The 30th Premier League season was one for the history books, with the title, race for top-four and relegation battle all decided on the final day. This was the ninth time a Premier League title race went down to the final day of the season, and the ninth time when the team that started the day on top of the table remained there by the end of 90 minutes.
Manchester City’s eighth league title was not, by any means, straightforward; nobody scored more than City this season, nobody conceded fewer and nobody won more games. Judged purely on footballing merit, nobody can doubt that City are worthy champions; as Liverpool would have been.
To further stress the intense level of competition between Manchester City and Liverpool at present — since the 2018/19 season, City have collected just one point more than the Reds, with the scoreboard reading 358 to 357 in favour of Pep Guardiola’s men. Ironically, just a point made the difference between the two sides this term.
Below are 20 fun facts from the 2021/22 Premier League season to sink your teeth into before we delve deeper into the campaign later in this piece:
- The 2021-22 Premier League campaign is the first in the competition’s history in which it was mathematically possible for each position to change going into the final round of matches.
- Manchester City have won a Premier League game in which they trailed by 2+ goals (their title-winning game vs Aston Villa) for the first time since February 2005 (when they beat Norwich 3-2).
- Son Heung-min became the first Asian player to win the Premier League Golden Boot, sharing the award with Mohamed Salah on 23 goals.
- Mohamed Salah has become the fourth player to end a Premier League season top for both goals (23) and assists (13).
- Manchester United lost six consecutive away league matches for the first time since March 1981 and failed to end a league campaign with a positive goal difference (0 in 2021-22) for the first time since 1989-90 (-1). They have also conceded 56 goals — their most in a single Premier League season.
- In 27 years of a 20-team Premier League, only seven sides have conceded more goals than the 79 that Leeds United let in this season. Leeds ensured they were the first team to avoid relegation after starting the final day in the bottom three since Wigan in 2010/11.
- Kane and Son combined for the 37th time against Leeds in February, overtaking Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard’s record of 36.
- Trent Alexander-Arnold led the league in chances created (90), doing so from full-back and pipping the likes of Bruno Fernandes (89) and Kevin De Bruyne (87)
- Liverpool went through the entire campaign without conceding a single penalty.
- Jorginho became the first player to have 10 consecutive Premier League goals come from the penalty spot in Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Newcastle United.
- Chelsea are the first team in Premier League history to go through a whole season without ever being behind at half-time.
- Bukayo Saka (20y 259d) has become the second-youngest player to feature in every match in a full Premier League season for Arsenal, after Cesc Fàbregas in 2006-07.
- Watford conceded 46 Premier League goals at Vicarage Road this season, the most at home by any side in a single Premier League campaign.
- Spurs beat their arch-rivals Arsenal by three or more goals in a Premier League match for the very first time.
- Manchester City became the first team in English top-flight history to win five consecutive league games by a margin of at least three goals.
- Leeds United became the first team to receive 100 cards in a single Premier League campaign.
- Liverpool are just the second team in Premier League history to have three players reach 15+ goals in a single campaign (Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota), after Manchester City’s title-winning side of 2013-14 managed the feat (Yaya Touré, Sergio Agüero, Edin Dzeko).
- Brighton’s 4-0 win over Manchester United saw them secure their biggest ever top-flight win in their history, in what was their 356th match at this level.
- Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first Premier League goal since May 2009; his gap of 12 years and 124 days between goals is the second-longest between two strikes by any player in the competition’s history.
- Norwich have been relegated in each of their last four Premier League seasons (13-14, 15-16, 19-20, 21-22); becoming the second side in English league history to suffer relegation in four consecutive top-flight seasons.
With fans back in the stadiums, the buzz and excitement were instilled and the quality of football and performances on-show rose to the challenge of entertaining said crowds. The football was scintillating at times.
We have analysed and ranked the 20 Premier League teams based on expectations, performance and stats. The league tables for this season and last, as well as each club’s net spend, are used for reference throughout the piece.
Final position: 5th (2020-21: 8th)
There was no European football at the Emirates Stadium this season for the first time in a quarter of a century. In response to that, Arsenal ended up as the league’s biggest spenders, shelling out £150m to rectify that fact. Having been rock bottom in September, Arsenal fans were starting to lose hope for their season. A fifth-place finish back then seemed unlikely, so from that perspective, could be seen as a very good accomplishment. That said, there is a bitter taste to how they threw away fourth place after being in the driving seat for most of the business end of the campaign.
Mikel Arteta has overseen some of the best football at the Emirates in recent years, but the overall outcome still fails to meet the club’s standards and ambitions. In fairness, Europa League football is probably the team’s level at the moment. Arteta has had his fair share of critics, especially given the well-documented fallout with former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. However, the performances and rise of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe have been the bright spark in Arsenal’s season. Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale have been impressive while Ben White and Gabriel have shown that they can be a reliable CB pairing.
Aston Villa: C
Final position: 14th (2020-21: 11th)
A poor start from Villa led to 2018/19 promotion-winning manager Dean Smith’s sacking but the decline had been gradual from the end of last season. Steven Gerrard’s arrival gave everyone at the club a lift, but the team failed to maintain consistency in performance and only managed to finish 14th. The departure of Jack Grealish certainly had its effects; Villa used the £100m recouped from his sale to recruit Danny Ings, Leon Bailey, and Emiliano Buendia, all of whom took time to settle in at Villa Park. The January signings of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne definitely improved the squad, while Jacob Ramsey had a brilliant breakthrough season.
The reality is that the team finished three places and 10 points worse off than last season despite some positive signs in their performance levels as the season wore on. Given the vast competition present in England’s top flight at the moment, Gerrard undoubtedly has a big task ahead of him if he’s to succeed in helping the team break into the top half of the table. However, the former Liverpool captain obviously welcomes a challenge, as is evident from the job he did at Rangers, so perhaps he can prove up to the task.
Final position: 11th (2020-21: Promoted from Championship)
Brentford became the 50th team to play in the Premier League upon their arrival from the Championship for this season. At first, with less investment than both of their fellow promoted sides, the team were one of the favourites to go straight back down. The Bees started the season in tremendous fashion, though, beating the likes of Arsenal, West Ham and Wolves while drawing 3-3 with Liverpool in a six-goal thriller. The months that followed were topsy turvy as injuries struck and the team struggled to find the consistency they had at the beginning of the campaign. The final three months, which saw the arrival of one Christian Eriksen to give the team a lift, saw Brentford soar to new heights. Bees boss Thomas Frank instilled a very brave, joyful type of football and led Brentford to an 11th placed finish in their first season in the Premier League, while they ended up collecting more points (46) than the other two promoted teams combined (45), despite spending less money than either one of them — an amazing achievement!
Brighton and Hove Albion: A
Final position: 9th (2020-21: 16th)
For the first time in the Premier League, Brighton finished in the top half of the table. In a single Premier League season, the team had its: highest finish, most points, most wins, fewest defeats, most goals, fewest goals conceded and most away wins. They managed to do so with a positive net spend, stressing the incredible job Graham Potter has done with the resources available to him. Beating Arsenal and Spurs away before smashing Manchester United 4-0 at the Amex polished off an excellent campaign for the Seagulls.
Potter has developed a solid foundation on which to build with expansive, possession-based football. The team is ranked 4th in terms of % possession for the season at 54%, trailing only the league’s top three. Marc Cucurella deserves a special mention for an incredible debut season at left-back.
Final position: 18th (2020-21: 17th)
Burnley’s Premier League adventure has come to an end after six straight years in the top flight. The season was rough from the start, and the Clarets just never really got going. The decision to sack Sean Dyche with a month of the season remaining proved that the owners had lost faith in their identity and ideas. If anyone could have pulled Burnley out of this mess, it was Dyche but with such little investment in the team for numerous years, Burnley were always going to be punching above their weight.
Unsurprisingly, Burnley won 834 aerial duels — 113 more than second-best Brentford — while the team actually conceded fewer and scored more goals this season than last, which shows that their levels were nearly similar; it just wasn’t enough to keep them afloat this time, again, with the levels of competition existing in the Premier League getting higher and higher every year — also unsurprising, perhaps, given the money at stake in the English top tier.
Final position: 3rd (2020-21: 4th)
After winning the Champions League and bringing Romelu Lukaku back to the clubhouse he first joined from Anderlecht in the summer of 2011, Thomas Tuchel was tipped to lead the team to a title charge, which started well as Chelsea led the league for the first months and looked formidable. However, problems began to unravel as Covid, injuries, Lukaku’s controversial interview, poor form and plenty of behind-the-scenes drama concerning Roman Abramovich all having a major effect on morale and performances. The Blues’ CL exit at the Bernabeu will still haunt Tuchel and the players.
Chelsea were still able to lift the FIFA Club World Cup and reach the finals of both the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, losing both to Liverpool on penalties. Tuchel remains the right man for the job but has a tough task to try and topple England’s dominant duo of Manchester City and Liverpool under Guardiola and Klopp, respectively. A big rebuild is needed at the back with Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso all leaving the club, captain César Azpilicueta’s future up in the air, and Thiago Silva not getting any younger either.
Crystal Palace: B-
Final position: 12th (2020-21: 14th)
When Patrick Vieira replaced Roy Hodgson, many predicted them to struggle due to having a relatively inexperienced manager as opposed to the vastly experienced Hodgson. Although they only gained four more points than last season — and actually won fewer games (11 this season and 12 in 2020/21) — Vieira managed to transform Palace’s gameplay and identity while building strong relationships with the squad and fans. The team has become a privilege to watch, with loanee Conor Gallagher flourishing in midfield and summer signing Marc Guehi also impressing in central defence.
To further emphasize the change in gameplay, the Eagles scored 41 and conceded 66 goals last season, but this term, they scored 50 and conceded 46. This marks the first time in their history that they end a Premier League season with a positive GD — a nice feather for Vieira and the decision-makers behind his appointment at Selhurst Park to put in their caps after his arrival was not exactly met with heaps of confidence — while the team also impressively improved their xG from 36.67 in 2020/21 to 50.15 in 2021/22. In his first season as a manager in England, Vieira also guided the team to the FA Cup semi-final, by far their best performance in the competition since losing in the final to Manchester United in 2015/16.
Final position: 16th (2020-21: 10th)
A pitch invasion on matchday 37 to celebrate securing Premier League survival is the last thing the Everton faithful could have imagined at the start of the season. The scenes we saw at Goodison Park cannot disguise what has been a disastrous season for the club. Rafael Benítez ultimately didn’t end up being a good fit for the role of Everton manager, and things quickly turned south, leading to his sacking in January, with long spells of injury for Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin undoubtedly making matters tough upfront.
Results did not improve drastically under Lampard, as the team remained in the same position he inherited: 16th. However, wins over Newcastle United, Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester, capped off with the comeback against Palace, secured safety for the Toffees — Lampard’s main objective.
Leeds United: D
Final position: 17th (2020-21: 9th)
Leeds lacked last season’s energy, enthusiasm and freshness of ideas under Marcelo Bielsa, and there is a suspicion that rivals worked them out, leading to the Argentinian tactician’s dismissal. Star-name injury absentees, Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips, were big misses throughout the campaign and the team suffered from the dreaded ‘second-season syndrome’ in the Premier League. Bielsa could not manage to strike a balance between attack and defence and made a habit of enduring damning defeats to the top teams.
Jesse Marsch tried his best to stick to a similar approach as what the players had been used to under Bielsa and ground out a few results as Leeds managed to avoid the drop on the final day. Illan Meslier let in 21 more goals than any other keeper while making 14 more saves. Although the team ended up conceding 79 goals in total, they somehow stayed up.
Leicester City: C+
Final position: 8th (2020-21: 5th)
The Foxes have been erratic this season. They had some big wins but were widely inconsistent. Injuries across the board dented their season and resulted in them suffering a Europa League exit in the group stages. On the bright side, Kieran Dewsbury-Hall, who only made his first Premier League start at the beginning of December, looks a major midfield find.
The Foxes could not sustain the pressure they exerted on the top four in the previous seasons and fell off to 8th place, meaning no European football will be played next season at the King Power Stadium. After the Conference League semi-final exit to Roma, Brendan Rodgers admitted that the team needs an overhaul during the summer.
Final position: 2nd (2020-21: 3rd)
After being 14 points off Manchester City in January, and with Mo Salah and Sadio Mané heading off to the African Cup of Nations, no one gave Liverpool much of a chance to close the gap. In any case, the Reds refused to wave the white flag in their Premier League title pursuit. The team did not lose any of their last 19 Premier League fixtures, winning 16 and drawing three. Liverpool scored 94 goals compared to last season’s 68 and ended the campaign with the fewest defeats of any side in England’s top flight, with two.
It has been a tremendous season for Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool. Despite their quadruple and treble hopes ending on the final day of the Premier League season and at the hands of Real Madrid in the UCL final, respectively, they ended the campaign as FA Cup and Carabao Cup winners. Liverpool played every possible fixture on the calendar, and lost only four times in 64 games. The team have finished with 90+ points in three of their last four seasons but have only won the league once! In any other era, Liverpool would have had two more Premier League trophies. The job Klopp is doing at the club is nothing short of incredible.
Manchester City: A
Final position: 1st (2020-21: 1st)
Despite going 2-0 down against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa on the final day of the campaign, City dramatically came back scoring three second-half goals in five minutes to lift their fourth league title in five seasons. Pep has worked his magic yet again, overseeing another Premier League title win, along with the rise of City’s xG from 75.15 to 94.33 as they finished the season with the most goals scored (99) and the fewest conceded (26), making them deserving champions of England. Sustaining that level of performance throughout the campaign is what it took to overcome this Liverpool team, with City scraping to the title on the final day. Just when you think this team cannot improve any further, the numbers keep on looking better.
They suffered more Champions League heartbreak, this time at the hands of Real Madrid, in unbelievable fashion. Manchester City have successfully dominated the Premier League but the Champions League is the one that remains their holy grail, and they will be hoping new signing Erling Haaland can prove to be the last piece of the puzzle for them in Europe next season.
Manchester United: F
Final position: 6th (2020-21: 2nd)
Absolute chaos. From top to bottom. The team has endured its worst-ever Premier League campaign. 58 points, 16 wins and a goal difference of 0. Yes, zero! (GF: 57, GA: 57). A 6th place finish has flattered them. To put that into perspective, last season all top ten teams won more than 16 games. After a 2nd place finish last season, United were primed to push on and mount a title challenge this term. The signings of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo gave the fans even more hope.
However, it has all gone horribly wrong for the Red Devils. Ole Gunnar Solskjær was dismissed after a string of poor defeats, capped off by the 4-1 humiliation at Watford, and in came Ralf Rangnick, who failed to find any sort of rhythm or stability to get United into the top four. The team was also knocked out of the FA Cup and Champions League to endure a 5th successive trophyless season — the thought of which was unimaginable not so long ago at Old Trafford. David de Gea saved the team on many occasions and Ronaldo scored his fair share of goals, but the overall performances and player attitudes were shambolic. Erik Ten Hag arguably has the toughest job in football to get United back amongst the elite.
Newcastle United: C+
Final position: 11th (2020-21: 12th)
A tale of two halves. Under Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce, Newcastle looked destined to go down. The Magpies managed only one win from their first 18 Premier League games. Under Eddie Howe and the new Saudi ownership, though, the team has been rejuvenated. The January signings of Dan Burn, Bruno Guimarães, Kieran Trippier, Matt Targett and Chris Wood have spurred the team on, and Howe’s masterstroke of moving Joelinton into midfield has turned him into a new player.
In the last 18 games, Newcastle are third in the form table, just behind Liverpool and Manchester City, with 12 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses and 38 points gained. Judging from where the team was, the season has ended in a jubilant way. At last, the club, players and fans are pulling in the same direction. As a result, this summer will definitely be a significant one in the North East.
Norwich City: D
Final position: 20th (2020-21: Promoted from Championship)
Despite Dean Smith replacing Daniel Farke in the dugout, this team was still simply not good enough and headed for a record sixth relegation from the Premier League. As Fulham gained promotion back to the Premier League, it was only logical that Norwich would go back down.
They have scored the fewest goals (23), conceded the most (84), had the fewest wins (5) and lowest xG (33.25) in the league. Nine new faces arrived in the summer, including Chelsea and Manchester United loanees Billy Gilmour and Brandon Williams, but none managed to improve the team enough to avoid the drop, with the Canaries enduring yet another miserable Premier League campaign.
Final position: 15th (2020-21: 15th)
After many signs of encouragement and promise at various stages, it has been an underwhelming, disappointing end to the season for Southampton. Despite finishing in 15th place and never really getting dragged down into a relegation scrap, the Saints only won 9 games compared to 12 in 2020/21.
There haven’t been many signs of improvement from Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side, neither in the eye test nor in the stats. James Ward-Prowse has been the standout in terms of consistency and big moments that have decided games in the team’s favour, while full-backs Tino Livramento and Kyle Walker-Peters have also been impressive and demonstrated great maturity and quality at times. Topping the net spend table — without major investment in the squad — avoiding relegation and establishing themselves as a regular Premier League side seems to be the short-term goal for the Saints, so mission accomplished?
Tottenham Hotspur: B
Final position: 4th (2020-21: 7th)
Replacing José Mourinho with Nuno Espirito Santo had question marks written all over it. Nuno’s playing style at Spurs was dull and the team struggled to score goals and get results. Antonio Conte took over in November with Spurs in 9th place and confidence at rock bottom. No one believed Spurs could finish in the top four but the Italian came in, laid his blueprint on the team and laid down the foundations for an end of season push. January signings Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur also had a major impact.
Despite some turbulent moments, not least at Burnley when Conte looked ready to resign during his post-match press conference, the team clicked into gear at the perfect time and will be playing Champions League football next season. In March, Tottenham were six points behind Arsenal in fourth, with the latter having a game in hand. Since then, they have won eight from 11. Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min deserve special praise as they have been the orchestrators of Tottenham’s revival, proving they are, without a doubt, truly world-class players. The club has to back Conte in the transfer window now following this revival to give him a real go at challenging for trophies.
Nuno vs Conte:
xGF/game: 1.14 – 1.99
xGA/game: 1.69 – 1.15
xPoints/game: 1.10 – 1.81
Final position: 19th (2020-21: Promoted from Championship)
Watford get a lower grade than Burnley and Norwich because of the shambles at the club from day one. After an okay start, the board fired Xisco and replaced him with Claudio Ranieri. The big eye-catching victories over Everton and Man United (Ranieri’s only wins) were false dawns as 3-0 defeats to relegation rivals Norwich and Leeds were probably the low points in Watford’s season. Ranieri was then sacked after not being able to have a major impact and replaced by Roy Hodgson. However, with Hodgson, the team did not even enjoy that new manager bounce. The place was lifeless, with no fight or togetherness shown on the pitch. Watford joined Norwich in being relegated back to the Championship after one season.
West Ham United: B+
Final position: 7th (2020-21: 6th)
Another sensational season for the Hammers. They couldn’t break into the top six again as the slots were occupied by the traditional big six, but finishing 7th (“the best of the rest”) and qualifying for Europe should still be considered a great season. Some of the season highlights for David Moyes’ team were reaching the Europa League semi-finals, knocking Manchester United out of the Carabao Cup as well as the league wins over Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool. West Ham even managed to finally turn the London Stadium into a happy home.
Jarrod Bowen has elevated his game to new levels with 12 goals and 10 assists while Declan Rice was marvellous in midfield. Craig Dawson proved an astute signing and was heroic in an injury-ravaged defence but, on the other hand, £26m man Nikola Vlašić and loan signing Alex Král ultimately failed to impress. West Ham’s main issue was the lack of squad depth, especially in midfield and upfront where there are no natural replacements for Antonio, Rice or Souček. This is an area where the Hammers must strengthen during the summer.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: B-
Final position: 10th (2020-21: 13th)
It started and ended badly but had plenty of joy in between, so 10th may be a fair end result for Wolves this season. Bruno Lage has delivered an acceptable first season, finishing in the top half and proving that there is life at Wolves after Nuno. Wolves’ main issue continues to be their goalscoring; they have scored the fewest goals among teams outside the relegation zone (38). What keeps them competitive is their solidity, having the 5th best defence in the league. Wolves have averaged less than a goal a game for the second consecutive season, a stat usually associated with teams fighting for relegation. The signing of José Sá to replace Rui Patrício has been a real coup, while Max Kilman deserves a mention for becoming a mainstay in a strong back three.