May 23, 2016

Memories of the 2015-16 EPL season

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

With the season finally in the books – after a bomb-threat delay, no less – it’s time to look back at the season that was for each Premier League team. Some teams did much better than we thought, some did much worse. Here are some memories for each squad – some good, some bad – from a campaign that will surely be remembered for a long time.

ARSENAL

Prediction: Second. Actual: Second.

Lasting memory: Was this season a success for the Gunners? It’s hard to say. While it finished second and beat out North London rival Tottenham on the final day of the season – much to the fans’ delight – the title was there for the taking. With the rest of the big guns faltering, this should have been Arsene Wenger’s title to loss, but instead, scrappy underdog Leicester City had its fairy tale come true. But hey, at least it’s not another fourth place, right?

ASTON VILLA

Prediction: 19th. Actual: 20th.

Lasting memory: With the exception of a season-opening win against Bournemouth, this season really was terrible for the Villans right from the get-go. While it didn’t have to cancel its goal of the month award this season, Aston Villa did score the least amount of goals in the league at 27 – which is seven less than West Brom, next lowest in the category.

BOURNEMOUTH

Prediction: 20th. Actual: 16th.

Lasting memory: The Premier League’s smallest club punched above its weight on several occasions and managed to stay up despite having one of the league’s worst defences.  If there’s a pleasant memory to take away from the Cherries debut season in the top division, it was going to Chelsea and Manchester United in the same week and coming away with six points. Considering they hadn’t won in the 10 previous games, that’s pretty impressive.

CHELSEA

Prediction: First. Actual: 10th

Lasting memory: The biggest metaphor for the Blues’ all-time terrible title defence is this: Eden Hazard scored his first league goal of the season on April 23, almost a year after his previous tally. There wasn’t much positive to come out of Stamford Bridge this season and new manager Alberto Conte will have a lot to turn around coming in this summer.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Prediction: 13th. Actual: 15th.

Lasting memory: After having a decent run in the first half of the season, it all came apart for the Eagles when they seemingly started to focus a bit too much on the FA Cup. While Palace did reach the final and even took the lead briefly over United, it was all for naught in the end. Perhaps its most memorable moment this season will be Alan Pardew’s dance after that goal, if only because of the final result.

EVERTON

Prediction: Ninth. Actual: 11th.

Lasting memory: Believe it or not, the Toffees were a better team on the road than at Goodison Park, picking up 24 points away from home and just 23 as hosts. Inconsistency was the watchword for Everton this season and it will surely do better with Roberto Martinez being shown the door.

LEICESTER CITY

Prediction: 16th. Actual: First.

Lasting memory: Honestly, this whole season will be remembered as Leicester City’s. The Foxes were terrific from start to finish. It dealt with some suspensions, injuries and minor hiccups like a team beyond its years. While everyone pegged the Foxes to be fighting for survival, they went out and won the league as a 5,000-1 underdog. While Riyad Mahrez had his outstanding moments, Jamie Vardy had his record-setting scoring streak and Claudio Ranieri throw some pizza parties, nothing will be remembered more than the team gathering at Vardy’s house to watch Spurs draw Chelsea and clinch the title for Leicester. What a glorious moment.

LIVERPOOL

Prediction: Fifth. Actual: Eighth.

Lasting memory: It wasn’t part of Premier League play, but despite putting all of its energy into the late stages of Europa League, the Reds fell apart at the finish line. Sure, the refs missed some pretty bad calls, but Liverpool played a terrible second half and deserved the loss. At least with Jurgen Klopp in charge, there’s more of a sense of hope for the future than with Brendan Rodgers running the show.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Prediction: Fourth. Actual: Fifth.

Lasting memory: The first and last goals of the Premier League season were oddly familiar – own goals scored by English national team defenders at Old Trafford in Manchester United wins. The only difference between Kyle Walker’s own goal and Chris Smalling’s on Tuesday, was that Smalling’s had some big consequences. If not for that own goal, Red Devils goalkeeper David De Gea would’ve won the EPL’s Gold Gloves for top keeper, which now goes to Spurs’ Hugo Lloris, who allowed five goals in his final game.

MANCHESTER CITY

Prediction: Third. Actual: Third.

Lasting memory: Yet again, Sergio Aguero had a brilliant season, scoring 24 goals, but still couldn’t crack the team of the season. His and City’s top moment of the season had to be when he scored five goals against Newcastle within just 23 minutes. And, in typical Aguero fashion, he was injured in the game and missed the next four contests.

NEWCASTLE

Prediction: 11th. Actual: 18th.

Lasting memory: This was a team that was probably too good to go down, but just did not play up to the level that it should have too often. After all, this is a side that scored a quarter of its goals in just two games – one of which came after it had already been relegated. Now fans are holding out hope that Rafa Benitez – a puzzling hire to begin with, given his stature and Newcastle’s situation – will stay on to guide the Magpies through the Championship, despite starting the 2015-16 campaign in charge of Real Madrid.

NORWICH CITY

Prediction: 18th. Actual: 19th.

Lasting memory: There wasn’t much to be excited about involving Norwich this season, but it did feature in one of the most thrilling games of the season against Liverpool. After going up 3-1 with 30 minutes remaining, the Canaries allowed the Reds to come back and take a 4-3 lead going into injury time. Then, after Sebastian Bassong knotted it up two later, Liverpool marched right back down the field and Adam Lallana scored the winner in the fifth minute of injury time.

SOUTHAMPTON

Prediction: Eighth. Actual: Sixth.

Lasting memory: After coming back from a broken kneecap that many thought would rule him out for the year, Fraser Forster went on a remarkable run upon returning in January. He would go a club-record 708 minutes without allowing a goal, helping propel the Saints to a Europa League spot next season.

STOKE CITY

Prediction: 10th. Actual: Ninth.

Lasting memory: Injuries derailed any chance of the Potters reaching a European spot, but there is clearly hope for the future. Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic are the types of players this rough-and-tough side haven’t seen before and demonstrated the amount of skill that should have Stoke City fans excited for Mark Hughes’ vision of the future.

SUNDERLAND

Prediction: 15th. Actual: 17th.

Lasting memory: While the Black Cats did manage to stay up at the end of the season, the perfect metaphor for this season at Sunderland – and really, the Tyneside area – was when Fabio Borini somehow hit himself in the face with a shot.

SWANSEA CITY

Prediction: Seventh. Actual: 12th.

Lasting memory: Let’s be honest: We thought we were going to see Bafetimbi Gomes do his lion-like celebration a lot more this season after his start. It didn’t work out like that and the Swans struggled when their top striker went cold, even looking like it would be in the relegation battle come the end of the season, before finding some stability under new manager Francesco Guidolin.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Prediction: Sixth. Actual: Third.

Lasting memory: This was a season with a lot of positives for Spurs – the astounding defence, Harry Kane’s prolific scoring just once in the first nine games and the emergence of Dele Alli – but what really stands out is this weekend’s 5-1 loss to lowly Newcastle. It showed us that Tottenham hasn’t grown up as much as we thought it has and that these are still the same ol’ Spurs.

WATFORD

Prediction: 17th. Actual: 13th.

Lasting memory: The Hornets weren’t expected to do much this season, but got some outstanding performances from the forward tandem of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, who finished with 15 and 13 goals, respectively. Watford’s defence was decent too and goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes came up big on several occasions, despite being remembered as a washout while with Tottenham.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Prediction: 14th. Actual: 14th.

Lasting memory: Per usual, it was a pretty non-descript season from this very non-descript club. The only real excitement around the club was the transfer saga of Saido Berahino. The wantaway striker repeatedly butted heads with manager Tony Pulis, even going on strike during the season. Yet, somehow, he stuck with the club and was even on penalty duties when Heurelho Gomes saved both of his attempts last month.

WEST HAM UNITED

Prediction: 12th. Actual: Seventh.

Lasting memory: If the world didn’t take notice of Dimitri Payet’s skill this season with West Ham, it surely will during Euro 2016. The Frenchman had some stunning free kicks this season and his passing ability was a big reason why the Irons finished fourth in the league in scoring. Payet finished with nine goals and 13 assists despite missing more than a month with a knee injury – pretty impressive.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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