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Premier League 2016-17 fans’ verdicts part one: Arsenal to Manchester City | Football


Arsenal; season rating: 7/10

Pre-season prediction 1st; Position now 5th

That summer optimism was snuffed out after we dropped five points in our opening two games. An unbeaten run until mid-December restored hope, but ultimately we lacked the intensity of Spurs and Chelsea. Even if we go on to win the FA Cup it won’t be enough this time to silence the clamour for change (or stop that embarrassing sight of the argument being played out aerially in banner form.) Our debt to Arsène Wenger is far too great for him to deserve being hounded out like this, but if I’m bored of the sound of Wenger’s voice, heaven only knows how he’s supposed to light a fire under those who’ve spent far longer listening to him.

The stars Alexis Sánchez, Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding.

The flops Although Granit Xhaka has just recently begun to demonstrate his value, his anonymity for the majority of the season has been a massive disappointment. And Shkodran Mustafi’s failure to fulfil his leadership potential has proved frustrating, too.

Summer targets I’d join Alexis’s labradors on all fours to beg for the signature of our top goalscorer. Beyond that, we need a wholesale overhaul, but Wenger is just too loyal to effect one. The dream package of Max Allegri and Paulo Dybala increasingly looks like a fantasy and, frustratingly, he doesn’t believe we’re in need of a keeper, when the time is right to bag Jordan Pickford, or any one of the current batch of bold young keepers.

Best and worst away fans Lincoln were the best, West Ham the worst.

Moment that made you smile Our time-warp trip to Sutton United – and that ill-fated pie-eating stunt.

– Bernard Azulay goonersdiary.co.uk; @GoonerN5

Arsenal banner



An embarrassing sight above Stoke. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images

Bournemouth 8/10

Pre-season prediction 14th; Position now 10th

An excellent season for Bournemouth fans. While the new signings didn’t make a great impact, the team came together and dug in deep when it had to. We’re now going into games against top-six sides with a genuine belief that we can win.

The stars Artur Boruc had a very strong season in goal – and that surprised many fans. Elsewhere, Josh King was sensational with his goals, and Ryan Fraser is going to get even better.

The flops Jordon Ibe was a disappointment: he was given games but he didn’t score all season. Brad Smith was also making up the numbers.

Summer targets There’s been talk of heavy spending, but there’s only one big name I really want us to sign: Nathan Aké from Chelsea. He was terrific on loan this season.

Best and worst away fans West Brom impressed, Manchester United didn’t.

Moment that made you smile The comeback against Liverpool in December. We were 3-1 down with 14 minutes left, then won it in added time. It was amazing – and Jürgen Klopp’s reaction was amusing, too: “We opened the door, but Bournemouth had to run through it – and they did, with all they had.”

– Peter Bell afcbchimes.blogspot.co.uk; @CherryChimes

Nathan Aké



Nathan Aké: terrific on loan. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Burnley 9/10

Pre-season prediction 17th; Position now 15th

I don’t think a season can ever be 10 out of 10 but ours is definitely a 9. We reached our objective of staying in the Premier League, and did so with two games to spare. We might have struggled to win away from home but overall it’s been a terrific campaign. The home performances against Liverpool, Leicester and Chelsea were the pick, they were simply outstanding. Sean Dyche remains everything you would want in a manager: the day he walked into Turf Moor in October 2012 was a very significant date for our club.

The stars It’s always the team with Burnley rather than individuals but there’s no doubt that goalkeeper and captain Tom Heaton, and central defenders Michael Keane and Ben Mee, are worth a special mention.

The flops Loan striker Patrick Bamford seemed to think crying in his car was preferable to trying to win a place in the team.

Summer targets It’s just a case of continuing to generally strengthen, but another striker wouldn’t go amiss along with that little bit more quality in the side. We’ll need a new central defender if Keane goes, and probably a creative midfielder.

Best and worst away fans Manchester United fans were the best on the day, though their team was on top on a rare off-day for us at home. Watford had to be the worst – albeit the game was played on a Monday night which limited their numbers.

Moment that made you smile I don’t think there were many Burnley fans without smiles when Blackburn’s relegation was confirmed. There’s a real liking for Indian chicken now in Burnley.

Tony Scholes UpTheClarets.com; @utcdotcom

Sean Dyche



Sean Dyche: everything you would want in a manager. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Chelsea 10/10

Pre-season prediction 3rd; Position now 1st

The season was surprising, amazing, unexpected and joyous – a bit like our manager. After the disaster and drama of last season most fans only dared hope for a Champions League place, but Antonio Conte has been a revelation. He has united a club that was – if not broken – fraught with issues. The king is dead, long live the king.

The stars It’s difficult to pick out individuals, but N’Golo Kanté works so hard, allowing the flair players the time and space they need. But I also have to mention Eden Hazard – possibly one of the best five players in the world at the moment – David Luiz, César Azpilicueta … the list could go on and on.

The flops It would be churlish to single out anyone in the squad as they have all played a part – so I won’t.

Summer targets Our wing-backs have played to the best of their ability but I’m not sure if they could keep that up. We’ll certainly need a replacement for John Terry, though we could give Nathan Aké a chance. But most importantly we need to overhaul our strike force. Diego Costa seems almost certain to go, and Conte doesn’t really fancy Michy Batshuayi.

Best and worst away fans The worst were Leicester for their constant booing of Kanté. The best were Middlesbrough. It was a Monday night, with relegation looming, but they sang to the end.

Moment that made you smile Batshuayi’s goal against West Brom that won us the league. We Chelsea fans are so anxious – when that ball went in, our end just exploded with emotion. Joy, relief, shock, elation – arms and legs everywhere – it was mayhem. That’s what you go to football for.

Trizia Fiorellino ChelseaSupportersGroup.net

N’Golo Kanté



N’Golo Kanté: makes space at Chelsea. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Crystal Palace 6/10

Pre-season prediction 12th; Position now 13th

A season of two halves: dire under Alan Pardew and, eventually, very good under Sam Allardyce. The heavy home defeat to Sunderland kicked the team into gear, and BFS deserves credit for guiding the club to safety despite a horrendous run-in, with superb wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

The stars Wilfried Zaha deserves his player of the year award: he has upped his game in terms of physicality, decision-making, assists and goals. Christian Benteke proved that he was worth the club’s record transfer fee, and Mamadou Sakho turned out to be an inspired loan signing.

The flops Wayne Hennessey still doesn’t inspire confidence between the sticks and his prospective replacement, Steve Mandanda, failed to settle. On-loan Loïc Rémy was only noticeable by his virtual total absence of fitness throughout the campaign.

Summer targets First priority is handing Zaha a new contract. After that, we need a quality centre-back, a goalkeeper and some fresh legs in central midfield. Just as important, however, is developing Selhurst Park and finding a suitable location for the academy.

Best and worst away fans Respect to Hull fans for turning up en masse to a 12pm Sunday kick-off in London to witness their relegation. Arsenal fans getting on their players’ and manager’s backs in their drubbing at Selhurst was less impressive.

Moment that made you smile Sakho’s ball-winning challenge on the referee in the West Brom match, and Brighton’s open-top bus victory parade following them blowing the Championship title by conceding a last-minute equaliser – a sight to behold.

Chris Waters PalaceTrust.org.uk; @Clapham_Grand

Wilfried Zaha



Wilfried Zaha: player of the year. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Everton 7/10

Pre-season prediction 6th; Position now 7th

Ronald Koeman has definitely changed the attitude and mentality of our team. He quickly got rid of the deadwood and signed a couple of top players in Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye. We’ve been great at home and introduced a few youngsters, and Koeman has the players looking comfortable in various different formations. Roll on next season in Europe.

The stars Romelu Lukaku, of course, has been outstanding this season – but so have Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin. And Tom Davies, at just 18 years old, has been a revelation.

The flops Flops is a bit strong here, but both our goalkeepers – Joel Robles and Maarten Stekelenburg – could have done better. They made some great saves, but they also let in too many soft goals.

Summer targets To break into the top four we really do need to up the quality in goal. We could also do with a left back as cover for Leighton Baines, a goalscoring midfielder and a couple of strikers.

Best and worst away fans The best were Watford – all 200 of them. The worst: Liverpool.

Moment that made you smile Ross Barkley, running through on goal against Bournemouth in February, starting his goal celebration after he’d dribbled around Artur Boruc – but before he’d actually scored.

Steve Jones @bluekippercom

Tom Davies



Tom Davies: a revelation. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Hull City 6/10

Pre-season prediction 20th; Position now 18th (R)

Sadly, all our expectations were met. Relegation seemed inevitable after losing Steve Bruce in the summer and starting the season with 12 fit outfield players, but at least Marco Silva’s arrival gave us a fighting chance. He brought in an eclectic group of new faces, got the best out of talented players who were in a slump and produced a more aggressive style both with and without the ball. But we still fell short when the pressure was really on.

The stars Sam Clucas has been great. He’s stepped up a division in each of the last five seasons and looked every bit a Premier League player. Harry Maguire also really established himself and must be on the verge of a big move and an England cap. Tom Huddlestone, meanwhile, regained his best form before his cruel sending off at Everton.

The flops Most of the summer signings struggled. Ryan Mason, pre-injury, looked nothing like a £13m player while David Marshall and Markus Henriksen were not as good as the players they came in to replace.

Summer targets Given the number of players we’ll have to sell because their contracts are running down and the six loan players, we’ll need half a squad … I’d like to see us add some pace up front. I’m a fan of Che Adams (Birmingham) and Tom Barkhuizen (Preston).

Best and worst away fans They’re annoying, but Manchester United were best. The worst were Southampton. It’s a long way, but they may as well not have bothered.

Moment that made you smile April’s rousing 10-man win over Watford – it felt like proof that we had the character to stay up. Oops.

Rick Skelton BoothferryToWembley.blogspot.com; @HullCityLive

Harry Maguire



Harry Maguire: due an England cap. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Leicester City 7/10

Pre-season prediction 5th; Position now 11th

After our famous winter of discontent, the season has turned into a relatively good one for the Foxes. If we manage a top-10 finish on the back of our Champions League quarter-final, we’ll look back on a year of success.

The stars Kasper Schmeichel won our player of the season this year – he has been worth about 15 points this season alone. Wilfred Ndidi has been impressive since signing in January and Danny Simpson deserves plaudits for a quietly brilliant season at right-back.

The flops At one stage, barring Schmeichel, they all did. However, Ahmed Musa is the only player who has shown little to no improvement all season – we certainly won’t miss him if he is to depart.

Summer targets We’re lacking all over the pitch at the moment: our defence’s cumulative age is creeping upwards and we’re in danger of losing some of our established stars, too. A player in every available position wouldn’t go amiss, but Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson is the name being bandied around the most.

Best and worst away fans Copenhagen were loud, vibrant and funnier than us in our own language. Watford were the worst – they shouldn’t be booing their team off the pitch after comfortably surviving in the Premier League for a second season.

Moment that made you smile Watching Nottingham Forest stage a pitch invasion to celebrate avoiding relegation to League One, while we were busy plying our trade as one of Europe’s eight best teams. How times have changed…

Chris Whiting Clippings.me/chriswhiting; @ChrisRWhiting

Kasper Schmeichel



Kasper Schmeichel: worth 15 points alone. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Liverpool 7/10

Pre-season prediction 1st; Position now 4th

A post-Christmas slump apart, it’s been pretty good. I’d have been delighted with top four at the start of the campaign – I know I said first, but I couldn’t bring myself to say sixth. The slump was mighty frustrating, but there’ve been some great highs in there too – winning away at Chelsea and West Ham, demolishing Leicester and beating Spurs and Everton at home. You know what you get with Jürgen Klopp, and he’s delivered. There are rumblings he doesn’t change things quickly enough when we’re struggling and lacks a Plan B, but today’s game is riddled with know-it-all moaners…

The stars Sadio Mané. No coincidence that his absence at the Africa Cup of Nations coincided with our big dip, and his injury with more recent blips. Philippe Coutinho is now back to his sublime best after his injury and Bobby Firmino has also been ace at times. And I love James Milner.

The flops It hasn’t been the best of times for Loris Karius. And Daniel Sturridge has had another frustrating season with injury.

Summer targets A left-back and centre-back for sure. And a striker. Kylian Mbappé could do a job … or perhaps we can tempt Lukaku from across the park?

Best and worst away fans Watford stayed behind their team even after a battering. As for the worst – I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of being named, but they know who they are, peddling their weary lies and sick chants.

Moment that made you smile The “Twenty’s Plenty” games: proof of fan power. We can make a difference.

Steph Jones Observer reader

Sadio Mané



Sadio Mané: appreciated. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

Manchester City 6/10

Pre-season prediction 1st; Position now 3rd

It’s been a disappointing season – there’s no getting away from it. We started like a train with 10 wins from 10 and everyone got a bit giddy, but the truth is we failed to capitalise in the key moments. Admittedly, it’s been a season of very fine margins (see: De Bruyne’s miss at 1-0 against Chelsea; Walker’s blatant push on Raheem Sterling, and so on), but we’ve only got ourselves to blame. Pep Guardiola was slow to correct his mistakes in late 2016 and ultimately it probably cost us the title. But I have no doubt – we’ll be serious contenders next year.

The stars David Silva and Sterling. Silva’s been incredible, again. How he still flies under the radar after seven stellar seasons in England is beyond me. As for Raheem, he’s a man transformed.

The flops Claudio Bravo.

Summer targets The defence needs a complete revamp. Full-backs are the priority and Guardiola knows it – they’re so important to how his teams play. Kyle Walker looks likely to come in, while Alex Sandro would be the dream at left-back. He’s incredible. Vincent Kompany’s return to form and fitness has been such a boost but we still need another centre-back. Personally, I’d go for Virgil van Dijk. Beyond that we need a keeper, a central midfielder and another wide forward to ease the load on Sterling and Leroy Sané. I’d go for Jordan Pickford, Fabinho and Alexis Sánchez.

Best and worst away fans The best were Chelsea. The worst: Watford.

Moment that made you smile Manchester United’s battle for sixth.

– Lloyd Scragg @lloyd_scragg

David Silva



David Silva: incredible, again. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Part 2: Manchester United to West Ham



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