Chelsea are worthy champions after a top-heavy Premier League season

 

Any team that clocks up a record 30 Premier League wins and 93 points deserves to be champions, so nobody can argue about Chelsea wearing the crown.

It was a remarkable turnaround after their mysterious no-show resulted in a 10th-place finish last season. Indeed, a club-by-club comparison between this campaign and 2015-16 offers some revealing insights on how all 20 clubs performed.

Chelsea were the biggest climbers and Leicester the biggest fallers, while two of the three promoted clubs went straight back into the Championship. Overall, it was a top-heavy league; the top seven finished at least 15 points clear of the rest.

Here is my end-of-term report:

1. Chelsea (up nine places and 43 points)

The engagingly manic Antonio Conte re-invented last year’s flops; after early setbacks, his switch to 3-4-3 produced a Premier League record 30 wins. N’Golo Kante — now a two-time title winner — was a predictable success, but did anyone imagine Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, Pedro and David Luiz would make such stellar contributions ?

2. Tottenham (up one place and 16 points)

They waved farewell to White Hart Lane by going unbeaten at the famous old ground all season. Harry Kane won the Golden Boot again and Dele Alli oozes elegant class. Modest away form was the problem and they need to turn style into silverware, but it will be harder based at Wembley next season.

3. Manchester City (up one place and 12 points)

Pep Guardiola’s first season in England has to go down as a big disappointment. His ever-changing team played some delightful football at times, but were simply too erratic and flaky in defence. He will have a huge summer budget, but knows the honeymoon is over.

4. Liverpool (up four places and 16 points)

Jurgen Klopp did well to get them into the Champions League for just the second time in eight years. Liverpool can look irresistible or unconvincing, depending upon how Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino fare on a given day. They need major spending to add depth to a thin squad.

5. Arsenal (down three places but up four points)

Turmoil was created because of the civil war among fans over whether Arsene Wenger should stay or go, and there is also great uncertainty over the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. The smart money says Wenger stays with some backstage changes, which is hardly likely to satisfy those calling for a new broom.

6. Manchester United (down one place but up three points)

Hard to beat and often even harder to watch, Jose Mourinho’s draw specialists finished further off the top — 24 points — than in any season since 1990-91. The manager is gambling all on triumph in the Europa League Final against Ajax; win that and United nip through the back door into the Champions League. Lose it and there will be a big inquest.

7. Everton (up four places and 14 points)

Ronald Koeman had an excellent first season and the Goodison Park club claimed the “best of the rest” title while qualifying for Europe. How they cover for the possible departures of top scorer Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, though, will determine whether they can push on from here.

8. Southampton (down two places and 17 points)

Injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin hardly helped, but the Saints were never quite the force they were under Koeman, though they were unlucky to lose the EFL Cup final. It seems that manager Claude Puel could leave this summer.

9. Bournemouth (up seven places and four points)

A bigger club really should take a gamble on manager Eddie Howe, who continues to win friends and Premier League points with players, who have made massive strides under his guidance. Harry Arter, who cost £4,000 from Woking, is an example. This was the club’s highest-ever finish.

10. West Brom (up four places and two points)

They were going along nicely and then fell off a cliff in the last six weeks of the season after securing safety. Despite the flair of Matt Phillips, this team is built around the traditional Tony Pulis virtues of resilience, organisation and defensive fortitude.

11. West Ham (down four places and 17 points)

Rarely looked at home in their new, cavernous London Stadium, where distant views of the action have left many fans pining for the atmospheric Upton Park. It was always going to be a tricky season, though their cause was not helped by the injury-jinxed Andy Carroll and the mutiny of Dimitri Payet.

12. Leicester (down 11 places and 37 points)

Statistically, their’s was the worst Premier League title defence in history. The sacking of Claudio Ranieri ended the fairy tale in brutal fashion, but the season was rescued by a revival under Craig Shakespeare and a longer run than any other English team in the Champions League.

13. Stoke (down four places and seven points)

After three straight ninth-place finishes, Stoke return to the spot they filled in 2010-11 and 2012-13. Impossible to predict, possibly because they have a lot of “mood” players, they can certainly do better than this season’s overall performance.

14. Crystal Palace (up one place but down one point)

This was a comeback concert for Sam Allardyce after his ill-starred, 67-day reign as England manager. He sorted out a shaky defence, made a few good signings, got some goals out of Christian Benteke and maintained his record of never being relegated

15. Swansea (down three places and six points)

The revolving door to the Liberty Stadium manager’s office is coming off its hinges, but they finally found the right occupant in Paul Clement to fight their way clear of trouble. And don’t underestimate the leadership of the long-serving Leon Britton during the run-in.

16. Burnley (promoted)

Everyone’s tip to be relegated last summer, they defied the critics by turning Turf Moor into Fort Knox and staying up. Michael Keane deservedly broke into the England squad and they will likely lose him, but Sean Dyche was a contender for Manager of the Year.

17. Watford (down four places and five points)

Walter Mazzari kept an ordinary side afloat despite a late nosedive, which represents some sort of success. But no manager lasts long at Vicarage Road and there will be a new man in charge next season (and probably the one after that as well).

18. Hull (promoted)

The arrival of Marco Silva looked to have galvanised a struggling team, but a 2-0 home defeat by already-relegated Sunderland at the start of May was calamitous and Hull folded when it mattered most. Defender Harry Maguire will surely be staying in the Premier League with another club, though.

19. Middlesbrough (promoted)

It looked for a time as if a miserly defence, led by the chairman’s nephew Ben Gibson, might keep them up, but Boro just could not score enough goals to have any hope.

20. Sunderland (down three places and 15 points)

Cast as relegation candidates by their own manager, David Moyes, at the start of the season, they fulfilled his prophecy of doom and were generally hopeless, despite the form of promising young keeper Jordan Pickford and the goals of Jermain Defoe.

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