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The real Premier League table: Chelsea finish 18th; Arsenal, City miss top four

The final league table may not lie, but it doesn't always tell the whole story. It doesn't reflect the feelings behind where a team finish, or how that compares to expectations.

So, how would the table actually look in that regard? Who should feel happiest about their seasons? Who most overachieved, who most underachieved?

1. Leicester City
Realistic hopes before season: Survival
Where they finished: 1st

Top of the table and, emotionally, top of the world. They are not just the story of the season, they are possibly the finest story in modern football history.

2. Southampton
Realistic hopes before the season: A European challenge
Where they finished: 6th

Saints finished way higher than expected, and that after so many high points: victories against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea; the 4-2 evisceration of Manchester City; the 3-2 comeback against Liverpool; and, perhaps most impressive of all, the 4-0 victory over Arsenal. If they can keep manager Ronald Koeman and their core of players together this summer, things are bright.

3. Bournemouth
Realistic hopes before the season: Survival
Where they finished: 16th

Bournemouth ending the campaign just two places above the relegation zone does not reflect that they were comfortably safe long before anyone expected them to be. They claimed some big wins along the way against teams like Manchester United and Chelsea, and this was a supreme first season in the top flight.

4. Tottenham Hotspur
Realistic hopes before the season: A Champions League challenge
Where they finished: 3rd

It could have been so much better, as Spurs should have pushed their title challenge past the 2-2 draw at Chelsea and also ensure a first finish above Arsenal since 1995. The 5-1 humiliation at Newcastle United on the last matchday was an awful way to end, but Mauricio Pochettino has ensured the club should now have bigger concerns than St Totteringham's Day. That should be the lesson. The last few weeks should not obscure the fact that everyone expected little more than transition and a fifth-or sixth placed finish, yet this young team impressively challenged for the title. The outlook of the club has changed.

5. Arsenal
Realistic hopes before the season: A Premier League title challenge
Where they finished: 2nd

It could have been worse, as Arsenal were on the brink of finishing behind Tottenham for the first time in 21 years and were temporarily in danger of missing top four. That didn't happen, as Arsene Wenger actually claimed his highest finish in 11 years. But it all feels so hollow when you consider that they were top in January and missed a big chance to claim the title. After so many years where Wenger claimed his side did well to compete against better-resources big clubs, Arsenal should have taken full advantage of their struggles. They couldn't. In fact, they couldn't even mount a decent title challenge. They had faded by the end of February, as they've done so often and, as such, the debate about Wenger's future should not fade at all.

6. West Ham United
Realistic hopes before the season: Mid-table
Where they finished: 7th

West Ham said farewell to their old Boleyn stadium, but it's worth remembering that one preseason worry was that the managerial change would see them say farewell to the Premier League. While Sam Allardyce offered assurance of survival, the danger was that Slaven Bilic was something of an unknown. He proved too much of an unknown to big teams, however, as West Ham claimed wins against Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and -- on a famous last day -- Manchester United. They might have squandered a Europa League place but, thanks to the improvements of this season, they don't look like squandering the opportunities provided by the Olympic stadium.

7. Liverpool
Realistic hopes before the season: A Champions League challenge
Where they finished: 8th

This would look very different if Liverpool had won the Europa League -- or, earlier, the League Cup -- and completely justified a mid-table league finish. But that's the thing about cups for big teams: they mean little unless you win them. At the very least, the high level of performance in many knockout games gives huge encouragement for the future under Jurgen Klopp. There is hope that consistency will surely come once he has a full preseason behind him.

8. Crystal Palace
Realistic hopes before the season: Mid-table
Where they finished: 13th

What happens in the FA Cup final will completely alter the perception of this campaign but the fact they have reached that stage for the first time in 26 years -- and are just one match from a first ever senior trophy -- is well worth the cost of so many bad results since Christmas.

9. Watford
Realistic hopes before the season: Survival
Where they finished: 13th

The season ended with an unmistakable feeling of disappointment and manager Quique Sanchez Flores left as it finished, but his popularity speaks to how well Watford initially did. Really, they over-performed. The 2-1 FA Cup semifinal defeat to Palace almost symbolised all of this: It could have been so much more glorious but there is much merit in getting so far and beating the likes of Arsenal.

10. Stoke City
Realistic hopes before the season: Mid-table
Where they finished: 9th

Stoke, like many mid-table sides with hope of doing something better, evaporated shortly after Christmas as reality set in. But that doesn't mean there won't be some greater substance to the side in the future. Riding on the crest of "Stoke-alona," the club are in the process of changing their identity and that could be seen rather emphatically during impressive December wins over Manchester United and City. Respectable.

11. Swansea City
Realistic hopes before the season: Mid-table
Where they finished: 12th

The Swans finished where many might have expected, but that doesn't cover their fine start in beating Manchester United, the collapse of Garry Monk's reign and just how doomed they looked before Francesco Guidolin steadied things in creditable fashion from mid-January. That resilience reflects Swansea's good structure.

12. Sunderland
Realistic hopes before the season: Survival
Where they finished: 17th

While Sam Allardyce deserves huge credit for keeping the side up, and the supporters will obviously take such glee from staying up at the expense of Newcastle United, the truth is the club as a whole should not be in such a situation. They have the resources to do better, but don't seem to have the ambition. That needs to change.

13. Manchester City
Realistic hopes before the season: Winning the Premier League title
Where they finished: 4th

Man City might have beaten local rivals United to the final Champions League spot, but they should never have been so low in the first place. Indeed, given the resources their disposal, they should have won the race to the title and added that trophy to their League Cup. It was significant under-performance, and now means they face an August playoff for Europe. Manuel Pellegrini's failings effectively justified the decision to replace him with Pep Guardiola.

14. Manchester United
Realistic hopes before the season: A Premier League title challenge
Where they finished: 5th

Uplifting as winning the FA Cup would be, it would not change the fact United have badly under-performed this season. Like City, they should also have challenged for the title and, like City, their current manager -- Louis van Gaal -- has justified why he should be replaced. They did not score enough goals, often bored their own fans and will need to change something before the start of the new season.

15. Norwich City
Realistic hopes before the season: Survival
Where they finished: 19th

For all the disappointment of relegation, Norwich should learn the lesson of Burnley 2014-15 and look at how well their admired manager did with them in the Premier League. Alex Neil's side earned respect, even if they did not earn enough points.

16. West Brom
Realistic hopes before the season: Mid-table
Where they finished: 14th

As difficult as West Brom can be to play, they are also difficult to watch. There isn't all that much to be optimistic about.

17. Everton
Realistic hopes before the season: A Champions League challenge
Where they finished: 11th

It feels so much longer than three years ago that Roberto Martinez was promising Everton he would get them into the Champions League, but it certainly feels like two years since they looked anything like a team capable of doing so. Since then, Everton have looked flimsy, and this depressing campaign was the final collapse.

18. Chelsea
Realistic hopes before the season: Winning the Premier League title
Where they finished: 10th

A dismal season that's been as hard to believe as Leicester City's success. It's only slightly easier to believe that Jose Mourinho was sacked in December, given it feels like it was a story from a different campaign. Chelsea have seemingly been drifting since the first game of the campaign and put in the worst title defence in Premier League history, as the defending champions could only finish in 10th.

19. Newcastle United
Realistic hopes before the season: Mid-table
Where they finished: 18th

Newcastle paid the price for their complacency and for not investing enough in ambition. Fans' protests, the sacking of Steve McClaren and an outlay of £24m in January which did not see returns. The only optimism comes from the fact that Rafa Benitez looks willing to put up with Mike Ashley's ownership for longer than he was originally employed, but it is the approach of this regime that got Newcastle relegated.

20. Aston Villa
Realistic hopes before the season: Mid-table
Where they finished: 20th

A season so bad that their own supporters made jokes about the opposition failing to score more goals against them. A dismal campaign that ended in relegation and one that should cause deep contemplation about what comes next after the club were sold to a Chinese businessman.

Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.

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