Another Premier League season is wrapping up. It's been wild and, as always, the campaign has taught us just how little we knew when the season campaign started.
What did we learn this season?
Chelsea's demise was greatly exaggerated
Chelsea dead? Not so much. And while Antonio Conte will rightly be praised for his work this season, it wasn't just a managerial and system change that fixed Chelsea. Nor was it the revival of Eden Hazard. Chelsea recognized their squad was broken -- something Jose Mourinho warned the summer before his dismissal, to be fair -- and brought in N'Golo Kante and David Luiz to shore up the spine of the team. Toss in Marcos Alonso and you had a vastly different core than the Blues team that was so bad the year before.
You'd be forgiven if you thought Chelsea were done. They acknowledged they were on their way there, which is why they retooled the team. Then toss in Conte and you have a brand new team -- one that stands atop the league.
Marco Silva should be managing in the Premier League
Hull City are going down to the Championship, but it isn't Silva's fault. The manager took over Hull midseason and it looked like there was no hope for the Tigers. They were an awful team that ownership would not support, but Silva got them into a legitimate relegation fight and almost kept them in the top flight. For a team that some thought could set a record for fewest points in a Premier League season, that's incredible. A Premier League team needs to hire him.
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Manchester United's summer moves look awfully good
Manchester United spent a lot of money last summer Like a lot. Like £157 million a lot. But looking back on it, the Red Devils really nailed it.
Paul Pogba was a record signing, but he completely changed a midfield that had been an abomination of late. He's one of the most influential midfielders in the league and shored up their biggest position of need. Meanwhile, Eric Bailly really came on late in the year and showed why the Red Devils expect him to be the heart of their defense for a decade. That alone would make for a successful summer, but they also added Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Their "miss" of the summer was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who still contributed and can be a plenty useful player.
When you're Manchester United, you can afford to spend big. Money isn't how you're judged. Getting linchpin centerbacks and central midfielders, while shoring up the attack is what matters, and Manchester United did that. They transformed their spine. It was a hell of a summer.
Manchester City had an awful summer
Pep Guardiola was coming to Manchester City ... and they spent the summer signing a bunch of players, but only one central midfielder? That was an unforgivable transfer plan and even moreso when you consider that their lone central midfield signing was the often injured Ilkay Gundogan ... who got hurt. The Citizens also failed to shore up their fullbacks.
Guardiola had to adjust to the Premier League, but he also tried to implement his midfield-heavy system with too few central midfielders and ones who weren't good enough at that, while also papering over fullback holes. That's an abomination when you have Manchester City money to spend.
Swansea City were salvageable after all
The Swans were awful under Francesco Guidolin, so they fired him. Then Bob Bradley took over and they were still terrible. Through two managers at Christmas, it looked like they had no chance and they were too flawed to stay up. The thinking was that nobody could win with the Swans. But Paul Clement came in and completely turned the team around. This team that was beyond saving was able to stay up.
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The back three is popular again
Chelsea started the season playing four at the back, but it didn't take Antonio Conte to switch to his preferred three-man defense. Tottenham Hotspur followed not long after. Those two teams finished the season atop the league, flummoxing teams with their systems that had been rare in the Premier League for years, especially among the league's top teams. By the end of the season, even Arsenal were playing around with three at the back, albeit with much less success.
The Premier League is full of copy-cats. Bet on even more teams trying three at the back next season. It's back.
The top of the Premier League has never been this deep
The best teams in the Premier League aren't among the best in Europe, so it's not as if the top of the league is better than it's ever been, but it sure is deeper than ever before.
Consider that Manchester United was ruled out of top-four contention before the final week of the season -- the Red Devils are an awfully good team that in other seasons could have finished as high as second. Everton will be seventh, but in other seasons may have snuck in the top four. These are teams with Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku finishing sixth and seventh.
Meanwhile Chelsea are going to finish with an above-average point total for a champion and Spurs are excellent too. The Premier League legitimately went seven teams deep with very good sides this season. It was incredible.
Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku are the Premier League's best strikers
Is Kane or Lukaku the best striker in the Premier League? You can pick either, but it's looking increasingly clear that they're the best two.
Lukaku leads the league with 24 goals, while Kane is only two back despite missing three months with various injuries. Lukaku dragged along an Everton attack that was impotent without him and Kane spearheaded a Spurs team that needed him to press and pass as much as score.
Diego Costa is outstanding, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero are undoubtedly brilliant, but it's Kane and Lukaku who stand above the rest right now. Not bad for two players who aren't yet 25 years old.
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The money throughout the league shows
The Premier League's new TV deal means everyone has money. Everyone.
And that's how Swansea can hold onto someone like Gylfi Sigurdsson, West Ham can nab Manuel Lanzini and Middlesbrough can take Alvaro Negredo. It doesn't matter where you look, there's quality throughout the league. It's not as if just the top teams can afford good players now. The mid-table and bottom teams have never had this much talent.
Liverpool have figured out their striker woes
"Liverpool desperately need Daniel Sturridge to stay healthy" was a thing people said before the season, before laughing. And to the surprise of no one, Sturridge didn't stay healthy, but it didn't matter.
Roberto Firmino may not be a perfect striker, but he proved he can be an adequate goalscorer and a danger with the ball at his feet in his second season. Meanwhile Divock Origi scored nine goals despite limited playing time and showed that he's not far off from being a real force. Jurgen Klopp may go looking for another striker this summer and the Reds would obviously love to have a dominant frontman, but they're going to be just fine regardless with Firmino and Origi.
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