With the domestic season over, I attempt to find five common themes from the Premier League this year.
1) Teams Trying to Avoid Success
Teams have been falling over themselves to try and let others take the glory this season. City led United at the top of the table by 5 points in March, before finding themselves 8 points behind in April. However, United then happily waved City back in to the title race in the most un-Manchester United like finish to a season. And even then City tried their hardest to mess it up against QPR.
Similarly, none of Arsenal, Spurs or Chelsea seemed to want Champions League football much. At times it seemed like a race between three drunk toddlers each taking it in turn to fall over and take an age to get back up, allowing the others to stumble past them.
And yet the points totals are no lower than previous seasons. Indeed, United have the highest points total for a team not to have won the league for twenty years. In almost every case, team's runs of form have been wildly exaggerated this season. Each of the top four have gone through periods of ten games unbeaten, before taking fewer points than games for the next five. Though it's been infuriating for each team's fans, it has made for brilliant entertainment.
2) Imbalanced League and Cup Form
Both Chelsea and Liverpool have had horrific seasons in the league, and yet were the most successful cup teams in England. Liverpool ended the season with both a winners and a runners-up medal, whilst Chelsea took the two biggest prizes, finally achieving their long-coveted Champions League medal ironically during their worst league campaign in years. On the flip side, the league's most successful teams- Manchester United and City, had a miserable time in all of the three cups they were in.
Were the top Premier League teams simply not good enough to fight on four different fronts this year or was it just one of those flukes?
3) Big Games, Big Scores
Almost every time two of the ‘big' teams played each other, there were goals, and lots of them. I have a feeling I'm not the first to pick up on this, but it is still worth drawing people's attention to it again after a quieter second half to the season. For the season to have a single five-goal thriller between top teams is unusual, but to have frankly ridiculous scorelines over and over again is a rare pleasure. Man Utd 8-2 Arsenal. Man Utd 1-6 Man City. Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal. Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham. Chelsea 3-3 Man Utd. Tottenham 1-5 Man City. Man City 3-2 Tottenham.
Few of the top teams had anything resembling a solid defence this year, so attack was often their only option. Whilst this generally worked against smaller team, against closer rivals, it produced spectacular results.
4) Unexpected Joy for Promoted Teams
Before the start of the season at least two of the three promoted teams were in most people's predictions for those to be relegated. As it happened, none were relegated- for only the second time in twenty years. Both Swansea and Norwich avoided it with ease and in style.
For Swansea it has been the team which has mainly won the plaudits for a passing style so rarely seen in England and always assumed to be wrong for more lowly teams. For Norwich, it is the players who have taken credit, with a number of individuals really standing out. The most obvious example of this is John Ruddy who fully deserved his brief England call up.
However, it is the managers who have rightly been given the most credit, with both Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert bravely sticking to their principles throughout the season. However, this credit must also be given to Mark Hughes. With 10 games remaining QPR looked in real trouble. In the relegation zone and facing one of the toughest run ins imaginable they defied all expectations, winning big game after big game.
5) The Year of the Animal Invader
Everyone likes it when an animal runs on to the pitch. See a cat in the street and I'm bored by it, see it on a football pitch and I'll laugh and clap along with the rest of the world. This season there has been an embarrassment of riches in this department. First there was the Anfield cat, followed by the Loftus Road squirrel, and then my personal favourite, the Ewood Park chicken. The only downside were the painfully unfunny Twitter accounts created in their honour.