MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Teammates David Silva and Joe Hart of Manchester City celebrate following the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad Stadium on May 13, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
With the hangover of Aguero's goal subsiding (though I admit, I have watched it way too many times since it happened) and Euro 2012 out of the way, now is a good time to turn our attention back to the Premier League and reflect on this past season as a whole, and not just from City's standpoint. I'll do my best to take us through all 20 teams' seasons, the ups and downs, and what to expect or watch out for heading into next season. To spice it up a bit, I'll throw in some team grades as well. I'll try to remove any bias I have.. no guarantees though. These are also in no particular order, and I've included point totals for each team for this season and last season, respectively, in parentheses. I'm hoping to put up Part 2, with the next ten teams, in the coming days.
Manchester City: A (89 pts, 71 pts)
Well, what other grade could I give? It's been as 'typical' of a season as City could have possibly endured en route to the Premier League trophy. There was the scorching hot start to begin the season, the turbulent winter months, and then the storybook ending. An even more telling sign of City's progress since the beginning of this project can be seen from point totals over the last 4 seasons: 50 points in 08-09, 67 points in 09-10, 71 points in 10-11, and 89 points this season. No one handed the title to this club. It was earned. (After Sheikh Mansour's arrival, of course)
Fulham: B (52 pts, 49 pts)
The Cottagers finished out a decent campaign in 9th place. Considering the fact that they switched managers mid-term from Mark Hughes to Martin Jol, a top-half finish is a nice achievement. Clint Dempsey had a marvelous season, finishing with 17 goals; the next closest midfielder in the league only had 11. His future at Craven Cottage is in doubt however, as some of the big name clubs might attempt to sign him this summer.
Sunderland: C (45 pts, 47 pts)
Sunderland's roller-coaster season makes City's look quite tame. The Black Cats didn't pick up a win until over a month into the season, and only won 5 out of 17 by Christmas. Steve Bruce was sacked, and Martin O'Neill came in. This seemed to spark the club into life as they went to have a nice run after the New Year, only to finish the season winning just 1 of their last 10 matches. They have consistently spent 20 to 40 mil in recent summers, so there will surely be new faces once again at the club next season. Asamoah Gyan has permanently moved to the Middle East and Nicklas Bendtner's loan is over, leaving a few holes to be filled in the Sunderland attack.
Tottenham: C+ (69 pts, 62 pts)
My brother is a die-hard Spurs fan, and so I decided to turn to him for this grade. For him, the disappointment comes from seeing an 8-10 point lead over Arsenal evaporate in a matter of a few months towards the end of the season. And he's right, seeing as how Spurs looked so strong and Arsenal looked weak for large portions of the season. In my opinion, Tottenham need to sign a consistent striker to remedy much of their issues. Redknapp is out, AVB is in... let's see what happens. For now, Bale has signed an extension and it appears as though Gylfi Sigurdsson is on his way in. Sigurdsson could be a great signing (bit high on the wages though), but some suggest that he might be a replacement for Van der Vaart.
Stoke City: C+ (45 pts, 46 pts)
Stoke just didn't really do much of anything this season. They finished with one less point than last season, but also took a big step backwards when looked at more carefully: they finished with a goal difference of -17 as opposed to a decent -2 last season. I would give Stoke a lower grade, but they don't give themselves lofty expectations in the first place, so I'll leave it at a C+.
Aston Villa: D (38 pts, 48 pts)
Villa, what a disappointment. Just two seasons ago they were battling it out with City for 5th.. and now they have barely survived relegation. Alex McLeish is out, Paul Lambert is in. I'd like to say that they will do better, but the players on that squad really don't have me convinced, despite Lambert's ability. They will have to bring in some talent. They have some decent young pieces (Bannan, Delph, etc.) but I can't see a whole lot of progress being made there as a team as it stands.
Chelsea: C- (64 pts, 71 pts)
I'm trying to keep these grades domestic based only, so the Champions League triumph isn't factoring into this. Chelsea had an abysmal season by their standards. They finished with their worst league position in the Abramovich era. Di Matteo did seem to get a bit more out of the players when he took over for AVB, but now Drogba is gone, and much of the squad is aging. Youth will be important for this club, and there are (for once) a fair amount of promising young players in that squad. Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Marko Marin will all join the club this season, and more names are likely to head to the Bridge as well. In the last few days, Internacional's Brazilian midfielder Oscar has been linked with a big money move to Chelsea, as well as Bayer Leverkusen's winger/forward Andre Schurrle.
West Brom: C+ (47 pts, 47 pts)
This might be a bit harsh since West Brom don't set their expectations too high, but there just hasn't really been any progress at the Hawthorns- in fact their aren't many storylines at all (see Stoke City, literally). They do their job of staying mid-table but that's about it. So I think a C+ is a fair, average grade for them. However, one interesting story to track next season will be how Steve Clarke fares in his first season as manager- best of luck to him.
Norwich City: B+ (47 pts, N/A)
A very nice first season back in the Premiership for Norwich. The Canaries were solid both home and away- something rare for a newly promoted team. Despite the highs, the departure of Paul Lambert is a massive blow to the club. Lambert did a great job guiding this team back to the top flight and a secure mid-table finish in their first season. Chris Hughton is a very capable manager as well, but some of the identity this Norwich team had might be lost. On the positive side, Grant Holt has signed a contract extension, ending any speculation of a move away from Carrow Road. Hopefully this side does not pull a Birmingham and get relegated in their second season, after a solid first.
Swansea City: A- (47 pts, N/A)
Another team that had a fantastic first season (ever) in the Premier League. The idea of a newly promoted team conceding just 18 goals at home is almost unthinkable, but Swansea achieved just that. However, like Norwich, Swansea have lost their manager whom they can attribute much of their success to. Brendan Rogers may be in for rough times at Liverpool, but Michael Laudrup will have a big task at hand as well. Danny Graham, Scott Sinclair, and Joe Allen will be important players once again for Swansea next season.