Premier League End-of-Season Review

The Premier League season drew to a dramatic close on ‘Survival Sunday’. BBC’s pundits on Match of the Day claimed it was one of the best season’s ever. Maybe the excitement of the final day went to their heads, as in my opinion it’s been a rather ordinary season in England’s top flight.

With the title sewn up before the opening day, and no real fight for top four places, it was at the bottom where things were more interesting.

Sky Sports don’t mind a bit of hype. ‘Survival Sunday’ did live up to its billing, as we had twists and turns of unbelievable proportions during 90 minutes of football. With West Ham already relegated after a dreadful season for them, it was two to drop from Blackpool, Wigan, Birmingham, Wolves and Blackburn.

Blackpool couldn’t have picked a more difficult game, away at Manchester United. But for some time they were doing enough to survive. Victory would have been enough for safety and after going behind, they fought tremendously to actually take the lead with two terrific goals. But defending is not one of Ian Holloway’s team’s strong points and they went on to lose 4-2 and be consigned back to the Championship. It’s a shame because they have lit up the Premier League, not just with their bright Tangerine jerseys but with attractive, flowing football.

Blackburn did themselves a favour by racing into a 3-0 lead over Wolves which put Mick McCarthy’s men in danger of the drop. A Wolves goal was scored almost exactly as Spurs took the lead of Birmingham, meaning the Blues fell into the drop zone and Wolves were safe.

Then more twists occurred, as Birmingham equalised and Wigan took the lead at Stoke. Wolves fell back into the relegation places but only needed a goal to push themselves out on goal difference. Stephen Hunt scored a screamer to do just that, and with Birmingham knowing they needed to go for a winner, they conceded to the sucker punch as Roman Pavlyuchenko fired home to send Birmingham down with Blackpool and West Ham.

What a day, you could barely keep up.

On to the season as a whole, and it is widely acknowledged by football fans up and down the country, that this is nowhere near the best Manchester United side of the past 20 years. Yet they have proved to be the strongest by far in the Premier League this season, despite their star man Wayne Rooney being off form for half of the campaign. They are worthy champions though, as the other teams have been nowhere near as good as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

The expected challenge was to come from last year’s champions Chelsea, and United’s rivals from across the city, Manchester City.

Chelsea began the season like a house on fire. Unfortunately for them, the fire was extinguished well before Christmas. The loss for several weeks of Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba proved too big for them as they faltered big time. A late resurgence was too little, too late and they ended the campaign a distant second, 9 points behind United.

That means failure for owner Roman Abramovic. Defeat in the quarter finals of the Champions League to United meant another season passed without the title that the Russian wants, and that means that Carlo Ancelotti joins the dole queue this summer.

City spent big ahead of the season. Mario Balotelli, David Silva and Yaya Toure were added to the Eastland ranks in the hope that they could push their neighbours for the honours. They’ve enjoyed a much better season and have merely lacked a bit of the consistency which United have in abundance.

They’re improving though, and the noisy neighbour tag will continue as they will continue to build. With FA Cup success and Champions League qualification behind them, Roberto Mancini’s men will go from strength to strength, and with inevitable big signings to arrive this summer, expect City to put up a stronger challenge next time around.

Arsenal had a strong first half to the campaign, but then stuttered almost to a halt as the campaign ended. The lack of a top quality goalkeeper is an on-going problem for the Gunners, although Monsieur Wenger doesn’t appear to see it. Thomas Vermaelen’s untimely injury left them short of quality in central defence, and while those cracks were papered over at the beginning of the season, they open up after the turn of the year.

Fourth place for the Gunners means that Wenger is under huge pressure from his club’s fans who are simply desperate for silverware. A missed chance in the Carling Cup along with a poor league finish has supporters asking questions about the Frenchman’s future at the club.

Tottenham enjoyed a successful Champions League campaign, but that ultimately might have cost them their place in next season’s competition as their form faded somewhat and they only finished fifth. Liverpool had another disappointing campaign, with Roy Hodgson paying for a dismal first half to the season by being relieved of his duties at Anfield. The successor was none other than Kenny Dalglish, who inspired a team devoid of confidence into terrific end of season form and sixth position.

Only the Champions League final remains to be played. One of the poorest Manchester United sides in recent history have reached the final after winning their 19th league title. How does Fergie do it?! It’s been an eventful season, if not the greatest in terms of quality. Only 10 weeks or so before it starts all over again. Roll on next season!

By Paul Harper


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