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 Southampton, Tottenham, Watford, West Ham, and Wolves.
The bottom line for Southampton is that they beat the drop.
They looked ropey for long periods of the season but they ultimately did enough to stay up and Ralph Hassenhuttl and his players deserve credit for getting the job done.
Last year they finished 17th after flirting with relegation throughout the campaign. This season they have finished 16th and had to battle the drop once again.
The supporters will be fed up of living on the edge and the reality is that relegation severely damages football clubs.
The last time Saints were relegated from the Premier League (2005) they went into administration and ultimately ended up in League One. It took the club seven years to recover and this is something they need to avoid letting happen again.
The last few years have seen them chop and change managers and slide further down towards the bottom of the league.
Now it is time for stability, good recruitment and the full backing of the manager.
He has done a great job since he was appointed and needs to be given the full support of the club moving forward, otherwise Saints will be facing another season of worry.
This has been probably the standout campaign in terms of both on and off-field drama for Spurs.
The summer transfer window was diabolical.
They became the first team in Premier League history not to make a single signing, at a time when they had just had a fatigued squad return from playing a huge amount of games at the World Cup.
That, coupled with the woes of stadium delays and another season at Wembley really left a dark cloud over the usual optimism that accompanies the start of a season. For these reasons the squad and the manager deserve enormous credit.
There isn’t a Tottenham fan alive who wouldn’t have taken a top four finish and a Champions League final if it was offered to them last August, it is an incredible achievement from the coaches and playing staff.
Spurs kept pace with the top two for as long as they could before suffering a bad spell of form in March.
Defeats at Burnley and Southampton not only ended any faint title hopes but plunged them into a dogfight with Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United just to make the Top 4.
The new stadium came at a time when Spurs were in dire need of new energy.
The results at the new ground were enough to ensure Champions League football for another year and that is the optimum that this current crop of players could have achieved this season.
The negative aspect of this campaign from a league point of view will be the gap that has emerged between Spurs and the top two.
This gap cannot be closed by the current team and the squad will need a large overhaul before next season.
Spurs lost thirteen league games this year, the most of the Top 6 and also more than in their previous two seasons combined. This is nowhere near good enough for a team with title aspirations.
Mauricio Pochettino has already said that this summer will make or break the club and everything they have tried to build over the last few years.
Whether they win the Champions League or not, big investment is needed in the summer in order to compete with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City.
Interesting months ahead.
Watford have become the friend of the neutral.
They are a really good team with a fantastic manager.
They also have a brilliant balance in their squad between the strength and physicality of players like Deeney and Doucoure, coupled with the guile and skill of players like Deulofeu and Pereyra.
Their FA Cup run has been marvellous and the absolute icing on the cake would be if they could thwart a Man City treble in the FA Cup final next Saturday.
I think it would be wonderful for English football if the Hornets could win the trophy, it would also show the rest of the mid-table teams that these sort of cup runs are possible.
The only negative I can think of is that the Top 6 are like a league within a league.
The clubs in there are too strong and too powerful for the rest of the division and as a result I cannot see Watford breaking into the elite.
That said, there is no reason why they can’t take the mantle of “best of the rest”.
They need to keep hold of their manager and add one or two good players to really establish themselves as a constant force to be reckoned with.
WEST HAM (10TH )
Disappointing season for the Hammers.
Last summer they spent over £100m on six new players with the aim of driving them up towards the European places.
They’ve fallen a long way short. The most damning indictment of their season came in February when Manuel Pellegrini, an immensely experienced coach, admitted in interviews that he was struggling to motivate his players to show commitment to the cause.
Winning their last three games of the season put a little gloss on their campaign and they scraped into tenth on the final day, their fans, however, will be looking for more consistency from their team next season.
They are still a long way off the Top 6.
The league form is patchy at best and for this reason you would expect them to try and mount a successful cup run.
Instead, they were beaten 4-2 in the 3rd round of the FA Cup by third division side AFC Wimbledon. The manner of their performances on the road is a big worry and there are too many players not giving 100% for the shirt.
The only real positive this season for West Ham is the emergence of Declan Rice as one of the best young players in the division.
Along with Mark Noble he has shown the commitment and passion that should be a prerequisite of playing for any club.
The expensive foreign imports that West Ham have opted for haven’t worked out. It is back to the drawing board this summer.
They need to get rid of the bad apples and anyone who isn’t 100% committed to the cause otherwise the club are going nowhere fast.
Wolves are the best newly promoted team to ever play in the league, simple as that.
They are a fantastic team who play a really attractive style of football and who have shown they can frequently mix it up with the big boys.
They have beaten Spurs, Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea this season in the league and they also knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup.
They even held Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to a draw in one of their earliest home matches this season.
Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho are among the best midfield partnerships anywhere.
They have speed on the flanks and are well shielded at the back by excellent defenders like Willy Boly and Matt Doherty.
Raul Jimenez has been a revelation up front and they also have exciting prospects like Morgan Gibbs-White in their ranks.
It must be an unbelievable time to be a Wolves supporter. Should Man City beat Watford in the cup final (as you would expect them to), Wolves will be playing in Europe next season.
The only negative that has continually crept up this year with Wolves is complacency.
Too often they have dropped points against the poorest teams in the division.
Huddersfield only won 3 games in the entire season and 2 of those came against Wolves. They were also 2-0 up in the FA Cup semi-final and collapsed late on to be beaten 3-2.
This is an area in which Nuno Espirito-Santo will need to address next season but as debut campaigns go, this was incredible.
7th place is an awesome return for a side that have just come out of the championship. Bravo.