Smaller EPL clubs do themselves proud
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Smaller EPL clubs do themselves proud

Apart from the dominance of Manchester City, the spirited challenge of Arsenal and Newcastle's revival, the Premier League season was notable for the impressive showing by a number of "smaller" clubs.

They proved that you don't need bucketfuls of money if the players show heart and teamwork.

For a start, none of the three clubs which had been promoted the previous season succumbed to relegation, something that has only happened twice before in the Premier League.

The three teams involved -- Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest and Fulham -- will be among the first to acknowledge their survival was as much to do with team spirit rather than skill.

Bournemouth had been relegation favourites nearly all season but hauled themselves out of trouble just at the right time and could even afford to lose their last four matches.

However, manager Gary O'Neil knows that worrying finish is a timely warning that if they don't tighten up their defence, they will be in trouble again next season.

Nottingham Forest also looked destined for the drop for much of the season, but under the inspired guidance of manager Steve Cooper just about survived thanks to their spirit and impressive home form.

Fulham had become regarded as one of the classic yo-yo clubs that flitter between the Championship and the Premier League, but this season never looked in trouble, finishing in 10th place, which boss Marco Silva called "brilliant".

They displayed much better resolve than on previous excursions to the top flight.

Perhaps the two most praiseworthy performances came from clubs which for many years would never have been associated with the top flight.

Brentford, who have spent most of their long history in the third tier, managed to avoid the "second season syndrome," finishing in ninth pace -- not bad for a side many had tipped for relegation.

Danish manager Thomas Frank has done a remarkable job for the Bees on a small budget.

However, he will have to face the first half of next season without his star striker Ivan Toney following his ban for illegal betting.

For neutrals, the brightest performance of the lesser lights came from Brighton, who finished in sixth place, earning the right to battle it out in the Europa League.

Under manager Roberto De Zerbi, the Seagulls have been a joy to watch with their flowing, attacking play.

Brighton's success has also been achieved on limited resources which includes a very astute recruitment policy.

Several signings have been real bargains, especially Japanese winger Kaoru Matuma who is one of the most exciting players in the league.

The one strange result in Brighton's season was when out of the blue they succumbed 5-1 at home to Everton, a result that was to play a key role in the Toffees' ultimate survival.

For the second year running, Everton just escaped but their unhappy fans expect them to be in the top half battling for European places rather than scratching about at the bottom.

The most under-performing club this season have been Chelsea.

No one can really explain why they have looked so insipid on the field.

Frank Lampard probably thought he could redeem himself in the short spell as interim manager but it backfired badly.

He failed to record a single home victory which has hardly helped his already sagging managerial reputation.

It will be interesting to see what new boss Mauricio Pochettino does with the squad.

He is an outstanding manager but will be tested to the full in his attempts to turn things around at Stamford Bridge.

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