Liverpool are good – very, very good – we can agree on that.
But what about the rest?
Surely one of the other 19 Premier League teams must be considered ‘good’, even in a loose or vague sense?
Man City have scored 91 league goals in 2019/20 and you wouldn’t bet against them bringing up their century in the curtain-closer.
The former champions regularly outperform opponents to an almost laughable degree, often giving Premier League fixtures the appearance of an FA Cup third round tie between giant and lower-league underdog.
And yet they’ve lost nine Prem games this season, more league defeats than Pep Guardiola suffered in three years with Bayern Munich.
In many ways, City are good – brilliant even – but if we’re isolating their league campaign and taking into consideration resources, expectations and recent history, it’s difficult to view 2019/20 as anything other than underwhelming, such are their standards.
At the time of writing, Chelsea occupy third place in the league table.
With three games to play, the Blues have 60 points, meaning the best tally they can hope for, and one that would guarantee the bronze medal, is 69 points.
By way of contrast, Man United’s 69 points in 2016/17 was only enough for them to finish 6th— Arsenal finished 5th with 75 points.
The relatively modest points totals of the teams competing for the European places below Man City is evidence of an unusual season populated by flawed sides.
Chelsea have entertained in attack but their vulnerabilities in defence have become more apparent as the season has progressed.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has failed to live up to his price tag while Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso have also been guilty of personal errors.
Many fancy Frank Lampard to improve next season with Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and possibly Kai Havertz joining the squad — can one of you lads play centre-back?
But this season, you’re unlikely to find a reasonable observer who would adjudge them ‘good’ without adding a caveat.
Rewind a few months and Leicester were the absolute definition of a good team.
Brendan Rodgers’ first-choice back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Caglar Soyuncu and Ben Chilwell functioned superbly for the majority of the season; the absence of the Portuguese right-back has been a key factor in their decline.
In Wilfred Ndidi, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison, they have a well-balanced midfield trio among the best in the league.
Jamie Vardy leads the line and no player has scored more Premier League goals than the animated No9 this season.
However, we can’t ignore their slump since the turn of the year.
Since a 4-0 win over Newcastle on New Year’s Day, the Foxes’ have only won three of their 14 league fixtures.
Their most recent result – a horrendous 4-1 defeat to relegation-threatened Bournemouth – was a severely damaging blow to any claims they may have to be ‘good’.
Champions League qualification appeared a formality at one stage but now Europa League action in 2020/21 seems just as likely.
Like Chelsea, their losses tally has reached double figures and a significant portion of the good will towards them has eroded in recent weeks.
Man United’s story of 2019/20 is almost a reverse of Leicester’s.
The first half of the season was largely underwhelming as promising performances were punctured by inexplicable defeats the following week.
In contrast to Leicester, they have grown in strength and identity as the campaign has progressed, not least due to the arrival of Bruno Fernandes in January.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are both enjoying their best campaigns from a goalscoring perspective while the additions of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have fixed some (but not all) of their defensive issues.
United are undefeated in their last 11 league games and remain the Prem’s in-form team despite Southampton’s last-gasp equaliser on Monday night.
A case could be made for Man United being ‘good’ since the Fernandes-prompted revival but it would be remiss to forget the first half of the season when some were yelling crisis.
To be declared ‘good’ you can’t have caused a mass meltdown on Twitter that lasted several weeks.
Next up are Wolves and Sheffield United — two teams who met each other in the Championship just two seasons ago.
If we penalised Man City for underperforming against expectations then it’s only right we credit the Blades for being in the mix for European qualification considering the cost and wage bill of their squad.
Chris Wilder has done a tremendous job at motivating and organising the troops at Bramall Lane in an innovative fashion, only Liverpool have conceded fewer goals this season.
Wolves are not deprived of individual talent with the likes of Ruben Neves, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez providing a certain degree of star power.
And yet Nuno Espirito Santo is unquestionably one of the best coaches in the league and only Liverpool have lost fewer games at the time writing.
Sheffield United and Wolves: officially good (given expectations and resources).
We don’t have to dwell on the rest.
North London rivals Spurs and Arsenal are 8th and 9th respectively — enough said.
Burnley are certainly respectable, perhaps even a smidgen above average, but ultimately they’ve scored 39 goals from 35 games and have goal difference of -8.
Everton have spent millions and hired three-time European Cup winning coach Carlo Ancelotti just to finish in the bottom half.
Southampton have shown glimpses of their potential but let’s not forget they lost 9-0 this season – a game that has its own Wikipedia page – one of their 16 defeats.
By definition alone, those between 13th and 20th are not good.
So that’s it for 2019/20, in the much-hyped, most-watched, self-styled ‘best league in the world’ there have been three good teams: Liverpool, Sheffield United, Wolves.
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