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Premier League's lack of quality outside of top six more apparent than ever in 2017-18

Premier League's lack of quality outside of top six more apparent than ever in 2017-18


West Ham United have confirmed that David Moyes has left his role as manager and the club expect to appoint a replacement "within the next 10 days."

Moyes reached the end of his short-term contract with the club at the end of the season, having led the Hammers to a 13th-place finish in the Premier League.

"I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to David Moyes and his staff for achieving the target of keeping West Ham United in the Premier League," joint-chairman David Sullivan said in a club statement.

"Throughout his time here, David has carried himself with dignity and honesty and we have all found him to be a pleasure to work with. He, Alan, Stuart and Billy accepted the challenge and attacked it head on, turning around a difficult situation. They deserve great respect for the job they have done and they leave the club with our best wishes.

"When David and his team arrived, it was the wish of both parties that the focus be only on the six months until the end of the season, at which point a decision would be made with regards to the future. Having taken stock of the situation and reflected now the campaign is complete, we feel that it is right to move in a different direction.

"We are already taking steps to identify and recruit the manager we believe can take West Ham United forward in line with our ambitions. We aim to appoint a high-calibre figure who we feel will lead the club into an exciting future for our loyal supporters within the next 10 days."

"I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to David Moyes and his staff for achieving the target of keeping West Ham United in the Premier League." - Joint-Chairman David Sullivan

The announcement arrived barely 12 hours after David Gold, West Ham's co-owner, said he hoped 55-year-old former Manchester United and Everton boss Moyes would remain in charge for next season.

But that will not be the case, and West Ham said assistants Alan Irvine, Stuart Pearce and Billy McKinlay had also departed.

Moyes succeeded Slaven Bilic in November, when West Ham were in the relegation zone, and guided the team to top-flight safety two matches of the campaign to spare courtesy of a 2-0 win at Leicester on May 5.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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Dear Poch,

Let's be straight with one another. We've both heard the rumours. And however strong your public denials, neither of us are naive enough to pretend that you being linked to the Chelsea job isn't flattering.

Your salary is likely to be at least double what you are currently earning and -- much as it sticks in my throat, and I've been a Spurs fan for well over 50 years -- Chelsea have a proven track record of winning big trophies. The chance to work for a club that is prepared to put its money where its mouth is and crown your already successful career with silverware must be tempting.

But -- you knew there was going to be a but, didn't you? -- I respectfully suggest you think twice about any move to west London. Not every opportunity is all it's cracked up to be. For one thing, there's the owner. Roman Abramovic hasn't yet found a manager he couldn't fall out with. You know their names as well as I do. Antonio Conte managed to take a fairly average Chelsea side to the Premier League title last season; this year he only manages fifth place and an FA Cup final and his reward is to be shown the door. Do you seriously want to work for someone like that? Someone who has the capacity to make every working day hell.

Then there is the Chelsea side. Let's be honest here. How many of the Chelsea squad would make it into a fully fit Tottenham starting XI? We can agree on Eden Hazard and, probably, Marcos Alonso. But after those two, I'm struggling to come up with any Chelsea players who are -- man for man -- better than the footballers you are working with at White Hart Lane. So you'd be starting out at Chelsea with a worse squad than you currently have and an owner who expected miracles. At least at Tottenham, Daniel Levy only asks the impossible.

That's enough about Chelsea, though. This letter isn't written just to stop you moving to Stamford Bridge. It's to stop you going anywhere. I want you to stay at White Hart Lane. We both know your career at Tottenham is unfinished and no person who takes pride in their work leaves a job half done.

I know that many fans -- hands up, I count myself among them -- have been impatient for success. We miss the big cup finals and get frustrated when your team crashes out of tournaments when glory is in sight. But here's the truth. You have achieved more -- far more -- than any of us expected when you first arrived at Tottenham four years ago.

If you'd told me that Tottenham would qualify for the Champions League three seasons in a row, finish above Arsenal in two successive seasons and be 2017-18's top London club, I wouldn't have believed you. Best of all, you have done it playing the Spurs way. Attractive, attacking football. Success hasn't come at the price of a playing like a Jose Mourinho team.

You have already achieved more than any Spurs manager in the past 60 years, save for Bill Nicholson and Keith Burkinshaw. Make no mistake, you are already a Spurs legend. But you have the potential to do so much more. In many ways the hard work is already done. You have assembled a team in your own image and got them playing better than the sum of their parts: to have done so on a budget that is far less than any of the other top six clubs is even more impressive.

Which isn't to say there isn't more to do. The squad does need to be improved. When key first team players have been unavailable, their replacements have often struggled. No wonder that by the end of the season, it was a struggle to get over the line to clinch Champions League football. Both you and the team were exhausted.

But here's the thing. You are now in a position of strength at Spurs. And not just because of your proven track record. The club is moving into the new stadium and Levy will be hungry to mark the occasion with a trophy. Now is the time for you to insist he digs deep into the club's coffers to deliver the marquee signings to take Tottenham to the next level.

As a sentimentalist, I would love to see Gareth Bale make a return from Real Madrid. Bale remains the best player it's been my privilege to watch play in a Spurs shirt. And I'm including the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Jimmy Greaves and Glenn Hoddle here. And I'd also quite like it if you could persuade Toby Alderweireld to stay. Spurs almost always look a better unit when he is in the team and you'll be hard pushed to find a better replacement. But you're the boss. You know the players you want so I'll leave that side of things to you.

So that's all from me. Have a great summer, enjoy the World Cup and I hope we see you at the new stadium in August.

With best wishes, John.

John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.

Arsenal's 5-0 victory over Burnley on the Premier League's penultimate weekend was newsworthy for the aftermath rather than the contest itself, with Arsene Wenger waving farewell to the Emirates. But there was something of minor statistical significance about the game, too.

Arsenal's thrashing of Burnley meant Sean Dyche's side were effectively condemned to finish the campaign with a negative goal difference, having spent the majority of the season with a positive record. That ensured that, by the season's end, only the "big six" finished the season with a "plus" figure. Everyone else conceded more than they scored; a telling portrayal of the Premier League: six good sides beating the other 14.

For context, over the past decade the number of sides finishing with a positive goal difference has generally been eight. A couple of times it's dropped to seven, sometimes it's risen to nine, and in that bonkers 2015-16 campaign with Leicester City finishing as champions, it was a healthy-looking 10, a 50:50 split between net scorers and net conceders. There has only been one previous example, in 1998-99, of only six teams in the positive.

You can consider this entirely irrelevant; statistical trivia with little direct impact upon anything tangible. But the numbers illustrate the fact this season's top flight was essentially two divisions: a top six, and a bottom 14. And, from that secondary group of 14 sides, there was very little to choose between them. Burnley only managed 10 more points than a Crystal Palace side that appeared doomed.

That's the curious thing about this season's Premier League: the complete lack of "hierarchy" amongst the "other 14". The perception that there were several genuinely awful sides is actually entirely unfair. No one was as hopeless as last season's Sunderland or Aston Villa the previous campaign. But, at the same time, few sides have pushed on properly either: there's been no equivalent of Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton of a few years ago, or a Dimitri Payet-inspired West Ham.

There have basically been two different reasons for this pattern. The first is the underperformance of clubs who had seemingly established themselves as decent mid-table sides: West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City and Southampton were generally tipped for comfortable mid-table positions, yet comprised three of the bottom four (Swansea's struggles were less surprising).

These sides evidently struggled with recruitment, either in terms of managers or players. West Brom's mid-season decision to appoint Alan Pardew was disastrous, while Southampton's choice of Mauricio Pellegrino last summer was similarly unsuccessful. Stoke's problem was more about poor on-field signings, as outlined in strong terms by Jack Butland after their relegation.

The second reason, though, is more positive -- several managers have worked miracles with relatively small budgets this season. The three newly-promoted sides -- Huddersfield, Brighton and Newcastle -- all survived. Burnley, generally considered one of the three favourites for relegation amongst bookmakers last summer, punched well above their weight. Furthermore, the early strugglers Crystal Palace launched an incredible turnaround under Roy Hodgson, and despite spending over half the campaign in the relegation zone, eventually finished comfortable mid-table. These managers -- David Wagner, Chris Hughton, Rafa Benitez, Dyche and Hodgson -- could genuinely all be shortlisted in the "manager of the year" debate.

So essentially, the sides we expected to be 5/10s were actually 3/10s. The sides we expected to be 2/10s were actually 4/10s. This has created a bloated mass of teams who have beaten one another, all been beaten soundly by the big sides, and made so many Premier League fixtures this season entirely unappetizing.

Next season the Premier League desperately needs more upwardly mobile sides, who can routinely beat bottom-half teams, break the 50-point barrier and offer something extra. This appears most likely to arrive if sides with slightly larger budgets and a recent history of finishing seventh or above (Southampton, West Ham, Everton and Leicester) appoint the managers who have worked wonders with smaller clubs. None of their current managers appear particularly safe, and the likes of Dyche, Wagner and Benitez might feel their talent is suited to clubs with more long-term potential.

The quality further up the league was unquestionably impressive. Manchester City were the most dominant champions the Premier League has witnessed in terms of points won, goals scored and their margin of victory over the second-placed side. Reaching 100 points had barely been imagined before this season, and Pep Guardiola achieved it with such a revolutionary, positive style of football too.

Indeed, the quality of managers at the top of the division is the single biggest reason for their current run of collective success. Jurgen Klopp's performance with Liverpool has also been excellent, albeit more in Europe than in Premier League terms, while Jose Mourinho has taken Manchester United to their highest finish since the Sir Alex Ferguson era. Mauricio Pochettino continues to overperform at Tottenham, while Antonio Conte's second season at Chelsea was something of a disappointment, but Chelsea at least reached a second straight FA Cup final.

These five managers can all be considered amongst Europe's most revered 10 coaches at the moment, increasing the margin between themselves and the Premier League's also-rans. Their good European performance Premier League may finish with more UEFA coefficient points than any other league (although there are still two continental finals remaining which may change things) for the first time since 2008-09. Whether that reflects upon the quality of the league overall, however, is questionable considering the huge gap back to the rest.

In truth, the 2017-18 season was amongst the most forgettable in the 26 editions of the Premier League. It didn't help that the title race was finished by December, but even more problematic was the lack of genuine tests for the bigger sides from the outsiders; the wet and windy night at Stoke was no longer a major issue, Swansea were no longer capable of outpassing big sides. There were few bottom-half players capable of providing a moment of magic to transform a game.

So what were we left with? Games between top sides and bottom sides were predictable, games between bottom sides felt unappetising, and games between the top sides were often irrelevant with the title wrapped up early. The Premier League loves to promote itself in terms of excitement and volatility, but this season was the entire opposite.

Michael Cox is the editor of and a contributor to ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Zonal_Marking.