IT'S finally time for the annual look back at all 20 clubs who took part in the 2019-20 Premier League, aka The Longest Season, aka The One With The Pandemic.
Glass half full: In just half a year Mikel Arteta has revitalised Arsenal, got them to the FA Cup final, essentially triggered the lockdown of sport in the UK in March 2020 and retained the most consistent hair of any manager in Europe. Meanwhile, the kits remain incredibly strong, and, looking ahead to 2020-21, the last time Leeds were in the top-flight Arsenal cantered to the title without losing a game. Eight bookings for timewasting suggest the club has worked out nice guys come last.
Glass half empty: The Champions League continues to hover tauntingly in the distance. Arsenal haven’t played in it since 2017, and haven’t progressed through a knockout tie in it since Jadon Sancho was in Year 5 at school. David Luiz has already conceded more penalties in one season at Arsenal than he did in seven at Chelsea.
Glass half full: Reached a cup final for the ninth decade in a row (only in the austere 1930s have Villa failed to reach one). Jack Grealish showed everyone who hadn’t noticed before that he was a) very good and b) had ankles that could attract fouls like a flesh magnet, setting a new record for provocation.
At one point in the winter people remembered that Ashley Young assisted John Carew more times in the Premier League than Bergkamp did Henry. Overall the season was better than Villa’s last campaign in the Premier League when they led for only 243 minutes, only five minutes longer than Gone With The Wind.
Glass half empty: Less Gone With The Wind and more Maybe Gone With The Norwich. Unlike the Canaries, Villa spent reasonably big last summer (but “not like Fulham 12 months earlier”) but as we head into the final weekend, may return straight back to the Championship (so… “like Fulham 12 months earlier”). If it happens, expect supporters to spend August saying things like “we’ve gone and swapped visits to Old Trafford for trips to Adams Park”. Yes, you have.
Glass half full: Enjoyed wins against Manchester United at home and (yet again) away at Chelsea. Should have tried beating some other teams really.
Glass half empty: Last year I wrote “The worst defence outside the relegation zone yet between January and May they were serenely in 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th or 14th. Unreliably reliable, but how much longer can they carry on like this?” Well…
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) June 20, 2020
Brighton and Hove Albion
Glass half full: No goalkeeper on the planet (probably) embraced the new goal kick rule with more gusto than Mat Ryan, who absolutely loves a little short one. The club also honoured the Brighton and Hove Albion vs Wolverhampton Wanderers game (aka the fixture with the most characters in it in top-flight history – 43) by making sure there were 43 touches in the penalty area by the starting XIs in the game, and then letting their opponents have 43% of the ball in the game at Molineux.
Aaron Connolly offered something better when he scored twice in his first start and then offered something meta when he referenced Premier League Years in his post-match interview.
Glass half empty: The struggles of Bournemouth and Watford this season show that even if you survive a few seasons in the Premier League as a small-to-medium sized club, relegation still rears up at you at some point, often after four or five seasons. Apropos of nothing, next season will be Brighton’s fourth.
Glass half full: Just pure Burnley. Negative goal difference and comfortably in the top half of the table. Responded to the five-sub era by making fewer subs than ever, Chris Wood now leads the all-time surname-is-a-building-material PL goalscoring charts and scored with his first ever top-flight penalty.
Look like they’ll complete their first PL season under Sean Dyche without picking up a booking for simulation, which is certainly progress. Rising star Dwight McNeil was born after Sean Dyche almost led Chesterfield to the FA Cup final as a player but has probably heard about it nonetheless.
Glass half empty: Pope conceded goals to both Jesus and a Christian this season in a move that angered football puritans. Transfer and budget concerns hang over the club and may lead to Dyche moving elsewhere once the season is over. Could an outfit shaped so expertly in its manager’s ethos adapt to a new era? We may well find out.
Glass half full: Possibly/probably finished in the top four again. The autumn saw Frank’s youngsters tear up the division like a sort of glamorous Vitesse Arnhem, they are in the FA Cup final against an Arsenal team they have already beaten, have scored 13% of the goals Wolves have conceded in the Premier League this season and have only “played them once". Like many in lockdown, started ordering expensive gifts online and have ended up with a Timo Werner and possibly a Kai Havertz.
Glass half empty: Kepa has not had what experts call “a good season”. The worst saves percentage of any Premier League goalkeeper, xG has him 11 goals down on what an average ‘keeper would have saved and Chelsea head into the final weekend having conceded more goals than Brighton. The club’s defenders shouting “Kepa!” as he failed to claim a cross against Liverpool in midweek has already been voted the “17th most haunting moment in Premier League history.” Have spent big for 2020-21 up front but “customers who bought Timo Werners also bought: defenders”. Makes you think.
Glass half full: Statistically secured a mid-table finish by the end of August by scoring three goals or fewer in their first four games but still collecting seven points. Christian Benteke remains the only player in Premier League history to have scored on Halloween, November 5, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and his own birthday. Will go down in history as the last club to feature a player born in the 1970s, albeit last season.
Glass half empty: Is the Roy Hodgson era coming to an drab end at Selhurst Park? Palace have suffered a summer of dismay, losing seven games in a row and naming some of the oldest starting XIs the division has seen. Maybe the Holmesdale Fanatics were more influential than we thought. Yet to score more than two goals in a single league match this season, which triggers ancient anti-prolific laws.
Roy Hodgson is 127 days older than the Bernabéu
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) March 6, 2020
Glass half full: Their manager has won more Champions Leagues than Liverpool’s. Started terribly under Marco Silva but now have Carlo’s Golden Touch to lead them to a brighter future. The new stadium is coming at some point, while Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are the best medium-tall strike partnership in the Premier League for ages.
Glass half empty: Have the most bookings for dissent in the Premier League this season while Liverpool have the fewest. One might explain the other, to be honest. Against Manchester City in September Seamus Coleman became the first player to be angry at assisting a goal while having the word angry printed on his sleeve (admittedly Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed home his goal-bound ball from a distance of about 12mm). Liverpool are the current champions of England.
Glass half full: August-Christmas Day. In the words of former Foxes manager Sven Goran Eriksson, “first half good, second half not so good.” Remember that rainy night in Southampton though? It should have been 10. Jonny Evans urging the club to go into double figures and then going and missing a shot from inches. I won’t forget it. Or let it go.
Glass half empty: Boxing Day-July. But listen: they can still get into the Champions League. Jamie Vardy can still be the Golden Boot winner. Manchester United once led 3-1 at Leicester and lost 5-3. Dig up a Plantagenet king and make Brendan the proudest man in the world.
Glass half full: Number 19. Led the rest of the league by 25 points at one point, which is a) a bigger lead than any ever seen before in the English top-flight and b) equals the total number of points Roy Hodgson won as the club’s manager in 2010-11.
Trent Alexander-Arnold reached double figures for assists for the second season in a row, something the likes of Paul Scholes never managed even once. Jordan Henderson’s reputation ended the season in better shape than his knee but given the trophies he’s lifted in the last 13 months, he’ll not mind.
Glass half empty: Look, in a season that had a reasonable chance of being abandoned at one point, securing your first title in 30 years is all that matters, but the number of records that were squandered in the (understandably) semi-lethargic post-lockdown matches may grate in the future. These chances don’t come along that often. And talking of chances, Divock Origi has 18 Premier League goals and has all the letters in Covid in his name but has not scored in his last 15 appearances. Sometimes securing the 19th can be the longest wait of all.
Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea six years ago remains the only time Mo Salah has ever featured in an LFC PL defeat at Anfield pic.twitter.com/Euf7zMOdGc
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) April 27, 2020
Glass half full: By defeating Watford 8-0, City became only the second team to score more goals than their opponents have letters in their name (after Manchester United beat Arsenal 8-2), have a strong chance of scoring 100+ goals for the third time in the last six years. Sergio Aguero has now scored more hat-tricks than any other player in Premier League history and Phil Foden has scored five Premier League goals in his 20s, which is decent from someone born in May 2000.
Glass half empty: Pep strongly hinted he was going to let Ederson start taking the club’s penalties but then went utterly mainstream and gave De Bruyne the spot-kick duties like some sort of traditionalist. Contrived to lose nine league games, including defeats to Wolves twice and somehow to Norwich. That was surely the moment, even in September, when Liverpool knew the title was theirs to lose.
Glass half full: The new generation at United continues to develop. In November Mason Greenwood became the first player younger than iTunes to score a Premier League goal, while Marcus Rashford is the most effective and compassionate politician in the country and has also scored 44 Premier League goals. Reasonable for a 22 year old.
Glass half empty: Some say United should be 20 points ahead with some of the attacking verve they have shown in the last month or so and maybe they would be if Bruno Fernandes had been signed last summer instead of the January window. Even so, the Portuguese’s form in the winter/summer hybrid end-of-season has propelled United into the Champions League mix with one game to go. They can even lose to Leicester and still make the top four, and frankly you wouldn’t rule out that scenario.
Glass half full: Allan Saint-Maximin on the pitch, Allan Saint-Maximin off the pitch, Andy Carroll’s attempts to bring the stylings of Wuthering Heights to the Premier League, excitable fans in the FA Cup tie at Oxford.
Glass half empty: Possibly one of the least ambitious teams seen in the Premier League for some time. Steve Bruce’s safety first approach can’t be argued with as the club live to fight another day, possibly/probably under new ownership but they are in the bottom three for Expected Goals and it showed, except for those days when they inexplicably put four past someone.
Glass half full: Scored the first goal of the Premier League season, albeit for Liverpool. Spent the first few weeks of the season teasing us with Teemu Pukki goals and sensational wins against Manchester City and Todd Cantwell flitting around like a moth dancing around one of Norfolk’s few electric lights.
Glass half empty: Chose not to spend big to try and stay in the Premier League and that’s no bad thing. Have lost every single game in March, June and July and end the campaign away at Manchester City. Good luck and goodbye.
United have two penalties fewer than Norwich have points this season
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) July 19, 2020
Glass half full: Contributed to the match with the longest ball-in-play time this season (69:23 vs Liverpool in January) which will stun pundits who spent last summer thinking that the club was still managed by Neil Warnock and Sean Bean. Overall the club’s approach under the astute Chris Wilder has been a gigantic addition to the Premier League and has seen searches for the word “overlapping” on Google reach its highest point in the last five years. You can play football, or you can change football.
Glass half empty: A year ago people wondered whether Wolves could follow their excellent first season back in the top-flight and progress further. It seems they could. Can Sheffield United? Next season will be 123 years since the Blades were champions of England. Time to make a challenge lads.
Glass half full: A team who looked destined for a relegation battle for most of the first half of the season hunkered down, took stock and have rebounded into mid-table with cause for optimism for next season.
In a campaign in which Gareth Ainsworth took Wycombe to the Championship, Southampton not panicking after the 0-[redacted] defeat to Leicester was another win for clubs who peace out and give their managers time to turn things around. Oh, and Danny Ings may be the most effective shooter in Hampshire since the man who stuck an arrow into William II in August 1100.
Glass half empty: Have collected two of the six bookings for shirt removal in the Premier League this season. Come on, it’s not that exciting scoring for Saints. How do they say “no” in Austria? Ah, of course it is. Sounds the same as… well yeah.
Glass half full: Have you seen that stadium? State of the art *everything*, it gleams like a spaceship, but a spaceship with a microbrewery inside it. Actually, you may not have seen it because people aren’t allowed in stadiums any more. Sacked the manager who got them to a Champions League final but replaced him with a man who has won it with two different clubs. Due to be the must-watch TV event of the autumn.
Glass half empty: Tottenham winning a trophy is closer to the release of Tomb Raider on the PS1 than it is to now. New manager hasn’t won the Champions League since FIFA 11 came out. Due to be the must-watch TV event of the autumn.
Harry Kane has scored for four clubs in his career, Tottenham are the only one of them not to finish top of a division in his lifetime
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) July 15, 2020
Glass half full: A league table in the period Nigel Pearson was in charge of the club would see Watford in 12th place, ahead of Leicester and only six points worse off than Arsenal. With a club PL-record 1.3 points per game, Pearson was the best of Watford’s managerial eras by a long way, with the highlight being the 3-0 win against hitherto unbeaten Liverpool on February 29, which did not turn out to be the great leap forwards it looked like.
Ben Foster has had a shot on target this season in his quest to become the first Premier League goalkeeper to have scored a goal and have conceded a goal to another goalkeeper.
Glass half empty: Went through more managers than Oxford United have stands. Took part in the two games with the lowest ball in play time (vs Newcastle in July, 41:32) and Burnley in November (43:49). Kenilworth Road is looming large.
West Ham United
Glass half full: To paraphrase Alex Ferguson in 2013, “Your job now is to get behind the new manager who was also the last manager when you last had a new manager.” Trust me, I’ve studied it closely and that was technically true when West Ham reappointed David Moyes in December.
“That’s what I do, I win” mused Moyes as he reacquainted himself with the club, and, to be fair, West Ham, and especially Michail Antonio, have arguably been the best Premier League team/player combo in July. It’s just that league football isn’t played in July very often.
Glass half empty: Something about the Brighton game in February broke a lot of West Ham fans. 3-1 up against a side who rarely score away from home, a calamitous closing 15 minutes saw the match end 3-3. It wasn’t even a loss, yet the sense of defeat almost sunk everyone within a 14 mile radius.
Glass half full: Have won competitive games in different Julys in the same season which takes some doing. Adam Traore progressing upfield leaving a wake of failed sliding tackles is one of the best sights in football while Ruben Neves refusing to progress into the penalty area is one of the most reliable sights in football (Neves’ entire PL career: 6 touches in opposition box, two of which are penalties).
Glass half empty: Had the talent to finish in the top four. Could still end Chelsea’s top four hopes then qualify for the Champions League themselves by winning the Europa League. Who said 13-month seasons are unlucky?