2021/22 Premier League | Grading the Premier League's top 8 sides and their performances
We have come to the end of another Premier League season and as the curtains fall on what has been a chaotic campaign, we will look at how the top-eight clubs had expected to fare throughout the course of the campaign and how they actually panned out in face of adversity, peril and glory
Manchester City: A+
Manchester City endured a fruitful season for their consistent campaign as they retained their Premier League crown on the final day of the season. The English side started the season with an away defeat to Tottenham but since that loss to Spurs was their one of two in the first ten games of the season with the Cityzens also drawing twice against Southampton and Liverpool.
Guardiola's side turned it up a notch for the next 27 fixtures as they only lost once to sustain their place at the top in December. A series of draws since the dawn of the year opened the door for Liverpool to fully push them to the brink in the title race.
Although their efforts boiled down to the final day of the season where they had to secure a comeback 3-2 win to triumph over the Merseyside club and secure domestic glory.
If I had to pick a negative for City, it would be the disappointing showing of record-signing Jack Grealish. The former Villa skipper recorded a measly 3 goals and 3 assists. His lack of attacking numbers can be attributed to the transition from the focal point of attack at Villa to a cog in the machine at the Etihad, so next season will prove vital to his City career. The Manchester club will hope to make it five titles in six years next campaign but they will be sure to give it their all in their quest for their first-ever Champions League.
Authors note: City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak reiterated that the side would look to recruit more signings ahead of Erling Haaland’s and Julian Alvarez’s arrival. City will be in the hunt for a midfielder and an attacker with the uncertain futures of Ilkay Gundogan, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. Moves for Marc Cucurella and Kalvin Phillips seem to be on the pipeline.
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side went agonizingly close again on the final day of the season but missed out by a mere point to Manchester City to concede the Premier League title. The German coach led his side to the brink of a historic quadruple but fell apart at the final hurdle. It's hard to fault Liverpool though as it all came down to fine margins and in any other year, they could have been on the other side of things.
Liverpool won 14 of their last 16 fixtures in the league to round up their campaign. A bright spot for the Merseyside club was the performances of star players such as Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Thiago, Virgil Van Dijk, etc who continue to impress with their performances.
The Reds' recruitment has also proven to be encouraging with the arrivals of Luiz Diaz and Ibrahim Konate from Porto and RB Leipzig respectively. With Jurgen Klopp set to extend his tenure until 2026 Liverpool supporters have a lot to be optimistic about.
Authors Note: Liverpool have to navigate their way through murky waters as they handle the contractual situation with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. The Senegal star looks to be on his way out to Bayern looking to capture him. Expect Liverpool to recruit efficiently and bring in a midfielder and an attacker with Jarrod Bowen looking to be a probable candidate for the Reds.
Everything was going well for Chelsea on the back of a 2020-21 season. They had just beaten Manchester City in the Champions League final and Thomas Tuchel's side looked to be on the upward trajectory as they signed prolific frontman Romelu Lukaku from Inter for his second spell at the club.
The Blues started the season strongly as they won four of the first five games with the Belgian making the headlines for his contributions. Chelsea only lost one game in their next 14 fixtures but the goals started to dry up leading to a dismal run over the festive period.
Chelsea had five draws in the space of a month which meant that they lost touch with Liverpool and City who had their own merry-go-around. Injuries, inconsistency, and an unexpected change of ownership meant that the Blues fizzled out towards the end but still earnt a Champions League spot.
That's despite only four wins in their final 10 games to hang on to 3rd place. It was a disappointing season in hindsight of expectations and Tuchel's side will be expected to mount a title challenge next season with new owners looking to usher in a new era.
Authors Note: Chelsea will look to recruit a host of defenders and midfielders. Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen will depart the club. Interest will be reignited in Jules Kounde, Pau Torres, and moves for attackers such as Sterling could be initiated.
Tottenham were the beneficiaries of Antonio Conte's arrival at the club at the right time. The North London club's season could have easily spiraled with the Italian. Nuno Espirito Santo was at the helm at the start of the season and three consecutive 1-0 victories to open the season inspired hope but it all came falling down with a run of five defeats in 7 games.
The Portuguese manager was sacked and the Conte took over. He catapulted his side's form with an unbeaten streak but a series of losses in March sparked speculation of a possible departure for Conte in the summer.
Spurs enjoyed a resurgence later on with the Italian guiding the side to 10 wins in 14 games to secure a Champions League spot. Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Devan Kulusevski, etc played a vital role throughout the campaign with the South Korean ending the season decisively tied for the Golden Boot award with 23 goals (which makes his omission from the PFA Players’ Player of the Year nominees shocking).
Authors Note: With a full pre-season, this team under Conte could be something special with recruitments looking to be on their way. Ivan Perisic has already been added with Fraser Foster, Alessandro Bastoni, Nicola Barella, etc. If they can tie down Harry Kane to a new deal, Spurs supporters will have a lot to look forward to next season.
Arsenal fans would have been content with finishing in fith at the start of the season. It is only the manner of the way it went by that has left a sour taste. Arsenal started the season in dismal fashion as they lurked near the relegation spot but they quickly overturned their fortunes and capitalized on the failings at Spurs and Manchester United to be in the race for a Champions League spot.
The Gunners parted with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January for the greater good but a combination of inconsistency and injuries brought their challenge to a screeching halt as they were pipped to a Champions League spot by their fierce North London rivals. The lack of a goalscorer proved to be Arsenal’s downfall with Bukayo Saka finishing as the club’s golden boot winner with 11.
Authors Note: Arsenal set the foundation for their squad by spending big on Ben White, Martin Odegaard, and Aaron Ramsdale. They will look to add quality to their ranks with moves expected for Youri Tielemans, Gabriel Jesus in their quest to bring back Champions League football to the Emirates Stadium since the 2016/17 season.
Manchester United: C-
Manchester United had an abysmal campaign and the end of the season must have been highly anticipated by their supporters. Despite all the expectations that came with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, United blew up in catastrophic fashion as they failed to build from their second-placed finish last season.
The Red Devils won their first four games in five games but things took a downfall with five defeats in seven sealing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick was unable to implement a high-pressing style and United continued to fail to falter in domestic and European competitions.
Ronaldo's goals were the only glimmer of fans in the closing stages of the season as they fell apart to five defeats in their last 8 games. New manager Erik ten Hag has a giant job in his hands and will hope to break the duck of a long line of United managers.
Authors Note: United will lose out on the services of Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani and several other stars look to be on the chopping block. United will look to reinforce in midfield and defense with Frenkie De Jong, Jurrien Timber, Pau Torres, Declan Rice, Darwin Nunez the likliest of targets.
West Ham - B+
West Ham proved that they compete on both European and domestic fronts with a limited squad as they made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Europa League and finished in a European spot for the next season.
The Hamemrs were one of the best teams in the league in the early stages of the season with whispers being muttered of a potential top-four spot. West Ham were in contention for a Champions League spot until February until their lack of depth showed its true colours.
West Ham did well in Europe but in the top flight of English football the London club lost six of their last 11 games. Improvement of players such as Jarrod Bowen, Declan Rice, etc will be optimistic ahead of next season as they look to continue their upward trajectory.
Authors Note: Hammers will need to add a striker with Michal Antonio scoring just three times in 2022 after scoring seven in the first half of the season. Keeping Rice and Bowen will be a priority. They will look to reunite Jesse Lingard with Moyes and recruit forward options such as Armando Broja, Danny Ings, etc.
Leicester City: D-
Leicester City had a very mediocre campaign by their standards. They only finished in this position because of a late burst of form in the final few games of the season. The Foxes were 14th at the end of game week 34 but 3 wins and a draw ensured that Brendan Rodger's side luckily ended up claiming 8th place. Jamie Vardy scored 15 goals but spent significant time on the treatment table as did the core of the squad.
Patson Daka's signing from Rb Leipzig only showed signs of hope as he adapted to the Premier League. The emergence of Dewsbury-Hall is one positive with the midfielder leading the way for work rate in the final few games of the season. A rebuild will be in order at the King Power Stadium this season as they will look to cash in on a few assets in order to fund an overhaul.
Leicester will be without European football next campaign and the focus should turn back to reclaiming a place in Europe for the foxes next season.
Authors Note: Leicester has had a phenomenal track record of getting it right in the transfer market and I expect the pattern to continue with the English side looking to recruit a centreback, central midfielder, and a right winger.