Premier League 2021-22 fans’ verdicts, part two: Liverpool to Wolves | Premier League


Liverpool

What a season this has been. And still is. We go into the last day with a chance of the title, the Carabao and FA Cups already in the cupboard, and the Champions League final to come. Even if City do seal it today, from being written off and 14 points behind in January we’ve had a blast getting here. Our European adventure saw us sail through the group stage and move on to make it to the final. Again. Then there’s Wembley, two finals, two trophies. It’s been the best. Klopp is the best. These are the days. Whatever happens today, it’s 10/10.

Stars/flops Every single member of the squad starred for us, the boss and his staff. There have been no flops.

Biggest surprise There’s always joy and despair and what might have been, but I could never have expected it to be such a journey. The momentum of these past couple of months has been an incredible ride. Of course there’ve been defeats, two, and heart-in-the-mouth moments, but we’ve come out on top. It’s impossible to doubt this team.

Best/worst away fans The worst? All those who sang about poverty and slums while having food banks outside their own stadiums. All those who mocked the Hillsborough victims, the 97 who were unlawfully killed, their families, friends and survivors. It could have happened to any football fan. The best? Palace, who spent 90 minutes singing for their team – no drum was a bonus!

Moment that made me smile Klopp signing an extension to his contract.

Steph Jones

Jürgen Klopp: incredible journey.
Jürgen Klopp: incredible journey. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Danehouse/Getty Images

Manchester City

Despite the lack of trophies to show for it (for now at least …) it’s been fantastic. Pep has worked his magic yet again. We’re the top scorers in the Premier League with 96, and that’s without a proper striker. When you consider our top league scorer is De Bruyne with 15, it’s a remarkable goals total. Obviously we suffered heartbreak (yet again) in the Champions League, but that’s cup football for you. One minute of madness and you’re out. We’ll get there, though. And then there’s today. A chance to win the league in front of your home crowd. It doesn’t get any better than that. 9/10

Stars/flops A real team effort, with a few standouts, namely Bernardo, Rodri and De Bruyne. They’ve been brilliant, driving the team on and chipping in with massive goals. Rodri, arguably the most consistent of the three, has won possession back more than any other player in the league this season. Flops? None, but I’d say Ederson has had a disappointing season of shot stopping.

Biggest surprise The number of times we scored. And another 90+ points season, too. Pep really is a genius.

Best/worst away fans Spurs were loud, but (as ever against us) they had a lot to cheer about. Chelsea were quiet, surprisingly so. And a mention for West Ham’s home fans: their stadium was rocking last weekend.

Moment that made me smile Brighton 4 United 0. Great stuff.

Lloyd Scragg ninetythreetwenty.com; @lloyd_scragg

Rodri: consistent in the middle.
Rodri: consistent in the middle. Photograph: James Gill/Danehouse/Getty Images

Manchester United

Truly awful. I’ve never felt more detached from my club in all my life, with the parasitic owners at the top and a team of pampered egomaniacs who lack the heart and desire to put in a shift. Hiring an interim manager was a disaster: the players clearly didn’t respect him or his methods, which is nothing new for this group, but Ralf just continued with the same broken formula and picked the same side, all the while talking a good game. 3/10

Stars/flops We were overreliant on the brilliance of Ronaldo but even he couldn’t get a tune out of this lot. Pogba sums up the way our club is run. He left on a free, returned for a record fee, then put in single-digit noteworthy performances in six seasons, and regularly let his agent say how much he wants to go, and how much better he is than United. I’ll be glad to see the back of him.

Biggest surprise After a summer of adding real, proven talent, it was incredible how poor we were at times – 0-5 to Liverpool, 0-2 and 1-4 to City. It’s not just how bad we have been, it’s the sense of betrayal as players once again stopped trying.

Best/worst away fans Middlesbrough brought over 10,000 on a Friday night, and were definitely up for the Cup. The worst were Leeds: not a peep out of them as soon as we scored.

Moment that made me smile Jesse Lingard seriously wanting a send-off from the same supporters who are glad to see the back of him.

Shaun O’Donnell

Paul Pogba: better than United?
Paul Pogba: better than United? Photograph: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Newcastle

We were going nowhere but down under Ashley and Bruce; going to games was a real chore. But the takeover changed everything. Now the atmosphere is the best it’s been for years, with Eddie Howe moulding a seemingly unfit and disorganised side into a slick, cohesive unit – proof of his motivational and tactical acumen. At last, the club, players and fans are pulling in the same direction. It’s a joy. 7/10

Stars/flops Joelinton has been transformed under Howe’s stewardship, while Bruno Guimarães could take us to the next level. Kieran Trippier made an instant impact when he joined in January, while Geordie giant Dan Burn and Villa loanee Matt Targett have shored up a very leaky defence. As for flops, Ciaran Clark and Jamaal Lascelles have been fantastic servants but were exposed time and time again earlier in the season.

Biggest surprise Last August we were resigned to another long season of relegation dog-fighting Bruceball. A few months later and look where we are now. You just never know what life is going to throw at you.

Best/worst away fans Cambridge were best – and they got the result their lively support deserved. But Manchester United fans seemed as bewildered as their players.

Moment that made me smile A hungover Sam Fender trying to hold it together on BBC Breakfast the morning after the takeover. Top lad!.

David and Richard Holmes

Bruno Guimarães: next level.
Bruno Guimarães: next level. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images

Norwich

Take your pick from woeful, gutless, pathetic, joyless and/or abject. Despite many members of Delia Smith’s fan club arguing otherwise, there’s no evidence whatsoever that being a self-funded club and being in the Premier League are even close to being compatible. It’s a noble ideal, but football is never going to wait for Norwich City. Neither Daniel Farke nor Dean Smith are responsible for this mess – that rests firmly with the owners and the board. 1/10

Stars/flops It’s probably easier to say who hasn’t flopped, and that boils down to just Grant Hanley and Teemu Pukki. Nine new faces arrived last summer and none made us any better, and that includes Billy Gilmour. While he (and Chelsea) will benefit from his season in Norfolk, he wasn’t what was needed in a relegation-battling team feeding off scraps.

Biggest surprise A lot of what’s happened behind the scenes, with a series of high-profile blunders – like having to ditch a far east betting company as the main shirt sponsor when it became clear their advertising was full-throttle Carry on Thailand – and some equally high-profile departures on the admin side have left us looking unprofessional and rudderless.

Best/worst away fans Newcastle’s are the best for their noise and passion, and the worst for the way they’ve allowed themselves to be seduced by Amanda Staveley and co, and that pile of Saudi riyals. Eugh.

Moment that made me smile Leeds’ fans telling our prime minister what they thought of him on live TV. And our fans’ chant at Selhurst – “Let’s pretend we scored a goal” – followed by a raucous faux-celebration. Gallows humour at its finest.

Gary Gowers myfootballwriter.com; @Gary_Gowers; @MFW_NCFC

Billy Gilmour: not what Norwich needed.
Billy Gilmour: not what Norwich needed. Photograph: Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Southampton

After many signs of promise at various stages, it’s ultimately ended in bitter disappointment. Our season felt over after the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Man City: the manager and players have performed as such since then, which has been infuriating. In many quarters that has placed the manager’s position in question. 5/10

Stars/flops James Ward-Prowse has been the standout in terms of consistency and big moments that have decided games in our favour. Mentions, too, for Tino Livramento and Kyle Walker-Peters. Jan Bednarek has gone backwards very quickly, though, while it’s looking like Oriol Romeu may have just ticked over the “legs have gone” boundary in recent weeks.

Biggest surprise I’m pretty sure nobody would have foreseen Fraser Forster being back in the team as first choice, putting in performances which would justify a new contract. It looked very much like he’d played his last game for us some time ago.

Best/worst away fans Best were Chelsea, though they had plenty to shout about when they were 4-0 up in 25 minutes. The worst were probably Arsenal. A laughable sense of entitlement. The only thing we heard from them all afternoon was whinging.

Moment that made me smile I was a big fan of Antonio Conte losing the plot completely when his Spurs team went 2-1 up against us in February, only to concede two identical goals in a couple of minutes to lose the game. A long-overdue win at Tottenham, back in that brief spell when we were genuinely really good.

Steve Grant SaintsWeb.co.uk; @SteveGrant1983

James Ward-Prowse: big moments.
James Ward-Prowse: big moments. Photograph: Matt Watson/Southampton FC/Getty Images

Tottenham

I’m going to go with 8.9/10 because we started the season with Nuno, fluked three games, then it fell apart and we stood staring down the abyss of a wasted season. Then enter the man we tried to get in the summer. Imagine what we might have achieved with a pre-season with the Italian maestro? Probably third place. Antonio, meltdowns included, has been a revelation. No chance of Champions League football … now we’re one point away. His experience and drive to be utterly obsessed with ambition and a winning mentality is the reboot we needed. Surely we don’t lose to Norwich. Right? Hello?

Stars/flops Flops have to be Lo Celso and Ndombele – arguable quality, but no application to succeed in N17. Stars? Too many to mention. Romero is tremendous, a ball carrying centre-back who can glide like a butterfly and smash like Hulk. Kane and Son have been world class, Harry forgiven for his Disney trip in the summer. Son is truly special, he loves us, he gets it. Deki and Bentancur have hit the ground running (see, Gio and Tanguy, it can be done!).

Biggest surprise Doherty and Emerson’s redemption arcs, along with Sess. I guess coaching from a world‑class manager works wonders.

Best/worst aways fans Best? West Ham. Mainly because they want to beat us so badly, it is a borderline religious experience for them. Bursting bubbles is wholesome fun. Worst? Them lot down the road. Why? Mostly because north London is ours and their over-compensated merchandise-wearing entitled fans bottled it harder than their players.

Moment that made me smile In hindsight, Nuno subbing Lucas in the 3-0 home defeat to United: a sliding doors moment. Because of that, we’re a point from fourth. Oh and there’s more. We got booted out of Europe due to the NHS shutting us down. Arsenal had one Covid case and hid behind the sofa.

Spooky Podcaster for The Fighting Cock and Spooky in Purgatory (Patreon); @spooky23

Cristian Romero: smashes like Hulk.
Cristian Romero: smashes like Hulk. Photograph: James Gill/Danehouse/Getty Images

Watford

Torture. Even the opening-day win over Villa propelled by the joy of everyone being back in the stadium came with a cruel subtext. We’d galloped into a 3-0 lead before conceding twice … a misleading portent of a successful season stained, in retrospect, with a vulnerability that would cost us throughout. The big eye-catching victories over Everton and Man United (Ranieri’s only two and all the odder for it) were false dawns, highlighting a threat on the break that we were never able to fully mobilise. Home fans saw a single point and nine goals after that 4-1 thrashing of United in November. Merited 3-0 defeats to two terrible teams in Norwich and Leeds were probably the low points. Roy Hodgson did himself no favours with his curmudgeonly refusal to play to the gallery and inability to instil any fight or attacking shape. Relegated at Palace, old friends Marco Silva and Bournemouth promoted – only Luton’s playoff defeat spared us the full set. Nonetheless, the worst season in 50 years. 0/10

Stars/flops Hassane Kamara joined in January, gave us half a campaign of dynamism and excitable errors from left-back and ran away with player of the season. This is all you need to know. There were many, many flops but Rose and Tufan top the charts, while Sierralta’s fall from last season’s high perch was baffling.

Biggest surprise The lack of attacking threat, whatever the concerns about the defence. We were far, far less than the sum of our attacking parts.

Best/worst away fans Everton were the best. That’s how to get behind your team in their hour of urgency. We were often the worst, but mercifully seem to have lost a lot of the gurning, crass doughnut chorus somewhere along the way.

Moment that made me smile Smiling you say? Yes … I think I read about that in a book once, but remind me?

Matt Rowson bhappy.wordpress.com; @mattrowson

Hassane Kamara: player of the season.
Hassane Kamara: player of the season. Photograph: Visionhaus/Getty Images

West Ham

Beating Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs and drawing with Man City at home provided great memories, proving West Ham are indeed massive. Got to be happy with getting to the Europa League semi-finals, while finishing at least seventh means the club have qualified for Europe in consecutive seasons through league positions for the first time. Plus the London Stadium has started to feel like home. Moyes has done a fantastic job at instilling resilience and spirit in a small squad. The only criticism is that some signings in January might have given us a real tilt at the top four. 8/10

Stars/flops Jarrod Bowen has really come on as a top-quality striker with 18 goals, while impressing both Dani and Danny Dyer. Declan Rice has been excellent, probably our best player since Bobby Moore. Special mention to the unsung Craig Dawson who has been heroic in an injury-ravaged defence. And even though the goals dried up after Christmas, Antonio has always been a handful up front. Soucek has looked very tired at times, but the main flops have been £26m Vlasic, and the loan signing Alex Kral.

Biggest surprise Kurt Zouma and catgate was certainly a feline mess. A better surprise was that Antonio stayed fit all season. The club’s work on his training, diet and lifestyle seems to have really paid off.

Best/worst away fans Villa fans were the best for applauding Yarmolenko when he came on and scored soon after the Ukraine invasion. In Europe Eintracht Frankfurt deserve praise for their bouncing up and down and sea of flag waving. The worst? Rapid Vienna means nothing to me, but their ultras caused some trouble.

Moment that made me smile Enjoyed the assistant referee falling over against Man City and getting a chorus of “Are you Grealish in disguise?” And I have to admit the Watford fans were quite witty when Zouma got clattered: “That’s how your cat feels!”

Pete May Author, Goodbye to Boleyn; hammersintheheart.blogspot.co.uk

Jarrod Bowen: top quality.
Jarrod Bowen: top quality. Photograph: Rob Newell/CameraSport/Getty Images

Wolves

It started and ended badly but had plenty of joy in between. Bruno Lage has proven there is life for us after Nuno and had us dreaming of Europe for much of the season. But a disastrous finish and the continuing drought in front of goal mustn’t be ignored: there is much work for him to do over the summer. 7/10.

Stars/flops José Sá has been our star. When the side were at their best they were barely conceding and he was the main reason. Max Kilman also deserves mention for becoming a mainstay in a strong back three. The attacking play has been one big flop, but I’d say that’s a collective disappointment rather than one individual misfiring.

Biggest surprise I didn’t think it would be possible to average less than a goal a game for a second consecutive season and avoid relegation, but we’ve somehow done it and still managed over 50 points. I wouldn’t like to risk a third attempt.

Best/worst away fans Leeds were the best – as raucous as you might imagine, having come back from two down at Molineux to win in the last minute. The Watford fans were quiet but their team put on a disastrous effort in a midweek thumping so you can’t blame them too much.

Moment that made me smile It was nice of the Villa players to come out on rollerskates for their defeat at Molineux, as recorded in this slips compilation on TikTok.

Thomas Baugh wolvesblog.com; @wolvesblog

José Sá: star performer.
José Sá: star performer. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Part one: Arsenal to Leicester





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