FourFourTwo's Premier League power rankings 2015/16: YOUR team rated
20. Aston Villa
This is what complete failure looks like. Villa’s pre-season recruitment strategy hinted as to what 2015/16 would be and, true to their intentions, they have produced a middle-finger of a campaign which has stretched their supporters' loyalty up to and beyond the elastic limit.
The on-pitch performances were what they were and would be enough to secure last place on this list, but it's the tales of background dysfunction which have nailed it: the eye-opening revelations concerning the scouting department, the appointment and January betrayal of Remi Garde and, as a final inglorious flourish, the resignation of David Bernstein and Lord King from the board.
Over the past decade, Aston Villa have been shaped to fail and so it's hard to make a case against them being one of the most righteous relegations in Premier League history. The supporters have all our sympathy, but those in authority deserve none: they finally got what has been coming to them.
Chelsea are afflicted by a temporary malaise rather than a full-scale, permanent decline. Roman Abramovich's wealth will presumably correct their trajectory, but this season showed them at their ugliest.
Jose Mourinho and his constructed tension have a habit of creating fractures, but reports suggest that many of his players were complicit in forcefully widening those cracks – and isn't that the realisation of one of the great fears about modern football? Millionaire players whose commitment is mood-dependent and who have no obvious dedication to the shirt on their backs...
Performances improved for Guus Hiddink and Chelsea put together an impressive unbeaten sequence under the likeable Dutchman, but that really only served to emphasise how unnecessarily disappointing this year has been. The late, artificial effort against Tottenham showed the current squad at both their best and worst: powerful and talented enough to rescue a point against a challenging team, but disconnected in a way which betrayed their collective ‘when it suits’ attitude.
Too little, too late – and that doesn't just refer to this season. The delay in replacing Steve McClaren cost Rafa Benitez any realistic chance of saving the club from relegation, but Newcastle are a victim of their own culture as much as their tentative decision-making.
Mike Ashley may have invested heavily last summer, but that followed years of inertia during which sell-on values and commercial revenue had been prioritised ahead of on-pitch performance. St James' Park became the preferred destination for players who wanted to earn moves to more successful clubs and, over the long-term, that cost the squad its soul.
As Jamaal Lascelles memorably observed after being sent off at Everton, “no one gives a f***” – and he was right: up until these last desperate weeks, the collective attitude has been far short of what it should have been.
Newcastle weren't relegated solely because of McClaren or any single player, but because they have been disrespecting the unwritten rules of survival for far too long. This year, they paid for that. Lee Charnley needn't bother with that end-of-season evaluation – he should just resign and, in so doing, help to create the conditions for Benitez to stay.
A catastrophe of a season and a year during which all the concerns about Roberto Martinez were realised. The asterisk against the Spaniard has always concerned his inability to organise a defence and, reliably, he made Everton perilously fragile.
Talented centre-backs became national laughing stocks under him and the one commodity he inherited from David Moyes – rugged resilience – quickly became a distant memory.
Martinez is a wholly decent man, but the recent losses to Liverpool, Sunderland and Leicester were bordering on shameful and amplified the acrimony which rightly cost him his job. He had a gifted squad loaded with young, impressionable attacking talent and yet all he really succeeded in doing is giving that nucleus an excuse to leave.
16. Crystal Palace
An upcoming FA Cup final appearance clouds the issue, but 2016 at Selhurst Park has been very limp. Having won eight games before the turn of the year, Palace would – as is their manager's unwanted trademark – suffer a disastrous slump and slide lifelessly towards the relegation places.
Should they beat Manchester United at Wembley then that league performance will likely be overlooked and Alan Pardew will be forgiven but, given the talent available at Selhurst Park, some mandatory introspection needs to take place over the summer. The cup is a nice day out, but the league is their future.
They may be an unfashionable club playing in a restricting ground, but they boast two of the more talented attacking players in the country, a France international in holding midfield, and two better-than-average centre-halves. They must do better.