The Premier League ‘expectation vs. reality’ table

How do you gauge the success of a season? Looking at the final table is factual, but can be a little deceptive, so how about measuring preseason hopes against what was delivered at the end? Where would your team feature with those factors in play?

Here’s how this season’s Premier League “expectation vs reality” table might look.

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1. Brighton (actual finish: 6th). The club saw manager Graham Potter leave for Chelsea early on, but brought in the brilliant Roberto De Zerbi to replace him. Brighton’s sizzling football enchanted fans all over the country and earned them first adventure in the Europa League by finish sixth.

The club is expertly run from top to bottom, especially when it comes to signing quality players on the cheap, and they will already have lined up replacements for star midfielders Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo if, as seems certain, they are allowed to go.

2. Bournemouth (15th). Every pundit predicted relegation and even their ex-manager Scott Parker thought they weren’t good enough to stay up — saying so cost him his job after four games at the end of August. But Gary O’Neil came in to defy the critics in his first managerial appointment, keeping kept them in the Premier League by five points.

3. Arsenal (2nd). The Gunners deserve thanks for giving us some sort of title race. They led the table for 248 days — the most a team has ever done so without finishing top — and were so good to watch, but ran out of gas. A title challenge was never the objective before the season, so finishing second is a big achievement. They will rue how it all fell apart in the final games, but signing West Ham midfielder Declan Rice would strengthen them this summer.

4. Newcastle (4th). Despite their huge financial backing from Saudi Arabia, a place in the top four and Champions League football came ahead of schedule for Eddie Howe’s side. Solid and stylish, they did it playing attractive football and lost only five times — the same as champions Manchester City.

5. Fulham (10th). In a new division for the fifth year running after bouncing up and down between the Premier League and the Championship, it was evident from an early stage that Marco Silva’s dynamic team were more likely to be challenging in the top half of the table than fighting the drop. And so it proved.

6. Nottingham Forest (16th). After a summer spending spree on 30 new players left them with a squad full of strangers, they looked relegation certainties. But manager Steve Cooper deserves credit for moulding a team that managed to stay afloat, with help from a rocking City Ground.

7. Aston Villa (7th). In 16th place when the meticulous Unai Emery took over from Steven Gerrard in October 2022, Villa rose to 7th and claimed a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League. They ended with seven successive home wins and have a young star in 22-year-old midfielder Jacob Ramsey to build around.

8. Manchester City (1st). They are easily the best team in the country and brushed Arsenal aside in the final weeks of the season to claim a fifth title in six years. Pep Guardiola’s side are unplayable at times and won 17 of 22 league games in 2023 (including 12 straight in the run-in) but, given the quality of the manager and players, it was all to be expected. Hence they are only 8th in this table.

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9. Manchester United (3rd). Manager Erik ten Hag has overseen a revolution at Old Trafford in his first full season, restoring sanity and discipline. A return to the Champions League is a major target achieved and while United still have their off days, they’re trending in the right direction now.

10. Brentford (9th). Thomas Frank’s side made nonsense of preseason predictions that they would struggle in their second Premier League campaign. They won twice against Man City — home and away — which is a sign of how hard they are to play against. But if they are to do as well next year, they need to sign a striker to fill the gap left by Ivan Toney‘s eight-month suspension after he was found guilty of gambling offences.

11. Crystal Palace (11th). After failing to win a game in 2023 under Patrick Vieira, the Frenchman was sacked in March and replace by 75-year-old Roy Hodgson. The former England manager completed quite the turnaround to push Palace up the table and, with young stars like Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, they could do even better.

Hodgson only signed a contract until the end of the season, but could stay on.

12. Wolverhampton Wanderers (13th). They had a relegation look about them until manager Julen Lopetegui arrived in November to reorganise and revamp the team. They played a better brand of football, too.

13. West Ham (14th). It was mostly disappointing for the Hammers this season, but some important wins (vs. Man United, Fulham and Bournemouth) kept them just out of trouble. Reaching the Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina has given the season a gloss it never looked like delivering.

14. Liverpool (5th). By Jurgen Klopp’s high standards, this season has been way below expectations. A late revival containing seven straight wins saw them push for the top four and eventually earn the consolation prize of a Europa League place. But Klopp will need to refresh and rebuild to make them title challengers again.

15. Everton (17th). Another season, another relegation scrap. It has been an agonising few years for fans at Goodison Park. Frank Lampard was sacked in January with the club second from bottom and Sean Dyche did a superb job to save them from the drop, via a 1-0 win over Bournemouth on the final day.

The brinkmanship has to stop here. It is a big summer ahead for the owners.

16. Tottenham Hotspur (8th). This season was a mess. Often turgid to watch, Spurs have struggled to find a manager to replace Antonio Conte (who acted as if he was doing the club a favour by being there) since he was sacked in March. They missed out on a European place and need to bring in a top coach quickly.

Persuading star striker Harry Kane to renew his contract, which expires in 2024, might be tough given how things went.

17. Southampton (20th). The Premier League’s worst side, statistically, never looked good enough to avoid relegation and they were not helped by poor recruitment and managerial choices. They will struggle to hold on to star midfielder James Ward-Prowse, who would be key to their hopes of bouncing up again next season.

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18. Leicester City (18th). The end of an incredible fairytale which brought the Foxes the Premier League title (2016) and FA Cup success (2021.)

Allowing goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to leave last summer was just one of several poor decisions, while manager Brendan Rodgers seemed to lose enthusiasm with no money to spend and not sacking him until early April was too late. Leicester lacked the grit and fight to stay up, with Dean Smith unable to do anything about it.

19. Leeds United (19th). The club have such a rich history and big fan base, but they have lost their way since the iconic Marcelo Bielsa left in February 2022. Leeds signed players unproven in the Premier League and their experiment with a base of U.S. stars failed under American coach Jesse Marsch. Sacked inside a year, the club always had a fragile look about them and that didn’t change under Sam Allardyce. No team can expect to concede 78 goals and survive.

20. Chelsea (12th). A calamitous season in which they spent £600m, but didn’t bring in a central striker. Thomas Tuchel was sacked days after summer transfer window closed, Brighton’s Potter seemed to find the job too big, while re-hiring club legend Lampard as interim boss didn’t work as they lost 8 of 11 games under him. Goals were an issue (Southampton only scored two less) and a bloated 31-man squad could never any establish any pattern of play.

New boss Mauricio Pochettino has a lot of work to do.