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Premier League grades: The footballing report card

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As the Premier League is drawing to a close it seems a good time to put on a teacher's hat and dish out the end of year report for the Premier League teams.

So who has kept their nose to the grindstone? And who has been sat facing the corner wearing a dunce hat?

Here is the report card of the Premier League for the 2015/2016 campaign.

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Arsenal - (B-)

So Arsene Wenger's men are in the all too familiar position of third. Enough for the Champions league next season? Most likely, but the seemingly strong title challenge has crumbled yet again, without even an FA cup to fall back on this time. They also faced a familiar elimination from the Champions League this season as Barcelona knocked them out in the last-16.

So after reading this paragraph a B- may seem a bit lenient, however, what Arsenal fan would of turned down finishing above Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool at the start of the season?

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Although they would of been forgiven for not expecting them to be behind Leicester City or Tottenham Hotspur.

Aston Villa - (F)

No surprises with this grade.

The decline of one of the great clubs in English football is truly a sad story, and appears to of been taken to the next level with their all-but confirmed relegation this season.

The season effectively ended in the summer of 2015 when a squad that barely survived the season before lost it's two star players in Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, which was made even worse when the antics of Jack Grealish resulted in him being dropped for an extended period of time.

Two managers and heartfelt support couldn't stop Villa's decline, but fans will be hoping that a new manager and a bit of investment may turn the tide and soon see them back in the Premier League.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - FA Cup Semi-Final

Bournemouth - (A)

Possibly one of the surprise packages of the Premier League this year.

They currently sit in 11th place and instead of battling relegation come the end of the season as many predicted, they are now looking to break the top 10.

With the injuries to key players Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings, it looked like it was going to be an uphill struggle for the Cherries. However, the signing of Benik Afobe in January has somewhat helped the issues and has seen them avoid an end of season scrap at the bottom of the table.

Although the form of Afobe has been useful for Bournemouth, it seems to have been the togetherness of the players that has really allowed them to express themselves in this all too competitive league. 

Aston Villa v A.F.C. Bournemouth - Premier League

Chelsea - (D+)

This has definitely been a season to forget for Blues fans, with the reigning Champions so far off the pace in the race for European football.

Early warning signs after a poor pre-season tour and a Community Shield defeat to Arsenal were brushed off by fans and pundits alike, now it appears incorrectly.

The sudden decline for some of their players seems to have steadied since the second coming of Guus Hiddink, and they have slowly worked their way back into the top 10.

The poor form in the league has been mirrored with failures across the three cup competitions, most disappointingly being dumped out the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain for the second year in a row. 

Swansea City v Chelsea - Premier League

Crystal Palace - (C-)

A season to leave Palace fans wandering what might have been.

After being sat in the top six at Christmas they ,have now slipped to just above the relegation zone after enduring a shocking run of form.

The free-flowing football they were playing seems to of disappeared too, and Alan Pardew will be hoping that they can finish the season strong in order to provide a platform for next year.

The grade could increase considerably if they manage to continue their FA Cup form, with a cup semi-final against Watford coming up.

Crystal Palace v Norwich City - Premier League

Everton - (C)

The second set of disappointed Blues fans on this list.

The Toffees have been the hot and cold team of the season, their ability to attack has at times been mesmerising, however a leaky defence has cost them dearly.

There are promising signs however, with breakthrough performances of players like Muhamed Bešić and Ramiro Funes Mori, as well as strong seasons for Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku.

Similar to Crystal Palace, their poor league form could be compensated by the result of the FA Cup, and would provide a good foundation for next year.

Crystal Palace v Everton - Premier League

Leicester City - (A*)

Is there a grade higher than an A*, if so that is what Leicester deserve. They have been quite simply a wonder this season.

During the first half of the season they were surrounded by shouts of "they will drop eventually" but slowly as the season progressed those words became quieter and the support behind them became louder.

The work of Claudio Ranieri and players like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N'Golo Kanté and Christian Fuchs have turned the team into a fairy tale.

With Champions League football already confirmed and the league title looking ever more likely, it is truly a season that will go down in history for this football club and its fans.

Sunderland v Leicester City - Premier League

Liverpool - (C+)

A season that won't last too long in the memory of Liverpool fans.

The time of Brendan Rodgers came to an end with the 'normal' one taking the helm. The heavy metal football ethos may not of been completely transferred but it does seem that things are on the up at Anfield.

The start to the season meant that they were always going to struggle to have a significant impact in the league, however there have been promising signs with the return to form of Philippe Coutinho, and the emergence of Roberto Firmino.

They have also done themselves no harm with their display in the Europa League, knocking out Manchester United and then producing a stunning comeback against Borussia Dortmund, ensuring themselves a spot in the semi-final.

Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Second Leg

Manchester City - (B) 

The year may not have gone the way that Manchester City fans want in terms of the league title, but credit has to go to them for finally beginning to fulfill their European potential.

Reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League is an outstanding achievement for the club, and added to by the silverware already in their cabinet in the League Cup.

It also goes down as a good year for the future of Manchester City. The signings of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne appear to be paying off (especially the latter) as well as the emergence of Kelechi Iheanacho.

Finally an extra two grades for securing the services of Pep Guardiola for next year. The services of one of the best managers on the planet has certainly boosted City fans, even if Manuel Pellegrini may feel a bit hard done by. 

FBL-EUR-C1-MAN CITY-PSG

Manchester United - (C+) 

For the Red Devils this may well be titled the season of 'nearly there' with them coming close across several competitions but not quite having enough to pull themselves over the line.

They are still in with a shout of getting Champions League football next season, but will have to rely on the teams ahead of them dropping points, but if they do get there, this grade would easily rise, and could be added to with FA Cup glory.

The issue comes with the possibility of no silverware and no Champions League football after shelling out over £100 million in the summer.

Similar to City, the emergence of several younger players has done their season the world of good, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford grabbing the headlines over the course of the season. 

West Ham United v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Sixth Round Replay

Newcastle United - (U)

This may come as a surprise to some, but Newcastle United are getting a worse grade than Aston Villa. This is down to the simple fact they have spent a lot more money and actually have a talented bunch of players.

With stars like Cheick Tioté, Andros Townsend, Tim Krul, Georginio Wijnaldum and more, they should not be fighting for survival.

The true issue with Newcastle is that if they go down, they may well struggle to come back up as many of these players will be looking to jump ship, and clubs could be willing to offer them a life jacket. 

Southampton v Newcastle United - Premier League

Norwich City - (C+)

The canaries are currently in an all out slog fest to not occupy those two remaining relegation spots, alongside Aston Villa.

Arguably many predicted that this would be there position from the start of the season, however there has definitely been a sense of bravery in their attempts.

The signing of Steven Naismith appears to of been an absolute moment of genius from Alex Neil, and has given them a real chance to stay up. If they manage it then this grade certainly will go up, however if they do go down, there would be no surprise in the slightest to see them return in the 2017/18 season. 

Crystal Palace v Norwich City - Premier League

Southampton - (B)

It's a season of stability from the Saints, but some fans may have been thinking that this was the year for their big push.

When you look at the struggles of teams like Liverpool, Chelsea and Crystal Palace in comparison to past seasons however, maybe staying the same isn't so bad, maybe a piece of silverware could be a target for next season.

Southampton v Newcastle United - Premier League

Stoke City - (A-)

A recent run of bad results has taken a bit of the shine off of what was a fantastic season for the Potters.

The emergence of Xherdan Shaqiri, Jack Butland and Marko Arnautović has been a major plus point of this season and really has given them a fantastic foundation for next year.

They have always been hard to beat at home, but more than anything their style of play has come on leaps and bounds this year, with the ability to play free-flowing and fast football. 

Watford v Stoke City - Premier League

Sunderland - (D)

The Black Cats are in a relegation battle again, and this time it doesn't look like they are going to escape, although stranger things have happened.

It was always going to be a struggle to stay up this year even after spending almost £40 million in the summer.

It was an expectation that they would be in this fight come the end of the season, however they do seem to have the squad depth and, if they can keep the players, may well be fighting for promotion this time next year. 

Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League

Swansea City - (C)

This year has seen a slight step back from Swansea.

Last year they were looking to gain one of the Europa League positions, while this year they are struggling to reach the top 10.

The removal of Garry Monk as manager in December led to the recruitment of little known Francesco Guidolin, who has helped to pull them out of the relegation zone.

From the position they were in, the fans will no doubt be happy, it's just a shame that they couldn't push on from last year. 

FBL-ENG-PR-SWANSEA

Tottenham Hotspur - (A)

Leicester City will no doubt be the team that are remembered in the history books, however Spurs players, staff and fans alike will be over the moon with this season.

The promise of finishing above Arsenal will be an extremely exiting one, but with how close to the title they are, fans may be secretly disappointed in not winning the league.

The only other slight disappointment may be the nature of their Europa League exit, however the emergence of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld and the second season of Harry Kane seem to eclipse these small blips. 

Tottenham Hotspur v A.F.C. Bournemouth - Premier League

Watford - (B)

A good season all in all, the fact that they are now safe and avoiding the all too dangerous relegation battle.

The partnership of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo has certainly caught the attention of fans up and down the country (especially those involved with fantasy leagues). If the two stay together than they will certainly have a platform to build on, but if the Hornets do decide to sell, then either player will certainly command a healthy transfer fee.

They also have the FA Cup semi-final to look forward to, a trophy would be the icing on the cake and make this one of Watford's finest ever seasons. 

Watford v Everton - Premier League

West Bromwich Albion - (C)

The Pulis guarantee never seems to fail. It may not be the most interesting football in the league, but it certainly gets the job done.

A safe spot in the Premier League next year is what Baggies fans would of expected, and it's what they got. Soon though their attentions must turn towards either obtaining silverware or moving higher up the league.

For this season though, a solid performance, nothing to complain about. 

Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League

West Ham United - (A-)

A fine season to see off Upton Park. They have played some great football and deserve their heightened position in the league.

Slaven Bilić has done a great job of developing this team and his tactical approach to each game has been pretty spot on, see the Arsenal match and Andy Carrol for details.

Another major success story comes in the form of Dimitri Payet and his fabulous free kicks. He will be considered one of the signings of the season. Hopefully the Hammers cement their Europa League position and can carry this success through to the Olympic Stadium. 

So are your team the scholars of the dropouts? Let us know any thoughts and feelings below. 

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Topics:
Leicester City
Chelsea
Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur
Football
Liverpool
Premier League
Arsenal
Manchester City

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