This season has been one of the most bizarre and exciting Premier League campaigns to date. Anyone can beat anyone and the table doesn’t look at all like what we expected it to at the start of the season.
Every club went into this season with a level of expectation, with an ambition to achieve. So, we’re ranking all 20 Premier League clubs based on their performance this season in comparison with what was expected of them.
20. Sheffield United
Last season, the Blades finished 9th with one of the competition’s best defences. Their unique style of play – utilising overlapping centre-backs – caught the eye and they were in the running for European football. This season many, including United themselves, expected a similar season. Yes, a drop off was to be expected but given their incredible start to life in the Prem, surely relegation wouldn’t be an issue. Now it seems like an unavoidable inevitability with Sheffield bottom with three wins.
Back to back 7th placed finishes since returning to the Premier League led many to believe Wolves would be the side to break into the Big Six. Their recruitment has been impressive and they often beat the big teams. Wolves will have backed themselves to be in the picture for European football once again this season and no doubt have targeted a top 6 finish. But injuries and the loss of key players have seen them drift down the league to 14th.
After last season’s FA Cup triumph and the refreshing approach of Arteta, the Gunners were optimistic going into this campaign. They beat the Champions for the Community Shield and even sat top of the league early on. A return to the Champions League was possible. That no longer seems the case with Arsenal floating around midtable and plagued by inconsistency. What’s worse is they no longer seem to have a solid identity. Even Europa League football looks unlikely at this stage.
17. West Brom
Undoubtedly, West Brom’s ambition this season will have been to survive. Their return to the top flight hasn’t gone to plan and relegation looks likely even with ‘Big Sam’ in charge. Right now, they’re 10 points adrift from safety and could slip behind Sheffield United into 20th sooner or later.
It is a similar, but much less hopeless, story for Fulham. Upon their return to the top flight, they’ll have looked to survive. As with West Brom that seems unlikely but they’ve certainly given it a better crack than West Brom as they sit 2 points above the Baggies with a game in hand.
If I’d have written this list at the start of December, Spurs would’ve been near the top. They were in the midst of an unlikely title race and the top four looked very likely. But things are now much less rosy in North London. Tottenham sit 9th a million miles away from the title and at a distinct disadvantage in the race for the top four.
The Champions most definitely started this season intending to retain their crown. After being so far ahead of the pack last season and the arrivals of Jota and Thiago, back to back titles looked a real possibility. Now, the top four is the aim and will be a struggle. Injuries haven’t helped and continue to stifle Liverpool’s form. The Reds have drifted well and truly out of the title race with the loss of Virgil van Dijk and mental fatigue being cited as the main reasons. For Klopp, it’s about rebuilding for next season whilst trying to claim at least fourth spot this campaign.
The reason Chelsea reside above Liverpool in this list is, despite their poor form, they sit closer to their objective of claiming a place in the top four than Liverpool do to the title. Some may say Chelsea were aiming for the title this season, but with a squad of new players top four was the more reasonable aim. At this moment in time, the odds are stacked against them but a couple of wins and Chelsea will be right back in the top four.
Once again, with no new owners, the objective at St James’ Park was a bland one: survive. They seem on the road to achieving that but feel as though they’re limping along to safety. In truth they’ve been helped by the existence of three worse teams than them in the league and the goals of Wilson. Next season might not be so kind.
Like Newcastle, Burnley will have aimed for survival. At this moment, it seems like that will be achieved. The Lancashire club are a steady team one who is more than stable in the top flight. Yes, they might have had an eye on the top half at the start of the season but they’d have probably taken 17th at the start of the season.
A few weeks ago Brighton looked in danger but a recent good run of form has swatted aside many fears. The Seagulls sit 10 points clear of the relegation zone and have just beaten both Spurs and Liverpool. Survival looks as though it will be achieved.
The Saints are one of those sides who’s first objective is to survive and their next is to climb the table. Survival looks as though it’s assured and at times the Saints have flirted with the top 8. Recent struggles leave them in the bottom half but with the likes of Danny Ings in their side, a top half finish is not impossible.
8. Crystal Palace
If I’m being honest between Palace and Southampton the side I’d expect to be where they are is Palace. At present they sit 13th on the road to survival and unlikely to make an impression on the top half. In that respect, the Eagles are exactly where you’d expect them to be.
7. Leeds United
Many Leeds fans this season simply wanted survival. Well that looks like it won’t be an issue. The Mighty Whites sit 11th in the league and have thwarted the threat of relegation so far in style. A top half finish is possible, but I’d deem it unlikely given the form of other sides. If they finish 11th then that would certainly be a success and where many expected the Whites to finish before the season started.
6. Manchester City
Manchester City eyed the title going into this season and they look like they’ll claim it at this moment in time. They have a 3 point lead and a game in hand as well as a 7 point lead over main rivals Liverpool. They’re where they want to be and it seems unlikely that anyone will shift them especially as they boast the league’s best defence and have started finding the back of the net regularly once more.
5. Manchester United
The Red Devils will have taken a top four finish at the start of the season as they endure a tiresome transition period after once being the league’s dominant club. However, they now found themselves the closest to City in the title race which most wouldn’t have expected. Although the title looks unlikely a second place finish could be achieved.
The Foxes will have aimed for a top four finish at the start of the season but most expected them to miss out again. But the former Premier League Champions have impressed this season and look likely to claim at least fourth spot and have at times featured in the title race topping the table in November.
In a similar vein to Leicester, Everton no doubt will have aimed for European football but the top four could be a real possibility given their impressive form and their games in hand. In Calvert-Lewin they have a genuine goal scorer and have class throughout their team in the likes of Digne and Allan.
2. Aston Villa
Many had Villa pegged for a relegation battle, instead they are a side with a chance at European football. They compete with pretty much everyone and even swatted aside the Champions 7-2. They’re well away from a relegation battle and instead are in the mix at the top of the table.
1. West Ham
No one saw this coming. With David Moyes back in charge, most believed the Hammers were heading backwards. Some even expected them to suffer relegation this season. Instead they sit just two points behind the Champions in 5th. Although I doubt they’ll finish in the top four, it’s possible as is European football. I’ve been very impressed with the London club this campaign.