Premier League 2014-15: End of season review
Chelsea won the Premier League with three games to spare, while Burnley, QPR and Hull were relegated into the Championship.
But which of those outcomes did I predict when I previewed the Premier League season in August?
Who has impressed and who hasn't? Which teams, players and managers have sprung a surprise and which have disappointed?
Here I go through each team and rate their performance, as well as my own...
CHELSEA 1st (prediction 1st)
Manager: Jose Mourinho 9 out of 10 Players: 8 out of 10 Season: 8 out of 10
Chelsea were worthy Premier League champions as they were the best team from start to finish, setting the pace from the opening games with flair, then finishing strongly with resilience to complete the job. The Capital One Cup made it a season of double success but marks off for a Champions League campaign that ended in the last 16.
Mourinho put the finishing touches to the side that finished last season empty-handed by signing a goalscorer in Diego Costa and a midfield creator in Cesc Fabregas - and in Eden Hazard he had the season's superstar.
MANCHESTER CITY 2nd (prediction 2nd)
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini 5 Players: 5 Season: 5
Manchester City made a lame attempt at defending the title - especially after the turn of the year when Chelsea moved into the distance and manager Manuel Pellegrini seemed unable to inspire his side - and there was even a worry at one stage that they would not make the top four.
Eventually finished second but a poor season by their standards and by the standards of the players in their squad. Yaya Toure, usually City's key performer, was pedestrian so expect City's driven and ambitious Abu Dhabi-based owners to put matters right this summer.
ARSENAL 3rd (prediction 5th)
Manager: Arsene Wenger 6 Players: 7 Season: 7
At no stage, however, were Arsenal ever relevant to the Premier League title pursuit so no tangible progress, especially after a disappointing Champions League exit to Monaco. Still off the pace and with work needed to be done.
The end-of-term report will read better if they can beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup final at Wembley on 30 May.
|Arsenal have qualified for the Champions League group stages for the last 18 seasons|
MANCHESTER UNITED 4th (prediction 3rd)
Manager: Louis van Gaal 7 Players: 7 Season: 7
The idea of United finishing in the top four was greeted by scorn before the start of the season, but with a proven manager of Louis van Gaal's ilk in place and quality still in the squad it was always a realistic possibility.
Van Gaal shuffled his resources, £59.7m signing Angel Di Maria and on-loan striker Falcao were big disappointments, but he got it right during a golden spell that brought big wins against Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City. No trophies but a season that will have satisfied Old Trafford's powerbrokers.
TOTTENHAM 5th (prediction 7th)
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino 6 Players: 6 Season: 6
The emergence of striker Harry Kane and reaching the Capital One Cup final, where they lost to Chelsea, were highlights but in many respects Pochettino's first season at White Hart Lane was one where Spurs stood still.
The impression remains that the Argentine has still not got the players he wants - or needs - to implement his trademark high pressing style.
LIVERPOOL 6th (prediction 4th)
Manager: Brendan Rodgers 5 Players: 4 Season: 5
Said pre-season that this could either be the start of a great Anfield era or one of the great missed opportunities after just failing to win the Premier League last year. Now we know.
A season of three parts. Poor until December, then excellent until March before a collapse that saw Liverpool lose to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final and miss out on the Champions League places - in other words a failure.
Rodgers and his transfer committee have had a poor return for an outlay of more than £100m, armed with £75m just from the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Now they must work out how to replace iconic captain Steven Gerrard and solve the unrest surrounding Raheem Sterling.
And as if all that was not unsettling enough, the horrendous humiliation of that last day 6-1 thrashing at Stoke City will be a shock that will reverberate through the entire club - and not the best result for manager Rodgers to take into his end-of-season review with owners Fenway Sports Group.
SOUTHAMPTON 7th (prediction 14th)
Manager: Ronald Koeman 9 Players: 8 Season: 8
Never joined the band expecting Saints to be relegated but never expected such an outstanding season either after Pochettino left for Spurs and players such as Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers were sold.
New manager Ronald Koeman made some magnificent acquisitions and guided Saints through a season that was a delight to everyone at St Mary's. Outstanding.
SWANSEA 8th (prediction 16th)
Manager: Garry Monk 8 Players: 7 Season: 7
Never expected the Swans to be in trouble but they not only survived under manager Garry Monk, they flourished for a deserved top-half finish and a club record Premier League points haul of 56.
Monk's astute handling of his squad and sound grasp of tactics marks him down as a manager with a bright future at the Liberty Stadium.
STOKE 9th (prediction 9th)
Manager: Mark Hughes 8 Players: 7 Season: 7
Fine campaign of consolidation, and more, as Mark Hughes built on his first season in charge after succeeding Tony Pulis in 2013, with a second one in which Stoke secured a club record points tally in the Premier League.
Hughes has repaired a reputation damaged at QPR and is ambitious enough to look for further ways to progress The Potters next season.
CRYSTAL PALACE 10th (prediction 12th)
Manager: Neil Warnock 3 / Alan Pardew 8 Players: 7 Season: 7
A season separated by the struggles until Neil Warnock's sacking in December and the successes and optimism engendered by the appointment of Alan Pardew.
Palace looked doomed until Pardew returned to Selhurst Park, but were rejuvenated almost instantly and ended in perfect safety, powered by the attacking talent of players such as Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon.
EVERTON 11th (prediction 6th)
Manager: Roberto Martinez 5 Players: 5 Season: 4
From the high ground of almost qualifying from the Champions League last season, Everton's decline has been sharp and much of the season deadly dull, played out among much unrest from supporters about the somewhat passive style of play under Roberto Martinez.
No cup runs to offer hope and little of the excitement of last season. Big summer ahead for Martinez as Everton must keep star turns such as Romelu Lukaku, James McCarthy, Ross Barkley and John Stones while rebuilding to challenge the top six again.
WEST HAM 12th (prediction 11th)
Manager: Sam Allardyce 5 Players: 5 Season: 6
A disappointing second half of the season overshadowed all the good results of the early months of the campaign when Sam Allardyce's team played fine football and goals were flowing around the attacking impetus of Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho.
The tame conclusion has left the Hammers in a state of flux, with Allardyce leaving and a replacement needing to be appointed to lead them towards their move into the Olympic Stadium for the 2016-17 season.
|Big Sam's West Ham reign|
|Allardyce had been at the club since June 2011, earning promotion from the Championship in his first season in charge and ensuring that the team finished no lower than 13th place (2013-14) in his three top-flight campaigns.|
WEST BROM 13th (prediction 19th)
Manager: Alan Irvine 4 / Tony Pulis 8 Players: 6 Season: 6
Feared for West Brom pre-season after the appointment of Irvine, who had failed in previous posts at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday. Those concerns were realised as Irvine, a gentleman and a fine coach if not a manager, lost his job in December after only seven months with West Brom in 16th place.
In came Tony Pulis and the relegation worries drifted away. Pulis, whose work is so often underrated, organised West Brom brilliantly and the landmark win at Old Trafford was a testimony to his expertise.
LEICESTER 14th (prediction 18th)
Manager: Nigel Pearson 7 Players: 7 Season: 7
This pre-season prediction was almost looking a trifle optimistic as The Foxes struggled and lay bottom of the table at the start of April. There was little sign of what was to come, even though they had always been in games throughout the campaign.
Manager Nigel Pearson was a controversial and divisive figure who had argued with one of his own fans, appeared to throttle Crystal Palace's James McArthur in a touchline clash and bizarrely called a reporter "an ostrich" in an embarrassing televised attack.
All that was forgotten as he inspired an outstanding late run to safety, rattling off wins against West Brom, Swansea City, Burnley, Newcastle and Southampton to move away from trouble.
NEWCASTLE 15th (prediction 8th)
Manager: Alan Pardew 6 / John Carver 3 Players: 3 Season: 3
Only defence for this optimistic pre-season prediction was the rider that plain logic could never be attached to Newcastle United. And so it has proved.
Newcastle were ninth after Pardew's last game, a win against Everton in late December. He left for Crystal Palace and John Carver was appointed in what now looks the rather complacent belief that there was no threat of relegation.
Carver's hapless reign was underlined by eight straight defeats that culminated in the 3-0 loss at Leicester and his subsequent astonishing attack on defender Mike Williamson, who he suggested had got himself sent off deliberately.
The club has been little short of a shambles in the closing weeks of the season.
SUNDERLAND 16th (prediction 10th)
Manager: Gus Poyet 4 /Dick Advocaat 8 Players: 5 Season: 4
Sunderland failed to build on the momentum from last season's escape and the threat of relegation saw the end of Gus Poyet in late March with only nine games to go.
It was a gamble by owner Ellis Short but one that worked after the appointment of the experienced Dick Advocaat saw Sunderland rediscover their steel and collect enough points to survive with a game to spare.
|Advocaat at the Black Cats|
|Sunderland is the 20th - and final, he says - job Advocaat has taken as a manager or assistant|
|The Black Cats had won just four games before he replaced Gus Poyet on 17 March|
|He has previously had four stints on the coaching staff of the Netherlands national team|
ASTON VILLA 17th (prediction 17th)
Manager: Paul Lambert 4 / Tim Sherwood 8 Players: 6 Season: 5
Villa, as a club and a team, looked to be dying a slow death until the labouring Paul Lambert was sacked in February after they dropped into the relegation zone.
Tim Sherwood's positive outlook has electrified Villa Park - Christian Benteke, in particular. The new manager has not only steered them out of trouble but has also guided them to the FA Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley.
Win there and those marks go up.
HULL 18th (prediction 13th)
Manager: Steve Bruce 5 Players: 5 Season: 4
Hull City thought they were edging towards safety with wins against Crystal Palace and Liverpool, but it was a false dawn and they were back in trouble.
The vast experience of Steve Bruce was not enough to keep them from the drop and big-money buys such as Tom Ince and club record signing £10m Abel Hernandez - a Uruguayan brought in from Palermo - were failures. Bruce now faces what he will regard as a Herculean task of rebuilding from the Championship.
BURNLEY 19th (prediction 20th)
Manager: Sean Dyche 7 Players: 5 Season: 4
High marks for Dyche, despite relegation, for getting everything out of players who were huge on spirit but ultimately short on Premier League quality. Could he have spent more? Maybe - but others in trouble have spent big and it has not kept them away from danger.
Burnley have not been short of effort and application but simply lacked enough players who could turn around those fine margins, their inability to score goals a very obvious flaw.
QPR 20th (prediction 15th)
Manager: Harry Redknapp 4 / Chris Ramsey 4 Players: 3 Season: 2
A shocking season from first to last. Hopeless under Harry Redknapp and not much better under Chris Ramsey. Looked a relegated side for most of the season.
Now face the prospect of losing stand-out performers such as Charlie Austin and also goalkeeper Robert Green. Just a dismal, joyless season and quite a reconstruction job for Ramsey after his permanent appointment.