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Miscellaneous news articles from a different perspective in alternative media headlines.

Premier League Report Cards - sports reporting by Ciaran Breslin

It’s been an interesting season in the Premier League. The top sixth all improved on their points total from last season. We’ve seen several debut campaigns from high profile managers, with various degrees of success. The difference in quality between the lower league teams appears to have diminished, meaning points outside of the top six carry more weight than they did last year. Here, we determine the relative successes of each club, based on pre-season expectations.

1st: Chelsea

Grade: A+

Hopefully the arbitrary grades will prove more illuminating as we go on, but for now you will be shocked to learn that Chelsea’s season can be considered an enormous success. Antonio Conte, unlike Guardiola and Mourinho, has bypassed the teething period that any new manager is entitled to. While he spent a lot of money, he spent it on players (Kante, Luiz, Alonso) designed to fulfil a specific role in the first team, which they have done immaculately. He had the tactical flexibility to overhaul his formation mid-season. He’s kept the maniac that is Diego Costa relatively happy and in the goals, and successfully phased out the waning icon that is John Terry. He’s even achieved the second highest points total in Premier League history, and he did it all with minimal fuss.

2nd: Tottenham

Grade: A

The suspicion was that they had peaked last season, that they missed their perfect-storm opportunity when they failed to catch Leicester, and the resurgence of the more traditionally “bigger” clubs would see them descend to the more familiar, modest climes of 5th or 6th. Not a bit of it. Spurs have continued to be one of the most exciting attacking teams in the country, and actually picked up more points not only than themselves last year, but than last year’s champions too. Most impressively, it has been achieved through the collective, rather than individual brilliance. Historically, improvements like this involve the emergence of one influential superstar, a la Suarez in 2014 or indeed Bale for Spurs in 2012, and when they inevitably head off to Spain, it’s back to square one. Right now, even with all the brilliance of Ali and Kane, you would back Spurs to adapt and replace them or anyone without catastrophic consequences. Instead, the most important man at White Harte Lane is in the dugout, and as long as he stays there (which obviously might not be very long), it feels sustainable.

3rd: Man City

Grade: C+

It all started so well. It seems a very long time ago now that City strolled through the first six games of the season, taking maximum points and conceding less than a goal a game. Guardiola revels in his reputation for ingenuity, but his experiments with various out of position players and laissez faire attitude to full backs this season have looked frankly bizarre at times. Although they were a million miles away from Chelsea’s professionalism in defence, when at their best, City are still the best attacking team in the league, occasionally playing with the insouciance and style that was the Catalan’s calling card at his other clubs. No cup runs, no title tilt, automatic qualification for the Champions League was the absolute minimal expectation.

4th: Liverpool

Grade: B

Possessors of the thinnest squad in the top 6, you could make the convincing case that outside of their first 11, only really Daniel Sturridge is of the required quality for a team challenging for the title. And injuries did indeed take their toll: Liverpool’s “first choice” outfield team (Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Lallana, Mane, Firmino) never actually played a game together. This is of course not necessarily an excuse: it is Klopp’s job to ensure that he has a squad big enough to cope with whatever comes their way, and they often looked clueless when plan A failed. It has been well publicised that, in stark contrast to their fellow “big six” clubs, Liverpool made a net profit on transfers last season. Which sounds great, but you can’t exactly stick it on the back of a shirt. It’s hard not to wonder how many more points would have been gained if they’d splashed a bit more cash around to pad out the squad. They were incredibly impressive against the best teams, and incredibly underwhelming against smaller ones, meaning they should probably win the Champions League next year at a stroll. Champions League qualification was the aim, and that’s what they got.

5th: Arsenal

Grade: D+

After spending just under £100 million pounds in the summer to address supposed key positions (central defence, defensive midfield), Arsenal have finished in their lowest position in over 20 years. It may seem unfair to judge them so much more harshly than Liverpool only one point above them, however The Reds have been in the Champions League once in the last 8 years, while Arsenal have been there every year for the last 20. The feeling is that these are clubs moving in opposite trajectories. They produced another gutless Champions League campaign. They’ve been out of the title race since February. They have a gang of lunatics with cameras documenting the circus in real time after every game. Their best player might well leave. Their manager seems too engaged in some kind of coquettish standoff regarding his future, which was mildly (very mildly) interesting at the beginning, and now just looks desperate and cartoonishly amateur. Winning the FA cup in impressive style against Chelsea (when the pressure was comparatively off, obviously) is to be commended, but it was spineless business as usual in the league.

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