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BLUE DAY: City captain Vincent Kompany enjoys the moment with team mates

MANCHESTER CITY'S third Premier League title was a long time coming but that did not make the denouement any less impressive.

City’s near frictionless progress through Pep Guardiola’s second season at the Etihad delivered some of the finest football seen on these shores. Amid the goals, plaudits, and 100 points, the continued development of Raheem Sterling and the evolution of Fabian Delph demonstrated that, for all their financial might, Guardiola is a supreme coach at work.

The contrast with Jose Mourinho’s runners-up at Manchester United was stark. Their astounding 3-2 win at the Etihad in April left observers exasperated that a team of their talent did not play that way more often.

Others had their flaws too. Tottenham started slowly at their adopted Wembley home, but largely impressed, with players and manager alike further burnishing their reputations. For all that, a trophy or credible title challenge eluded them but, as they return to the rebuilt White Hart Lane, there is cautious optimism around Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

Liverpool’s ability to blow teams away in spurts has paved their way to the Champions League final but their defensive fragility undermined their domestic campaign. Jurgen Klopp’s team delighted in the main and, in Mohamed Salah, gave Africa and its diaspora its third consecutive PFA Player of the Year.

Beyond those four, the gradual creation of a top six ensured that Chelsea and Arsenal missed out on the Champions League.

The Blues still have an FA Cup final to look forward to but a title defence never really materialised, with Antonio Conte looking at times frustrated and indifferent. The Italian will depart this summer as the Blues reshuffle their pack once again.

At Arsenal, the talk of the departing Arsene Wenger’s legacy cannot, for now, obfuscate another season of drift and underachievement. The Gunners look well short of a title challenge regardless of who their new manager may be.

Below the so-called big six, few would have predicted Sean Dyche’s Burnley challenging for Europe. Even if the Clarets have scaled the height of their ambition, that is not something most can say. Here’s looking at you, Everton.

The Toffees began to smell smoke in the autumn and when Sam Allardyce was recruited in a firefighting role the nature of the fare on offer did little to endear him to the Goodison Park faithful.


WILL HE OR WON’T HE: Zaha was Crystal Palace’s talisman

Over in the east midlands, there is an after the Lord Mayor’s show vibe at Leicester, where Claude Puel is almost certain to depart. The Foxes have, in Riyad Mahrez, arguably the finest talent outside the top six – although some may make a case for Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha.

Below Leicester were Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’s status on Tyneside could not be any higher after keeping one of the lesser squads comfortably in the division. The highest finishing of the three promoted teams, who all survived.

Equally impressive has been Roy Hodgson’s redemption job at Palace, where he rescued a team without a win or a goal in its first seven matches, and rehabilitated his own reputation in the process.

Bournemouth generally had one eye looking over their shoulder but rarely looked in real danger, even if they seldom had cause to look up.

West Ham survived almost in spite of their efforts behind the scenes. David Moyes must take immense credit in halting the decline that begun under Slaven Bilic and the Hammers may consider retaining his services beyond this campaign.

Watford, who jettisoned their own manager Marco Silva before Christmas, survived with little fuss in the end. It is, however, difficult to imagine Javi Gracia remaining at Vicarage Road for long.

From managerial changes in Hertfordshire to modest stability on the south coast. There have been few universal outpourings of goodwill such as that which accompanied Chris Hughton’s Brighton securing Premier League safety in their maiden campaign.

Brighton’s fellow Premier League debutants, Huddersfield, like Newcastle, looked ill-equipped to survive the rigours of a top-flight season but David Wagner coaxed a crucial number of results and performances from a limited squad and did his reputation no harm in the process.

Further down, Southampton looked doomed at Easter, only to save themselves with a late run. All the same, the years of pillaging of their players and management finally took its toll.

Swansea were another side who ran out of gas during the season and they paid the ultimate price. Carlos Carvahal replaced Paul Clement and looked to have saved the Swans at one stage, but their miserable late-season form saw their hopes cruelly dashed for the second time during the season.


MOORE OF THAT: West Bromwich Albion coach did himself proud

Could Darren Moore have auditioned any better for the vacant West Bromwich Albion job? Few teams make the descent to the Championship brimming with optimism but Moore’s efforts in restoring pride after a campaign deserve a permanent contract.

Mark Hughes may have kept Southampton up but he made a significant contribution to Stoke’s demise. Paul Lambert came in but had little to work with and relegation became a question of when, not if.

On that front, nine Premier League managers lost their jobs across the season but not one of the eight permanent replacements was from an ethnic minority. Of the two that sat in the dugout, one was promoted from the Championship and the other was parachuted in as a quick-fix emergency option.

So there is still work to be done across the Premier League.

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