As the Premier League has come to an end and the European football calendar has stalled until the Euro’s, here is a look back at what all teams in the Premier League went through in what had to be one of the best seasons, and certainly the most dramatic end to a season seen in football ever.
Before the season started, Arsenal parted ways with three of their most influential players as Cesc Fabregas went back to his homeland of Barcelona, whilst Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy moved to Manchester City. Their season started poor and an 8-2 away defeat to Old Trafford epitomised their downfall. But despite their slump in form, Arsene Wenger once again turned the Arsenal team back on course, and with the help of 30 goals from skipper Robin Van Persie and big performances from players such as Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Song, and Laurent Koscielny, they see themselves back in the Champions League next year. Their next objective is to keep the services of their captain and try to build a more solid team around him, one that will play the Arsenal way but be much tighter at the back.
Once a European contender, Aston Villa lost their talisman in Martin O’Neill, and decided to bring in Alex McLeish for the upcoming season. But his reign lasted only the one season as they saw themselves finish 16th in the League, with no real pursuits of domestic glory and their once free flowing play, turn into nervy counter attacking football. Injuries to big names such as Darren Bent and the unfortunate discovery of Stylian Petrov’s illness left McLeish having to bring in youth players to fill in the gaps. But for a team that does produce great young talent but cannot offer a large transfer budget, anyone who is looking at the managerial role will need to work wonders to bring the once great atmosphere back around Villa Park.
A team that won the League 17 years ago, a proud fan base, and certainly talent within the squad, could not have gone through more of a rollercoaster ride than this season. The appointment of Steve Kean was always seen as a sceptical move from the ever so popular owners Venkys. Although Blackburn stuck by their manager, and players and colleagues across the league gave their backing of him, their time in the Premier League came to an end as they finished 19th after spending the whole season in the bottom half of the league, winning only seven games despite their main striker Yakubu scoring 17 goals for them. Keeping hold of players such as David Hoilett and Yakubu will be tough, but if they can do so, or invest in players to help with a straight promotion, their relegation nightmares may be forgotten such as what Newcastle and recently West Ham have achieved.
If there is one thing that Bolton has shown this season despite being relegated, it’s spirit. Their season will be overshadowed by the Fabrice Muamba situation. The world of football joined in support for his wellbeing, and fortunately Fabrice has been recovering very well, and is a perfect example that there is more to life than football. Despite big wins against Stoke and Queens Park Rangers, Bolton lost 22 games, ten of which by a two goal margin. But Owen Coyle has been given the backing of the board and after what happened to Fabrice, the club will look to push back into the Premier League as a team and will be strong contenders for automatic promotion.
Andre Villas Boas was seen as the new “special one” to guide Chelsea back amongst Europe’s elite. But the dream he was looking to build was nothing but a nightmare, their League form was poor and they looked to be on their way out of Europe after losing 3-1 at Napoli. But Chelsea decided to bring in AVB’s right hand man Roberto Di Matteo until the end of the season, and what an end he has had. Bringing old faces Lampard and Drogba back into the starting eleven, and mixing them up with the new faces of Ramires and Juan Mata, saw the Blues push back up the table finishing in sixth place, but more importantly win the FA Cup and finally give Roman Abramovich and the Chelsea fans what they have wanted for nine years since their big money takeover, the Champions League trophy. Chelsea won against Bayern Munich in their backyard on penalties, all of which seems impossible, but RDM proved impossible is not a word in his vocabulary, and came back with the biggest trophy in club football. His future is still under a grey cloud, as Abramovich may prefer to have a high profile manager running his team, but hopefully RDM is rewarded the full time job and show exactly what he can do when he’s given the opportunity, and with the Champions League and FA Cup in the bag, Abramovich would be foolish not to.
Once again it was a season in which David Moyes saw his team struggle in the first half of the season, yet with a shoe string budget, Moyes was able to bring in players that could improve his squad and put them just outside of the European places in seventh and above their rivals Liverpool. Nikita Jelavic and Steven Pienaar were the golden additions for Everton that brought in two impressive 4-0 wins against Fulham and Sunderland. Everton were unfortunate not to make the FA Cup final after losing out to Liverpool, but they will take their league place above them as a medal in itself as they proved their Premier League credentials when it mattered most.
Mark Hughes had left Fulham because he said their ambitions “were not high enough.” Yet he has just scraped survival in the Premier League, and former Spurs manager Martin Jol came in and put smiles back onto the faces of Fulham fans. Jol brought entertaining, attacking football as veteran Clint Dempsey lead the goals tally with an impressive 17 goals. Having won the same amount of games as the lost (14) and drawing ten games, Fulham managed to finish ninth place and look to build on their squad next season in order to fight for a Europa League spot.
American owners FSG (Fenway Sports Group) gave Kenny Dalglish a chance to start from the beginning of a season and build a team that could push them back up into the Champions League. Unfortunately Dalglish was unable to do so as Liverpool finished in eighth place, what made this worse was that their rivals Everton had finished just above them. With only the Carling Cup to celebrate, Dalglish was eventually given the axe. Although players such as Carroll, Suarez, and Bellamy impressed in some parts of the season, they were managed by someone who you may say has been out of the game too long to put up with the millionaire footballers of today. Liverpool hit the frame of the goal over 40 times throughout the season and had a rate of around one in ten of their shots would be on target, and with over £50million invested into Carroll and Suarez, you would expect a lot more than 47 goals from the whole team in the season. Liverpool will look to bring in a new manager, or perhaps old once more as Rafa Benitez has been linked with a return, but whoever goes for the Liverpool job, will have a lot of work to do to bring back the glory days to Anfield.
£1.003billion later, after three/four years of building a team filled with mega rich players and world class talent, City have finally been crowned champions of the Premier League after 44 years since their last league title. City were on cruise control for the first half of the season, beating teams with ease and flexing their financial muscles, their highlight of the campaign would have to be beating the neighbours in red 6-1 at Old Trafford. Alas the controversy with Carlos Tevez taking a five month vacation in Argentina playing golf and having “family time”, Mario Balotelli being the lovable character he is, and Roberto Mancini constantly knocking down their chances of winning the league, the boys in sky blue went on a downward spiral and looked to be down and out in the title race. But players such as Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, and Joe Hart, showed their class all season and helped City pick up their league form when it counted most, eventually City were crowned champions and deservedly so after an emphatic 3-2 victory against QPR on the last day of the season.
The team that has solely dominated the Premier League since it first began has now been knocked off their perch this season by their noisy neighbours. Investment into young players such as Ashley Young, David De Gea and Phil Jones, showed that United were looking to the future, but that was not good enough for the Red Devils to retain their title, but only by the slightest of fractions. Mistakes from De Gea in the beginning of the season cost United dearly, but they never gave up as Wayne Rooney collected a great tally of 27 goals, the return of Paul Scholes was a breath of fresh air to the midfield, and Jonny Evans finally stepped up to the pitch in order to replace Nemanja Vidic. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough as City took the term “squeaky bum time” to another level as they won the Premier League in stoppage time against QPR. Fergie will look to build on his team again but a world class player needs to sit into the midfield if they want to avoid having another year without silverware.
Probably the most impressive team of the season, Alan Pardew has always been criticised in the past for his managerial credentials, but has proved everyone wrong by finishing fifth in the league and being awarded the LMA manager of the year. With Carroll, Jose Enrique, and Kevin Nolan leaving the squad, players not as high profile in the premier league such as Cabaye, Ba, and Santon came in and shocked the Premier League, but none more so than the new number nine at Tyneside, Papiss Cisse. Bought in January for £10.5millon, Cisse hit the floor running faster than Usain Bolt and bagged 13 goals in the league since his arrival. Next season looks to be nothing but promising for the Geordies as their ability to scout talent for cheap has proved well and can only attract big names into the squad next year as they will finally be playing in Europe once more.
The Canaries were seen as favourites to go down at the beginning of the season, but with Paul Lambert at the helm and Delia Smith obviously cooking up winning recipes for her team, Norwich have been a breath of fresh air alongside Swansea finishing twelfth in the league above regulars Sunderland and Stoke. Goals came from across the whole squad as they played solid attacking football, but Grant Holt lead the scoring with an impressive 15 goals. Norwich will be looking to keep hold of their manager and star players, and hopefully bring in more players that can adapt to their style of play and keep them as regulars in the Premier League.
Queens Park Rangers
A team that came up with a lot of ambition, Neil Warnock brought his team up with confidence that they could stay up and someday compete for a European spot. But all was not as it seemed as Warnock was sacked by the club, and Mark Hughes came in and rebuilt the squad in the January transfer market. Despite losing 21 games in the league, familiar faces like Jamie Mackie and new bloods Djibril Cisse kept on scoring vital goals in big games against the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, and with the help of Bolton unable to collect three points on the last day, they stay in the Premier league but may look to rebuild again and make a more established team for next season.
Stoke will look back at the season with some positives as they were entertained with plenty of goals and undoubtedly the pick of the lot being Peter Crouch’s wonder strike against Man City, but their league position may worry them. With so many players available up front, it has been hard for players such as Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones to get a regular starting place. Big losses to Bolton and Sunderland were big reasons behind their 14th place finish. Tony Pulis will look to ship out some players in order to bring in new talent that can help them remain a threat to teams in the Premier League.
The Black Cats were definitely under the shadow of their rivals Newcastle this season, having lost twelve games in the league by a one goal margin and finishing 13th in the league. But the main story for Sunderland was the arrival of Martin O’Neill, whilst Steve Bruce was sacked for poor performances in the league, O’Neill took the team by the horns and steered them to winning form again taking them to the top half of the table for over a month. Goals have come from all across the squad from Nicolas Bendtner, Stephane Sessegnon, and new starlet James McClean. As the new boys are looking to be strong players for the future, O’neill will look to build over the summer as he will have more time to build a strong team for next season.
The only Welsh team in the Premier League have proven to be no pushovers. Their possession play has been nothing but admirable for the rest of the league to watch and earned them an eleventh place finish. Being compared to the likes of Barcelona in their style of play, it has proven to damage teams such as Arsenal, Man City and Fulham. Brendon Rodgers has been praised by everyone in the league and will look to build a larger squad so that they do not suffer “second season syndrome” as teams in the league have shown their class in play has proven too much for Swansea’s suave passers. Although Danny Graham scored twelve goals this season in the league for the Swans, they may want to look for a more prolific goal scorer upfront in order to keep up with the big teams.
Spurs had gone throughout the season as certainties for Champions League next season, and were provisionally granted so until Chelsea won the “holy grail” of club football in Munich, and made fourth place ineligible as a Champions League spot. Despite having a twelve point lead over Arsenal mid-season, Harry Redknapp was linked continuously with the England job which coincidence or not, saw his team go on a downward spiral in results picking up two points in five games at one point. Adebayor was their influential scorer in the league with 17 goals, but they are going to struggle to keep hold of him, Gareth Bale and most definitely Luka Modric. Whether this means a revamp at White Hart Lane or simply more funds needed to ensure Champions League next season, Redknapp is going to need to work a miracle in order to keep his star players.
West Bromwich Albion
Finishing in tenth place tells you everything about West Brom’s season, a season with some remarkable wins but some devastating defeats. Although Roy Hodgson has worked his magic to make the club sit in the top half of the table, he was rewarded so with his previous experience in mind, and was appointed as England manager ahead of the country's favourite Harry Redknapp. The Baggies lost ten games by a one goal margin, yet managed big wins against Sunderland and Wolves during the campaign. The hunt for a new manager continues but whoever comes in will be impressed with what the club has to offer but may not have a lot to spend.
Roberto Martinez proved to show he and his team had a “never say never” attitude going into every game in the latter half of the season. The Latics managed to pick up an impressive seven wins from their last ten games with big performances over Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and performed a demolition job over Newcastle. Their luck may have ran out though as Martinez looks to be heading onto a bigger club after showing his abilities down in the relegation dog fight. Wigan also look set to be losing their second top goal scorer Victor Moses (albeit six goals) as he has confirmed he will leave Wigan in the summer. If more players decide to follow him, times could be much harder for Wigan next year.
Wolves have been fighting for survival for the best part of the season, with Mick McCarthy’s departure a shock to the whole of the Premier League, his assistant Terry Connor looked determined to keep his team in the Premier League. Despite big players such as Steven Fletcher, Matt Jarvis, and Kevin Doyle all scoring goals for them, Wolves were unable to win a single game and remained bottom of the league in their last ten games, losing 23 throughout the campaign. They will look to bounce back next season, but their chances are slim as the likes of Jarvis and Fletcher look to be on their way out, giving the ever so gloomy Connor a lot to deal with coming up to preparing for the Championship next season.