Ben Smith chronicles the trials and tribulations of all 20 teams that made up the Premier League season of 2018/2019, rating each team’s campaign out of 10.
In this edition, he focuses on Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, and Huddersfield.
Chelsea are always the hardest of the ‘Big 6’ teams to make predictions for.
They are the only club in the league who seem to constantly yo-yo between being top class and extremely average.
First of all, I didn’t agree at all with the sacking of Antonio Conte.
The man won the league in his first season in England. Yes, the team’s performances dropped last year but the players also have to be questioned.
To sack him, particularly in the manner in which they did, was unfair and unnecessary. They replaced him with another Italian, former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri.
I think it’s fair to say that Sarri is not the most popular boss that Chelsea have ever had.
He has failed to build a bond with the supporters and wide hoard’s of fans have wanted him out at various stages of the season.
Even expert football analysts have failed to identify the benefits of ‘Sarri-ball’ and it seems nonsensical to play arguably the best DM in the world (N’Golo Kante) at right midfield.
That said, Chelsea have finished in the top four. At one point they looked out of the race but they did enough to overtake their rivals and I am a firm believer that every team finishes where they deserve to finish.
Generally speaking, a man in his first season at a club who finishes in the Champions League places, gets to a league cup final and a Europa League final would be heralded as a success.
However, the history of Chelsea’s handling of managers would indicate that a job is never safe and I still believe Sarri will be sacked either during the summer or early next season.
You wonder how long Chelsea will be able to continue attracting the best managers in world football.
It is a poisoned chalice and a working environment in which the manager is constantly mistreated, to the point where Antonio Conte is currently battling the club in court over their treatment of him and his backroom team.
The fans and the board may not be entirely impressed with his football or with his personality but they must remember it is his first season.
Take Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or Mauricio Pochettino. None of them hit the ground running.
They each had underwhelming first seasons at their new clubs. Fans and owners too often want miracles to happen overnight and that simply isn’t possible.
Champions League qualification and a European final, what more can he do?
A big summer ahead for Chelsea.
They are taking their transfer ban to the highest court. If it is upheld once again they will be in big trouble. Eden Hazard clearly wants to move on and there are very few players in world football who can fill his shoes.
American Christian Pulisic will be looked at as someone who can be a big player for them next year, he is one to keep your eye on. Off the field, I think they need to give their full backing to their manager.
If they sack him then it’s back to square one again.
Everything the players have worked on this year with Sarri will be undone and they will have to learn the philosophy of a new coach all over again. Let’s see what happens.
CRYSTAL PALACE (12TH)
Palace are without a doubt the most frustrating team in this league.
I cannot understand them. They have a good manager, some excellent players, incredible supporters yet consistently finish in the bottom seven or eight places.
They also never seem to prioritise cups, which is an area in which they could definitely have success.
This season they pulled off away wins at Manchester City and at Arsenal.
Nobody else in the league managed that feat. Not only that, they are the only team aside from Man City who scored three goals or more on six separate occasions away from home.
When you watch them play in these games it really is hard to fathom why they cannot be challenging the likes of Wolves for that seventh place.
The answer has got to be apathy.
They are too comfortable with being a mid-table team.
They are good to watch and pull off the occasional shock result against the big boys, but ultimately they are underachieving.
It seems certain that Wilfred Zaha will leave this summer and despite the solid job that Roy Hodgson has done I feel they need a new, young, dynamic manager to push them onto the next level.
Without that I think next year will be more of the same.
Marco Silva is still Mr. Marmite.
It is really hard to know whether he is a top drawer manager or a guy who lives off a false reputation.
Everton have spent huge money over the last few years, they pay big wages and their fans are right to expect better than what they saw for most of this season.
However, the form Everton have shown in the latter stages of the campaign has been much, much better and it looks like the players are finally getting to grips with the Silva system.
The good news for Marco Silva is that Everton are not historically a club who sack managers at the drop of a hat so I believe he will be given the time he needs to build the team he wants at Goodison.
He deserves big credit for giving young English players a chance and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies they have some really bright gems for the future.
Next season Everton should be trying to win a domestic cup. The Top 6 is going to be out of their reach and they will certainly not have any fears of relegation, why not focus on winning an FA or Carabao Cup?
Any club that has three different managers in one season is a club that is devoid of any sort of competence or internal structure.
Fulham are a carbon copy of QPR a few years ago.
London club, rich owner, gets into Premier League and thinks throwing cash around the transfer market will equal success.
In reality, the only player who has performed at any sort of consistent level is Alexander Mitrovic, who will be definitely moving on to better things this summer.
Ryan Babel came in January and had an impact but it was too little, too late. I don’t know why Claudio Ranieri accepted this job. He should have bowed out of English football after the incredible scenes at Leicester in 2016.
It’s hard to see where Fulham go from here.
They have so many average players earning huge money that will be very hard to shift on.
The one big positive is that Scott Parker is a genuine football man who calls it like it is. The best results they’ve had all season have been with him at the helm.
Three straight wins and three clean sheets in April will give the fans a little optimism after such a bad year and the one good thing the board have done is to give Parker the job on a full time basis.
With his help they could have a decent year next year in the Championship but considering the squad they have and the lack of motivation I have seen from many of their players I have a feeling we won’t be seeing Fulham again anytime soon.
Maybe the worst team to ever play in this league.
The less said the better really.
Totally out of their depth & to be honest they are the kind of club I can see being relegated again next year.
I could make a case for Aaron Mooy but aside from him I’m not sure any Huddersfield player would get into any other team in the league.
They lost 29 games (a joint Premier League record). I think their fans will just be relieved it’s all over.