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Fulham Season Review

FulhamImprovement: -9 points (16th)

Net Spend: -£15.2m (20th)

Fulham repeated many of last season’s results in their fixtures this season, with their 9-point deterioration caused by only a handful of results.

The Cottagers took the same number of points from their fixtures as last season up until mid-December, but an inability to repeat wins at QPR and Liverpool (A) saw them performing worse for the first time.

Again, the club took the same number of points from their next 17 fixtures (B), with their impressive win at Tottenham cancelled out by defeat at home to Arsenal. But defeats at home to Reading and Liverpool saw them with 12 fewer points than last season, with their win at Swansea on the final day reducing the deficit to leave them on 43 points.

It seems that after their 3-2 win at home to QPR at the start of April took them to the 39-point mark that the Cottagers believed that survival was assured, as they went on take only 4 points from their final 8 fixtures in which they took 10 points last season.

Although Fulham were one of the worst-performing sides in the Premier League compared to last season, it can be argued that the loss of key players Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey and the lack of money spent to replace them (no club spent less in net terms than Fulham) means that a deterioration is understandable.

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Everton Season Review

EvertonImprovement: +7 points (4th)

Net Spend: £3.5m (14th=)

After a stronger start than previous seasons and with 11 more points on the board than last season from January onwards (A), many believed that Everton had a chance of finishing in the Champions League places. However, the Toffees actually took 4 fewer points from their first 27 fixtures and were on course for a mid-table finish in mid-February (B).

The reason for such disparity was that in their final 8 fixtures (C), Everton had to travel to Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, so while they did improve significantly in their final 11 fixtures, they were always unlikely to manage to replicate the impressive end-of-season form of previous seasons.

However, with a net spend of just £3.5m this season, it’s unlikely that even the greatest managers would have been able to bring about the 17-point improvement that would have been required to contest the Champions League places, and the club can view their improvement of 7 points as a success.

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Chelsea Season Review

ChelseaImprovement: +11 points (1st)

Net Spend: £69m (1st)

After taking 11 more points from their fixtures than last season, Chelsea were the most-improved side in the Premier League this season. But considering that they had the highest net spend over the two transfer windows, it can be argued that significant improvement was to be expected.

By securing Champions League qualification as well as the Europa League trophy, Rafael Benitez’s time as interim manager has generally been viewed as a success. After a poor start with draws at home to Manchester City and Fulham and defeat at West Ham (A), it seems that Benitez steadily improved the club into finishing in a much better position than last season (B).

However, when Benitez took charge in November, the London club had already taken 10 more points than last season from their opening 12 fixtures under his predecessor Roberto Di Matteo. In the 26 fixtures under the Spaniard, Chelsea in fact took only 1 more point than they did for their 6th-placed finish last season. This supports the belief that Di Matteo was sacked more for failures in other competitions – a heavy defeat in the Super Cup, failure to qualify from the Champions League group stage – for while the club’s Europa League success was undoubtedly the work of Benitez, the improvement in the League was brought about under the management of Di Matteo.

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Aston Villa Season Review

Aston VillaImprovement: +3 points (8th)

Net Spend: £19.5m (6th)

Confidence appears to have played a key role in the season of Aston Villa’s young squad, who endured a rollercoaster season of ups and downs which thankfully came to a stop with Premier League survival assured.

Defeats to West Ham and Everton in their opening 2 fixtures put the Villains in trouble almost immediately, but wins against Swansea, Sunderland, Reading and an impressive 3-1 win at Liverpool meant that they were on course to avoid the worries of a relegation battle in mid-December.

However, an 8-0 defeat at Chelsea seemed to knock the players’ confidence and their season off the rails, as they took only 2 points from 7 fixtures in which they took 13 points last season (A).

But while defeats to West Ham and Everton brought a bad start to the season, the results in the reverse fixtures in February brought about the revival which saw the club safe. Taking on board the importance of beating the clubs around you, Aston Villa improved their results in fixtures against QPR, Stoke, Sunderland and Norwich, while their 1-1 draw against Fulham was the only fixture in which they failed to either equal or improve on last season’s result in their final 13 games.

An eventual 3-point improvement sees Aston Villa as one of the Premier League clubs to improve on last season, with Paul Lambert’s laudable decision to trust the club’s youngsters vindicated at season’s end.

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Arsenal Season Review

ArsenalImprovement: +3 points (7th)

Net Spend: £3.5m (14th=)

Arsenal’s season was one of two halves – a steady deterioration in results compared to last season until mid-January, then an almost constant improvement until the end of the season which saw them clinch the final Champions League place ahead of arch-rivals Tottenham.

Taking 5 more points from their opening 7 games than last season (A) gave the misleading impression that the Gunners started this season strongly, given that they took only 7 points from their first 7 games in 2011-12.

The club took fewer points from their fixtures than last season throughout 2012, and while it seemed that their 2-0 home defeat to Swansea at the start of December was the lowest point in those winter months (B), an inability to repeat wins at home to Manchester City and away at Chelsea in January meant they took 15 points fewer from their first 22 fixtures than last season (C).

However, their 5-1 win at home to West Ham saw the beginning of an incredible run of form, with their goalless draw at home to Everton in April the only fixture in which they failed to either equal or improve on their result from last season. Arsenal took an average of 2.44 points from those final 16 games (compared to 1.64 from their first 22), which if maintained over an entire season would provide an almost title-guaranteeing 93 points.

Given that Arsene Wenger spent just £3.5m (net) in the two transfer windows, a final improvement of 3 points on last season – and the Champions League place it guaranteed – means that the season can be viewed as a relative success for the London club.

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Fixture Performance – March (and April 1)

Winners & LosersNote: To separate clubs that have improved the same amount, points taken is used.

Everton and West Ham were the most-improved sides in the Premier League in March, taking six more points from their three fixtures than they (or in West Ham’s case, Wolves) did last season.

While the Toffees gained an impressive win against Manchester City, it was actually their wins at home to Reading and Stoke that has seen them improve, having suffered ‘shock’ home defeats to Bolton and Stoke last season. West Ham, meanwhile, secured two victories in three fixtures which Wolves lost last season, with their other fixture being an arguably expected defeat at Chelsea.

QPR also enjoyed a relatively good month, taking six points from four fixtures in which they took only a single point last season – though their wins at Southampton and at home to Sunderland were dampened by defeat at Aston Villa.

March was a volatile month in terms of repeating results from last season, with only Manchester United, Manchester City and Norwich taking the same number of points from their fixtures and only the two Manchester clubs repeating the exact same result in each fixture.

Swansea suffered something of a Carling Cup hangover, as defeats away at West Brom and at home to the two North London clubs – offset slightly by victory over Newcastle – saw them take four points fewer from their fixtures than last season.

Of all the Premier League clubs, Sunderland and Stoke deteriorated the most in March, taking five points fewer from their four fixtures than they did last season – a deterioration that ultimately saw Martin O’Neill lose his job.

Season improvement

We can see how the results in March affect the overall improvement table below:

Improvement TableNote: To separate clubs that have improved the same amount, net spend is used.

After being the two most-improved sides in the Premier League going into March, Swansea and Chelsea drop down three places after a relatively poor month. Liverpool are now the most-improved side in the Premier League, having taken eight more points from their 31 fixtures so far than last season.

As it stands

To show how clubs’ performances to date might impact on their final league position, if they were to repeat their results from last season in their remaining fixtures, the final Premier League table would look like this:

Final Table

Note: To separate clubs on same amount of points, current league position is used.

After taking the maximum nine points from their three fixtures in March, Manchester United remain on course to finish with a Premier League record 96 points. Manchester City are still set to finish with 83 points, assuming that they repeat their win at Old Trafford this month.

Tottenham and Chelsea are still on course to finish in the Champions League places, though with them deteriorating in March and Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton all improving, their lead in the race for the top four has been cut from 13 points to nine and eight points respectively.

The relegation battle remains as close as before, with only three points separating Wigan from bottom club Southampton. However, with regards to the Saints, Blackburn didn’t take any points from their remaining seven fixtures, so it is likely that they will finish on a higher points total than currently predicted. Despite sitting on just 23 points as it stands, QPR and Reading remain on course to finish with 36 and 35 points respectively, as QPR and Bolton took 13 and 12 points from their remaining seven fixtures respectvely last season.

To see how each club has performed over the course of the season so far, go to the ‘Season Comparison’ links at the top of the page and select a club from the drop-down menu.

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Fixture Performance – February

Winners & Losers

Note: To separate clubs that have improved the same amount, points taken is used.

Newcastle, Liverpool and Southampton were the most-improved sides in the Premier League in February, taking 3 more points from their 3 fixtures than they did last season. The Magpies turned a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea last season into a 3-2 win this time around, the Reds gained a point away at the Etihad and 2 more at home to Swansea, while the Saints recorded an impressive win against champions Manchester City.

8 teams took exactly the same number of points from their 3 fixtures last month as last season, with 5 clubs repeating the exact same results in each fixture. Arsenal and Tottenham took the maximum 9 points from their fixtures, dragging once-comfortable Chelseawho took 3 points fewer than last season due to their defeat to Newcastle – into the battle for the Champions League places.

Everton’s hopes of a Champions League place dwindled further in February, with defeats at Old Trafford and Carrow Road seeing them take 2 points fewer from their fixtures than last season.

Of all the Premier League clubs, champions Manchester City deteriorated the most in February, taking 5 points fewer from their 3 fixtures than they did last season. With their inability to repeat wins at home to Liverpool and away at Southampton (they won 4-0 at Blackburn last season) coupled with Manchester United taking 2 more points than last season with their win against Everton, it could be argued that February was the month the title race died.

Season improvement

We can see how the results in February affect the overall improvement table below:

Improvement TableNote: To separate clubs that have improved the same amount, net spend is used.

Swansea are the most-improved side in the Premier League, having taken 9 points more from their 27 fixtures so far than last season. This is all the more impressive when you consider that Michael Laudrup has achieved this with a net spend of -£10m (only Fulham have spent less this season).

Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool are the next most-improved sides, although considering they have been 3 of the biggest spenders in the Premier League this season, it can be argued that significant improvement was to be expected.

Arsenal and Newcastle remain at the bottom of the table, with significant improvement needed in the remaining few months if aims of Champions League and Europa League qualification are to be achieved.

As it stands

To show how clubs’ performances to date might impact on their final league position, if they were to repeat their results from last season in their remaining fixtures, the final Premier League table would look like this:

Final Table

Note: To separate clubs on same amount of points, current league position is used.

Manchester United’s 2-point improvement in February means they are currently on course to regain the title with a Premier League record 96 points. Manchester City’s 5-point deterioration last month, meanwhile, means that they are on course to finish 13 points behind their arch-rivals, even if they repeat their win at Old Trafford in April.

Despite Chelsea taking 3 points fewer than last season from their 3 fixtures in February, both they and Tottenham are currently set to finish 13 points clear of any other challengers in the race for the Champions League places.

The fight to avoid the drop is currently set to go down to the wire, with only 2 points separating Wigan from 18th-placed Aston Villa. Despite their 3-point improvement in February, Southampton remain in the relegation zone, though this is based on Blackburn taking only 4 points from the Saint’s remaining 11 fixtures last season. Despite having only 17 points with 11 fixtures to go, QPR are still not completely out of the race, having taken 14 points from their remaining 11 fixtures last season.

To see how each club has performed over the course of the season so far, go to the ‘Season Comparison’ links at the top of the page and select a club from the drop-down menu.

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