Posts Tagged ‘Everton’

Yes this is a bit late and you’ve already read everyone else’s summation of the Premier League season by now, but time is money, and nobody pays me shit for this. But these are always fun to do and read, to see the opinions of other people and compare notes. So indulge me a little, why don’t you?

It was another thrilling season in England, even though it all came to an end a bit soon and we were left with a fairly non-descript final day of the season, with very little to play for.

Still there were plenty of talking points to come from the season, and in the interest of fairness to every club in the division, I shall be dividing up these awards into one for the top six, and one for the rest of the league. Poor Everton, I honestly had no idea which section to put you in initially. But you end up in the rest for this season.

 

TEAM/MANAGER OF THE SEASON

Top Six – Chelsea/Antonio Conte

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Not a bad start to life in England for Conte

Some might put these as two categories, but I fail to see why you would treat manager and team performance as separate things as they are somewhat co-dependent. Some might have fancied Spurs to edge this award as their ‘success’ was far less expected than that of Chelsea, but Conte’s achievements have been fantastic in his first season in English football.

This was a largely similar squad last season finished down in tenth and was in all sorts of disarray. Conte deserves credit not only for turning around the fortunes of these players, helping them rediscover their form, but realising that changes could and should be made and simply implementing them with little fuss.

He changed English football’s way of thinking from insisting on a flat-back-four, with his switch to a back three system helping Chelsea overcome a shaky start to go on a 13-game winning run, which essentially had the title wrapped up by the turn of the year, regardless of how game Tottenham’s pursuit of them was.

The Rest – Bournemouth/Eddie Howe

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Eddie Howe enhanced his burgeoning this reputation this season

There was often little to choose between the remainder of the teams in the division, given they all had runs in the season where things were good, and then a subsequent slide down the table. Everton basically matched expectations to be the bridge between the two, Southampton managed top-half again, but were largely uninspiring, and West Brom (the runaway winners of this award for a while) simply hit 40 points and we went back to forgetting about them.

Bournemouth by no means had a fantastic season, but a final position in the top-half, despite many (including myself) worrying that second-season-syndrome would kick in and relegation could be in the offing.

With key players repeatedly being laid low with major injuries and results faltering, that fate did look a distinct possibility at one point, but Howe marshalled a still relatively inexperienced team at this level away from danger and led the side to their finest ever league finish. You can’t say fairer than that.

 

PLAYER OF THE SEASON

Top Six – N’golo Kante (Chelsea)

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The best player in the Premier League. Another sterling season for Kante

The choice between pundits was between Kante and Eden Hazard for the gong, but I’ll plump with the majority and go for the little French midfielder, who was the difference for Chelsea and has won back-to-back titles with different clubs, which is impressive on its own.

His energy has allowed the likes of Hazard to focus on wreaking havoc in attacking positions instead of being coaxed into defensive duties, and helped improve the previously flagging performances of Nemanja Matic.

Plus, his arrival was probably key in John Obi Mikel no longer playing Premier League football anymore. These are always things to be celebrated.

The Rest – Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

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It is surely a matter of time until Lukaku ends up at a top club

I wouldn’t call it a cop out. You might, but I wouldn’t, as Lukaku has not just continued to motor along at a level that is honestly beneath him, but improved his record and reputation even further by enjoying his finest ever goal-scoring season.

Goals may not be everything and he still has plenty of detractors wondering if his all-round game is yet good enough for the move up he clearly so desperately craves, but 25 goals is not an easy tally to record in the Premier League and he would have claimed the Golden Boot were it not for the crazy late-season form of Harry Kane.

Lukaku was the standout player of the sides outside of the top six. How long that is the case remains to be seen.

 

MOST IMPROVED

Top Six – Ander Herrera (Manchester United)

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Captain in shithousery. Future captain of Man Utd?

Sure some might call for Christian Eriksen at this point, but it’s only this season that people have actually begun to notice how much he does for this Spurs team. Plus as a fan, I’m far more aware of what he has been doing, so he’s just motoring along just nicely for me.

Instead I’ve gone for Herrera, who has gone from popular yet flawed midfielder struggling to hold down a place under Louis van Gaal, to being probably the most important player in this Manchester United team.

Having been underappreciated by management staff since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao, Jose Mourinho has seen him as the ideal partner to help Paul Pogba shine – only to complete outshine his more illustrious teammate.

He might be an awful shithouse of a player for fans of the opposition and his tendency to flop to the ground does grate somewhat. But you can’t knock what he’s doing in general and try to enjoy the other, more pleasing aspects of a game that has come on leaps and bounds.

The Rest – Joshua King (Bournemouth)

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King’s improvement have seen him linked with a big move

No contest here, as quite frankly this time last year, I had serious doubts about Josh King making a long-term career as a Premier League footballer, with the inkling being he would be more at home in the Championship.

Even a few months into the season I could have been forgiven for harbouring that point of view as he struggled to break into the first-team at Bournemouth, but once he took his chance, he really broke into a fine footballer.

Nobody doubted his desire or his running, but there seemed to be an issue with the final ball, the final pass and for an attacking player his returns previously were just not good enough to warrant a regular place in a top flight side.

This season it all appears to have come together for him and a leap from six to 16 Premier League goals is a testament to the work he has done away from the pitch. Plus a man with such a basic English name being a Norwegian international can only make you more endearing.

 

BEST SIGNING

Top Six – Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur)

Wanyama

Wanyama’s success at Spurs has surprised a lot of people

“No Kante? But you made him your player of the season!” I hear you cry. But I’m not on board for the same player winning two awards, and this is my page and I’ll do what I want. So there.

Anyhoo, Wanyama’s arrival at Spurs was met with very little fanfare really, more an acknowledgement that he would be a useful addition to the Tottenham squad with the added burden of Champions League football and Eric Dier having been quite frankly run into the ground over the course of the previous campaign and European Championships with England.

So few people expected Wanyama to essentially oust Dier from a midfield spot he had suddenly looked extremely comfortable in, with many at Spurs putting the Kenyan powerhouse among their star performers throughout an impressive season that saw many steal the headlines.

At just a reported £9m, Wanyama was nearly a third of the price of Kante, and was just as important to another side that exceeded expectations to leave the Manchester clubs in their wake, despite all pre-season talk of the title heading back up north.

Acknowledgements to Sadio Mane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who certainly exceeded expectations as well, but it’s Wanyama who gets the nod here.

The Rest – Joe Allen (Stoke City)

Joe-Allen

Allen continued his good form over from Euro 2016 with Stoke

I really wish I could bend my rules and include January signings. But they only played half a season, so I can only apologise for not including Wilfred Ndidi or Kamil Grosicki. This goes double, because the summer transfer window last year was tragically bad, making it rather difficult to pick a winner for this ‘award’.

There’s a sense that if some of the sides in the division hadn’t twisted so much last summer, we may not have been talking about half the division as serious relegation candidates at some point in the season. Because there was an awful lot of crap signed, and for a lot of money as well.

Fernando Llorente did fairly well, but annoyed people for not sprinting much. Christian Benteke finished with a decent tally for Palace, but yet we still expected more from him. Few others jumped out.

So it’s Joe Allen that wins this one. Humble upon arriving with that price tag despite never really impressing at Liverpool, with his stock boosted once more by an impressive showing at the Euros with Wales.

He did pretty well, became an integral part of a Stoke side a lot of us forgot were in the Premier League and improved his goal-scoring record. Hilariously, only Peter Crouch scored more goals for the Potters this season. Allen even got a brace in one game.

 

WORST SIGNING

Top Six – Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal)

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We thought Mustafi would be a big player for Arsenal. We were wrong

Remember how I mentioned last summer’s transfer activity was a bit rubbish? This goes for the top six as well, with a gluttony of candidates available for this. Claudio Bravo, John Stones, Vincent Janssen, Moussa Sissoko, Michy Batshuayi, the list goes on. This is just the ‘bad’ ones, let alone those that just didn’t live up to expectations.

While many would expect Sissoko to win this, there was always a sense that he was brought in to bolster an already strong squad, replacing Nacer Chadli more than any first-team regular.

Mustafi on the other hand was supposed to – along with the equally disappointing Granit Xhaka – be the final works in the Arsenal puzzle, the expesive, established stars that bounced them into a serious title tilt, with the gold up for grabs following Leicester’s unexpected success.

Finally a competent partner for Laurent Koscielny had arrived in the form of Mustafi. Well, that was the thinking anyway, as the German was cumbersome, clumsy, slow and just looked all over the place as Arsenal’s defence looked worse, not better for his arrival.

For £35m, you expect so much better. You at least expect him to not end the season potentially as fourth choice, with youngster Rob Holding and the returning Per Mertesacker looking far more composed at the back for the Gunners.

The Rest – Ahmed Musa (Leicester City)

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It has not gone well for Musa at Leicester. Pitifully bad, in fact

The first signal of Leicester’s intent to not simply slip away into the pack once again after their shock title win. Also the first signal as to why they did.

Musa was the first player Leicester broke their transfer record to sign last summer. Islam Slimani came next, another striker in a team with a couple of stars already in their attack, with Shinzi Okazaki hardly disgracing himself either. So you already you wondered how things were going to fit together.

Slimani at least grabbed a handful of goals when he managed to be fit, but Musa on the other hand was an unmitigated let-down. Like, to the point where you forgot he was even there come the end of the season. Never before has a black player wished they were back in Russia.

 

YOUNG PLAYER

Top Six – Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

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When will Alli get a challenge for this award? He should be a shining example

We all know how good Dele Alli is. We all know what a good season he had. Want to know why he won this? Because no other young player was quite frankly given anything that could be deemed a regular chance.

Gabriel Jesus may well be fantastic when he gets a full season behind him, and Hector Bellerin could well get back to his previous levels, but there are very few opportunities being offered to young players of any nationality, let alone English.

The success of England’s under 19s at the World Cup will hopefully lead to change, but with all the money going round in the game, clubs are always more likely to sign established stars than give a youngster a chance. They will keep signing promising kids, loan them out a tonne and eventually they’ll be able to toddle off somewhere in their 20s, failing to have kicked on and disillusioned with a nomadic lifestyle and a lack of chances at the place that was supposed to be home.

The Rest – Tom Davies (Everton)

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Davies is evidence of what can happen when faith is put in youth

It’s not just the money men by the way. The rest of the division is not much better for giving young players a chance, with only a couple of clubs seeming like a place to be given that chance to impress in the Premier League.

Southampton have developed a reputation for it, and Everton have also thankfully taken it upon themselves to give their impressive academy a chance to shine, with Tom Davies being the pick of the bunch.

The youngster has taken to life as a Premier League regular like a duck to water, pouring shame on Ross Barkley in the process. Davies looks comfortable and willing to kick on, with a number of Everton fans now happy to see Barkley moved on if it means Davies can be the main man driving forward from the midfield.

Alfie Mawson deserves a mention as well, but frankly the pool is still far too small to choose from. Given the disaster of last season’s transfer window, it is perhaps more pertinent to look to the academies for ways to improve the squads.

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Time is very much of the essence for Roberto Martinez currently. It has been running out for some time now, as Everton fans, and subsequently the media are quickly realising how flawed he is as a manager.

Now in his third season at Goodison Park, there has been no progress forthcoming since the Spaniard took over, with Everton in fact having tumbled down the table, infuriating a set of fans who are generally some of the most patient in the country.

Under the stewardship of David Moyes, fans endured mixed seasons as they yo-yoed up and down the table on a whim, yet there was plenty of understanding among the crowd that the Scot would be capable of turning it around, with more ire directed towards a board that was not investing in the side.

Once Moyes was permitted to ‘enjoy’ a spell at Manchester United, Everton were tasked with finding a new manager for the first time in a decade, with Martinez seemingly given the bigger stage he deserved.

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After three years, Martinez’ time at Everton appears to be running thin

Credited with building the Swansea side that climbed up the divisions into the Premier League and made Brendan Rodgers the egomaniac he is today, Martinez signed for Everton on the back of an unprecedented FA Cup victory with Wigan Athletic.

With a massive achievement like that coming against all odds, in theory he was the perfect man to take Everton through that glass ceiling separating them from really troubling the top four positions, the board clearly happy to back the new man to realise their dreams.

What should have been heeded more was the relegation suffered by Wigan in that same season, with a side that toppled Manchester City to win the cup managing to be worse than a rancid Sunderland side who had looked doomed with a month of the campaign remaining.

 

The patience that he has been afforded to by the Toffees’ faithful has now worn thin, as despite a positive opening season, Everton have gradually gotten worse as time has gone on.

Their defensive record has become a running joke, their record at Goodison Park is among the worst outside of the relegation zone, and a side that looks very promising on paper is seemingly falling well short of its potential.

Everton are a side boasting one of the top strikers in world football in Romelu Lukaku. One of England’s most exciting midfield prospects in a long time in Ross Barkley. A man who excelled against Lionel Messi for Bosnia & Herzegovina at the last World Cup in Muhamed Besic. The apparent heir to Bobby Moore in John Stones. And yet they have yet to even reach the magical 40 point mark that is supposed to guarantee a reprieve from relegation from the Premier League.

Stones Struggles

Touted as a major prospect for England, John Stones is suffering for the mis-management of Martinez

Stones’ potential alone has been pinpointed for a number of years among more learned people than I, but his progression will only continue to falter under a manager who does not believe clean sheets are important to recording victories.

Lukaku is a forward who will attract any club in the world should he desire to push for a move away from Merseyside and a continued failure to even threaten challenging for Europe and a rather vocal agent will only amplify his wish to compete on a grander scale.

 

This felt like a make or break season for Martinez, to prove that he is the man to take Everton forward, following in the footsteps of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur in breaking up the elite sides in the division. If West Ham have make a fist of it this season, a side with the talent Everton possess should be expected to pose some form of threat.

With new investors coming into the club at the end of 2015 and always the potential they might want to bring in their own man, this has felt like an audition for Martinez to keep his job into the 2016/17 season.

Since Farhad Moshiri arrived at the club, he has seen a sorry state of a side limp into the second half of the season, with the Toffees’ last 13 games yielding just 13 points, seeing them slip to 14th in the table.

Martinez Out

The natives are restless. And understandably so

The silver lining for Martinez is a place in the FA Cup semi-finals, and he must put all of his efforts into winning this trophy now to give him a fighting chance of being given another season at Goodison.

With Everton being given the tougher task of taking on either West Ham or Manchester United for a place in the season curtain-closer, Martinez will have to fancy his chances of landing silverware should they progress beyond the semis.

With dissent growing within the fans as ‘Martinez Out’ banners have begun to appear, he could quieten some of those doubters by bringing a first trophy to the club since 1995, buying himself more time to ensure he will be remembered as a success, making it difficult for new owners to dispose of him easily and perhaps convincing star players to give an extra year to the club.

Failure to do so and a bottom half finish will see the clamour for change increase. A series of daft sound-bites, a failure to realise that there are problems and obvious tactical deficiencies are undermining his position currently, with even the nice guy image beginning to dwindle.

Without that mask, he is susceptible to criticism from outside of the club and that is the beginning of the end for Martinez. Only cup glory will probably save him from an inevitable – and deserved – change of personnel in the summer.

Louis Van Gaal

Can Van Gaal lead Manchester United back to prominence?

The football season is back! Rejoice! The tedium that is the close season and the rubbish that fills our newspapers and websites desperate to fill column inches is finally at an end, and we can focus on the football itself. Well, nearly. I’m looking at you Daily Mail.

The Premier League has opted to kick-off at the same time as the other divisions in England this season due to a major tournament appearing next summer and it looks set to be potentially the most interesting season in a while, with a number of teams well equipped to mount a title challenge and nobody looking quite weak enough to be dead certs for the drop. 

Thus I have compiled a quick preview of every side in the division, rated and/or slated their summer transfer activity and attempted the fools’ game of predicting where they will end up. Enjoy and feel free to add your own comments at the bottom! 

Here’s Part Two, taking us from Everton to Manchester United:

Roberto Martinez

Martinez is running a risky strategy this summer if Everton are to get back among the European contenders

Everton

Last Season: 11th

Transfers In: Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona)

Transfer Out: Sylvain Distin (Bournemouth), Antolin Alcaraz (Released), Luke Garbutt (Fulham, Loan), Chris Long (Burnley)

Has any side been as disappointing as Everton in the transfer window this summer? After a season in which they went from European qualifiers to flirting with relegation after blowing their entire transfer budget on Romelu Lukaku, Everton have yet again done nothing to address a threadbare squad.

While the departures of Alcaraz and Distin were to be expected, the fact that Roberto Martinez has done nothing to replace them will be of cause for concern to Everton fans, with the continued speculation around John Stones even more of a worry. The only position that has been strengthened has been arguably the strongest area of the pitch, with Cleverley coming in to join Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and the criminally under-used Muhamed Besic on the centre of midfield.

The arrival of Deulofeu after a semi-successful loan spell two years ago still simply smacks of standing still while all others around them have improved their options. There is still very little support to Lukaku with only Arouna Kone of Steven Naismith offering any semblance of striking options.

Martinez still claims he wants another three players, but he is running out of time. This is beginning to look like a long and difficult season ahead for the Toffees unless something is done drastically to improve a paper-thin squad.

Prediction: 14th

Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri is the man to lead Leicester into this season’s relegation battle

Leicester City

Last Season: 14th

Transfers In: Christian Fuchs (Schalke), Robert Huth (Stoke), Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), N’Golo Kante (Caen), Yohan Benalouane (Atalanta)

Transfers Out: Paul Gallagher (Preston), Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Matthew Upson (MK Dons), Chris Wood (Leeds), Ben Hamer (Nottingham Forest, Loan), Paul Konchesky (QPR, Loan), Esteban Cambiasso (Released)

Leicester were the story of the season last season as they finished the season with a phenomenal run that saw them go from dead certainties for relegation to finish nice and clear of the drop zone, avoiding even a nervy final day showdown to secure their place in the Premier League at the first time of asking.

And then they self imploded over the summer, with three of their younger players being sacked for partaking in a filmed orgy laced with racial slurs and manager Nigel Pearson soon also receiving the boot, presumably for failing to condemn the actions of his players, with his own son one of the main protagonists.

Now Claudio Ranieri has undertaken the task of steadying the ship in the East Midlands, with the club in a spot of disarray and now in the thoughts of many as likely to face the drop once again. Again they have recruited from abroad to give a number of new foreign players their first crack at the Premier League, but the loss of Cambiasso in the centre of the park may well prove a huge difference in their fight for survival.

Prediction: Relegation. Potentially Bottom

Brendan Rodgers

Will Brendan Rodgers’ signings fare better than his attempts of last year?

Liverpool

Last Season: 6th

Transfers In: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa), James Milner (Manchester City), Danny Ings (Burnley), Adam Bogdan (Bolton), Joe Gomez (Charlton), Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton)

Transfers Out: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Iago Aspas (Sevilla), Rickie Lambert (West Brom), Glen Johnson (Stoke), Andre Wisdom (Norwich), Brad Jones (Released)

Ah Liverpool. After all the crowing in regards to their near miss of a maiden Premier League title, the loss of Luis Suarez and subsequent spunking of money saw them slip completely out of the Champions League picture, with Brendan Rodgers coming under immense pressure after failing to build on that superb season.

Most of those signings have been written off as flops already, and yet somehow he has been granted another heavy transfer kitty to hit the market hard again.

These signings look far more shrewd however and it is the signing of Roberto Firmino that really intrigues the imagination, with the Brazilian having been a regular on the scoresheet at the ever-entertaining Hoffenheim in Germany. Milner, Ings and Clyne also ups an English contingent of players with enough top flight experience and still with a hunger to prove themselves.

Losing Raheem Sterling as a second big name sale in as many years is a blow, but Liverpool have enough options in that position to cover his absence. The attacking winger bit anyway. Not the wing-back role he was often forced into last season.

There is enough about this Liverpool squad to mount an attack on the top four once again with Manchester City the most vulnerable of the sides above them. They just require Rodgers to stay out of his own way.

Prediction: 5th

Raheem Sterling

There’s a lot of pressure on young Raheem Sterling’s shoulders after his antics this summer

Manchester City

Last Season: 2nd

Transfers In: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Patrick Roberts (Fulham), Enes Unal (Bursaspor)

Transfers Out: James Milner (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (New York City), Stevan Jovetic (Inter Milan), Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair (Aston Villa), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), John Guidetti (Sevilla), Alvaro Negredo (Valencia)

A failure to strengthen and build upon their Premier League success hurt City last season and quite frankly it remains difficult to gauge as to whether they have actually addressed that problem as yet.

With Edin Dzeko looking likely to join the list of departures, City will only have Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony to call upon as senior striking options, with young Patrick Roberts looking set for a more involved role at the club than he may have envisaged upon arriving from Fulham after a handful of Championship games.

The defence that was such a problem for them at times last season has been completely ignored in terms of any improvement and you would definitely look at City as the side most likely to fall out of the top four, despite their second place finish last year.

With Arsenal and Man Utd having strengthened, they look most vulnerable. They will have to hope they do hold on, with enough of a wake up call to the higher ups to address the gaping holes in their side. Otherwise the likes of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero will perhaps look elsewhere to ensure continued success.

Prediction: 4th

Depay & Van Gaal

Memphis Depay is one of the most exciting additions to the Premier League this summer

Manchester United

Last Season: 4th

Transfers In: Memphis Depay (PSV), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Sergio Romero (Sampdoria)

Transfers Out: Tom Cleverley (Everton), Ben Amos (Bolton), Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb), Nani, Robin van Persie (Fenerbahce), Rafael (Lyon), Angel Di Maria (PSG)

Another summer, another expensive shopping list for Manchester United. This season does seem more optimistic than the slap-dash nature of last season, with Louis van Gaal having now had a year to look at his squad and make the necessary alterations to the flawed areas.

Central midfield was an obvious weak point at times, especially with the unreliability of Michael Carrick’s fitness, and while it is a surprise that two top quality players have come in, it adds a strength in depth that most clubs could only dream about in the centre of the park.

The uncertainty around David de Gea provides an unwelcome distraction for United as they look to re-establish themselves as a Premier League and European force, while at the other end of the pitch work still needs to be done to give Wayne Rooney some competition, with both Van Persie and Falcao having now left the club without a replacement being signed.

Get those two issues sorted and United are genuine title challengers. Until then, they may have to wait another year and just get into as good a position as possible to launch an assault next season.

Prediction: 3rd

Hull Fans Relegated

With just the FA Cup Final to come, the football season is almost behind us following an exhilarating Premier League campaign that saw Chelsea emerge triumphant, Manchester United return to the Champions League and Hull City, Burnley and QPR all sink back into the Championship.

In truth the season proved something of an anti-climax in the end as the majority of issues were solved before the final day, but it was still a campaign that provided plenty of talking points.

I have plumped weighed up the nine month tournament and compiled a list of winners and losers for the 2014/15 season: Now it’s time to look at the losers of this campaign, seeing who has fallen short of expectations and who has disappointed the unwashed masses.

Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers is under big pressure after Liverpool’s decline

Brendan Rodgers

Whilst I gave the credit for Chelsea’s success to the whole of their transfer committee in the winners section, it feels that so much of Liverpool’s decline falls upon the shoulders of manager Brendan Rodgers.

While Chelsea were efficient in their pursuit of players to take them from challengers to champions, Liverpool’s scattergun approach to their summer transfer dealings was reminiscent and perhaps even eclipsed that of Spurs the previous year, an approach Rodgers himself had been heavily critical of.

One could have expected a slight dip through the loss of a player like Luis Suarez and injuries to Daniel Sturridge have certainly not helped, Liverpool’s decline from almost landing their first Premier League trophy to being well out of the race for a Champions League place is worrying, especially when barely any of his summer signings impressed in the slightest.

Only Emre Can could be said to have impressed on any form of regular basis, while Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno have had the odd fleeting moments. Otherwise Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert can go down as complete failures, though Lambert was always set to be out of his depth.

As for Mario Balotelli, some big Liverpool fans around me could not understand the signing of a player who was never going to fit into their system of play and could never come close to replicating the feats of Suarez up front. With an attitude problem widely publicised as well, it was the most curious of signings.

While the blame for those signings must go down as a group effort, the persistent decision to change formation and play players out of position has to see the finger pointed at the manager. Losing a player like Suarez is a big thing and we could have perhaps expected standards to drop slightly, but the manner in which it has been done will peeve even the most ardent Reds fan.

An excellent season that exceeded expectations last year allows Rodgers some leeway, he must move quickly to address the issues blighting the club, otherwise he will not last long into the next campaign. And stop calling wretched performances “outstanding.” It’s getting a little embarrassing for everyone.

Raheem Sterling

Sterling may be a wanted man, but has he proven up to it?

Raheem Sterling

Sticking with Liverpool and we have one of the bigger losers on an individual scale, despite talk of a big money move to bigger fish than the Merseyside club.

Shorn of Suarez and Sturridge, the other members of the famed SASAS of last season, the burden of responsibility has fallen upon the youngster and he has fallen somewhat short.

Sure, he has been one of those players who has fallen foul of Rodgers’ constant tinkering and found himself at wing-back at stages of the season, but when the pressure was on for Liverpool to make a decent fist of fighting for Champions’ League qualification and all other forwards having proven unworthy, Sterling was nowhere to be found in their slump back to sixth.

It then seems somewhat strange that he should be pushing for a move to a ‘bigger club’ when he has hardly dragged Liverpool forward himself to prove himself worthy of a grander stage. This suddenly raises questions about his attitude and while ambition is never something to be knocked, his failure to kick on from last season to prove himself as a world-class force when all others were taken away from him suggests he has ideas above his station.

Currently, he is not worth the figures being spoken about in the press and Liverpool have no requirement to sell. His popularity with the Liverpool fans has plummeted in recent weeks, so he could be in for a rocky next 12 months.

Steve Bruce Hull

Bruce has led a decent looking Hull side to relegation

Hull City

The line being repeated from Hull following their relegation was that ‘they never saw it coming’. And yet Steve Bruce has come out of it smelling of roses in the media, with it somehow having been out of his power to prevent all this.

Over the past two seasons, Bruce has spent over £60million on transfers, far more than any other club outside of the top seven, while at least Southampton had the incoming fees to offset their outlay. Given what Mark Hughes and Garry Monk have achieved on minimal transfer budgets, Hull really should have been looking at potentially breaking the top half.

Players like Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson, Mohamed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic, among others, are all more than good enough to play in the top flight, so you wonder exactly what has gone wrong at Hull to warrant them facing a year in the Championship next year.

Sure they have had the odd bit of bad luck with injuries and the late suspension of Jake Livermore due to a failed drugs test hardly helped matters, but to have failed to so much as score in 17 of their 38 league games is well worthy of relegation.

One suspects that their squad is good enough to bounce back quickly as it stands, but who knows how many of them will remain come the start of next season? Too many players have been coasting along at Hull and something needs changing if they are to make their return to the second tier a temporary visit.

John Carver

Fan-turned-manager John Carver has been just one miserable aspect of Newcastle’s season

Newcastle United

I covered Newcastle’s problems more in depth a week ago, but while they managed to secure survival eventually, one suspects more luck than judgement was involved.

Since Alan Pardew left the club for Crystal Palace, the Magpies have been in free-fall, with a comfortable position in the top half of the table quickly turning into a last day scrape to secure their top flight status, all led by John Carver, a man who just looked so out of his depth.

If I had been writing this in March, I probably would have ignored Newcastle in both sections of this piece, as it would simply have just been another year of treading water, too far away from either end of the table to really warrant a mention.

Yet a run of nine defeats in ten games ensured they had to battle for survival, with a combination of poor ownership, poor management and lack-lustre playing staff ensuring that this is a club in real need of a cleanse if things are to get any better in the near future.

Roberto Martinez

Martinez’ failure to improve his squad has seen Everton slide down the table

Everton

A really disappointing season of decline for Merseyside’s second club, with Everton going from knocking on the door of Champions League qualification, to a bottom half finish.

The ill-effects of the Europa League could be to blame, but more of the focus must shift to the fact that Everton failed to really improve their squad to consolidate their European places, with most of their business over the summer merely being to secure loan players on permanent deals.

The main one of course being Romelu Lukaku who Everton smashed their club record to bring in, though it took far too long into the summer to seal the deal to bring him back into the fold.

Lukaku hasn’t had as bad of a second season as some would have you believe, but with the Toffees spending nearly their entire budget on the Belgian forward, they had nothing left to add any supporting cast to aid a squad that did seem light on numbers.

Standing still will always ensure that you cannot move forward, and with so many clubs having improved their options, it should have come as little surprise that Everton have slipped back in the league standing.

Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany has been a disappointment in City’s failed title bid

Vincent Kompany

There has been plenty of criticism levelled at Manchester City as their title defence proved somewhat limp, with the decline of a number of players over the course of 12 months having been somewhat startling.

Yaya Toure has not matched his outstanding form of last year, but given he was still significantly better than many in his position and had to contend with the death of a younger brother, we’ll cut him some slack.

Vincent Kompany on the other hand has no excuse, so it is a real puzzle that he has gone from the league’s undoubted finest centre-back to a complete liability at the back. He was the complete defender last season, yet this season you have watched City matches and just expected mistakes to happen from the captain.

With the only real alternatives being the hapless expensive mistake that is Eliaquim Mangala, Kompany has largely kept his place, but he is now behind Martin Demichelis as City’s most reliable central defender – a fact that shows how far his standards have fallen.

Radamel Falcao

The rare sight of Falcao celebrating a goal

Radamel Falcao

What the hell happened here then? One of the world’s most formidable strikers finally made the move to the Premier League, but instead of ‘El Tigre’, we got a tame house cat, incapable of matching wits with the Premier League defenders.

Yes, he came off the back of a major knee ligament injury, with a £10m loan fee, plus his massive wages constitutes a major mistake on the part of Manchester United, with Falcao contributing just four goal to their league total and often barely looking so much as a shadow of his former self.

That four goals in 26 appearances equalled the total managed by Jermain Defoe, a man who only signed for Sunderland from the MLS in January. To hammer home the point, here are a number of other players who either equalled or bettered Falcao’s goal tally for the season:

Jack Colback (4), Daniel Sturridge (4 in 12 appearances), Branislav Ivanovic ( 4 from right-back), Dwight Gayle (5), Theo Walcott (5 in 14 appearances), Andy Carroll (5 in 14 appearances), Esteban Cambiasso (5), Steven Naismith (6), Ki Sung-Yueng (8), Papiss Cisse (11 in 22 appearances).

Juan Cuadrado

Cuadrado may just be questioning his decision to move to Chelsea

Juan Cuadrado

Another Colombian, another sad story, though not really of his doing. Cuadrado was linked with a number of clubs throughout Europe, but was eventually persuaded to make the switch to Chelsea and join Jose Mourinho’s impressive side, galavanting towards the title.

In return for ditching the hero status he had at Fiorentina, Cuadrado make a string of substitute appearances, playing just 331 minutes over the course of 12 games in the league.

With Mohamed Salah having gone the other way as part of the deal having made the exact some decision a year previously, Cuadrado should really have known what he was letting himself in for. He will have every avaialble finger crossed that he was merely being granted a ‘bedding in period’.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Adebayor looks set to find another new club after falling out of favour at Spurs

Emmanuel Adebayor

Another player who has really fallen from grace, with Adebayor’s supposed resurrection under Tim Sherwood at Spurs proving a short-lived affair.

Having rediscovered his scoring touch last season and joy of playing, he started again brightly this year with a goal against QPR, but they soon dried up, with his performances proving frustrating to the Tottenham faithful.

A misguided shot at the fans, constant leaves of absence on ‘compassionate grounds’ and complaints of a voodoo curse have hardly endeared him to football fans across the country, let alone in North London and it would appear that his time at White Hart Lane is at an end.

Whether anybody else will be willing to take a risk on him now at the wages he commands, is a whole other story.

Paul Lambert

Lambert has been the biggest managerial loser of the 2014/15 season

Paul Lambert

Has any manager seen their stock fall as much as Paul Lambert over the course of this season? Aston Villa seemed bereft of any fight and looking set for a first season outside of the top flight since the Premier League came into being until Lambert was finally ousted from the management seat.

The Villains repeatedly went on runs of games without scoring, let alone winning, and the football they played was some of the most turgid seen in this era of highly televised football.

When Sherwood took over, Villa looked a completely different side, playing exciting attacking football, scoring plenty of goals and reaching an FA Cup final. Their final position of 17th hardly shouts improvement too loudly in terms of results, but at least fans of the club could at least begin to care whether they were relegated or not anymore. And the rest of the country actually acknowledged Villa as a Premier League side again.

But given the failure of Lambert to command an able group of players and shape them into a footballing side, it will take an awful lot of work for the Scotsman to manage in the Premier League again in the near future.

Harry Redknapp

Will anybody else take a chance on Redknapp after his QPR tenure?

Harry Redknapp

Whilst I was with Squawka, I wrote a piece on the signing of Mauricio Isla, claiming he was a rash signing on the back of a decent World Cup with Chile, feeling that was typical of Redknapp and receiving the inevitable backlash from QPR fans, assured he was the messiah after scraping through the play-offs despite having the best squad in the Championship on paper. It wasn’t my best piece ever, but not worth the vitriol received.

Come the end of the season, Isla is being painted as one of QPR’s ‘bad eggs’ in the press and Redknapp is nowhere to be found, having left the Super Hoops in the lurch in peculiar circumstances.

It was merely hours after the January transfer window closed that Redknapp announced his retirement due to supposed concerns with his knees, leaving Chris Ramsey unable to improve a squad high on ego and low on effort.

Redknapp has a tendency to let players get complacent after his initial motivational impact, so it came as little surprise that so many mercenary players on large wages did little to help QPR fight for their top flight place.

Redknapp claims he is not done with football management just yet, but with this debacle behind him (having tried to play the ageing Rio Ferdinand and Richard Dunne as part of a back three) and his refusal to work anywhere above the Watford gap, it feels unlikely that any club with turn to the out-of-date Redknapp for the big job again.