Premier League end-of-season report card – part 1


12th, May 2008

Pies rates each Premier League team based on the 07/08 campaign
Arsenal (3rd)
Played some quite beautiful football at times but faded badly in the last quarter of the season, after leading the pack – Arsene Wenger should have added to his squad in January. Still, to finish just two points behind Chelsea and four behind Man Utd – both of whom have much stronger squads – is a very respectable effort.
Finest hour: Coming back from 2-0 down to beat Bolton 3-2 at the Reebok, depite being down to ten man after half an hour. Beating Everton 4-1 at Goodison also deserves a mention.
Low point: Losing Eduardo to the worst injury of the season.
Grade: B+
Aston Villa (6th)
Most of the credit for Villa’s excellent year must go to Martin O’Neill, who has worked small wonders in his time at the club. O’Neill has generated confidence where before there was none. And his team now plays the brand of fast, powerful football that succeeds in the Prem – they were also involved in two of the most entertaining league games of the season, a pair of remarkable 4-4 draws, at Spurs and Chelsea.
Finest hour: Thrashing rivals Birmingham 5-1 has to rank as their sweetest result. Beating Blackburn 4-0 at Ewood follows close behind.
Low point: Losing 4-1 at home to Man Utd, against whom they always seem to underperform.
Grade: B+

Birmingham City (19th)
Yet another case of a nervous club shooting itself in the foot by changing manager mid-season. You only have to look at the solid work Steve Bruce has done since arriving at Wigan to see that Birmingham’s fate was sealed when Bruce left the club. Alex McLeish is a decent enough manager, but he was not needed in the first place.
Finest hour: Doing the double over Spurs, and snatching two draws against Arsenal.
Low point: Losing 5-1 at Aston Villa in the Midlands derby.
Grade: D
Blackburn Rovers (7th)
Another solid, if unspectacular year for Sparky’s Rovers. Not much else to say, is there? They rarely excite the neutral, but are hard to beat, strong and well-organised – if you like that sort of thing.
Finest hour: Consecutive away wins at Spurs and Portsmouth.
Low point: Shipping five goals in a 5-3 loss at Wigan.
Grade: B
Bolton Wanderers (16th)
All involved with the club must be very relieved to have avoided the drop, especially after the horrible start they had under Little Sammy Lee. Fair play to Gary Megson – the Ginger Mourinho chose to cash-in on Nicolas Anelka, Bolton’s best player by a mile, but still did just enough to survive. That said, it’s a shame that so much of the good work done by Big Sam Allardyce has been largely undone in the space of one season.
Finest hour: Picking up 11 points in their last five games.
Low point: Throwing away a two-goal lead at home against 10-man Arsenal.
Grade: C
Chelsea (2nd)
They were supposed to struggle without the special guidance of Jose Mourinho but instead did better than anyone might have expected. Full marks for keeping Man Utd honest until the final day of the season. The club also deserves credit for going about its business in a quiet, professional manner – most of the time, anyway (stand up Ashley Cole). And so let’s hear it for Avram Grant, who taught us all a lesson in how to be both good-natured and humble.
Finest hour: The second half of the season, when they gained a Mourinho-like momentum that almost made them champions.
Low point: Drawing at home to Wigan, or failing to beat Spurs at White Hart Lane, despite holding the lead four times.
Grade: A-
Derby County (20th)
An astounding -69 goal difference says it all – yes, Derby will go down in the history books as the by far worst team in Prem history. Even Paul Jewell’s mid-season arrival did little to change the club’s status as whipping boys.
Finest hour: They took four points off Newcastle. Shame on you, NUFC!
Low point: The whole season.
Grade: F
Everton (5th)
Three cheers for David Moyes, arguably the best boss in the league. In finishing as the ‘best of the rest’, Moyes’s team deserves huge credit. They were never going to seriously challenge Liverpool for fourth, but 65 points is a fine haul for a club with hugely inferior resources, at least compared with the big four.
Finest hour: The 7-1 demolition of Sunderland at Goodison.
Low point: Losing both league games, somewhat unluckily, to rivals Liverpool.
Grade: A-
Fulham (17th)
Christ on a bike, how did the Cottagers get out of that? Lawrie Sanchez, a truly medicore manager, did his best to put Fulham in an untenable position by Xmas, before Mo Al-Fayed realised, just in time, that he had made a terrible mistake in appointing the ex-Norther Ireland boss. Mad props to mild-mannered Woy Hodgson for engineering one of the most unlikely escape acts in the history of the top flight. God knows where they found the form to notch three away wins in a row.
Finest hour: The consecutive three away wins that effectively kept them up.
Low point: Lawrie Sanchez.
Grade: E (for Sanchez), B+ (for Hodgson)
Liverpool (4th)
An ultimately disappointing league campaign, once again. Rafa Benitez’s European successes concealed the fact that Liverpool are too inconsistent in the Prem. With the squad they have, it should not be too much to ask to finish above Arsenal.
Finest hour: The acquisition of Fernando Torres. And doing the double over Everton.
Low point: Failing to beat Arsenal, Chelsea or Man Utd in the league. They must do better against their title-chasing rivals next season.
Grade: B-
Part 2 tomorrow…