champions League comeback demonstrated the midfielders abilities in microcosm.

Season-Definer Liverpool 1-1 Leicester City
Twenty-four hours earlier Rafa Benitez, that man so connected with fans on the red half of Merseyside, who calls the area his home, had masterminded Newcastle’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City at St James’ Park and opened the door for Liverpool to take one giant step towards that elusive first Premier League title. A win over an ailing Leicester City, who’d lost their last two, would restore the Reds seven point lead at the top of the table. Sadio Mane’s goal in the third minute looked to settle any early nerves, and everything seemed business as usual before Harry Maguire’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Forty-five minutes of huffing and puffing couldn’t blow the Foxes rearguard down, and a golden opportunity had gone. A draw at West Ham five days later only further compounded that missed chance. Manchester City would not drop a point for the rest of the season.

Chelsea
Sarri

Pre-season prediction: 5th
Mid-season prediction: 4th

What We Said Then
“There’s questions to be answered when the going gets tough, but with Arsenal emerging as the Blues main challengers for that fourth Champions League spot, you’d back Sarri to get the job done.”

What We’re Saying Now
Chelsea have changed, man. For so long the Shed End was the preserve of skinheads in casual wear who could see where that Enoch fella was coming from but still loved a bit of reggae, and had no time for none of your Fancy facking Dan nonsense. Now they’re actively trying to alienate a coach that’s taken them to domestic and European finals and finished top of the chasing pack, all because he dresses like your intimidating uncle who’s off for a day down the bookies. Okay fine, so Maurizio Sarri has spent the season playing Chelsea’s most effective midfielder – nay the best destructive protector of the back four in the world – out of position in favour of a stat-padding teacher’s pet. And fair enough, he oversaw an embarrasing defeat at Bournemouth. We get it, he stood and watched as Manchester City dished out the Blues worst defeat for nearly thirty years. Okay, okay, he’s lost certain members of the dressing room and couldn’t even get the goalkeeper he brought to the club to obey his instructions in the League Cup final. But given Roman Abramovich’s clear disinterest in the whole project, and considering he continued to get a tune out of a wantaway star, and harking back to the twelve game unbeaten run at the start of the season, has it really been all bad? Oh it has, right. As you were, then.

Sleeper Hit Callum Hudson-Odoi
Perhaps its another stick to beat Doctor Fags with, but the fact that Chelsea supporters spent so much of the season being so enraged at Sarri’s steadfast refusal to pick the most hyped product of their academy since John Terry is…a good thing? Particularly since the formerly free-spending West Londoner’s now face a year of watching from the sidelines as all and sundry throw billions of pounds at the transfer market. Hudson-Odoi’s first season in the limelight has been promising, with four goals in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League final a particular highlight, along with excellent displays against Brighton and West Ham, but Sarri’s caution in burdening him with expectation is a smart move. The eighteen year old has a bright future ahead of him, and should get plenty of chances next season to prove his mettle. Good things come to those who wait.

Season-Definer Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur
The opprobrium towards Sarri reached new heights after the staggering Etihad collapse in which Manchester City waltzed to a four goal lead after a quarter of the match, eventually inflicting a record defeat on the Blues. Defeat to Tottenham at Stamford Bridge a few days later might have been terminal for the Italian, but a far more disciplined and professional showing saw Pedro give the hosts the lead, before a comical own goal from Kieran Trippier wrapped up the points. Whilst it might not have restored the supporters trust, any win over Tottenham will buy a manager time.

 

Tottenham Hotspur

Pre-season prediction: 4th
Mid-season prediction: 3rd

What We Said Then
“A club seemingly lost in transition, the stewardship of Pochettino has ensured limited damage to the good ship Hotspur in the past couple of years. It now falls to Daniel Levy to secure the Argentine’s services for the forseeable future if Spurs are to remain at English football’s top table.”

What We’re Saying Now
A record breaking season for Tottenham, as they become the first football club in the Premier League era to have more videos of pints being poured at their stadium published on social media than footage of actual football. Oh and they also went the whole season without making a single signing, a decision that began to look a little questionable when Mauricio Pochettino was forced to bring the faded memory of Vincent Janssen off the bench on two separate occasions. Still, Spurs struggled through, managing to completely take their eye off the domestic season from mid-February to concentrate on reaching the Champions League final, losing seven of twelve to record their highest defeat count in a decade, picking up just two points against teams in the top half in the process, and still qualifying for next season’s premier continental competition. And they say the Premier League is becoming less competitive. Still, with their shiny new stadium (which, if you haven’t heard, serves craft beer that fills up FROM THE BOTTOM), and record profits, Spurs look more likely than ever to take the next step and seriously push at a title bid. It’s Tottenham lads, but not as we know them.

Sleeper Hit Son Heung-Min
It’s long been clear that Tottenham’s #7 is a special player, but this season, returning from a mentally draining Asian Games in which Son and his South Korea team-mates swerved two years of national service, he stepped out of Harry Kane’s shadow to become Pochettino’s main man. Registering his lowest tally of minutes for a season since his first for Spurs thanks to international commitments, Son strode past Fernando Llorente into the vacancy for a scorer of important goals and took on the added responsibility with gusto, with crucial strikes against Watford, Newcastle and Leicester along with first goal scored at Tottenham’s swanky new stadium. It would be in the Champions League that the forward proved his worth however, almost single-handedly putting Manchester City to the sword with the winner in the first leg and an outstanding brace at the Etihad. So long the unsung hero, he’s now the prodigious Son.

Season-Definer Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Crystal Palace
We hadn’t seen a stadium this hyped up since West Ham fans bid farewell to the Boleyn Ground by pelting bricks at a bus containing Louis van Gaal, but given Tottenham’s reputation for soiling their pants on the big occasion, the signs that the opening night of the As-Yet-Untitled Arena would turn into a damp squib for the locals were strong. It wasn’t to be as, in front of a rousing and raucous crowd, Spurs got the job done thanks to goals from Son and Christian Eriksen. While the game itself may have had little bearing on the outcome of Tottenham’s season, it felt like Pochettino’s side were finally home after a difficult eighteen months at Wembley.

 

 

Arsenal

Pre-season prediction: 3rd 
Mid-season prediction: 5th 

What We Said Then
“On current form, you’d be barmy to bet against the Gunners securing a return to the Champions League, but they’re also up against another two sides that have been ruthless in their pursuit of points. It’ll be close, but we think they’ll just miss out. Fortunately they’ve got a Europa League specialist in the dugout.”

What We’re Saying Now
Seven points better off than last season, a Golden Boot winner in their team, and a Europa League final to look forward to, and yet some Arsenal supporters are grumbling that Unai Emery’s first season hasn’t lived up to expectations. That the Gunners played a starring role in the end of season parlour game ‘Please, After You’ and missed out on a top four spot thanks to a run of four defeats in five, with a limp draw against a dreadful Brighton side as the encore, might go some way to explaining the sense of missed opportunity at Ashburton Grove. Still, there are signs of a team ready to challenge the chasing pack over the next few seasons, with Lucas Torreira enjoying an impressive debut campaign, while the strikeforce of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks among the most potent in the league. If they can adequately replace their departing playmaker and finally bring in a half-decent central defender, they’ve half a chance of building on this season’s modest success.

Sleeper Hit Aaron Ramsey
After eleven years, countless crucial goals, and a particularly gruesome leg break, Aaron Ramsey is departing north London for pastures new and guaranteed trophies as he jets off to Turin to join Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus. Rather than phone in his final months at the Emirates however, Ramsey posted some of his best performances in recent memory, driving the team towards the Europa League semi-finals with an inspirational display against Napoli, and signing off in his final derby with the opening goal against Tottenham. Often the midfielder’s ability has been the subject of debate between Arsenal fans and neutrals alike, but his commitment to the cause could never be questioned, and his departure – for absolutely nowt, no less – could prove a massive blow to Emery’s attempts at building a squad that can challenge.

Season-Definer Arsenal 2-3 Crystal Palace
The scene was so typically Arsenal. Unbeaten at home since the opening day visit of Manchester City, and possessing the second best home record across the league, the Gunners had taken advantage of their wobbling neighbours to nip into the top four, with a chance to give themselves some breathing space with the visit of a bottom-half side with little to play for. The hint that it might not be Arsenal’s day arrived in the 17th minute wearing a ten foot neon sign reading ‘this might not be Arsenal’s day’ as perennial figure of fun Christian Benteke, holder of a Premier League record for shots taken without scoring, put Roy Hodgson’s side in front. Though Mesut Ozil levelled up shortly after half-time, a combination of Shkodran Mustafi and the Gunners’ insistence on picking Shkodran Mustafi led to two quickfire goals for Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur, putting the Eagles out of sight. It would prove the first of four fatal blows to Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four.

Manchester United

Pre-season prediction: 6th
Mid-season prediction: 6th

What We Said Then
“Solskjaer’s appointment was met with a wave of positivity from United supporters who, having been through two and a half years of painfully dull football, are just happy to see something – anything – different. In truth its impossible to say what’s going to unfold at Old Trafford in the second half of the season, but based on the new bosses debut in the crushing victory over Cardiff, the sacking of Mourinho may see an upturn in form from the likes of Pogba and Lukaku, and an unlikely push for the top four might be on the cards.”

What We’re Saying Now
Assembled on a big budget and embarking on a crucial season that had even the most hardcore fans fearing the outcome, after hours of talking and some of the most eye-rollingly predictable plot twists you’re ever likely to come across, when it came to the final reckoning everyone was left a little bit disappointed wishing they’d stopped watching back when it was enjoyable. If HBO and Sky Atlantic are looking for something to fill their primetime spot over the summer, then they could do a lot worse than re-run the dross that was Manchester United’s 18/19 season. From the mildly amusing Mourinho meltdown, to the bizarrely endearing new manager bounce under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, through to the loudest chorus of ‘I told you so’s’ since Lord Varys first raised a sceptical eyebrow in the direction of Tyrion Lannister, it has been a season to forget. The twelve game unbeaten run that earned Ole a proper go at the wheel seems a distant memory after the car crash run in that saw United embark on their worst run on results since football was invented in 1992. Expect a massive overhaul at Old Trafford in the summer, ideally beginning with the executive vice-chairman.

Sleeper Hit Diogo Dalot
Signed as one for the future for the not inconsiderable amount of £19m, the Portuguese full-back finally began to string together a run of games once Mourinho had left the building, posting some impressive performances and helping himself to two assists in the process. Whilst United have problems all over the pitch, much of their defensive fragility has been put down to a pair of fullbacks who share the combined age of someone who’s no longer legally permitted to control a moving vehicle. For all the flashes of promise Dalot has shown in his first season at Old Trafford, his biggest asset is that he isn’t Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young.

Season-Definer Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 Manchester United
The game in which Manchester United began to seriously consider whether Solskjaer was the managerial mastermind they’d been convinced he was, or whether he just likes talking about the good old days. The Norwegian’s twelve game unbeaten run had come to an end at Arsenal three weeks earlier, but Woodward had still decided to offer Ole the full time job, thanks to the club’s Champions League progression against Europe’s flakiest oilballers. Against Wolves, the severity of Red Ed’s haste soon became clear, as United were played off the park by a hungrier side. They would win just once more before the end of the season.

 

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Jiminez

Pre-season prediction: 8th
Mid-season prediction: 10th

What We Said Then
“Not quite the best promoted side the Premier League has ever seen, nor ready for a push into the race for Europe, Wolves are at least building a foundation for an extended stay in the top flight. With Nuno, they have a tactically adept manager with fresh ideas, and thanks to the owners relationship with super-agent Jorge Mendes, the next big thing from overseas could be just a phone call away.”

What We’re Saying Now
Potential European qualification, best record against the top six of any team outside it, victories over Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, and an FA Cup semi-final appearance. All in all, not a bad season from a club that were fighting relegation from the second division two seasons ago. Under Nuno Espirito Santo, Wolves play attractive, exciting football with a squad that mixes superb technicality and enormous graft, and on this season’s showing they look set to stick around the upper echelons of the Premier League table from some time to come. Their biggest regret, besides the Wembley collapse against Watford, will be the points dropped against sides towards the bottom of the table (37.5% of Huddersfield Town’s points were won against Wolves), with an apparent complacency setting in when lining up against the so-called lesser teams. If Nuno can address that, and add a little more quality to the squad, 2019/20 could be even better.

Sleeper Hit Diogo Jota
Overshadowed by countrymen Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho, as well as strike partner Raul Jiminez during the first half of the season, Jota came into his own at the turn of the year. A hat-trick in the breathless 4-3 win over Leicester was followed with crucial goals against Cardiff, Manchester United, Arsenal and Watford, as well as the winner in Wolves’ FA Cup Quarter-Final meeting with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. Ranking joint third with Matt Doherty for assists, and a constant pain in the backside for defenders with his space-making runs, the former Porto man is a key component in Nuno’s system.

Season-Definer
 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Manchester City
A credible opening day draw with Everton had given way to a deflating defeat at Leicester City before Wolves welcomed the champions to Molineux back in August. Their commitment to pressing and attacking Pep Guardiola’s side came as a breath of fresh air given the multiple attempts by teams to sit deep and soak up sky blue pressure last season, and the newly promoted side’s enterprise was rewarded with Willy Boly’s dubious opening goal on a sun-kissed afternoon in the West Midlands. Though Aymeric Laporte’s equaliser twelve minutes later denied Nuno’s side a famous victory, the blueprint for Wolves’ gameplan against the top six was plain for all to see, and would reap sixteen points across the season.

Everton

Pre-season prediction: 9th
Mid-season prediction: 7th
 

What We Said Then
“Based on the talent and resources available, Silva’s side look a shoe-in for seventh, beyond that, Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright will have to dig a lot deeper to push the Toffees up the table.”

What We’re Saying Now
A bead of sweat forms on his temple, trickles down past his slate-grey five o’clock shadow and plummets onto a tanned forearm, nestling into the thatched forest of hair. The crunch of grinding teeth syncopates with the tap-tap-tap of his laptop keyboard. With one final, forceful exhale he clicks the ‘Tweet’ button. “BIG SAM HAD THEM FINISHING EIGHTH” says Richard Keys. Which is true of course, he did. And he did it while collecting fewer points, scoring fewer goals, conceding considerably more, and managing to turn a whole fanbase against him in the process. Marco Silva’s first season at Goodison has hardly been sunshine and rainbows. A 6-2 defeat at home to Tottenham two days before Christmas saw the nadir of his tenure, the final humiliating part of a five game run without victory. By the turn of the year, he was clinging on to his job for dear life. The turnaround came with a 0-0 draw against Liverpool, where for once Everton’s inferiority complex didn’t get the better of them, denying their neighbours a crucial two points in the title race. From then on, despite the odd slip, Silva’s team looked transformed, willing to take the game to more illustrious opponents, and playing some genuinely scintillating football. If their late season run is the shape of things to come, then the good times might be returning to the blue side of Stanley Park.

Sleeper Hit Lucas Digne
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it’s still nigh on impossible as a football fan to not be excited when your club signs a player from Barcelona. Rather than the sensible, measured line of thinking that says ‘he’s not good enough for Barcelona’, the more naive among us tend to get carried away into thinking ‘he played for Barcelona!’. With the Catalans sending three of their off-cuts to Merseyside, there was always a chance that Everton might find some wheat among the chaff, and so it proved with Lucas Digne. Desperate for some fresh legs at left-back now that Leighton Baines is spending more time concentrating on aping Paul Weller’s hairstyle, Digne has emerged as one of the signings of the season. Ranking second for both interceptions and assists, and notching the most key passes of any Everton player this season, its Digne’s prowess from dead balls that has wowed the Goodison faithful in his debut campaign. A belting free-kick to equalise in stoppage-time against Watford provided the perfect announcement for his arrival.

Season-Definer Everton 2-0 Chelsea
The same fixture as last season’s defining pick, but a different result altogether, that goes some way to highlighting the leaps and bounds the Toffeemen have come on since ditching the Count of Monte Bisto for Baby Jose. In 17/18, Allardyce set up his Everton side to prevent a lacklustre Chelsea from scoring, managing to register zero shots on target in ninety minutes that none of those who witnessed it will ever get back. This time out, buoyed by that point against Liverpool, Silva’s team went for the jugular. Having allowed Chelsea all of the possession in the first half,  goals from Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson in a much improved second forty-five secured the three points for Everton, and set them on course for a run of form that saw them pick up seventeen points in their final eight games.

 

Leicester City

Pre-season prediction: 12th 
Mid-season prediction: 12th

What We Said Then
“With a sense that there is little to play for and most of those at the club would like to get this season over and done with as soon as possible, a lower midtable finish will hardly be seen as the end of the world.”

What We’re Saying Now
In a season overshadowed by the tragedy that took the lives of chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, two of his business associates and two pilots, Leicester City have emerged looking ahead to the prospect of a very bright future. The sacking of Claude Puel, unfathomably the most unpopular manager working in club football today, hardly arrived as a shock, and the arrival of Brendan ‘a breath of fresh air’ Rodgers reinvigorated a squad that have a habit of not looking arsed every now and again. Propelled to a top half finish, a squad filled with exciting young players and experienced older heads will head into next season full of momentum, and will fancy their chances of gatecrashing the top six. How would the new manager rate his few first months in charge? “Okay”.

Sleeper Hit Ben Chilwell
A once-popular and now-defunct Fantasy Football podcast once labelled Leicester’s left-back as “one of the worst players the Premier League has ever seen”. This season, whilst that podcast came to a sudden end, Ben Chilwell came of age. Not only has the academy graduate staked his claim as Gareth Southgate’s first choice full-back, he’s also got the likes of Manchester City vying for his signature with a host of impressive performances for the Foxes, flying up and down the left hand side and proving him self as adept at defending as his is going forwards. Ranking in the top five for key passes and successful dribbles for Leicester, his tally of four assists this season will only improve. Sadly, it affords him less time to spend on his two-man Public Information Service on the importance of hydrating at the correct temperature with former teammate Danny Drinkwater.

Season-Definer Leicester City 3-1 Fulham
The last game at the King Power Stadium before the visit of Fulham had seen the end to Whispering Claude’s tenure with a meek defeat to Crystal Palace, and new boy Brendan could hardly have cherry-picked better opposition to drive home the feel-good factor that had greeted his appointment. The free-falling Fulham did at least put up a little resistence as Floyd Ayite equalised Youri Tielemans’ first-half opener, but a brace from Jamie Vardy, a man who loves impressing a new boss – he scored the opening goal of Puel, Craig Shakespeare and Claudio Ranieri’s spells in charge – put the game to bed and set the Foxes off on a four game winning streak. Just like that, the clouds had been lifted in the East Midlands.

West Ham United
Antonio

Pre-season prediction: 7th
Mid-season prediction: 8th

What We Said Then
“With a generous set of fixtures over the festive period, this is West Ham’s chance to put themselves in the running for that newly-cherished seventh spot in the table. It looks likely they’ll be pipped to the post by Everton come the end of the season, but finally the  Hammers are heading in the right direction.”

What We’re Saying Now
“This is the first time I have not qualified for Europe so I hope that next season we will do it” was Manuel Pellegrini’s relatively downbeat summation of his first season at the London Stadium. But if ardent Brexiteers find themselves conflicted by the Chilean’s approach to the continent, they might also seek inspiration from Hammers’ fans tactics of civil disobedience during last season’s defeat to Burnley that encouraged the club’s owners to secure a top-class manager in the first place. While it’s hardly been a spectacular campaign for the Irons, it has marked a period of transition whereby genuinely talented footballers have been drafted into the squad, a semblance of identity has been introduced to the team’s playing style, and they managed to go a whole season without losing a cult hero. The emergence of Declan Rice alongside the ever-steady Mark Noble, an impressive debut season from man mountain Issa Diop in front of the ever-improving Lukasz Fabianski, and the introduction of the mercurial Felipe Anderson offer plenty of hope for the future, provided those villains in the boardroom don’t cock it up.

Sleeper Hit Robert Snodgrass
A year ago Wee Snoddy was taking nutrional advice from Steve Bruce and living on a diet that largely consisted of cornish pasties and steak bakes during his season-long stay at Aston Villa that saw him commuting from Birmingham to London on a daily basis. Back in the fold under Pellegrini, and older, wiser and a little less divey than during his days at Hull City, Snodgrass has moulded himself into a dependable midfielder that can play across the middle of the park. Any pace lost from the consumption of 235 Costa Caramel Lattes has been channeled into working on his eye for a defence-splitting pass, and his hold up play and defensive contribution have played as much of a part in West Ham’s success this season than his shoulder-dropping mazy runs. Twenty-six starts – the most he’s managed in a Premier League season since Norwich City’s demotion in 2014 – shows the extent of Pellegrini’s trust in the Scot, who’s come a long way since arriving at the London Stadium and being faced with the question “where do you play, then?”

Season-Definer
 West Ham United 0-2 Watford
A tough start to the season with four defeats on the bounce had been punctuated with dazzling displays against Everton and Manchester United, but after Manchester City strolled to a 4-0 victory in Stratford, fears that Pellegrini had lost his touch began to resurface. That defeat preceeded a scintillating run of four wins on the bounce, with the Hammers scoring eleven goals in the process and looking every inch a team enjoying the injection of some South American flair. Rising to ninth in the table, talk of a push for Europe arrived in earnest, and the visit of fellow challengers Watford offered the perfect opportunity to steal a march in the race for seventh. Instead, shades of the old West Ham emerged, with Troy Deeney’s first half penalty and a late Gerard Deulofeu goal earning the spoils for Javi Gracia’s side. The Hammers wouldn’t find that momentum again before the end of the season.

Watford

Pre-season prediction: 18th 
Mid-season prediction: 11th

What We Said Then
Oh what fools we were to doubt the Pozzo family. We’re still not entirely sure what their plan is, or even if they have one, but once they’d flown out of the traps at the start of the season, our relegation prediction looked as short-sighted and embarrassing as Elton John after one too many Snowballs. Watford are here to stay.”

What We’re Saying Now
Not since the misguided Omelette Eating Contest at the 2012 London Festival of Football Writing have so many journalists and pundits been left with so much egg on their face as they have witnessing Watford’s extraordinary season. Tipped for the drop by all and sundry, four wins of the bat had some in Hertfordshire indulging in Champions League chat. But while the production of Real Madrid and Watford half-and-half scarves may have been fanciful, to suggest the Hornets season has been anything but a resounding success would be churlish. Javi Gracia, the so-called no-name who had little chance of seeing out the season, has instilled a recognisable footballing philosophy at the club, getting the best out of a group of players that range from limited to mercurial. Whilst the cup run may have caused them to take their eyes off the league in the latter stages of the season, the dazzling performances against Cardiff and Fulham served as a reminder that these boys can play on their day.

Sleeper Hit Gerard Deulofeu
Often cited as a luxury player, and faced with accusations of lacking application, the former Barcelona man hit the form of his life towards the latter stages of the season, finishing with a career high ten goals and adding five assists to-boot. A hat-trick at the Cardiff City Stadium, during a game in which he was given the freedom of the principality, showed signs of a player who has finally found his eye for goal. Provided he can maintain some kind of consistency, Deulofeu could be the man to fill the void as Watford’s creative linchpin.

Season-Definer Watford 3-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers (FA Cup Semi-Final)
For all of the impressive wins in the Premier League, the most memorable afternoon of Watford’s season undoubtedly came at Wembley in perhaps the most stirring semi-final comeback of all time. Two goals down with eleven minutes to play, and having barely troubled John Ruddy for the best part of eighty minutes, a moment of magic from Deulofeu gave Watford supporters who’d made the short trip to North London a glimmer of hope, before a remarkable brainfart from Leander Dendoncker gifted Troy Deeney the opportunity to take the tie to extra time. If there were anyone you’d want to shoulder that responsibility, it would be Watford’s cojone-obsessed striker, and Deeney’s emphatic spot-kick sucked the wind out of Wolves’ sails. In the extra thirty minutes there looked to be only one winner, and so it proved as Deulofeu again came up with the goods, slotting home to book Watford’s place in their first FA Cup final for more than thirty years.

Crystal Palace

Pre-season prediction: 11th
Mid-season prediction: 14th

What We Said Then
“It was the addition of Meyer, alongside Hodgson’s good work last season, that had us thinking Palace could trade blows with the likes of West Ham and Leicester City for a place in the top half this term. Without Luka Milivojevic’s penalties however, the Eagles are lacking a difference maker, and the second half of the season could be a real slog.”

What We’re Saying Now
There’s an unspoken agreement among the football media that Roy Hodgson is exempt from criticism. Everyone loves good old Uncle Roy. He’s intelligent! He’s erudite! He looks like an owl! He’s getting on a bit! He managed an England team that got knocked out of a major tournament by Iceland. He’s managing the club he supported as a boy! But on closer inspection – has he had a successful season? Yes, Crystal Palace are run on a tight budget. Yes, they’ve picked up some eye-catching results this season, not least completing the Abu Dhabi Double away at Manchester City and Arsenal. So why were they still being talked about as outsiders for relegation? And why have they finished in the bottom half of the table again? Probably because Hodgson was forced to spend half a season with Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham as his two senior strikers, but still Crystal Palace remain something of a conundrum. Consistently inconsistent – a run of nine games between February and April saw them record results of WLWLWLWLW – and still heavily reliant on penalties – eleven were awarded to Palace in 18/19 to add to their league high ten from last season – a proven goalscorer will be high on Hodgson’s shopping list this summer. Perhaps then we’ll have a better idea of how far he can take this side.

Sleeper Hit Luka Milivojevic
Before moving to Selhurst Park from Olympiacos, Luka Milivojevic had never taken a penalty in a professional football match before. In the two and a half seasons since joining, he’s taken twenty-one and scored nineteen. For the second season running he’s finished as Crystal Palace’s top scorer, whilst simultaneously running games from midfield and chipping in with the odd ripsnorter from open play. For all the praise the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend rightfully receive as the prongs of Palace’s attack, the Serbian has established himself as perhaps the Eagles’ most important player. After all, it was his goal that secured their first win without Zaha in over two years.

Season-Definer Leicester City 1-4 Crystal Palace
Just as they had the season before, Roy’s Boys arrived at the King Power Stadium and demolished a Leicester City side being tipped for that newly-coveted 7th place finish with some scintillating counter-attacking football. A first goal for Michy Batshuayi since his arrival on loan from Chelsea set the Eagles on their way, before a Zaha double and a Milivojevic penalty added shine to an impressive performance. Having taken five points from their previous three games, the win at Leicester arrived as a timely reminder of how good Palace can be on their day, and perhaps how close they are to joining that cabal of teams outside the top six. With a an extra bit of quality and a little more consistency, we could be seeing a lot more of these kinds of performances.

Newcastle United

Pre-season prediction: 15th
Mid-season prediction: 16th

What We Said Then
“Even with Rafa Benitez’s experience and tactical nous, Newcastle are one or two injuries away from full on crisis. A team lacking in goals and creativity, if Mike Ashley is serious about offloading the club at the highest possible price, he’d be foolish to risk a third relegation in his time as owner by failing to provide the tools to secure safety.”

What We’re Saying Now
For the third successive season, Rafael Benitez has confounded expectations on Tyneside by steering Mike Ashley’s bargain bin of tat to a respectable league position. The most fraught campaign during the Spaniard’s tenure has seen constant speculation surrounding the manager’s future, another alleged takeover attempt, regular fan unrest, and still the occasional reminder that when the team get it right at St James’ Park it’s among the most special places to watch football in the world. An abysmal start to the season saw the Toon fail to win before the nights started drawing in, but an upturn in form and the club-record acquisition of Miguel Almiron in the new year spurred Benitez’s men on to safety, even abandoning the manager’s normally pragmatic approach to play some attractive attacking football. Sadly, thanks to the continued parsimony and procrastination of their wretched owner, Newcastle supporters won’t be allowed to enjoy the prospect of another season in the top flight for too long, as Benitez’s future remains uncertain heading into the summer. The soap opera that is North-Eastenders continues.

Sleeper Hit Isaac Hayden
Summer 2018: Isaac Hayden expresses a desire to leave Newcastle United for personal reasons. August 2018: Isaac Hayden is sent off nineteen minutes after coming on as a substitute at Cardiff. A section of the Newcastle support are vocal in their wish to never see him don the black and white stripes again. May 2019: Isaac Hayden’s imminent departure from St James’ Park is mourned by the Magpies faithful. The 18/19 season has been a wild ride for the Arsenal academy graduate, transforming himself from a player on the fringes of Benitez’s squad to one of the first names on the team sheet with some dynamic and fearless performances in the centre of the park, and a remarkable run that saw him notch a goal and three assists in five games during the Toon’s resurgence. Purchased for a meagre £2.5m, he looks set to make Mike Ashley a tidy profit this summer.

Season-Definer Newcastle United 2-1 Manchester City
As the clock ticked down on another frustrating transfer window for Newcastle’s manager, and supporters mobilised themselves to raucously protest at the negligence of their club’s owner, news broke that the Magpies were on the verge of breaking their longstanding transfer record with a £21m bid for Paraguayan playmaker Miguel Almiron. The clouds over St James’ Park were lifted. Then Sergio Aguero put City a goal up in the first minute. The anticipated onslaught from Pep’s oilballers never arrived, however, and with City slowly running out of ideas, Newcastle grew in confidence. Salomon Rondon’s emphatic finish looked to have pinched a point late in the day, before Sean Longstaff, the local boy with only a handful of first team appearances, drifted past Fernandinho and tripped over the Brazilian’s trailing leg to earn a penalty for the hosts. After a lengthy delay, Matt Ritchie thundered home the spot-kick, and against all the odds, Newcastle had beaten the champions. It marked another of those all-too-rare special nights on Tyneside.

 

Bournemouth

Pre-season prediction: 17th
Mid-season prediction: 9th

What We Said Then
 “Pre-season we didn’t think Bournemouth’s recruitment had sufficiently plugged the gaps from last season, but we hadn’t reckoned with Wilson’s extended period of leave from the physio room, nor Brooks’ seamless transition to the top flight. Despite a couple of heavy defeats, the Cherries are a match for most these days, and an upper mid-table finish would represent steady progress this season.”

What We’re Saying Now
In a season of flaky inconsistency outside the top two, Bournemouth must surely rank high for being the flakiest and most inconsistent of the lot. Their now annual superb start to the season had the Eddie Howe Hype Machine in overload, as football writers (including yours truly) fell to their knees to praise the remarkable work of the future ex-England manager. Then they lost four on the bounce and drifted into midtable mediocrity. Flashes of that old Howe magic arrived in the 4-0 victory over Chelsea and the 5-0 massacre of Brighton, but those outstanding results sandwiched defeats to Cardiff and Burnley and a 5-1 howking at Arsenal (Arsenal!). They were also the only side to lose at home to Fulham. Still, ten years ago they were almost relegated from the Football League, so it could be worse.

Sleeper Hit Steve Cook
Too many Cooks spoil the broth, but with Lewis ruled out for the remainder of the season with a cruciate ligament rupture in December, it fell to stalwart Steve to take on the culinary mantle at the Vitality Stadium. Though not as cultured as defensive partner Nathan Ake, Cook remains the Cherries’ last ditch man, topping the charts for clearances this season with an average of 6.5 per game. His dominance in the air has also played a big part in the five clean sheets earned since the start of the year, winning 120 aeriel duels across the season, more than any of his Bournemouth compatriots. Accused of lacking Premier League class when Bournemouth first arrived in the top flight, Cook continues to defy his critics.

Season-Definer Bournemouth 1-2 Manchester United
It was supposed to be the day that Bournemouth cemented their credentials as top seven challengers. The visit of Manchester United – in the midst of the tri-annual Mourinho meltdown and sitting three places behind the Cherries in the Premier League table – had come hot on the heels of an emphatic demolition of Fulham and the ensuing media love in. Callum Wilson opened the scoring in the eleventh minute, United were struck with that familiar sinking feeling, and another famous victory at Dean Court looked on the cards. Then, ten minutes before the break, Bournemouth were caught napping. The shadow of Alexis Sanchez picked out in-form Anthony Martial, and the French forward restored parity. In the second half, momentum swung the way of Mourinho’s men, as Asmir Begovic flung himself at everything to frustrate the visitors. A point might have kept the Cherries momentum going, but Marcus Rashford’s suckerpunch in the 92nd minute delivered a morale-sapping blow. Bournemouth would win just twice more in their next eleven games, sinking from 6th to 12th.

Burnley
barnes

Pre-season prediction: 13th  
Mid-season prediction: 18th

What We Said Then
“Unlikely to transform into the kind of side that wins games 4-3, Dyche has a job on his hands to stem the flow of shots afforded to the opposition. If he can’t, there’s only one way Burnley are headed.”

What We’re Saying Now
If in doubt, drop Joe Hart. England’s #1 anti-dandruff shampoo salesman made what looks to be his final appearance for the Clarets during a disastrous 5-1 defeat to Everton at Turf Moor on Boxing Day, in a game that had all sundry tipping Dyche’s men for the drop. As with West Ham last season, Burnley’s form drastically improved with the fistpumping passion merchant dropped to the bench, and a remarkable run from the turn of the year that saw victories over Spurs and Wolves had last year’s Best of the Rest Champions looking up the table rather than down. The emergence of academy product Dwight McNeil in the second half of the season also provided fans with hope for the future, as long as they can see off interest from the bigger fish in the league. 

Sleeper Hit Tom Heaton
The beneficiary of Dyche’s moment of clarity was the ever-reliable Heaton, and having worked his way back into the first team, he wasn’t about to give up the #1 jersey easily. A clean sheet on his return against West Ham sparked an eight game streak without defeat for the Clarets, during which they conceded an average of 0.9 goals per game. In Hart’s last eight apperances between the sticks, they’d conceded an average of two per game. At 33, Heaton is hitting the prime of his career, and with Hart and Jack Butland fading from view, he has a serious claim to challenge Jordan Pickford at international level. Few goalkeepers have played such a big part in a team’s success this season.


Season-Definer
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-3 Burnley
It was a game that had no right to be as enthralling as it was. A grim Saturday evening in February in the BT Sports tea-time kick-off slot, a meeting between two sides battling it out towards the wrong end of the table, with neither known for their adventurous football, but Burnley put on a counter attacking masterclass to lift them towards midtable, and send their hosts spiraling towards trouble. For all their admirers, Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk had no answer to the power and physicality of Chris Woods, who bullied the centre-back pairing for ninety minutes and helped himself to a brace in the process, while Ashley Barnes made the usual nuisance of himself and settled the match with a late penalty. Though it may not have mathematically secured survival, this victory on the south coast saw Burnley take one giant step towards maintaining their Premier League status for a third season running.

 

Southampton

Pre-season prediction: 14th
Mid-season prediction: 15th

What We Said Then
“Even in the early stages of his tenure Hasenhüttl appears to have summoned a little bit extra from his new squad and, if a certain England international’s deleted tweets are to be believed, he’s finally introduced a tactical plan to proceedings.”

What We’re Saying Now
What a difference a talented, progressive and oddly handsome manager can make. When Saints swapped Grandma Leslie for The Rabbit Hutch they were deep in the brown stuff and looking like this season’s contenders for the ‘too good to go down’ crown. With a quick wave of his Alpine wand, Ralph Hasenhüttl had Southampton playing the kind of football that had made them a joy to watch under Koeman and Pochettino in years gone by. Getting a tune out of his motley crew of strikers, making Nathan Redmond look an attacking threat, and encouraging James Ward-Prowse to channel his inner David Beckham, crucial wins over top half teams including Arsenal, Everton and Leicester dragged the south coast side towards safety. If he’s allowed to work with the club’s hierarchy to build a squad in his vision, the Saints might just be marching back into the top half next season.

Sleeper Hit Shane Long
The most Irish face in football has endured years of being a byword for misfiring strikers, thanks largely to his barren run of 23 games without a goal in 2016. After two seasons that returned just five Premier League goals, Long matched that tally in his first four months under Hasenhüttl. The Austrian’s faith in Long to make a nuisance of himself paid dividends, and the former West Brom man even ended the season with a new Premier League record thanks to his doublequick strike at Watford.

Season-Definer Southampton 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Despite the solidity introduced by Hasenhüttl upon his arrival, Saints still found themselves teetering on the edge of the relegation zone heading into March, with a late Romelu Lukaku goal denying them a well deserved point at Old Trafford that would have allayed fears of the drop. At St Mary’s the following week, Champions League chasing Tottenham Hotspur looked in no mood to offer the Saints a helping hand, with Harry Kane providing the visitors with a half-time lead. Revitalised in the second half, Southampton peppered Hugo Lloris’ goal, and were rewarded with Yann Valery’s equaliser, before another Ward-Prowse special stole all three points. Saints would take that impetus into their next five games, reaping nine points and securing safety with a thrilling draw against Bournemouth.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Pre-season prediction: 10th 
Mid-season prediction: 13th
 

What We Said Then
“After a pre-season prediction driven by wide-eyed excitement at Brighton’s summer recruitment, harsh reality has set in, and perhaps Hughton’s team aren’t quite ready to challenge for a place in the top half. Still, one look at their class of 2017 contemporaries is enough to convince Albion supporters that things could be a lot worse, and a season of consolidation is no bad thing.”

What We’re Saying Now
The history books will state that Brighton and Hove Albion finished the 2018/19 season as the 17th best side in the Premier League, but a more honest assessment would have them the fourth worst. An abysmal second half of the campaign, in which they won just twice from the turn of the year, saw Chris Hughton’s side stutter and stumble over the finish line for safety, with only Cardiff City’s inability to capitalise on the Seagulls’ poor form the difference between the Amex hosting Premier League or Championship football next season. Despite spending big in the summer, Brighton found themselves lacking a credible Plan B when it came to scoring goals, a fact which led to a twelve hour drought in April as they were dragged into the relegation dogfight. The sacking of Chris Hughton the morning after the final day of the season provided a clear message from Brighton’s top brass. The winds of change are howling on the south coast.

Sleeper Hit Yves Bissouma
For all the excitement over Brazilian full-backs and Eredivisie top scorers arriving in Falmer during the summer, those in the know had touted the acquisition of Malian midfielder Bissouma as Brighton’s best bit of business. Whilst it took the former Lille man a little time to force his way into the first-team, Bissouma proved one of the few bright spots in a difficult second half to the season, ranking fourth for both successful tackles and successful passes. At just 22, the best is yet to come, and under the right tutleage Bissouma has all the right attributes to become a ferocious box-to-box midfielder.

Season-Definer Crystal Palace 1-2 Brighton and Hove Albion
It’ll rightly go down as the win that kept Brighton up; that it arrived at the beginning of March tells the story of an insipid end to the season. Doing the double over their not-so-local rivals will undoubtedly prove one of the few high points in a disappointing campaign for the Seagulls, but the knowledge that those six points effectively saved them from the drop will make it even sweeter. Anthony Knockeart’s winning goal – a tremendous curling effort from distance – was the icing on the cake, particularly given the Belgian’s fortune in remaining on the pitch following a crunching late tackle in the opening minute.

Cardiff City
warnock

Pre-season prediction: 20th  
Mid-season prediction: 17th

What We Said Then
“There’s still a long way to go, but the fact that Neil Warnock still finds himself in a job gives you an idea of how the first-half of Cardiff’s season has gone. One of the favourites for the sack race in the pre-season betting, football’s favourite dinnerlady has shown his ability to work with the tools at his disposal, and get the most from a limited squad. In a season that’s more a race to the bottom than a fight for survival, the Bluebirds might just do enough to survive.”

What We’re Saying Now
It’s a bittersweet symphony this life. The story of Cardiff City’s 2018/19 season will boil down to a host of what-ifs and what-might-have-beens, as refereeing decisions, poor performances at inopportune moments, and real-life tragedy all conspired to condemn them to the drop. Manager Neil Warnock was quoted as saying that this had been his most enjoyable season in management, and its not hard to see why. Slated as the whipping boys in the opening weeks, Cardiff overcame their diminutive budget and lack of top flight nous to mix it with established Premier League teams, but ultimately, when it really mattered, the Bluebirds fell short. They have, for the most part, been a credit to themselves, and can return to the Championship with their heads held high.

Sleeper Hit Victor Camarasa
Arguably Cardiff’s canniest piece of business in the transfer market, the loan signing of tenancious midfielder Camarasa from Real Betis provided some much needed silk in the centre of the park. Camarasa finished the season as Cardiff’s third highest passer, alongside being joint top scorer and providing the most assists of any Bluebirds player. A bright future awaits.

Season-Definer Cardiff City 1-2 Chelsea
Having played themselves into form with back-to-back wins over Bournemouth and Southampton, three defeats on the bounce looked to have all but ended Cardiff’s brave fight against relegation. A comfortable victory over West Ham reignited hopes of Warnock’s men scrambling their way out of danger, and against Maurizio Sarri’s schizophrenic Chelsea side, there was real belief that the Bluebirds could get a result. Camarasa’s goal right after half-time looked like sparking a major upset, but when Cesar Azpilicueta’s equaliser was inexplicably judged to be onside, the South-Walians’ resolve faltered. Ruben Loftus-Cheek delivered the killer blow in stoppage time, and Cardiff struggled to recover from the injustice for the remainder of the season, losing all but one of their remaining seven games.

 

Fulham

Pre-season prediction: 16th  
Mid-season prediction: 19th

What We Said Then
“So far this season has been a disaster for the Craven Cottage faithful. Hopes of even challenging for a place in Europe weren’t considered delusional following the recruitment of some exciting talent from the continent, but while the likes of Andre Schurrle and Jean Michaël Seri have impressed in patches, other summer signings have flattered to deceive. Owner Shahid Khan won’t be shy with the chequebook in January, but quality, rather than quantity, will be the key to survival.”

What We’re Saying Now
Hiring three different managers in a season tends to suggest all hasn’t gone to plan, and with Slavisa Jokanovic paying the price for sticking to his brand of free-flowing attacking football (conceding an average of 2.6 goals per game), and Claudio Ranieri’s attempts to batten down the hatches proving fruitless (conceding an average of 2 goals per game), it was left to club legend Scott Parker to take on the impossible job and attempt to save the Cottagers (conceding an average of 1.6 goals per game). Whilst plebs like us were impressed with the mass of shiny new things Shahid Khan had assembled at the start of the season, the more learned spectators were questioning whether completely overhauling the squad that had achieved promotion was the wisest thing to do. It wasn’t. Whilst some players completely failed to live up to the hype, others showed they had very little interest in a fight against relegation. Those left over, largely from last season, lacked the quality needed to stay in the Premier League. A run of three victories post-relegation gives hope of fresh impetus for their return to the Championship, but expect plenty of departures before August.

Sleeper Hit Ryan Babel
Ridiculed as a last, desperate throw of the dice by Khan thanks to his chequered spell at Liverpool almost a decade ago, Babel almost single-handedly restored a smattering of pride for the West Londoners in the second half of the season. With a hand in 57% of Fulham’s goals following his arrival, including the matchwinner against Cardiff City, Babel has a claim to be the Cottagers’ most effective player this season alongside Aleksander Mitrovic. Enjoying something of a renaissance, it would be a surprise if the Dutchman isn’t snapped up by a team in Europe’s top five leagues before the start of next season.

Season-Definer Watford 4-1 Fulham
The away end at Vicarage Road told the whole story. Where fans had turned up on the opening day of the season at Craven Cottage full of expectation and looking forward to their return to the big time, they trudged to Watford with a sense of resignation. With banners pronouncing the game ‘Fulham’s Relegation Party’, the travelling support were under no illusions as to how the evening would unfold, and Watford duly delivered the killer blow to their time in the top flight. The damage had long been done, particularly given the fact that they had only picked up four points from teams outside of the bottom five by April, but the limp surrender in Hertfordshire summed Fulham’s season up in a nutshell.

 

Huddersfield Town

Pre-season prediction: 19th
Mid-season prediction: 20th

What We Said Then
“Huddersfield simply aren’t dangerous enough in front of goal to win games. Unfortunately, without serious investment, there’s little to suggest that’s going to change any time soon. Even Fulham can score goals, for christ’s sake.”

What We’re Saying Now
If Huddersfield Town could be the embodiment of any fleeting character from ’90s reality television, it’d be a cheery-yet-downtrodden dog that’s been admitted to Rolf Harris’ Animal Hospital, with hopes of a full recovery from chronic mange. Sadly, the little fellas didn’t make it. The Terriers have been put out of their suffering after a miserable season that saw them narrowly beat Derby County’s record for fewest goals in a 38 game campaign. They didn’t score enough, they conceded too many, and not even appointing a manager you literally couldn’t pick out of the crowd was enough to save them. With Dean Hoyle announcing the end to his tenure as Town’s owner after ten remarkable years, the future at the John Smith Stadium is uncertain.

Sleeper Hit Karlan Grant
While neither Steve Mounie or Laurent Depoitre will relish adding a relegation to their respective CVs, perhaps the most shameful aspect of such a disappointing campaign for the pair is that 21 year old Karlan Grant, a January signing from League One Charlton Athletic, managed to double their combined goals tally for the season in just thirteen appearances. Grant has been tipped as one for the future, and if he continues to produce this kind of form in the Championship, he could prove vital to any potential promotion challenge next season.


Season-Definer Huddersfield Town 1-2 Brighton and Hove Albion
After a tricky start to the season, seven points from nine at the beginning of December had seen the Terriers begin to build a little momentum, with a surprise victory at Wolves showing glimpses of the side that survived against the odds last time out. The visit of fellow sophomores Brighton provided the perfect opportunity for Town to continue their good run, and head into the hectic Christmas period four points clear of the bottom three. Mathias Jorgensen’s goal in the opening minute looked to set David Wagner’s side on their way to another vital three points, but a straight red for Steve Mounie’s high-footed challenge just past the half-hour mark left Town up against it, and Brighton duly capitalised. Huddersfield would only pick up one more point before the end of February, by which time they were all but down.

 

 

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