So that was 2021-22. Man City won the league and Norwich finished bottom. But some unpredictable stuff happened too. To honour the fact that we have just enjoyed the 30th Premier League season let’s confound all respected marking systems by ranking each team’s 2021-22 out of 30.
Lost their first three games of the season which sparked talk of a first relegation since the one no-one talks about in 1913. Arsenal had a worse record than Derby 2007-08 after those three matches but rallied a fair bit as the season progressed. Lost two of their last three league games to miss out on the Champions League. Aaron Ramsdale made a good save away at Leicester.
Partey destroying Villa is airbnb's biggest worry
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) October 22, 2021
Dean Smith won at Old Trafford but then lost five in a row and got the boot in favour of Steven “G” Gerrard who came in, attracted players of the calibre of Philippe Coutinho in the transfer window, but who ended the season with only two wins in 11 games, and those coming against drop zone icons Norwich (now managed by Dean Smith) and Burnley. Villa also ended their season after 75 minutes at the Etihad on the final day, which had some effect on the title race.
Kicked off the whole delightful jamboree with that sultry Friday night win against a Covid-hit Arsenal. Fans in stadiums going wild at goals again? Yes please. Were in the top four towards the end of August, were sliding towards relegation in mid-winter but pulled off one of the biggest transfer coups in recent memory by signing Christian Eriksen. The rejuvenated Dane assisted four goals and scored once as the Bees came 13th, finishing only 12 points behind Manchester United. They also received the last ever Mike Dean red card, shown to Josh Dasilva in February.
A season of four halves for Brighton. Began with four wins from five before then deciding to become parity specialists by drawing 12 of the next 17 games. Then they lost six games in a row before concluding with five wins from their last eight. The autumnal claims that Albion had solved their xG woes were, it turns out, wildly misplaced, with Graham Potter’s side ending the campaign with an expected goals underperformance of -12.4, second only to Norwich. Raid the arcades on the pier and buy a top-level striker, I reckon.
Just as everyone had finally realised you never tip Burnley to go down because they are immortal they went and got relegated. Named a starting XI wearing 1-11 at Anfield, the first time any side had done this season since (also relegated) Charlton in 1998-99. Signed legitimate giant Wout Weghorst in January to style their way out of trouble but the massive Dutchman scored only twice. Sean Dyche wore only a white shirt in a snowstorm but still got sacked, while Burnley are the first team since 1976-77 to concede fewer goals than Manchester United but still go down.
Remember the good times pic.twitter.com/ORaGLheGDm
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) April 15, 2022
Started the season as European champions and a many people’s favourites for the title. Ended it creeping towards new ownership after the Abramovich era ended in sanctions and frozen assets. Spent a lot of money on Romelu Lukaku only to see him end the season with less xG than Che Adams and Danny Welbeck. Lost both domestic cup finals, aka a complete Sheffield Wednesday.
Patrick Vieira wins the award for smoothest upgrade in style applied to a mid-ranking Premier League, turning Roy Hodgson’s battle-droids into an entertaining, if inconsistent, side. Had the good version of Conor Gallagher on loan (three assists) as opposed to the less effective version of Conor Gallagher at West Brom the previous season (two assists).
Appointed a Champions League winning manager before the start of the season who guided them to 49% of their league points. Replaced him with a Champions League winning player later on who, eventually, did fractionally better. Scored as many league goals as Aleksandar Mitrovic, but may do a bit better than that next season. Still haven’t been relegated since Velcro was invented, despite getting themselves into some exceedingly sticky situations.
Switched from a South American to a North American manager and climbed out of the relegation zone on the final day. Locked in for 2022-23. Managed to let in more goals in eight days during February than Petr Cech did in the whole of 2004-05 and became the first team to ever reach 100 yellow cards in a single season. After playing every game in 2020-21, Patrick Bamford only appeared nine times, scoring 15 fewer goals.
A season of changing priorities for Leicester. They virtually gave up on the Premier League for a bit in the spring to concentrate on the Europa Conference League, only to lose to Roma in the semi-finals. 10 points from the last four games is probably a better indication of squad quality and Jamie Vardy looks timeless, now with more goals in his 30s than any other player in Premier League history. He is bound to score at least 10+ more next season.
Narrowly second to Manchester City once again, Mohamed Salah top scoring player again, two defeats all season and no league title again, won both domestic cups like in 2001 again, bound to lose the Champions League final to Real Madrid again?
*subject to UCL final outcome
Four Premier League titles in five seasons and even managed to roll out some heritage content on the final day by coming from behind to win 3-2 at home to seal the title a la Aguero. Spent the GDP of Great Britain in 1750 on Jack Grealish and the underlying numbers showed that, contrary to what your dad says, he played well. Pep Guardiola has still never won the Champions League without Lionel Messi in his team, though.
Man City are the first club to score 90+ goals in 10 different English top-flight seasons. Four of them before the introduction of postcodes in the UK, six of them since they signed Sergio Aguero.
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) May 11, 2022
Manchester United’s worst points total in Premier League history, their worst defensive pereformance, the first time they’ve ended the season with a non-positive goal difference since 1990, the 4-1 defeat at Watford in November (the Hornets’ final home win of the season), the Rangnick experiment, the brief spell of pressing against Crystal Palace, the 0-9 aggregate defeat to Liverpool, the FA Cup disaster against Middlesbrough, the 4-0 loss at Brighton, the shrugs, the exasperated looks and the dressing room leaks. Eric ten Hag knows that he needs to make United fitter, happier, more productive.
If you smelted together Newcastle’s second half of this season to the 1995-96 campaign then there would have been no need for Kevin Keegan to melt down in the industry-leading “Keegan’s rant”. Eddie Howe masterminded one of the greatest recoveries in a Premier League campaign. Yes, he had significant wealth to spend in January but Dan Burn and Chris Wood were not the sort of luxury signings that Bruno Guimarães will very possibly turn out to be. Either way, the last team to surge clear of trouble like this were Leicester in 2014-15 and we all know what happened after that.
Now the most relegated team in Premier League history and only the second team to go down for four seasons in a row after promotion, Norwich ended the season with the fifth highest number of goals conceded and the third highest in the 20-team division era. They did take four points off Burnley and win 3-0 away at Watford, though, so they can all argue about that in the second-tier next season.
Did Southampton lose 9-0 this season? No. Progress. But they took one point from their final six games, and there’s often a team who spiral at the end of one campaign and carry that into the following season. On the plus side, James Ward-Prowse scored four direct free-kick goals but couldn’t quite match the seasonal record of five held by Laurent Robert and David Beckham. His right boot offers hope, but for how long?
Three wins from three under Nuno Espírito Santo at the start of the season but all the underlying numbers were flashing red and saying “actually, no”. And so it proved. But Antonio Conte was tempted back to London and, in his own way, remoulded the team into a side who could finish in the top four. Arsenal scoring five on the final day meant that Arteta’s side scored one more goal than Conte’s Spurs, which given Conte started in November, is decent. Top scorer, and joint-golden boot Son Heung-min scored 23 goals, none of them from the penalty spot and more than half of them (12) with his “weaker” left foot. Spurs head into summer 2022 with more optimism than summer 2021, that’s for sure.
Employed the classic three manager gambit, from Xisco to Ranieri to Hodgson but still ended up having conceded more home goals than any other team in a Premier League season as well as setting a new top-flight record for consecutive home defeats. To go along with bonding over a shared love of John Barnes, Watford and Liverpool now have similar feelings about Roy Hodgson.
Watford looking for their 15th permanent manager since 2012-13, which is only three fewer than West Ham have had in their entire history
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) January 24, 2022
West Ham United
A season that could have been even better than it actually turned out. West Ham could easily have finished fifth or sixth and could have won the Europa League but actually came seventh and lost to Frankfurt in the semis. A deeper squad would have been of benefit but now that David Moyes has been rehabilitated to his 2000s pomp, a summer shopping spree could see the Hammers establish themselves at the top table. It’s the first time in top-flight history that four London clubs have finished in the top seven. The capital is rising.
Had the best overperformance on expected goals on target from a goalkeeper but the second lowest overall xG behind rock-bottom Norwich. Seeing which one of those trends continues into 2022-23 will determine what that campaign will be like for Wolves. Could go either way!