Every Premier League club’s season graded early – Arsenal’s title push to Liverpool’s Klopp send-off

Jordan Campbell, Jacob Tanswell and more

With the international break ending, the Premier League returns on Saturday as Newcastle United host West Ham United in the early kick-off.

Seven other top-flight matches are being played on Saturday before a big day on Sunday when the title fight gets going again: Liverpool host Brighton, and Manchester City and Arsenal go head to head at the Etihad.

Most teams have nine or 10 games left to avoid the drop, seal a European spot or make a decisive blow in the title fight, but how has every club got on this season?

Here The Athletic writers give their early grades — and outline what is left to play for.


Premier League run-in on The Athletic


Arsenal

Grade: A

The only reason it is not A+ is that Arsenal were dumped out of both cup competitions early but, in truth, only two competitions really mattered this season and they are in contention for both.

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After the traumatic end to last season, being in the title race at this stage, never mind leading it, would have been a solid follow-up to the surprise of last season’s charge.

After a slow first few months, their football has gradually become more fluid and they have cancelled out the defensive shakiness that plagued them last season. They have also found a way to get the best out of their two expensive summer purchases, which is never easy.

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What’s left to play for?

The small matter of recording the best season in the club’s history.

Twenty years on from the Invincibles, Arsenal need to show their steel down the home run to prove that this team can get over the line.

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But Mikel Arteta has spoken passionately about wanting to create a European legacy. Come through the tie against Bayern Munich and they could be on course to end two long trophy droughts.

Jordan Campbell


Grade: A+

Aston Villa are fourth. A great position, made better by the continued adversity Unai Emery’s side has faced. Three anterior cruciate ligament injuries, recurring setbacks to key players leading to a depleted squad and the ability to combine playing in Europe for the first time in 13 years with Premier League ambitions.

Villa are the one team threatening to break the top-six monopoly and go one better by reaching the Champions League. A remarkable season.

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What’s left to play for?

Qualification for the Champions League, breaking Premier League records under Emery, Ollie Watkins winning the Golden Boot and Villa winning the UEFA Conference League, having reached the last eight in the competition. So, to curtly answer the question, almost everything.

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Watkins has scored 16 league goals this season (Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Jacob Tanswell


Grade: B

Their season under new manager Andoni Iraola got going eventually. It took a bit of time for his style of play to kick in. A 2-0 win over Newcastle United in November felt like the realisation of his footballing ideologies. That kicked off a period of seven games unbeaten and was fundamental in Bournemouth keeping themselves out of any relegation scrap.

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They are in 13th, 14 points off Nottingham Forest who are in the drop zone. They are playing Iraola’s way with a young, fun team who still have room to improve.

What’s left to play for?

Alongside mathematical survival, can they dream of a sneaky top-half finish? Why not? They are five points off Newcastle in 10th and have 10 games left. Any push for a top-10 finish will be defined by how they handle upcoming clashes against three teams below them; Everton, Crystal Palace and Luton Town.

Caoimhe O’Neill


Grade: D

After finishing ninth in the Premier League last year, Brentford were confident of achieving another top-half finish. They signed Nathan Collins from Wolves for a club-record fee of £23million and identified Mark Flekken as David Raya’s replacement. 

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After a mixed start, injuries to key players — including first-choice full-backs Rico Henry and Aaron Hickey — began to take their toll. They have lost seven of their last 10 fixtures and are only five points above the relegation zone. Ivan Toney’s return from an eight-month ban has been a boost, but Thomas Frank’s side are in danger of returning to the Championship.

What’s left to play for?

The only focus for Brentford now is avoiding relegation. Last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Burnley stung and their next three games are against Manchester United, Brighton and Aston Villa. Frank needs to unite the squad and hope players return to full fitness quickly to navigate their way out of this mess. 

Ivan Toney


Toney’s return has been timely but Brentford remain in trouble (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Jay Harris


Brighton

Grade: B+

This was always going to be a challenging season for Brighton, coping with competing in Europe for the first time.

Especially after the sales in the summer transfer window of influential midfield partners Alexis Mac Allister to Liverpool and Moises Caicedo to Chelsea.

Roberto De Zerbi has also been perpetually undermined by injuries which have robbed him of key players.

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They did well to top their group in the Europa League, recovering from one point from the first two matches to finish above Marseille, Ajax and AEK Athens.

Exits from the last 16 of both the FA Cup and in the Europe League, within a fortnight of each other, were major disappointments, though.

What’s left to play for?

Never lower than 10th in the table and currently in eighth position, De Zerbi’s side remain in the thick of a fight to clinch European qualification for the second season.

Andy Naylor


Grade: E

Without points deductions, Burnley would all but mathematically be relegated. However, in the season of the asterisk, they still have a chance entering the final stretch.

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It has been a miserable season with their fourth league win only coming this month against Brentford. The feel-good factor and momentum built up from last season were extinguished quickly and it has been a massive struggle. After a summer of spending £90million to try and make their squad competitive, not enough players have stepped up.

It is a squad packed with youth and inexperience so survival was always going to be a huge task, but player development and the long-term plan cannot disguise this season from what it has been.

What’s left to play for?

Somehow, someway, a great escape is still possible. They are five points from safety with nine games to go. It still feels improbable but improved performances against Bournemouth and West Ham eventually led to three points against Brentford. There is now a sense of belief.

Andrew Jones


Chelsea

Grade: D

In many ways, it has been a case of: progress, what progress? Chelsea finished 12th last season and with 11 games remaining, they are just one place higher.

They are in danger of conceding the most Premier League goals in the club’s history. They have let in 45, just 10 fewer than their ‘worst’ tally of 55 (1994-95, 1996-97).


Palmer, right, has been one of few bright points for Pochettino and Chelsea (Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Reaching the Carabao Cup final and another FA Cup semi-final has at least provided more excitement than last season, although the draws have been kind to them. Cole Palmer’s brilliance has too.

But the mood among the fanbase is getting increasingly tense, with the owners, head coach Mauricio Pochettino and highest earner Raheem Sterling all on the receiving end of negative chanting and abuse.

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What’s left to play for?

There is still a chance for the grade to improve, starting with lifting the FA Cup. It is going to be difficult as they face holders Manchester City in the semi-final and probably Manchester United in the final. A strong end to the Premier League season could still see them qualify for Europe, but expectations they can put the good run required to do so are not high.

Simon Johnson


Crystal Palace

Grade: C-

There have not been too many standout moments for Crystal Palace this season, but 14th in the table is par for the south London side, especially in a season that was always going to be focused on maintaining stability. 

Roy Hodgson’s slightly uncomfortable but very much necessary departure encapsulated an awkward and frustrating season for Palace.

Occasional sparkles of joy — which mainly came during seven games Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise have been fit enough to start together — have been dampened by a relentless injury crisis affecting key players, notably midfield lynchpin Cheick Doucoure.

What’s left to play for?

With a particularly weak promoted trio and points deductions creating even more of a cushion, Palace won’t be looking over their shoulder during the run-in. Instead, focus will be on new manager Oliver Glasner trying to evolve the style of play into something more palatable for fans next season.

Reuben Pinder

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Everton

Grade: C

Everton’s performances have been far better than the previous two seasons, with Sean Dyche’s team boasting one of the league’s best defences and with improved underlying attacking numbers. The problem, however, has been taking those chances.

Everton have underperformed in attack more than any other team in the league — and have endured an 11-game winless run as a result.


Everton haven’t won a league game in 2024 (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

There are plenty of positives — the development of Jarrad Branthwaite and Vitalii Mykolenko; the assimilation of James Garner and Jack Harrison — but Everton are still at risk of relegation.

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What’s left to play for?

Staying in the Premier League. This is not the fault of Dyche’s staff, with Everton handed a six-point deduction (initially 10) for breaking profit and sustainability rules (PSR). However, with the club set to learn their punishment for a further breach in the coming weeks, and currently just four points clear of the relegation zone, their poor finishing means they are in another battle.

Jacob Whitehead


Grade: A-

Context is key to viewing this season. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s departure was unexpected and he was not replaced. Amid speculation about manager Marco Silva’s own future, and Joao Palhinha going so close to a departure, expectations had dropped.

But Fulham could still match last year’s achievements. They are well clear of the drop zone, and have picked up eye-catching results; victories over Arsenal and Tottenham, as well as a first win at Old Trafford for 21 years. And there was also a first League Cup semi-final, which was narrowly lost to eventual winners Liverpool.

Fulham have been inconsistent but at their best, they are an entertaining team. Despite losing Mitrovic, Fulham have adjusted and have steered well clear of any second-season syndrome. Silva’s work has been impressive.

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What’s left to play for?

Could Fulham really push for a top-eight finish, and maybe Europe? It’s a long shot, as they are four points adrift and have played more games than those above them. A realistic target may be to better last season’s finish. In 2022-23, they won more games than ever before in the Premier League (15) and were just one point shy (52) of their record points total (53). With nine games to play, Fulham need four more wins and 15 more points to improve on last year’s showing.

Peter Rutzler


Liverpool

Grade: A 

Rewind to August and Liverpool’s main target for the season was simply to regain their Champions League status.

It had been a turbulent summer. They missed out on Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, who both opted to join Chelsea. There were fears about the potential impact of losing so much experience with the exits of captain Jordan Henderson and vice-captain James Milner.

Liverpool


Harvey Elliott has stepped up this season (Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

However, those concerns were quickly dispelled as new leaders emerged, new signings proved their worth and an array of academy graduates flourished.

Not even an injury crisis or Klopp’s bombshell news in late January that he would step down at the end of the season dented their momentum. They won the Carabao Cup and maintained a challenge on all fronts before last weekend’s FA Cup defeat to Manchester United.

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What’s left to play for?

Plenty. With 10 games to go, Liverpool find themselves behind Premier League leaders Arsenal on goal difference with Manchester City a point adrift. It’s a thrilling three-horse race for glory as Liverpool try to ensure Klopp gets the dream farewell.

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There’s also the small matter of trying to win the Europa League — the only major honour to have eluded Klopp. If Liverpool get past Atalanta in the last eight and then either Benfica or Marseille in the semis, the stage is set for a likely final showdown with Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen in Dublin on May 22.

James Pearce


Luton

Grade: A

Luton have far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Coming into this season after their miracle promotion to the Premier League under Rob Edwards, many feared the worst. For Luton to have 22 points after 29 games is remarkable. And not only that, but they have been playing vibrant and fluid football.

They have been one of the best teams to watch, not just for their joyous energy but also for the drama. They never know when they are beaten. On their shoestring budget, to be even here in the first place is incredible but they are real contenders to avoid relegation.

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What’s left to play for?

Survival. Luton have nine games to stay exactly where they are right now: one point above the relegation zone. What is slightly problematic is in three of their next four games they face Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City away from home. Crucially, they do have four home games remaining against Bournemouth, Brentford, Everton and Fulham. If we didn’t already know it, the power of Kenilworth Road is quite something. If Luton are to remain in the Premier League, that place and those fans will be integral to it.

Caoimhe O’Neill


Manchester City

Grade: A

When Manchester City are at their very best they are A* (or A** really), and that is the level they are still striving for this season.

They have flaws but they are still at an extremely high level — to be going into April with the hope of winning the treble, a year after actually winning it, shows just how good they still are even if they have not reached the very top level.

In terms of those flaws, they are a bit more open on the counter-attack and a bit weaker defensively. That might explain why they have only beaten Manchester United out of the ‘Big Six’ this season. But being one point off the top of the league, things are obviously not too bad.

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What’s left to play for?

Everything! The FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea comes soon after the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid. In the league, they have Arsenal on Sunday. So, a big month in April. And if they do well: another big month in May.

Sam Lee


Manchester United

Grade: C-

One of the most expensive squads in world football is sixth in the Premier League and out of Europe. There have been 21 wins and 16 defeats. 65 goals scored, 62 conceded. In the league alone, the goal difference is a flat, round zero.

It’s impossible to give United anything above a middling grade. Given their size, stature and spending, they should arguably be marked down further. But this season has been as eventful off the pitch as on it and has not been without positives. That epic FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool, for starters.


(Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund have emerged as a promising, youthful core pointing to a brighter future. Most importantly of all, the Glazer family have stepped back from the day-to-day running of the club and Sir Jim Ratcliffe is threatening to finally get United’s house in order.

Erik ten Hag is still looking for more consistency. Unless he finds it quickly, this will likely be a season to forget. But its legacy could be a long and positive one.

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What’s left to play for?

The win against Liverpool, on a weekend when Aston Villa and Tottenham dropped points and after a good week for England’s coefficient, changed the complexion of the run-in. Winning a trophy and qualifying for the Champions League — by finishing fifth, if needs be — would have to be considered making the best out of a difficult year.

Mark Critchley


Newcastle United

Grade:

Maaaaannnn, this is difficult. On the one hand, this has been a season crammed with extraordinary moments; a ground-shaking 4-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain, wins over both Manchester clubs in the Carabao Cup, a 5-1 win against Aston Villa, beating Sunderland for the first time in forever and a few more besides. Compared to their recent past, reaching two domestic cup quarter-finals is a miracle.

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The problem is the other hand; compared to last season, a Wembley final, fourth place in the Premier League and a team that harried and pressed every week, this long stretch of sapping injuries, tired performances and waning identity feels bloody awful. Newcastle are 10th, have had two difficult transfer windows and are losing Dan Ashworth, their sporting director, to Manchester United. 

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What’s left to play for?

Europe. Recover in the league and put on a spurt and, given the circumstances, a C could become a B. It could also become a D or worse. Newcastle desperately need some forward momentum and aim to make Europe their natural home.

George Caulkin

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Nottingham Forest

Grade: D

This is difficult to judge because Forest’s position in the bottom three is, at least in a small way, influenced by events either off the pitch or out of their control. As well as the four-point deduction for breaching PSR, there have been injuries, players missing while at the Africa Cup of Nations and a string of refereeing decisions that have bordered on the farcical.

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Realistically, the goal this season was always to survive. Though their struggles have not all been of their own making, some of them have. Such as conceding 19 goals from set pieces.

What’s left to play for?

Forest’s only goal should be to better Luton’s results — and those of Burnley, Sheffield United and the other teams around them — in the remaining games.

Paul Taylor


Sheffield United

Grade: F

It’s been a shocking season. Three wins in 28 games, 74 goals conceded, 20 defeats, an 8-0 home thrashing… need we go on?

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What makes the last eight months all the more painful is it was wholly predictable. Selling your best two players just before a new season starts rarely ends well. Leaving it late to then sign any replacements, effectively writing off the first three games, just compounded the problem.

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What’s left to play for?

Pride. Three wins in the final six games of the 2020-21 season ensured another United side out of its depth at the top level didn’t join Derby County, Sunderland, Huddersfield et al on the list of all-time worst Premier League teams. A similar upturn is needed now.

Richard Sutcliffe


Tottenham

Grade: A-

Given the consensus at the start of the season was that qualifying for Europe would be a decent outcome, the fact Spurs can go fourth if they win their game in hand means they have exceeded expectations. 

Throw in the fact they sold the best player in their modern history the day before the season started and what they’ve done has been even more impressive. Especially as they’ve done it playing such exciting football, and with players visibly improved under Ange Postecoglou. 


Postecoglou has had a solid first season at Spurs (James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

What’s left to play for?

Champions League qualification is very much within reach, especially as fifth place could end up being enough.

Postecoglou would also say that more important than where they finish is the opportunity the final 10 games of the campaign provides for his team to grow, learn and improve ahead of next season. 

The early cup exits have been the biggest disappointment, though one of those was to Manchester City. 

Charlie Eccleshare


West Ham

Grade: B

If you ignore the conjecture surrounding David Moyes’ future, West Ham United are seventh and in the quarter-final of a European competition for a third season in a row. Even if Moyes’ side were to lose against Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen, they still have a chance of qualifying for Europe next season via the league.

Then you factor the performances of Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, Mohammed Kudus, Alphonse Areola, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri and Edson Alvarez. There are numerous contenders for player of the year. It is hard to recall a season when this has been the case. The disappointment of losing to Bristol City and Liverpool in cup competitions still lingers. But all things considered, it has been a good season.

What’s left to play for?

They could win the Europa League. Leverkusen only narrowly beat Qarabag to advance to the quarter-finals, which will give Moyes’ side plenty of confidence. If this ends up being Moyes’ last season, the players will intend to end it on a high.

Roshane Thomas


Grade: B

It feels like a harsh grading given the feeling of positivity that Gary O’Neil has brought back to Molineux. It would have been an A had Wolves not been careless in giving away two opportunities in cup competitions, first in the EFL Cup at Ipswich and then, much more heartbreakingly, last weekend in the FA Cup defeat to Coventry.

And it would have been an A* had they found better solutions to breaking down low-block Premier League teams at home.

But they are really the only two areas where O’Neil and his side can be faulted this season.

What’s left to play for?

A place in Europe is still possible through a seventh or eighth-place league finish. It is a tall order, given the mounting injury issues at Wolves, but this team have risen to challenges repeatedly.

Steve Madeley

(Top photos: Getty Images)



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