Premier League report card: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton and Leeds assessed
A dramatic Premier League season reached its conclusion on Sunday with Manchester City just pipping Liverpool to the title, Tottenham snatching fourth spot and Burnley consigned to relegation as Leeds survived.
Now that the dust has settled, Sportsmail assesses all 20 teams on their performances this season and what needs to be improved ahead of the next campaign.
Part One of our end-of-term report card runs from Arsenal through to Leicester City.
Final position: 5th (Qualification for Europa League)
A strange one to assess because it’s so clear that Mikel Arteta has taken Arsenal forward this season, crafting a young, exciting and very watchable team.
Without the distraction of European football, Arteta has enjoyed plenty of time to impart his ideas and his players have clearly bought into them.
But the final reward – of returning to the Champions League with a top four finish – somehow slipped through their fingers. Even worse, it was their rivals Tottenham that beat them to it.
Mikel Arteta got Arsenal to within striking distance of the top four before they blew it
When Arsenal beat Leicester 2-0 on March 13, moving back into fourth, they were a point ahead of Manchester United in fifth but with three games in hand.
But somehow they have since lost as many matches as they have won to totally blow such a position of strength. This has included unacceptable defeats to the likes of Brighton, Southampton and Newcastle.
The final outcome – a sixth consecutive season without Champions League football – has overshadowed all the positives.
Bukayo Saka (left), Emile Smith Rowe (middle) and Eddie Nketiah (right) have performed well
The resilience of Bukayo Saka to recover from his penalty miss in the Euro final to enjoy an outstanding season, the natural brilliance of another Englishman in Emile Smith Rowe and the scoring of Eddie Nketiah.
Arteta has also continued to root out players who didn’t see eye-to-eye with him, such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to reinforce his own authority. But did losing his goals ultimately cost them?
He’ll have plenty of time to ponder that as they trek around continental outposts in next season’s Europa League.
Final position: 14th
At no stage have Aston Villa been in any relegation trouble and they’ve finished adequately in mid-table. But this season should have delivered more.
The hope back in August was that Dean Smith’s team could push on towards European qualification despite the sale of Jack Grealish but the reality proved very different.
A run of five straight defeats in the autumn led to Smith’s sacking after expensive summer buys – Emiliano Buendia for £33m, Leon Bailey for £30m and Danny Ings for £25m – took time to bed in.
The appointment of Steven Gerrard, who’d done so well at Rangers, fired up the fans again but he hasn’t been able to achieve the necessary consistency to get them above their current position.
A poor start to the season for Aston Villa saw Dean Smith axed following a loss at Southampton
Philippe Coutinho, loaned from Barcelona in January, has looked good in glimpses but the goals of England forward Ollie Watkins have been most valuable.
Gerrard also hasn’t yet raised Villa to the level where they bloody the nose of the biggest teams, with pretty much all their wins coming against sides in the bottom half.
They have the makings of being a solid enough side both at the back and going forward but Gerrard will need this summer to properly stamp his mark on the team.
With that in mind, it’s too early to judge his tenure. They haven’t kicked on this time but next season should be better.
Steven Gerrard has guided Villa to a mid table finish but needs more time to make his mark
Final position: 13th
Given Brentford’s Danish contingent, we might be tempted to say: ‘If Carlsberg did debut Premier League campaigns…’
Tipped by many for little more than an entertaining cameo in the top-flight before going straight back down, the Bees have exceeded all expectations and then some.
Thomas Frank’s side signalled they weren’t just going to make up the numbers with a stirring win over Arsenal on the opening night of the season.
And though there was a worrying wobble just after the New Year, they found a second wind, inspired by Christian Eriksen, to finish comfortably in mid-table.
It’s been an outstanding first season in Premier League football for Brentford after promotion
What’s more, for the most part, Brentford have remained true to themselves and Frank’s brand of high intensity football that served them so well in the Championship.
The pulsating 3-3 draw at home to Liverpool and that gobsmacking 4-1 win at Chelsea will naturally be the highlights of a memorable season.
Their main creative and scoring forces Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo have impressed all season and the likes of Christian Norgaard, Pontus Jansson and Vitaly Janelt have done really well. Yoane Wissa has been a snip at £8.5m.
Thomas Frank’s decision to sign fellow Dane Christian Eriksen proved a masterstroke
Who knows, Frank could convince Eriksen to stay on – though he admitted he does want Champions League football again.
The second season in the Premier League can be notoriously tricky and Brentford must fortify themselves. But, for now, everyone concerned can really enjoy their summer.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
Final position: 9th
After four seasons of ‘surviving’ in the Premier League, we can now say that Brighton are ‘thriving.’
No relegation jitters this time around but their best points tally in the competition and highest placing. Graham Potter has worked wonders, even if the team was booed off after a goalless home draw with Leeds back in November.
In fairness to those dissenters, it hasn’t been great watching them at the Amex Stadium – they failed to find the net in nine of their 19 games there – and often Brighton have been more exciting as underdogs on the road.
Brighton’s recent 4-0 win over Man United was a real highlight of their Premier League era
Potter started talking about history lessons after that Leeds game and the fact Brighton have just marked 25 years since their escape from relegation out of the Football League and almost certain extinction should supply context.
They’ve just thrashed Manchester United 4-0 – and it could have been seven – while the season has also seen them win at Arsenal and Tottenham plus take a point from Anfield.
It hasn’t been this good for Brighton in decades and Potter is quickly attracting admirers from better resourced clubs and is being viewed as a future England manager.
Graham Potter deserves lots of credit with Brighton set for their best Premier League season
In that aforementioned game, they were everything Man United were not – a collective who understood precisely what they were doing and with the confidence to play in their own way.
Short of somehow winning one of the cup competitions or qualifying for Europe next season, it’s hard to see how life gets any better for this club than this.
The lyrics of Norman ‘Fatboy Slim’ Cook, one of their most high-profile fans, in his hit Praise You have never been so apt.
‘We’ve come a long, long way together/Through the hard times and the good/I have to celebrate you, baby/I have to praise you like I should.’
Final position: 18th (relegated)
Burnley thought their gamble had paid off but in the end they could defy gravity in the Premier League no longer.
The decision to sack long-serving manager Sean Dyche in mid-April, when they sat 18th and four points from safety, looks a dreadful one with hindsight.
But nobody was saying that when caretaker Michael Jackson won three of his first four games in charge to offer hope. He just wasn’t able to sustain it and three losses from Burnley’s last four did for them.
Sunday’s 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle brings down the curtain on six seasons in the top-flight on one of the lowest budgets in the division.
There was final day agony for Burnley as their six-season Premier League stay came to an end
Dyche took them to the lofty heights of seventh in 2017-18, getting them into Europe for the first time since 1967, and they finished 10th in 2019-20.
But there was always a vulnerability about Burnley despite having a very impressive defensive record for their level, stemming from insufficient ability to put chances away at the other end.
No player reached double figures in the scoring charts and the January sale of Chris Wood to Newcastle was a setback.
Burnley’s gamble to sack manager Sean Dyche with the club in 18th didn’t pay off in the end
Often relegated teams are tipped to bounce straight back from the Championship but Burnley could easily be an exception. Following relegation, Burnley must now pay back ‘a significant proportion’ of a £65million loan taken out as part of the takeover by ALK Capital in December 2020.
This will swallow up most of the club’s cash reserves and make a dent in parachute payments, so it’s hard to say when we’ll see the Clarets pass this way again.
Final position: 3rd (qualification for Champions League)
Life is rarely dull at Stamford Bridge but this season has taken things to a whole new level.
The fall of Chelsea’s Roman Empire has indeed been seismic with the reverberations felt well beyond west London. Todd Boehly’s takeover is set to be completed, although the delay and uncertainty has certainly been troubling.
What we can safely assume is that the new Chelsea owners are unlikely to run things with the same largesse as Abramovich but more as a business where profits have to be made.
Whether that will lead to the rapid erosion of Chelsea’s standing in domestic and European football – they did, after all, win the Champions League just 12 months ago – remains to be seen.
Roman Abramovich’s exit from Chelsea under sanction sent shockwaves through football
It’s likely to be a chaotic summer ahead with key players departing and the takeover saga could rumble on for some time yet.
Given all this, Thomas Tuchel can be said to have done a very good job on the field. Chelsea weren’t able to keep up with Liverpool or Manchester City – even before the Abramovich shock – but have still finished third.
They reached the finals of the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup, losing both on penalties having matched Liverpool, won the Club World Cup and only lost in the Champions League to a very good Real Madrid side.
Even if Romelu Lukaku has so far been underwhelming for £98million – and unhelpfully rocked the boat mid-season by airing his grievances – other players have stepped up.
Chelsea have still had a good season on the field despite all the chaos and uncertainty
Mason Mount continues to be outstanding and Kai Havertz has quite the knack for scoring significant goals. Reece James missed a chunk of the season with injury but is clearly a world class wing-back.
Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking the sanctions on Abramovich, a mid-season pile-up of fixtures, injuries and Covid issues saw Tuchel under serious strain.
But the German was a reassuring presence during the madness – even offering to drive his team to away games in a minibus – and emerges with credit from the most demanding of seasons.
Grade: B (on the pitch)/E (off the pitch)
Final position: 12th
The arrival of Patrick Vieira certainly energised Selhurst Park after a few years of steady mid-table respectability under Roy Hodgson.
Palace’s league position hasn’t improved any but it’s been an encouraging season for them in quite a few ways.
They’ve achieved some noteworthy wins – 2-0 against Manchester City at the Etihad, 3-0 at home to Tottenham and the same scoreline against Arsenal.
Patrick Vieira has breathed fresh life into Crystal Palace during another mid-table season
Wilfred Zaha, now in his eighth Premier League campaign for the club, has achieved his best-ever goal return. Conor Gallagher, a smart loan from Chelsea, has excelled in midfield. Michael Olise has been a great buy for £8m.
They also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, losing out to Chelsea, and they’re finished the season strongly after a decidedly shaky middle section.
Another solid summer in the transfer market and there’s every reason Palace could be challenging for Europe under Vieira next season.
Mind you, plenty of sides in that Premier League’s ‘squeezed middle’ will have similar ideas but the Frenchman could well give Palace an edge.
Michael Olise has proved to be a positive signing for Crystal Palace, costing them £8million
Final position: 16th
Goodness me, what a nightmare. Fortunately there was a happy ending for Everton after the spectre of relegation haunted them for all the second half of the season.
It certainly seems a long while since they won three of their opening four Premier League games and the fans almost concluded that Rafa Benitez was an inspired appointment.
That was very much a false dawn and by the time Benitez was shown the door in the wake of an unacceptably bad defeat at Norwich in January, they were sliding worryingly towards the unthinkable.
The season has been nightmarish for Everton as they came close to suffering relegation
Bringing in Frank Lampard was fraught with risk but the gamble has paid off as they escaped following their penultimate game of the season, a thrilling 3-2 win over Crystal Palace.
Questions may still have to be answered about losses of £371.8million over three years, with Burnley potentially leading legal action, and what is for sure is that wasteful manner of recruitment must be consigned to the past.
And the shocking results of this season simply cannot be repeated, something which will come down to Lampard as he spends whatever limited budget he will be afforded shaping the team in his own image.
Frank Lampard was parachuted in to replace Rafa Benitez and just about kept Everton up
Whether his January arrivals of Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek, both of whom failed to make much impact, bode well for that is another matter.
This season was a close shave the Toffees certainly won’t want to repeat in a hurry.
Final position: 17th
Once the hangovers have worn off from the raucous celebrations seen after Sunday’s great escape at Brentford, cold reality will kick in for Leeds.
They came perilously close to the notoriously difficult second season in the Premier League becoming a full-blown disaster, having worked so hard for so long to get back into the big time.
Getting rid of beloved Marcelo Bielsa and replacing him with Jesse Marsch, untried and unproven in English football, was a huge gamble and it just about paid off.
Raphinha celebrates with the Leeds United fans after they secured survival on the final day
Many Leeds fans will maintain that Bielsa would have conjured a miracle escape but it definitely didn’t look that way when they parted ways after a 6-0 drubbing at Liverpool and a 4-0 home loss to Tottenham.
The four wins that Marsch managed to oversee ultimately proved enough and sometimes a managerial change, however upsetting, provides the stimulus that was missing.
Now Leeds must strengthen to ensure this narrow escape doesn’t happen again. They’ve been unfortunate with injuries to key players at crucial times and perhaps Bielsa’s intense way of doing things was to blame.
The much-loved Marcelo Bielsa went in late February with Jesse Marsch keeping Leeds up
They didn’t recruit back in January so there must be money available for Marsch this summer otherwise the fan backlash against the owners will intensify.
A striker to provide back-up to the injury-prone Patrick Bamford and a new central midfielder, especially if Kalvin Phillips is tempted away, must be top of the shopping list.
Final position: 8th
After agonisingly missing out on the top four in their last two seasons, Leicester have at least been spared that final day pain.
But only because they’ve been nowhere near the race for the Champions League spots, or the race for Europe in general, during an underwhelming season.
They’ll finish mid-table, which is acceptable, but represents a definite regression on recent years under Brendan Rodgers.
Leicester came within a whisker of reaching a European final but they have dropped back
The warm feeling from their FA Cup win last season soon wore off and some wondered whether Rodgers had run out of ideas.
Had they reached a first European final, in the much-maligned UEFA Europa Conference League, then the mood may be more upbeat. But they lost out to Roma in the semi-finals.
In defence of Rodgers, there have been mitigating circumstances. The slog of Thursday night football in not one, but two, competitions (including one he initially claimed he didn’t know existed) takes its toll on any team.
Main striker Jamie Vardy is among the key players who have suffered injuries this season
Then there have been injuries to key players. Main goal threat Jamie Vardy was sidelined with a hamstring and then a knee issue, key defender Wesley Fofana suffered a broken leg in pre-season and important midfielder Wilfred Ndidi saw his season curtailed.
With a fully fit squad, things might have been different but they’re too good a collection of players not to come back stronger next season.