Premier League 2023-24 fans’ verdicts, part two: Liverpool to Wolves

Liverpool

Back at Wembley winning a trophy, and we’ve made it back to the Champions League, so it’s pretty good. It was a season of two halves really. At New Year we were flying, then came the injuries and then came the dip. The manager has given everything, again, and today will be an outpouring of love and thanks to him. In Germany he is known as a Menschenfanger, a people catcher, someone who has a positive effect on those around him. For us, he’s been a dream catcher, too. He gave us belief and he gave us the best of times. He made us happy. 8/10.

Stars/flops With so many starters injured, the young players did brilliantly. Elliott, Bradley and Quansah excelled; Clark, Koumas, McConnell and former ballboy Danns gave starry cameos. In goal, Kelleher again proved his class. The flop was the collective inability to find the net in the run-in.

Biggest surprise The fact that the new-look Liverpool 2, which we were told endlessly before the season would take time to gel, did so well. And the young players, see above. On the not-so-bright side, the club’s decision to raise prices for next season without the promised supporter consultation, and during a continuing cost-of-living crisis. And of course, Jürgen leaving.

Best/worst away fans The group-stage teams in the Europa League were ace, loud and there for the occasion. Crystal Palace were good again, they come and solely support their team, unlike others, who prefer to chant about poverty and tragedy.

Moment that made me smile For pure slapstick, the injured Darwin Núñez hurdling the seats and flooring the injured Mo Salah in his rush to celebrate our late winner at Wembley.

Steph Jones

Jürgen Klopp: menschenfanger. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Luton

It’s been an absolute blast. We saw some exceptional football and some brilliant goals, visited new grounds, laughed, cried and worried about our club captain, and proved to many that we aren’t the whipping boys they expected. Of course it’s disappointing we won’t be in the mix next season (barring a last-day miracle of biblical proportions) but this first season in the Premier League will be looked back on with pride. I hope Rob Edwards stays for many years and drives us forward to a quick return. 6/10.

Stars/flops Ross Barkley, maybe the best ever player to pull on a Luton shirt. Thomas Kaminski in goal has also been exceptional, while the front two, Elijah Adebayo and Carlton Morris, both reached double figures despite injuries. There were no flops, the whole side starred. As the former manager John Still once said, the stronger the team, the stronger the team.

Biggest surprise The number of goals we’ve scored. If we find the net against Fulham on the final day we’ll have scored against everyone. Many expected us to be Luton nil this season.

Best/worst away fans It’s such a small allocation that it’s hard to judge. But Newcastle were noisy and made a banner in support of Tom Lockyer. The quietest were Arsenal and City fans – maybe left speechless after going through our infamous away stand entrance.

Moment that made me smile Standing in a rejuvenated Kenilworth Road, looking at a new stand and listening to the Premier League anthem as the teams walked out for the first time. The culmination of a journey that 2020, our board and owners, said was possible despite what others may have thought. How can any Luton Town fan not be beaming with pride? The future is certainly bright, and most definitely orange!

Dave Gregory Oh When The Town Podcast

Ross Barkley: Luton’s best ever? Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Manchester City

It’s been a slow burn of a season. But we caught fire around eight weeks ago and haven’t looked back. Just like the team, the manager has taken a bit of time to hit his groove (for instance, playing Álvarez in midfield for the first half of the season, opting for chaos over control, etc). But Pep’s been back to his best in recent weeks, reconfiguring the XI to allow both Foden and De Bruyne to play in central areas. The Champions League exit was incredibly frustrating, but it happens. Most important, though, at the business end of the season, it looks like Guardiola’s City have timed their run perfectly, again. 9/10.

Stars/flops There have been two clear standouts: Foden and Rodri. Plenty have made big contributions (KDB when fit, Haaland, Gvardiol), others have been consistent (Akanji, Aké, Ortega), but none have got close to Phil and Rodri. The latter is unbeaten in his last 73 (!) games for City in all competitions, while Foden has been the best player in the league. Flops? Nunes doesn’t look at the required level.

Biggest surprise Our ability to remain competitive despite injuries and last year’s exploits. To go deep in all three major competitions again after a treble-winning season is a ridiculous feat.

Best/worst away fans Spurs were best. The worst? United were uncharacteristically bad this year.

Moment that made me smile Antony’s commitment to being the most disliked footballer in the land. The fake hardman antics, the Beyblade impressions, the total lack of end product. He truly has it all. Someone that insufferable belongs at United.

Lloyd Scragg ninetythreetwenty.com; @lloyd_scragg

Phil Foden: best player in the league. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Manchester United

After his excellent first season, there was genuine hope that Erik ten Hag could turn us into real contenders in his second. It didn’t last long. We finished bottom of a relatively easy Champions League group, our league form was woeful and we relinquished the Carabao Cup. I still think he could get it right, but some of his tactics, selections and subs are baffling. It’s been a real trudge, and it’s getting harder to deny we look like a poorly coached team. Rivals pepper our goal in every game, hence the negative goal difference. Somehow we’ve made it to the FA Cup final, but via some ropey performances. If we don’t win it, I think Ten Hag will be gone. 5/10.

Stars/flops Mainoo, Garnacho and, more recently, Amad have had excellent breakthrough seasons and offer genuine hope. Hats off to Maguire, who showed real guts to re-establish himself. The rest, bar Evans, Bruno and Højlund, were a constant source of disappointment.

Biggest surprise Just how bad we can be at times – and how easy we would become to play against.

Best/worst away fans Galatasaray filled their end – and large parts of the home end too. The worst were Villa, who turned up full of themselves on Boxing Day night but were sent home packing with a banging hangover after leading 0-2 and losing 3-2.

Moment that made me smile Amad’s extra-time winner against Liverpool in the Cup, followed by getting sent off in the middle of his celebration – by far the best moment of a dire season.

Shaun O’Donnell

Erik ten Hag: sometimes baffling. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Newcastle

Records broken, goal gluts, a return to Europe … this season was a memorable one, even if it didn’t reach the heights of 2022-23. We spent most of the season as A&E FC, losing top players in a rolling injury crisis, so ending the campaign in the hunt for Europe is testimony to Howe’s ability and the quality and spirit of our squad. Perhaps Champions League football came too soon, and progress has undoubtedly been hindered by FFP, but we’re still proud of what we have achieved since the takeover. 7/10.

Stars/flops Ice-cold Alexander Isak is the most exciting striker we’ve had in years – the guy now looks like a bargain, as does Anthony Gordon. Bruno Guimarães has continued to cement his status as an NUFC legend and Fabian Schär is a model of consistency. Flops? Miguel Almirón didn’t match last season’s exploits, and, off the field, director of football Dan Ashworth bagged some nice gardening leave after seemingly making little impact.

Biggest surprise Losing a £55m new signing to a lengthy ban: Sandro Tonali’s absence was keenly felt when we were down to the bare bones. More positively, comprehensively beating PSG at home was what every Newcastle fan’s dreams are made of, and knocking both Manchester teams out of the League Cup wasn’t bad either.

Best/worst away fans Best were the yellow hordes of Dortmund – though we’re still recovering from that infernal drumbeat … But Spurs were very quiet (again) after getting outplayed (again). Like their team, they seemed utterly shellshocked.

Moment that made us smile Sunderland laying on the red carpet in the FA Cup by transforming the Black Cats Bar into the Magpie’s Nest – really thought it was Photoshopped at first …

David and Richard Holmes

Alexander Isak: ice cold. Photograph: Scott Heppell/Reuters

Nottingham Forest

Big sigh. We all knew second-season syndrome was a thing, but it’s been a big hot mess in so many ways. Most fans would say that there has been way too much drama, with VARcical refereeing, PSR deductions and relocation plans. Many of us are also still grieving for Stevie Cooper, though you’d be hard pressed not to see that the style and standard of play has improved under Nuno, even if we would have liked more points and fewer set-piece goals conceded. Overall, though, I’m glad it’s almost over, on and off the pitch. 5/10.

Stars/flops Not many of us expected Murillo to play, let alone to be the most Des Walker-like defender since the maestro himself. Mu is far from complete, but he is brilliant, and probably won’t be here next season. Sob. Honourable mentions for Morgan Gibbs-White, Neco Williams and Ola Aina, with good spells for Callum Hudson-Odoi and Antony Elanga, whose combined fees were less than Amad Diallo. As for flops – with such a high turnover, it’s inevitable – step forward Vlachodimos, Santos and Origi.

Biggest surprise I’m reminded of the line in Blackadder, when Baldrick is running for MP: “Is there any history of sanity in the family? No, none whatsoever.” Take your pick from Clattenburg, THAT tweet, or the fiery response to the PSR points deduction.

Best/worst away fans Manchester United’s always loudly back their team. But we forgot Luton and Chelsea fans were there until they scored.

Moment that made me smile Watching Murillo almost score Forest’s goal of the century by slaloming through the entire Palace team. The fact he almost netted from his own half against Luton and Spurs is just a footnote.

Rich Ferraro 1865: The Nottingham Forest Podcast; linktr.ee/nottm_forest

Three extremely poor decisions – three penalties not given – which we simply cannot accept.

We warned the PGMOL that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him. Our patience has been tested multiple times.

NFFC will now consider its options.

— Nottingham Forest (@NFFC) April 21, 2024

Sheffield United

It’s impossible to answer the question “How did the season go for you?” without laughing uncontrollably. Alarm bells were ringing after our baffling summer business but even so, it’s been the worst season to sit through (or walk out of) in living memory. Neither Paul Heckingbottom or Chris Wilder could drag a poor squad to competitiveness, which feels like the bare minimum we should expect as fans. 0/10.

Stars/flops Gustavo Hamer has been a beacon of excitement compared with the rest, ably supported in recent months by academy product Oli Arblaster – it already feels like next season hinges on both of them still being here. Vinícius Souza’s attitude is worse than his footballing ability and Ivo Grbic was so astonishingly bad in goal that he swiftly found himself dropped for the man he was signed to replace.

Biggest surprise Sadly this season has been predictable in its outcome, if not necessarily the process by which we got there. I really thought our defence would keep us in more games, but instead we go into matches knowing we need to score at least three times just to get a point. The string of home capitulations (2-5, 0-5, 0-5, 0-6 consecutively earlier this year) was hard to wrap one’s head around.

Best/worst away fans Hard to judge because virtually every team has come to Bramall Lane and had a big party in the away end. Liverpool and Man Utd were surprisingly quiet, possibly because their teams didn’t give us the expected hammerings on the night.

Moment that made me smile I had to rack my brains on this one, but Jayden Bogle’s late equaliser against Man City on a sun-drenched August afternoon saw the roof come off Bramall Lane and had me rubbing my eyes in disbelief. Then we went behind again three minutes later and lost anyway.

Ben Meakin @BladesPod – the Sheffield United Podcast

Gustavo Hamer: a beacon. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Tottenham

It’s been a massive improvement in every conceivable way on the implosion last season. Our biggest crisis currently is set pieces. Nobody outside of N17 backed “the cheap option” Ange in the summer and some even joked about relegation. Injuries, suspensions and growing pains have had us stumble, and it’s been eventful, emotional, exciting, and frustrating. We do need the summer, new players and more consistency – but a fifth or sixth spot is decent, if you dare to accept the context of the “reset rebuild”. 7.5 /10.

Stars/flops Micky van de Ven has been the poster boy. His pace, touch, intelligence and awareness; a kiss from the heavens. Destiny Udogie is another bright star shining. Special mention for Cuti Romero and his pulsating drives into the final third, a true inspiration and leader on the pitch. I’m not sure anyone has flopped, but there have been disappointments, mostly thanks to injuries.

Biggest surprise I didn’t expect to fall back in love with Tottenham as quickly as I did. The club was a mess, the fanbase exhausted from the mismanagement of just about everything. Ange has given us the hope we craved, and the club have also finally made progressive changes with infrastructure. We’ve scrapped the desperation and settled for a more precise and patient blueprint.

Best/worst away fans Worst? Possibly West Ham when they broke into song about being champions of Europe and the laughter was so menacing that they had to stop. Best? I guess the City fans, for chanting along with us when a song about disliking Arsenal echoed around the stadium. Sorry about that, Ange.

Moment that made me smile Son versus Ortega in the 2-0 City home defeat. Had he scored, “them lot down the road” would have built a statue for him outside the Emirates. If Pep’s team fails against West Ham on the final day, then I guess the meme is on me.

Spooky @Spooky23; patreon.com/SpookyInPurgatory; @LoveTheShirt

Micky van de Ven: poster boy. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

West Ham

A top-half finish, winning at Arsenal and Spurs and a quarter-final in the Europa League isn’t a bad season, even though our form dipped after Christmas and we took a few pastings. David Moyes deserves thanks and leaves the club in a much better place than when he arrived. And we’ll always have Prague. Though he has to take some blame for the January window that left us weaker than before. It’s a shame the Moyes in/out debate became some kind of weird culture war online. The new gaffer has some rebuilding to do, with an ageing small squad and dodgy defence. 6.5/10.

Stars/flops Jarrod Bowen was on fire. Mohammed Kudus scored the goal of the season against Freiburg and impressed with his mazy dribbles and celebrations sitting on the hoardings. Álvarez did a decent job of replacing Rice until he tired towards the end, while a liberated Soucek weighed in with 10 goals. Ward-Prowse proved a bargain at £30m, though strangely he hasn’t managed to score a free kick. Biggest flop was poor old Kalvin Phillips, who at times looked like the Frank Spencer of football, but had no luck either.

Biggest surprise Was Moyes not being able to organise a Moyes-like defence. Zouma is brave but his knees are creaking, Mavropanos is promising but has a mistake in him, as does Aguerd. And Emerson is better going forward than defending.

Best/worst away fans The best were Luton for staying to salute their team even after relegation. Worst were Fulham for singing as George Earthy was carried off with a head injury.

Moment that made me smile Jürgen Klopp and Mo Salah going at it in the London Stadium technical area like a couple of geezers outside a Dagenham pub after a pint has been spilled, while the crowd chanted: “He’s just a shit Andy Carroll!” at fellow sub Darwin Núñez.

Pete May Author, Massive: The Miracle of Prague; hammersintheheart.blogspot.co.uk

Jarrod Bowen: on fire. Photograph: Rob Newell/CameraSport/Getty Images

Wolves

We’re crawling to the line, which is a shame because it had been an excellent season up until mid-March. Losing the FA Cup quarter-final with the last kick to Coventry and injuries to key players (Neto, Dawson, Cunha and a few others) really took the wind out of our sails. Still, we were hot favourites for a relegation fight back in August so you have to zoom out and say Gary O’Neil has done an excellent job. Could have been better, but could have been a lot worse. 8/10.

Stars/flops Neto has dazzled when he’s not been injured; Hwang and Cunha have ensured we’ve carried a threat in his absence. Mario Lemina and Gomes have been excellent in a more proactive midfield setup. Nobody really flopped, but I hoped for more from Bellegarde after strong early showings.

Biggest surprise The improved attacking output. We didn’t sign any strikers in the summer, which is extraordinary when you consider we only scored 31 in the league in 2022-23. But we’ve managed a more respectable 50 this time and looked a lot more dynamic in the final third when our best players have been out there.

Best/worst away fans Palace fans were rightly loving life in the sunshine and very boisterous. No obvious reasons for shaming the worst.

Moment that made me smile Going right back to the first game of the season, the bizarre audio released from VAR after they inexplicably didn’t award Wolves a penalty when André Onana punched Sasa Kalajdzic in the head. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

Thomas Baugh wolvesblog.com; @wolvesblog

Pedro Neto: dazzled when fit. Photograph: Jack Thomas/WWFC/Wolves/Getty Images

Part one: Arsenal to Fulham

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