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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear

Hats off to Orient, jeers for Chelsea and Spurs - Capital Football's end-of-season review

So that is that, then. Give or take a cup final or two. Oh, and the small matter of a European finale for West Ham – the team that could yet end with an extra flourish and a slight rethink about the points tally we at Capital Football have awarded.

Here is our annual summary of how the clubs we feature fared. Our seven regular writers have given marks out of 10, based on expectations and results and are pretty much unanimous in voting League Two champions Leyton Orient as our biggest achievers of the year.

But hats off too to Arsenal, Brentford and Fulham for outstanding campaigns. The brickbats go to two other London ‘giants’ in Spurs and Chelsea, who had seasons they will want to forget.

Our writers’ ratings are next to each club with their initials to identify individual scores. They represents Paul Lagan (PL) Julian Taylor (JT) Charlie Stong (CS) Dan Evans (DE) Ben Pearce (BP), Alessandro Schiavone (AS) and Yann Tear (YT).

AFC Wimbledon

YT 2 JT 3 DE 2 PL 3 CS 3 BP 3 AS 3 = 19

Definitely backward steps this season in League Two, and some first stirrings of dissatisfaction among the fanbase for a while. The Dons finished in an alarming 21st position, only five points better off than relegated Hartlepool. The progress in style and confidence that seemed to be showing under Mark Robinson last season gave way to a collapse and near-miss and this year again, they flirted with disaster under Johnnie Jackson. A home win over Walsall in March was the Wombles' only success in the final 19 fixtures of the season and unless they show a marked improvement, they will be among the dead men again this time next year. The loss of their star player Ayoub Assal in the winter window was a huge blow and it seems likely that top scorer and Iraqi international striker Ali Al-Hamadi will be moving on in the summer. Plough Lane needs to become a fortress as a first step to regaining a foothold and ensuring the fairytale rebirth story does not hit the rocks.


YT 8 AS 9 CS 9 PL 7 DE 9 BP 8 JT 8 = 58

Only the grinding, unstoppable force of Man City denied the Gunners an unlikely title and after so many years of being way off the pace, their points tally was nothing short of astounding. In plenty of seasons gone by it would have been enough to claim top spot. The relatively small squad and thin bench could not quite keep up with relentless City towards the end, but should not diminish the pride. Without Mikel Arteta’s hugely entertaining young side, there would have been no title race. Bukayo Saka and Gaby Martinelli excelled. William Saliba was superb until the injury which played a part in Arsenal running out of steam. Aaron Ramsdale, Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey all had moments to savour too. Bridging that gap to City seems as tough a task as ever and reinforcements will be needed to have any chance of a repeat thrill-ride, especially with the added workload that will come from a very welcome return to Champions League football in the autumn.


YT 8 BP 8 DE 9 PL 8 JT 8 CS 8 AS 8 = 54

They have totally forgotten what a bad season looks like. The pre-season forecast was that a second go at Premier League football would prove even harder than the first, yet there they were taking on (and often beating) the very best. A double over Man City, wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham. They feared no-one and played with identity and grit. Benn Mee and Ethan Pinnock were so good, the loss to injury of skipper Pontus Jansson was hardly noticed. David Raya, Rico Henry and Bryan Mbeumo are all first-rate top division players and helped create a sense that the Bees are now totally at ease in these surroundings. Thomas Frank’s hand will hopefully stay on the tiller, because he is undounbtedly a vital component in all this success. In the past the structure at the club has allowed for comings and goings in the hotseat without disruption, but they won’t want to test that theory by letting Frank go. The Ivan Toney saga was the only blot on the horizon, but they seemed to cope well without him. His goals (and flawless penalties) were vital elements in the narrative, however, and even if he does not move on to another club, he will not be allowed to play until January.

Charlton Athletic

YT 4 CS 6 PL 5 DE 6 BP 5 JT 4 AS 6 = 36

Another unremarkable season for Addicks fans to endure. They did not threaten the play-offs in what was a highly competitive division this season and 10th place summed up the mid-table ennui that sparked debates about ownership and future direction. Ben Garner arrived with a no-nonsense reputation but was gone by December. Dean Holden is now in charge and desperately trying to accumulate some goodwill. It was good to see a Leaburn doing well at the Valley – son Miles aiming to win hearts in the way dad Carl once did - but obvious success stories were thin on the ground. Jesurun Rak-Sakyi top scored with a healthy 15. George Dobson was the near ever-present who gave his wholehearted best. But it is a sign of the inconsistency and failure to find a dependable formula that an incredible 54 different players were used throughout the season.


YT 1 AS 1 CS 2 PL 1 DE 1 BP 1 JT 4 = 10

Never in their wildest dreams would Chelsea fans have imagined it could ever be this bad. From perennial title contenders to the sixth best team in London. A 12th place finish represents their worst return for three decades and the relentless litany of bad decisions made by new owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali resulted in a hideous turnover of managers and an incontinent splurge on expensive players without any coherent strategy behind it. Was this really a season that featured Thomas Tuchel as head coach? That seems so long ago. But the Graham Potter era was never going to fly and Frank Lampard’s return was an embarrassment. No proven strikers among the many new arrivals and big names underperforming contributed to the alarming slump. The club must hope Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival will draw a line in the sand and begin the process of returning the Blues to more familiar territory among the Premier League elite.

Crystal Palace

YT 5 CS 5 PL 6 DE 6 BP 6 JT 6 AS 6 = 40

Roy Hodgson did such a good job as caretaker boss that there might well be a temptation to keep him on for another year, but the long-term plan is still up in their air. What Uncle Roy did instill after replacing Patrick Vieira was a greater sense of adventure – which has not been his default in the past. The well of talent is undoubtedly there and it was given a freer reign perhaps. Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise looked the part and Marc Guehi has come into the England reckoning. Wilf Zaha remained the talisman but the creativity has been shared. The feeling persists that the Eagles would have survived had Vieira stayed as he continued to grow into the role. Others on the inside suggest some players had lost confidence and faith in the Frenchman after a mid-season slump which caused alarm bells to ring and an element of panic in that mangerial change. They could do with a reliable marksman to take them to a higher level. For now, they have to be happy to be such an established Premier League outfit, but Leicester City’s slide out of the division this season is a warning that they cannot afford to be complacent next term.


YT 7 CS 9 PL 7 DE 9 BP 8 JT 7 AS 8 = 55

Well that was better. Excellent summer recruits in the shape of Joao Palhinha, Andreas Pereira and Willian added ballast to the team that came up from the Championship and this time, Aleksandar Mitrovic proved he could play at the top level, as Tim Ream set about convincing everyone that his previous floundering at this level was all a mirage. This time, the Whites never looked like being relegation material as they had been on their two previous (brief) visits to the Premier League. Marco Silva ensured their was steel to go with the silk. So much so that we only saw cultured skipper Tom Cairney used as a sub throughout most of the campaign. Only the FA Cup implosion at Old Trafford spoilt the overall picture of contentment. The football was often a joy to watch and the Craven Cottage faithful got their money’s worth, which might be an issue going forward after controversially elevated season ticket prices were announced to slightly dampen the feelgood factor. Still, the gleaming new Riverside Stand will soon (finally) be full and optimism justifiably abounds.

Leyton Orient

YT 9 CS 10 PL 9 DE 10 BP 9 JT 9 AS 10 = 66

A gun-to-tape charge to the League Two title made Brisbane Road a happy venue again and fans will be champing at the bit to check out the new fixture list in a couple of weeks’ time. Apart from a slight wobble mid-season, when Stevenage threatened to usurp their position when only one win came in seven games, Richie Wellens’ team never looked like dropping away from their lofty perch. They secured promotion with four to play and could even afford to celebrate after a defeat – at Gillingham – when the elevation was confirmed. They had been on a run of 13 without defeat before then. Only Paul Smyth reached double figures for goals in the league, as the responsibilities were shared around. The main ingredient underpinning the triumph was a sound defence and workmanlike midfield. Only 34 goals were shipped in 46 games, the legs of George Moncur and Idris El Mizouni protected a backline featuring Omar Beckles, Tom James and dependable stopper Lawrence Vigouroux. They last competed in the third tier in 2015, so it will feel like good old days returning to the Matchroom Stadium when they renew their acquaintance with that division.


YT 6 CS 7 PL 7 DE 6 BP 7 JT 7 AS 7 = 47

The Lions roared almost to the very last, pipped at the post in the mad scramble for that last play-off place by Sunderland – much good it did them. The subsequent success of Luton tells Millwall that theirs is not a forlorn dream and their continuing presence on the cusp of those top six places is testament to their consistency in the upper echelons of the Championship. Gary Rowett has not needed to alter his recipe too much to maintain those high standards. The Den remains a tough place to visit. Tom Bradshaw and Zian Flemming will get you goals. Jake Cooper, Dan McNamara and Murray Wallace will walk barefoot over broken glass rather than concede cheap goals. Their defensive parsimony deserted them at the wrong moment, with eight conceded in the final three games, which included that crazy 4-3 defeat to Blackburn on the last day. But Lions fans have to feel proud of their team. They continue to punch above their weight and you wouldn't bet against them pushing for a place among the promotion chasers once again.


YT 2 CS 3 PL 3 DE 2 BP 3 JT 3 AS 3 = 20

While their near neighbours flourished, Rangers withered on the vine. They were setting themselves up to regain some much needed west London kudos when they began the campaign in style under Mick Beale, but that quickly turned to rubble. The manager barely had time to soak up the adulation of adoring fans by invoking the loyalty card in rebuffing an overture from Wolves before he was off to take charge of the other Rangers up in Glasgow. With successor Neil Critchley almost instantly looking out of his depth, the team spiralled into freefall and it looked like a one-way ticket to relegation had been purchased. The return of former hero Gareth Ainsworth did not arrest the slide as the Hoops’ abject run extended to a solitary win in 21 matches. They looked doomed. Then somehow, improbably, they won at runaway champions Burnley and then at Stoke on successive Saturdays and the terror was over. Player of the season Sam Field was the only ever-present but the flair players Ilias Chair and Chris Willock were only occasionally at their best in a team consistently on the back foot. A huge summer rebuild is needed, and Ainsworth knows it will be far from easy.

Sutton United

YT 4 CS 5 PL 5 DE 6 BP 5 JT 4 AS 6 = 34

The Ambers finished 14th and in contrast to last season’s first taste of League Two football, did not mount a play-off challenge – or at least they faded out of the picture after a terrible end to the season. Home form remained fairly reliable and kept them afloat but the fact remains that after beating lowly Crawley at the beginning of March, they failed to win another game – a run of 11 games. Matt Gray has been a reassuring presence at the helm for four years and overseen the club’s magnificent rise into league football. They finished eighth last year and his overall record is excellent. But he will realise the pressure is on him now to make sure the end of season slump is not carried into the start of next season. Goals were hard to come by, with two players tied on six goals in the league – Omar Bugiel and Will Randall-Hurren. Defender Joe Kizzi managed to start all 46 games, the only player to do so. There was a double over south London neighbours AFC Wimbledon, but early cup exits to MK Dons (Carabao Cup) and Farnbough (FA Cup) added to the feeling this was a campaign which did not deliver what last season had promised.


YT 3 CS 4 PL 5 DE 4 BP 3 JT 4 AS 4 = 27

The announcement that one of the club's all-time heroes – Pochettino - will be at bitter rivals Chelsea next year just about capped a season of misery for Spurs fans. Disaffection was never far away. They saw their team fall apart under an avalanche of visceral criticism from Antonio Conte, and the lack of a plan to replace the volatile Italian summed up the malaise. Dithering and uncertainty have followed as even the caretaker boss had to be axed - Ryan Mason taking over from Cristian Stellini for the final matches. Daniel Levy has become the focal point now of a club without a clear plan about who should be the next head coach or about the on-pitch identity. And there will be no European football next year after a dismal second half of the campaign. The drop off in form of Heung-min Son sums up the malaise. The list of under-performers seemed endless: Hugo Lloris, Clement Lenglet, Richarlison, Dejan Kulusevski. You could name others. How much longer can 30-goal Harry Kane put up with such a project? At times, he really has seemed the only true reliable positive to hold on to.


YT 4 PL 4 BP 4 JT 4 CS 4 BP 4 AS 4 = 28

The Hornets got what they deserved – which was nothing. In fact, it was worse than nothing, as one of the raft of managers they saw fit to move on after only a few games in charge, Rob Edwards, then led bitter rivals Luton back into the Premier League, leapfrogging the supposedly more fancied men from Vicarage Road. Where they had looked strong enough to bounce back straight away after relegation last time they were in the Championship, this time they struggled to impose themselves and were not even strong enough to make the play-offs, even though the competition to make the top six was wide-open. Slaven Bilic and Chris Wilder were added to the glut of blink-and-you-missed-it episodes at Watford. There have now been 12 different managers since Marco Silva was in charge five years ago. Only Joao Pedro really shone consistently for the mid-table Hornets, who are finally paying the price for totally abandoning the tight family unit feeling which once characterised the club under Graham Taylor.

West Ham

YT 6 CS 6 PL 3 DE 6 BP 6 JT 5 AS 5 = 37

They had perhaps the original ‘too good to go down’ team back in the day when Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Paolo Di Canio, Freddie Kanoute, David James and company could not prevent the drop, so Hammers fans more than most knew that their reputation alone, and having a squad seemingly fit for purpose, might not be enough. At times the clamour to dismiss David Moyes was deafening. But the board wisely kept faith and the ship was steadied. With players of the quality of Declan Rice, Lucas Paqueta and Jarrod Bowen, it really should not have been an issue. But there was quite a fall-off from last season’s excellent seventh place finish and run to the Europa League semi-finals and it became too close for comfort. In the end, they remembered who they were and turned it on to beat Man United, banishing those worries. Now, to cap it all, they are in the final of the Europa Conference League next week. Whatever happens against Fiorentina in Prague, that is still a great achievement. A first Euro final since 1976. The first silverware for 43 years within reach. It has to go down as a half-decent season overall.


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