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Premier League 2019-20 fans’ verdicts, part two: Manchester City to Wolves

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Manchester City

A strange season. Whether it’s judged as a success or not will depend on the Champions League. Winning the Carabao Cup again was great, but nine league losses is unforgivable for this City team, and the less said about the FA Cup semi the better. The decision not to sign a replacement for Kompany last summer was a huge error: the club needs to get the squad composition right for next season. Pep didn’t get much wrong, but could have blooded García and Foden earlier in the season.

Stars/flops De Bruyne has been the standout, and by some distance. His highlights reel just from this season is like a career-best montage. Sterling and Mahrez have probably been closest to his level, and Foden has been very influential whenever he’s played. Flops? Cancelo was disappointing, Stones regressed worryingly, and Jesus stagnated (again).

What needs to happen this summer? Ferran Torres is a very exciting buy, and the bids for Koulibaly and Aké are great news, too: Koulibaly is a proper old-school defender, and an exceptional one at that.

In an otherwise grim year, what one moment made you smile most? Liverpool not equalling our 100-point record. That pleased me immeasurably. They are a great team and have probably the best pair of full-backs the Premier League has ever seen, but they don’t play football on the same level as City’s 2017-19 side.

• Lloyd Scragg ninetythreetwenty.com @lloyd_scragg

Manchester United

It’s been a good season: some real progress made. That seemed highly unlikely back in the dark, cold days of January, particularly after the 2-0 loss at home to Burnley, but it’s been a different team since Bruno Fernandes arrived. Third in the league, semi-finals in both domestics cups, a shot at winning the Europa League … it all points to even better to come. The standout game for me was the 2-0 home win against Man City. That performance had the fans dreaming of future glory for the first time in what feels like a very long time.

Stars/flops Martial, Rashford and Greenwood is the most exciting front three since Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez. Each one a potential match-winner. It wouldn’t surprise me if Greenwood scored 30-plus goals next season. Fernandes has been outstanding: what an impact. He scores, he creates goals out of nothing and has a winner’s attitude. But De Gea made too many unforced errors. He is much better than that: we expect better next season.

What needs to happen this summer? Jadon Sancho would be a terrific signing, adding to the excellent young firepower we have up front. And we need another top class centre half to partner Maguire: Villarreal’s Paul Torres looks a real prospect.

What made you smile? Marcus Rashford’s charity and campaigning work during the pandemic. What a role model, on and off the pitch. I’m so proud that he’s a Manchester United player.

• Shaun O’Donnell

Newcastle

It’s been a standard season under Mike Ashley’s rotten tenure. Constantly looking over our shoulder and, in the end, a feeling that we are just making up the numbers. There are times when you just ask: ‘What’s the point?’ A 1-0 thrashing of Manchester United, with a stunning debut goal from the (probably soon to depart) Matty Longstaff, was as good as it got. Steve Bruce has done OK, but lacks his predecessor’s nous. We know he cares, but he’ll need to do more to convince fans he’s the right man.

Stars/flops Isaac Hayden bolted our midfield together, and we’d be down if it wasn’t for Martin Dubravka’s saves. Allan Saint-Maximin is the fans’ favourite: our most exciting player since Hatem Ben Arfa. But Joelinton failed to live up to his fee, though he has been largely played out of position – you just hope that this experience doesn’t completely crush his confidence. Elsewhere, Fabian Schär hasn’t reproduced last season’s form, and it’s been a great shame that the Longstaff brothers haven’t established themselves in centre midfield. Two young Geordies in the engine room would have been great to see.

What needs to happen this summer? With the takeover seemingly dead, we’re left facing another season of stagnation (or worse), drifting aimlessly around in the bottom half. To achieve that, two new strikers are absolutely essential.

What made you smile? Footage of ex-Everton stars being doorstepped for their views on Liverpool’s title win. More expletives than a Warnock teamtalk.

• David and Richard Holmes

Norwich

It’s been a nightmare since the restart. We foolishly thought that in those final nine games we’d reignite our fight; instead we got the opposite, and ended up looking way out of our depth. So while we hoped our exhilarating 3-2 win over Man City would be our defining game, it was actually the 4-0 home loss to West Ham: lacklustre, fragile and impotent. As for the manager: he made mistakes and some odd decisions along the way, but ultimately, he did OK in the circumstances, with such a tiny budget.

Stars/flops Tim Krul and Todd Cantwell shone; old-timer Alex Tettey was a rock. As for flops: as much as it hurts to say it, Pukki’s flying start to the season didn’t extend to 2020. He ended the season a shadow of his former self. As did Marco Stiepermann: outstanding in the Championship as Pukki’s wing-man, he found the step up too much.

What needs to happen this summer? It’s hard to see how our confidence and belief can be restored in a month. Several new young faces have already arrived, most destined for loans or the U23s, but serious work is needed on the first team. Something has to be done to tighten a back four that’s got more holes in it than the case for Brexit.

What made you smile? Krul’s FA Cup performance at Spurs: penalty-saving heroics thanks to his coach writing which direction their takers favour on his water bottle.

• Gary Gowers norwichcity.myfootballwriter.com @gary_gowers

Sheffield United

Before it kicked off I thought we’d stay up. By no means did I see us being top 10. It’s been unbelievable, with a string of highlights: taking four points off each of Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Wolves and Burnley, and that dramatic 3-3 draw with Manchester United: 2-0 up, 3-2 down in a flash, before Oli McBurnie’s injury-time equaliser. Chris Wilder and his players continue to amaze us.

Stars/flops Five or six could have won player of the year. Chris Basham embodies our improbable rise with his superb defending and marauding. John Fleck’s goals and flashes of brilliance lit up the season, and David McGoldrick’s first league goal was a long time coming, but he was huge for us with his link-up play. Flops? We hoped for more from Callum Robinson, but at least he got to play a big part in West Brom’s success on loan.

What needs to happen this summer? We’ve an incredibly solid base to build on: only the top three conceded fewer goals. However, the post-lockdown burst of games really highlighted how thin our squad is – we need to add a lot of depth, and more mobility and dynamism in attack. Oh, and come back for one more season, Dean Henderson - you know it makes sense.

What made you smile? The only home game I missed was the 2-0 win over Villa – due to the arrival of a baby Blade. As I learned much later, Fleck gave United the lead within seconds of her being born … not a bad day, really.

• Ben Meakin BladesPod – the Sheffield United Podcast @bladespod

Southampton

We looked doomed at the November international break; since then we’ve been in top-six form. An extraordinary turnaround from that game; credit goes to both Ralph Hasenhüttl and the board for sticking by him despite the embarrassment. So many clubs would have handed him his P45 before he’d even left the ground that night.

Stars/flops We’d have been in a whole heap of trouble without Danny Ings
and James Ward-Prowse. Mentions too for Jack Stephens (our most improved player), Nathan Redmond and for the post-restart impacts made by Kyle Walker-Peters and Che Adams. Plenty of defensive flops, with Angus Gunn perhaps a bit unfortunate to have the worst goalkeeping stats of the season largely due to the shambles in front of him at the time. Yan Valery and Jannik Vestergaard were often a part of that shambles.

What needs to happen this summer? Three positions need upgrades. Right-back, where the aforementioned Valery isn’t anywhere near good enough, and I suspect we’ll end up with a transfer of convenience to get Walker-Peters back on a permanent basis with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg going to Spurs; central midfield (with Højbjerg departing), and, despite our upturn in form, centre-back. It sounds like the latter is in hand already, with Mohammed Salisu due to sign from Valladolid.

What made you smile? The panic among the online Liverpool fanbase when a “null and void” season became a genuine possibility. The internet might have broken if they’d gone through with that …

• Steve Grant SaintsWeb.co.uk @SteveGrant1983

Tottenham

A tolerable season, I guess. Poch sacked, José came in; it was a mess before, and it still is – but there’s improvement, albeit functional rather than sexy. We’ve qualified for the Europa League, and that’s as good as I could have hoped for – though beating Arsenal and winning the “finishing above them lot cup” also gives us a piece of silverware to stick in the cabinet. AMIRITE? As for the gaffer: I’m uneasy with his rebranded football image, but it’s hard to pass judgment until halfway through next season. He’s inherited a broken squad, so, Levy – please show him the money.

Stars/flops Ndombele disappointed. Our record signing spent the season benched, unfit and distracted. I don’t know what the core issue is: he has talent but something isn’t right. A full- pelt, fully motivated Tanguy could have been the difference (three more wins and we’d have finished top four). Elsewhere, Son shone in a season of relative darkness. And Kane was injured for a prolonged period but still finished with 30+ goals for club and country.

What needs to happen this summer? We need a DM, RB and LB – maybe another CM. I’d still like Grealish. I wouldn’t necessarily sell anyone: it’s about having depth and competition.

What made you smile most? Ledley King being appointed to our coaching team for next season. It means our club legend won’t have to attend another supermarket opening to cut a ribbon.

• Spooky DearMrLevy.com, The Fighting Cock, @Spooky23

Watford

A horrible season. Lots went wrong, and many mistakes were made. We started off playing enterprising but stunningly negligent football that saw the likable Javi Gracia sacked. The odd decision to bring back Quique brought defensive stability (but for one bad day in Manchester) but no threat. Nigel Pearson’s dramatic dismissal rounded the season off appropriately after an unforgivably limp capitulation to West Ham. We had plenty of bad luck, too … only for 10 games were we able to start with Deulofeu, Deeney and Sarr, we lost two and won five of those including Liverpool, which you may remember, United and Wolves. After lockdown, when Pearson was deprived of Deulofeu, we became easy to defend against and inexplicably spiritless. Most frustratingly of all, despite all of this – despite and even after giving Arsenal a three-goal lead on the final day – we really could have stayed up. The margin was that narrow, and all the harder to watch from a distance without the possibility that bellowing en masse might help things along.

Stars/flops Ben Foster was heroic, on and off the pitch. Will Hughes will be someone’s captain one day, hopefully ours. Ismaïla Sarr needs to keep his chin up but is already extraordinary. But the team, as a whole, was far less than the sum of its parts.

What needs to happen this summer? It’s still pretty raw. Difficult to watch mediocre clubs discuss picking at our carcass. Time will tell how hard-nosed the owners are able to be. We need to freshen the side up big time but may have components in-house already. And we need a shouty centre-back. The ownership’s tried and tested ability to have a plan and run with it will be needed more than ever in the seven-week summer break.

What made you smile? Not sure “smile” is the right word, but the club’s support for the neighbouring hospital and the wider community during the crisis was extraordinary. Opening the stadium to hospital staff as sanctuary, providing meals, washing scrubs … Our team might have been lacking but our club is fabulous.

• Matt Rowson BHappy.wordpress.com @mattrowson

West Ham

It was a season of two gaffers. After a fine win against Manchester United Fabianski got injured and the unbalanced nature of Pellegrini’s squad was exposed: packed full of creative midfielders but short on pace and defensive nous. Then came Moyes. It took time to get it right and we lost more points from winning positions than any other side, but he initially made two very good signings in Soucek and Bowen to gave the side some much-needed power and energy. The vital game was against Watford when we blew them away in the first half. Moyes has done a decent job and deserved a chance after his last spell at the club. He isn’t the manager to take us to the next level, but he can certainly make us a top-half club.

Stars/flops Antonio was the star after the restart, suddenly becoming a lethal striker. Soucek and Bowen did well, Ogbonna was very solid and the experience of Mark Noble was as vital as ever. Haller, though, didn’t produce nearly enough for a £45m striker, Anderson looked bereft of confidence, Ajeti was a major downgrade on Chicharito and reserve keeper Roberto looked in need of a trip to Barnard Castle.

What needs to happen this summer? Moyes needs to hang on to Declan Rice and build a side around him. He should sign some new full-backs, as Aaron Cresswell is past his best and Fredericks doesn’t convince. A new striker to press Haller and Antonio would be useful too. We also need to get Grady Diangana back from loan at WBA and give him some games. Moyes spoke a lot of sense about signing hungry players and promising less and delivering more, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

What made you smile? In a surreal year, Antonio crashing his car into a garden on Christmas Day while dressed as a snowman still stands out.

• Pete May Author of Goodbye to Boleyn HammersInTheHeart.blogspot.co.uk

Wolves

We’ve improved our points tally, we’re still in Europe (!) and we can still be in Europe again next season. It’s imperative that we tie Nuno down to a longer contract: that would be by far our most important signing this summer.

Stars/flops Adama Traoré and Raúl Jiménez took plaudits for some thrilling displays, but from September onwards Rúben Neves has been superb, a real model of consistency. Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saïss were unsung heroes. Jesús Vallejo, though, came with a promising reputation on loan from Real Madrid and was a disaster. And we couldn’t offer Patrick Cutrone the minutes he needed.

What needs to happen this summer? Apart from retaining Nuno, retaining our key players will be vital: we have such strong foundations. I think we’ll be in the market for a strong, ball-playing central defender, a creative midfielder and we may look for a versatile attacker to take some of the burden off Jiménez. There isn’t a single member of our first-team squad I’d sell - but if back-up keeper John Ruddy sought to leave for playing time I don’t think we’d stand in his way. He has earned it.

What made you smile? Being present for our first European fixture in 39 years. It was the hottest day of the year last July, causing lots of trains to be cancelled – but nothing was going to stop me getting there.

• Louie Silvani @louiesilvani4

• Part one: Arsenal to Liverpool


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