4. Arsenal - GRADE: B-
It was a case of more of the same for the North London side this season as they came flying out of the blocks in first half of the season, but faded badly after January. Injuries to Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey certainly helped derail their title push, but the inability or unwillingness of Arsene Wenger to strengthen a thin squad, again, didn't help their cause. Big summer signing Mesut Ozil sparkled in his first few appearances for the club, but like his teammates "Avatar Eyes" faded badly in the new year. You have to feel that Arsenal is at a cross roads now. Is finishing fourth place every season, but not seriously contending for the title, good enough or does a change in managers have to be made now?
5. Everton - GRADE: A
Losing long-time manager David Moyes to Manchester United must have been hard to take for both the club’s front office and its supporters. Roberto Martinez managed to improve on the position that 11 year manager Moyes set last year (6th place), with a 5th place finish after fighting for a top 4 spot almost all year long. Martinez showed the Goodison Park faithful that he too can spend little and achieve high success with this club. With Gareth Berry, Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and on-loan Romelu Lukaku performing admirably week to week, Everton was one of the better teams to watch this year.
6. Tottenham - GRADE: C
After reinvesting all of the near £100 million received in the Gareth Bale deal and with Andre Villas Boas a year wiser, big things were expected of Tottenham this season. However it was a case of too many changes at once, with many of the new signings failing to properly settle. Roberto Soldado, despite his reputation as a prolific scorer in Spain, couldn't score in a brothel. He was woeful. Fellow new signing Erik Lamela was even worse and failed to find a place in the team. Tottenham's season of woe, featuring several shocking hammerings, led to Villas Boas being shown the door. Despite the chaos that followed under the stewardship of crazed mad man Tim Sherwood, Tottenham still finished in a Europa League spot, which is as good as could be expected.
7. Manchester United - GRADE: D
Who would have thought that one year ago, with Manchester United celebrating their 20th League Championship that the club would suffer through a season like this? David Moyes, sporting a haunted look for most of his time in charge, never seemed to believe he himself was the right man for the job. A squad featuring too many aging players and several players that simply aren't good enough for a club like United made things even harder for Moyes. The former Everton boss didn't last the season and it's hard to see his disastrous first signing Marouane Fellaini sticking around for long either. Fellaini has been about as good as a Wayan Brothers film this season and like the aforementioned "creative duo" needs to go away. Besides out going players, United will need to spend heavily this summer.
8. Southampton - GRADE: A
Last year Nigel Adkins’s sacking may have been seen as odd, after all, the man managed the Saints to two promotions in back-to-back years and had a very solid win percentage while in charge of Southampton. It all seems like a great idea now, after Mauricio Pochettino’s first full year managing the club. Southampton finished the year in 8th place, their best top tier finish since the 1984-85 season when they finished the year in 5th place. Luke Shaw (who now has one foot at Old Trafford), Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Gastón Ramírez all had an outstanding season and fully deserve the “A” grade, and should enjoy it now, as it seems that the big clubs are going to be coming hard for Southampton’s talented youngsters in the summer.
9. Stoke City - GRADE: B
After reaching a ceiling under former boss Tony Pulis and demands for more attractive football, Mark Hughes lifted Stoke to 9th in the table. Playing a more attractive brand of football than they've been used to seeing at the Britannia, Stoke finished as the top team in the Midlands for the first time in their history. The play of Peter Odemwingie and Ryan Shawcross were key to their successful season. With wins against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, Hughes has gone someway to repairing his damaged reputation after a torrid time at QPR. As during Pulis reign though, Stoke will need to strengthen up front this summer if they want to push higher up the table.
10. Newcastle United - GRADE: C-
Many would grade Newcastle in the D to F scale, but what were really the expectations of the Club from the North-East? Do the Toon supporters really think that the 5th place team from two years ago are the real Newcastle United we should see? Let’s put things in perspective for a second, shall we? Newcastle’s top scorer was Loic Remy, a player who is on loan from another club. Their 2nd highest scorer (with 7 goals) and their best player on the year is Yohan Cabay, and he was sold to Paris Saint-Germain in the January window. They hired Joe Kinnear as Director of Football, he got nothing done and lasted all of 8 months. Alan Pardew is not a “big club” manager, and has never won anything significant in his managerial career, and his assistant is John Carver, a manager who was axed from (arguably) the worst Major League Soccer outfit, Toronto FC. Furthermore, Papiss Cissé is one of the biggest flops in EPL history and the only really talented “bright-spot” on the pitch in Hatem Ben-Arfa has all of a sudden become lazy and doesn’t seem to want to play for the club altogether. Come to think of it, finishing in the 10th spot probably deserves a grade of “A” for Newcastle United. (I’ll stick with the C- though)
11. Crystal Palace - GRADE: B-
When Tony Pulis took over in December, Crystal Palace looked doomed to relegation. Considering he was an unpopular choice for many of the Palace faithful, Pulis performed a minor miracle in not only keeping them in the top flight but taking them up to 11th place. The signings of Scott Dann, Joe Ledley and Jason Puncheon were key to the Selhurst Parks sides improvement. Besides a terrific win over Chelsea, Palace were involved in one of the most bizarre and yet entertaining matches of the season when they clawed back a 3-0 deficit against Liverpool to draw 3-3.
12. Swansea City - GRADE: C+
Considering the difficulty level a team of Swansea’s size has when they are put into a schedule that involves Premier League action and major European tournament games, the 12th place finish doesn’t seem all that bad for a club that was just promoted to top tier football 3 seasons ago. Surely, the front office and the coaching staff will feel that this was not the goal they had set-out before the season started as this would be the lowest league position Swansea will have gotten since being promoted, but the truth is that this club did exactly what they are capable of doing and that’s winning against the less talented teams in the league. The signing of Wilfred Bony and Jonjo Shelvey proved to be very successful and they had a decent run in the Europa League, which eventually came to an end in the round of 32 at the hands of a very talented Napoli team.
13. West Ham United - GRADE: C-
The only surprising thing about West Ham's season is how they managed to finish 13th and not closer to the drop zone. In hindsight the decision to blow most of their transfer budget on Andy Carroll was not Sam Allardyce's finest hour. He has also drawn the ire of Hammers fans with his style of football. In reaction Jose Mourinho's accusation that West Ham play "19th century football" after a 0-0 draw with Chelsea, the big man angrily replied, "I couldn't give a fuck! He can't take it! He just can't take it!" Neither can the Upton Park crowd for much longer though, Sam.
14. Sunderland - GRADE: D
Sunderland reminds us of that kid that always skips school, but studies really hard for the exam that’s worth more than any other and just passes the course at the end. Everyone talks about Sunderland’s “great escape” and the football they played at the end of the year, but what about the rest of the season? The Black Cats were at the bottom of the league almost the entire year, and a few decent performances kept them in the Premier League because the other bottom-feeders couldn’t scratch out a point to save their own lives. Sure they got 13 points of a possible 16 in their last 6 games of the year, it’s impressive but we grade based on the full year and overall their year was pretty crap.
15. Aston Villa - GRADE: F
For the last few seasons Aston Villa seem to have been involved in a relegation battle, and for the biggest side in the "Second City" it simply isn't good enough. With support for manager Paul Lambert dwindling and chairman Randy Lerner putting the club up for sale, change could be in the air at Villa Park. With Fabian Delph providing the few highlights for Villa, the majority of the squad don't look to be Premiership standard. The club needs to spend significant funds this summer or next season may see them finally go down.
16. Hull City - GRADE: B-
Many expected Hull to get relegated this year, and the fact they didn’t alone puts their grade higher than a “fail”. That combined with an appearance in the FA Cup final and ultimately Europe next season, makes this season a success for the soon to be Hull Tigers. Hull showed some sparks of brilliance as well with a 3-1 win over Liverpool, 4-0 at Cardiff and a 6-0 total annihilation of Fulham.
17. West Bromwich Albion - GRADE: F
West Bromwich Albion suffered through a disastrous season, with Nicolas Anelka bringing scandal to the club with his 'quenelle' gesture, Steve Clarke being dismissed and problems in the dressing room. Signings Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe did not pan out and new manager Pepe Mel barely did enough to keep the Baggies in the Premiership. With Mel's departure it'll be an interesting summer at the Hawthorns.
18. Norwich City - GRADE: F
An awful season for Norwich that saw manager Chris Hughton shown the door, the signing of Ricky van Wolfswingel proved to be a disastrous mistake. The £8.5 million Dutch signing never worked out as he only signed one goal in the whole campaign. Norwich looked badly out of their depth this season and will be looking to quickly bounce back next term.
19. Fulham FC - GRADE: F
Probably the biggest disappointment of the EPL season, Fulham enjoyed the last 13 years in top flight football only to see the streak end with a season full of questionable management appointments and terrible play. Fulham has a lineup that at least on paper looks like a solid mid-table squad, but if EPL followers have learned anything from QPR last year, having a bunch of decent football names doesn't always mean successful survival in Britain's top tier. The appointment of Felix Magath and his promises of survival were absurd as well, with the new manager bringing Craven Cottage faithfuls' hopes up, but not providing the results to accomplish what he promised.
20. Cardiff City - GRADE: D
Sure they finished dead last, sure they got relegated, sure their owner is a nut-job who like to micro-manage the club including on-pitch affairs. Let’s be serious though, there are very few people that did not believe before the year started that Cardiff City would be right back in the second tier next season. The change to the Red kits along with the £36,000,000 spent on mediocre (or not yet at their prime) players obviously did not make the club any better on the pitch.
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