Grading Each English Premier League Team’s Performance in 2018-2019

Everton-Manchester City Soccer match called off

Updated: May 28, 2023

The 2018-2019 English Premier League is now over.

In fact, it’s been a couple of weeks since it finished, which was enough for me to take a break and think about the performance of each team involved.

That’s why I decided to assign grades to every single EPL club. Before I start, I would like to clarify a couple of things.

First of all, this is obviously all my opinion, so it’s possible that you won’t agree with every grade.

Also, my criteria are somewhat simple. I look at the expectations and squad of each team, and I then compare it to the performance and the final position in the table. This is why a team that is in the bottom half might very well get an A, while teams in the top half could get a D or worse.

And finally, I haven’t factored in other competitions. My grades are purely based on the performance in the EPL. What happened in the other domestic competitions or in UEFA tournaments doesn’t matter.

With that in mind, let’s start.

Manchester City, Position 1st, Grade A

It’s probably trivial to give the champions an A, especially since they won last year’s EPL title by breaking the record for the most points in the history of the competition. Manchester City wasn’t even able to match the same tally during this campaign.

And yet, Pep Guardiola and his men came close, but this time under huge pressure. Liverpool was there on every step, and the reigning champions had to work hard to retain the trophy.

The season finale was truly epic, and every match was a battle. The champions won 14 games in a row against all kinds of opponents. The cherry on the cake was the victory against local rivals Manchester United.

It also must be mentioned that City prevailed in many games because of their defense. Results like 1-0 or 2-0 are not exactly common for Pep Guardiola’s side, but the team did what was necessary to clinch the championship.

It wasn’t always pretty, but when you collect 98 points, you obviously did an exceptional job. The only reason I’m not giving Manchester City an A+ is because I believe this is the strongest 25-man squad in the history of English soccer. Under such circumstances, the title was a must.

Whatever happens, that would apply to next season as well. It’s no surprise that the current odds for Man City to win the EPL once again are 1.67. I don’t think there is any value there, mostly because of Liverpool, but I can certainly see City as the big favorite.

Liverpool, Position 2nd, Grade A

Jurgen Klopp has truly transformed Liverpool since his arrival. It’s insane that the team earned 97 points and finished second. Two years ago, this would’ve been the best achievement in the history of the EPL, so I don’t think I can give the Reds a different grade than A.

Liverpool addressed the issues from last year, bought a solid goalkeeper, and improved the defense immensely. All of that happened without losing the magic up front.

The newfound flexibility of the Reds allowed them to win a bunch of close games thanks to the defense and the goalkeeper and put Man City under a lot of pressure.

Liverpool failed to win the title at the end, but I have the feeling that their dynasty under Jurgen Klopp is just starting. And, of course, they did win the UEFA Champions League, so it has been a fantastic season overall.

The Reds will be back next season, highly motivated to dethrone Manchester City. They have the players and the confidence to succeed. The price of 3.75 seems really decent, so it might be worth a try.

Chelsea, Position 3rd, Grade C

I’m not sure what to make of Chelsea’s grade for the 2018-2019 EPL season. The team started brightly under new manager Maurizio Sarri, and it looked like it might be involved in the title fight.

However, the rest of the league pretty much figured out his tactics, and Chelsea was involved in the battle for the Top 4. On the surface, the third place means that the club was able to win it, and you would expect a higher grade.

The problem is that Chelsea was inconsistent and lost a bunch of points towards the end of the season. The only reason the Blues finished so high in the table was that the competition was even worse. Spurs, Arsenal, and Manchester United were all abysmal in the past two months or so.

At some point, I was wondering if there was a reason for those teams to deliberately try to miss out on the Champions League; they were that bad.

In conclusion, Chelsea was average but did enough to secure the third place. Chelsea did win the Europa League, but as I mentioned, that doesn’t count. This is why the C they get makes the most sense to me.

Tottenham, Position 4th, Grade B-

For a large part of the season, Tottenham was almost on par with Manchester City and Liverpool. Spurs were involved in the title fight despite the significantly weaker squad, and that’s admirable.

Mauricio Pochettino’s ability to develop his players is second to none right now, and he most certainly is among the best managers in the world.

Unfortunately, the lack of depth in the side was exposed. A couple of injuries and the gruesome schedule ruined the final months of the EPL season. The club was lucky that the rest of the competition was in a huge crisis, too, which helped Spurs just hang on to the fourth spot that brings Champions League soccer next year, too.

At the same time, the opportunity to win the Champions League certainly played a part for the weak EPL performances towards the end of the season. Spurs had a real chance and clinched a spot in the final, so I think prioritizing the CL was the right decision.

Tottenham didn’t become champions of Europe at the end, but they didn’t fall out of the top 4 of the EPL either. That’s why a B- seems the most appropriate grade.

Arsenal, Position 5th, Grade C-

On the surface, Unai Emery did a good job in a couple of aspects. The successor of Arsene Wenger was able to win more points than last year, beat a couple of the other teams from the top 6, and finish one position higher than the Frenchman did in 2017-2018.

Another positive is that Arsenal was pressing well for many games and was among the top EPL teams in terms of average distance covered. Simply put, the Gunners were working harder than last year.

And yet, the main goal of the team was to return to the Champions League. Arsenal had a golden opportunity to get into the Top 4 at the end of the season, but they blew it. There’s no other way to put it, as the Gunners were in pole position to finish third but lost points against teams from the bottom half of the table on multiple occasions.

Part of it might be related to the deep run in the Europa League, and the squad had some objective issues, especially at the back, so this is the reason Arsenal is getting a C-.

It wasn’t all terrible, but the club had a golden opportunity to progress and missed it. I don’t think it will be that easy next season. The odds for Arsenal to finish in the top 4 are 2.20, but the competition should be much stronger.

Manchester United, Position 6th, Grade D-

This was a season to forget for Manchester United. It all started with loads of pressure in the dressing room and conflicts all over the place. That’s what usually happens in Jose Mourinho’s third season in any club.

The results were bad, and the manager was publicly scrutinizing the players, most notably Paul Pogba. On top of that, there were rumors that Jose’s relationship with the board was intense, too.

Despite receiving the backing of Man Utd executives on a couple of occasions, the Portuguese was eventually sacked, and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed, initially as a caretaker until the end of the season.

The Norwegian gave the players some freedom and restored the identity of the club. The effect was immediate, and United had a good run that earned Solskjaer a permanent contract.

This is when all went wrong once again, and the Red Devils returned to the mediocrity from the early days of the season. Manchester United missed on multiple opportunities to win a Champions League quota for next year.

The defense was abysmal at times, and the effort of some of the players was questionable, to say the least. I would’ve given the team an F if it wasn’t for that streak of wins right after the appointment of Solskjaer.

The Norwegian has a tough job for next year, and I’m not sure if United is going to return to the Champions League. The bookies provide a 1.80 price for that to happen, but it seems way too low for my taste.

Wolverhampton Wanderers, Position 7th, Grade A+

We all expected to see Wolverhampton somewhere around the middle of the EPL table, but the seventh place is an exceptional result. It’s the absolute best that the Wolves could’ve achieved, considering the squad and the budget of the clubs that finished above them.

Most of the credit must go to the manager, Nuno Espirito Santo. The Portuguese specialist transformed the club and built an identity, which is rare in the EPL. In most teams, it’s only about the results, but the Wolves board gave the man freedom, and it worked.

Wolverhampton was one of the most consistent teams in the EPL, beating not only sides from the bottom of the half but also holding their ground against the leaders. The defense was solid, and the midfield expertly controlled the tempo in most games.

The only downside was the somewhat inefficient attack. The side was rather modest in terms of chances created and goals scored. That’s where Espirito Santo has room for improvement for next season.

As for this one, I simply can’t give anything different than an A+ to a club that won a place in the Europa League in the first season after getting an EPL promotion.

I like what the Wolves are doing, and I hope they don’t suffer the consequences of playing in Europe in the forthcoming campaign.

Everton, Position 8th, Grade C+

Everton is one of the toughest teams to grade for multiple reasons. The 8th position is approximately where the club should be, but the lack of consistency throughout the season was obvious.

At times, the Toffees looked like a side that could actually challenge for a place in the top 6. A week later, you could see them beaten by some of the relegation candidates. Considering the ambitions of the club and the investments in the summer, this was not good enough.

Everton has to prevail over weaker sides most of the time and trouble the favorites, at least at home. This should be the target for the club for the upcoming season.

We saw that at the end of the season, which is the reason I added the plus to the C grade. The question is if Everton simply played better at a point where many clubs were fighting for nothing or if the side did really improve.

I guess we are about to find out next season. If the Toffees don’t make major steps in the right direction, we might see manager Marco Silva sacked. It’s interesting how he made Watford one of the most unpredictable sides (both in a good and a bad way) in the EPL and needed only a year to do the same with Everton.

Leicester City, Position 9th, Grade B-

This is another team that is hard to grade, because there were so many ups and downs during this campaign. The start was certainly below the standards expected by the Leicester board and supporters.

The Foxes relied on their typical counter-attacking soccer and the speed of Jamie Vardy up front. The strategy worked in certain games, but many teams simply knew what to expect and found ways to stop Leicester.

As a result, Claude Puel was sacked in February, and Brendan Rodgers was appointed as the manager at the end of the month. The experienced former Liverpool boss was happy to return to the EPL and immediately started working towards a change in the style.

He asked his men to keep the ball more and installed a more balanced approach. I honestly thought that Leicester would struggle and that Rodgers would need more time, but there were results almost immediately.

The club had a solid end of the season, and Jamie Vardy found his top form once again. This is the reason I’m giving Leicester B-. I expect the positive trend to continue in the next campaign, and 888sport offers a price of 1.65 for the Foxes to finish in the top 10 of the EPL.

I believe this bet has solid value, especially if Rodgers receives enough money to buy a couple of players that would suit his requirements.

West Ham United, Position 10th, Grade C+

The last team that finished in the upper half of the EPL table in the 2018-2019 season is West Ham United. There were good and bad moments for the club, so I decided to give them a C+.

The start was horrible; the Hammers lost their first four games of the campaign. Some believed they would be involved in the relegation battle, but that seemed unlikely considering the squad and the manager.

The experienced Manuel Pellegrini had a bunch of quality players with a lot of years in the league. On top of that, West Ham had one of the best groups of creative and attacking guys, if we exclude the top 6.

The main issue was related to the injury problems of many of them during different stages of the season. The good news is that West Ham improved slowly and was quite decent in the last couple of months.

I feel the team has the potential for more but needs more consistency and better luck with the physical condition of the players. If the leaders can stay relatively healthy, we could see West Ham climb a couple of positions in the next EPL season.

Watford, Position 11th, Grade B+

For years, Watford was one of the most inconsistent teams in the English Premier League. If you add the change of manager, I expected to see the club struggling in the 2018-2019 season. In fact, I had it as one of my picks for the relegation zone.

I must admit I was wrong. Watford was one of the most exciting members of the EPL, providing plenty of stunning games. The side was once again tough to predict, but the overall points tally and some of the performances were better than expected.

The only reason why I won’t give them an A is the struggles at the back. Watford conceded a total of 59 goals, and this is the area that should definitely improve. I believe manager Javi Gracia knows that very well.

One of the potential ways to improve the defense would be to adopt a style that relies on more ball possession. On the other hand, that could hurt the Watford attack. I won’t go into too many details, as this post is focused on the last season, not the next one.

Crystal Palace, Position 12th, Grade C+

The start of the season for Crystal Palace was worrisome. The team only relied on Wilfried Zaha up front, and it looked like that could lead to a relegation battle. There were even doubts about the position of the manager, Roy Hodgson.

Fortunately for him, the team found some consistency and improved from November on. Not that Palace was exceptional, but there were enough points for a comfortable finish in the middle of the EPL table.

Considering the squad at Hodgson’s disposal, that’s where the club belongs right now. I don’t think the fans would mind a position in the middle of the table, either.

The most suitable grade under the circumstances is a C, but I decided to add an extra plus. Crystal Palace was very entertaining at times, including a stunning victory against the champions Manchester City at their own stadium.

I believe this was the moment that gave Liverpool hope they could win the title and gave us one of the most memorable battles for the EPL crown in recent years.

Newcastle United, Position 13th, Grade B

Everyone expected Newcastle United to fight against relegation with this squad. For most of the season, the Magpies were just above the danger zone. Fortunately for them, a rather consistent run of form after the start of 2019 was enough to comfortably avoid the drop.

Considering the questionable investments in the squad and the tension surrounding the club, it was a good achievement. The owner, Mike Ashley, has been flirting with the idea of selling Newcastle, but a deal never went through.

The whole insecurity played with the nerves of both the players and the supporters, but the experienced Rafa Benitez managed to keep it together. The Spaniard was the main reason Newcastle had a solid season, and the fans will be hoping for him to stay once again.

Rafa, the crowd, and the squad deserve an A for their performance, but I will have to give the club as a whole a B, mostly because of Mike Ashley.

For the sake of the people of Newcastle, I certainly hope to see him gone next year. I fear that relegation is the inevitable scenario with him at the helm.

Bournemouth, Position 14th, Grade B-

Up to a couple of years ago, finishing in 14th position would’ve been nothing short of a straight A for a club like Bournemouth. The side doesn’t have the resources of most of the other EPL members and has to rely mostly on hard work and good scouting.

The manager Eddie Howe has received the full support of the board, and I would say that Bournemouth is one of the few clubs that has a consistent strategy. The side tries to buy youngsters and players from lower leagues that fit the needs of the manager.

The process is working wonders, and Bournemouth was never in danger of getting relegated. In fact, the start of the season suggested we might see the Cherries in the top half of the table at the end of the EPL campaign.

They didn’t manage to keep the tempo going, but that’s expected to an extent. What’s important is that Bournemouth has one of the best managers in the league and the right set of mind from top to bottom.

That’s one of my favorite clubs in the EPL right now, and I hope to see them make another step forward next year. The price for Bournemouth to finish in the top 10 is 4.50 right now, and this is one bet I will be more than willing to take. I feel it will be close, but with the odds so high, it’s totally worth a shot.

Burnley, Position 15th, Grade B

I will probably raise a few eyebrows giving Burnley a B, considering the fact that the club finished seventh last season and was fighting against relegation for the majority of this one. On the surface, the campaign was a failure, but there is a lot of context here.

For a start, Burnley won a place in the Europa League qualifiers. While playing in the UEFA club competitions brings a certain level of prestige, it can be devastating for clubs like Burnley.

The team punched above its weight in the EPL in the 2017-2018 campaign. It wasn’t prepared to play on two fronts, and the money from the Europa League is not significant enough to improve the squad.

On top of everything else, the qualifiers started in July, so the preparation for the 2018-2019 season was completely ruined.

In a sense, Burnley was destined to fail this year. I wasn’t at all surprised to see the club struggle for months. And yet, credit to the board, the players, the manager Sean Dyche, and the supporters who all played their role in the survival.

The executives didn’t sack the manager, as many other clubs would’ve done. Instead, they showed faith. Combined with the backing of the fans, that was enough for Dyche and the players to turn it around in the second part of the season.

Burnley stood firm and united in the face of danger, which is rare to see in modern soccer. I admire the way everyone around the club handled this season, and this is why they get a B. I hope that we will see the best of Burnley next season.

Southampton, Position 16th, Grade D

One of the unpleasant surprises of the past EPL season was Southampton. I expected to see the club somewhere around the middle of the table. The squad certainly had enough potential for the Saints to even fight for a place in Europa League.

Instead, Southampton was involved in a tough battle for survival throughout the campaign. The lackluster performances cost manager Mark Hughes his head around the middle of the season. Ralph Hasenhuttl was appointed in his place, and that gave the Saints a short boost.

It was enough for the team to survive, but this has been a bad season for Southampton. The manager will have to work hard in the summer, as there are so many problems that need to be addressed.

I think that the only appropriate grade in this case is a D.

Brighton, Position 17th, Grade C-

There have been plenty of EPL seasons in which 36 points would not be enough to survive. Fortunately for Brighton, the 2018-2019 season wasn’t one of them. The side finished just above the relegation zone, which is a decent result for a couple of reasons.

First of all, this is Brighton’s second season in the English Premier League after getting promoted from the Championship. We all know how many clubs struggle in their second campaign. Many of them go down at the end, but Brighton didn’t.

On top of that, it’s not like the club has loads of resources at its disposal. A couple of players were brought in the summer, but most of them were not proven and failed to impress.

The biggest issue of Brighton was scoring goals. The side found the net 35 times, and only the relegated teams had a worse record.

This cost manager Chris Hughton his head at the end of the season, but I’m not sure that’s the correct decision. Brighton performed mostly as expected, which is the reason I gave them a C. I’m not sure if the switch at the helm will help the club, and we might see them go down next season.

The price for that to happen is 3.00, and I feel that’s a good bet.

Cardiff City, Position 18th, Grade C

We’re now entering the zone of the teams that won’t be playing in the EPL next year. The first one is Cardiff City, and I don’t think anyone is surprised. The Welsh club was the big favorite to go down, and a quick look at the squad shows why.

The manager, Neil Warnock, didn’t have nearly enough quality or quantity to survive in the Premier League. The brave effort from his boys and the abysmal performance by Fulham and Huddersfield gave Cardiff a chance, but the team came short at the end.

It was a close battle, and the supporters surely remember some mistakes by the referees against Chelsea at the end of the campaign, but that’s life. The reality is that Cardiff City didn’t have the players to stay in the EPL.

My grade is C, as I don’t think it was realistic to expect more from Warnock and the current group. They came painfully close to staying up, so they must be proud. I hope to see the club back soon, as they showed a lot of spirit.

Fulham, Position 19th, Grade F

When I was sharing my predictions for the EPL season, I was torn between Wolves and Fulham for the best newly-promoted team. That’s how high I rated the Cottagers and their squad full of quality players.

The likes of Jean Michael Seri, Andre Schurrle, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and later on Ryan Babel suggested that Fulham would be a deadly team.

We quickly learned how horrible the balance of this squad is, though. The defense was in shambles, conceding all sorts of goals. By the end of the campaign, the Cottagers let in 81 goals, by far the worst defensive record in the EPL.

You can’t concede more than twice per game on average and stay up. The issues at the back started affecting the team as a whole, and the attack wasn’t working that well either.

The manager Slavisa Jokanovic was sacked in November, and Claudio Ranieri replaced him. The Italian suffered the same fate a couple of months later, and Scott Parker finished the season as a caretaker.

Considering Fulham’s expectations and investments, the only grade I can give the side is an F.

It’s interesting to see which players will stay, and I actually think the club might be able to bounce back right away if it keeps a couple of key squad members.

Huddersfield, Position 20th, Grade F

I think it was almost a miracle that Huddersfield survived in the EPL last season. The club didn’t invest in the summer, so the relegation was the logical outcome. And yet, when you go down that early and win only three times, the only grade you’re going to get is an F.

The major issue was the lack of goals, as Huddersfield only managed to score 22 of them. The defense wasn’t much better either, as the side conceded 76 times. Simple math would help you realize we’re talking about a -54 goal difference over the course of 38 games. Enough said.

What’s even worse for the club is that I honestly can’t see Huddersfield returning to the EPL anytime soon. That would take some smart transfers and a lot of hard work. I wish the team good fortune, but the Championship will be tough.

Final Words

Do you agree with my grades? If you feel that I made a mistake somewhere, you can always share your own opinion in the comments section below.

The goal of this post was to highlight some general thoughts about each team, but I intend to dig deeper soon. You can expect a post on each of the English Premier League clubs that will play in the 2019-2020 season. I will examine the squad, the manager, and try to find some good outrights and prop bets.

In the meantime, one of my fellow writers wrote a post in which he shares his dream transfer for every EPL team. He has a lot of interesting ideas, although I don’t completely agree with all of his picks. Feel free to check it out and see for yourself.

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