After the quite incredible low of last season, brand Premier League needed a shake up if it was going to retain its premier status and the country’s top sides went all out to freshen things up. After several decades, Sir Alex Ferguson finally stepped down from his position as the grand sith lord of English football and was replaced by one of the senior reps from a Merseyside branch of Poundsaver; Man City gave a chance to another promising continental nearly-man as Roberto Mancini made way for Manuel Pellegrini; Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea with his tail between his legs after a difficult few years in Madrid, glancing with wet eyes towards Manchester; weary of having to remember years of discount codes, Arsene Wenger rewarded himself for the first time in years with a flashy expensive superstar from Real Madrid; Spurs did the opposite, switching their Galactico for an assortment of lesser but nevertheless talented players. Everyone in the lower half remained a complete embarrassment however.
Despite this wave of changes, things didn’t seem to pick up initially. United continued to be play poorly but were now failing to pick up points from it; Pellegrini’s 4-4-2 formation juxtaposed dominant attacking displays with a poorly-covered defence; the glee at the return of one of the world’s biggest names to Chelsea was soon broken up with the style of football his team played and his interview shtick was nearing catchphrase-levels of repetition; Arsenal shone the brightest early on but faded sometime before their annual March collapse; while a couple of high profile defeats ensured Andre Villas-Boas wouldn’t oversee his Tottenham side clicking. Even surprise contenders Liverpool’s early charge was based on the attack covering up the same shortcomings of previous years.
It was the two Merseyside clubs who ended up injecting some semblance of life into the league. Brendan Rodgers gave up on most of his tinkering in the latter half of the season and just sent his side out at full pelt for a series of brutal thrashings that saw them race to top spot, while Everton, forced into making their first change in a decade after David Moye’s departure, benefited from the proactive approach of Roberto Martinez as they made up ground in the wake of Arsenal’s collapse. Their success, especially on comparatively small budgets, re-contextualised the seasons of those around them. Arsenal’s struggle to sustain a title challenge would be just another season, but Liverpool’s rise from 7th to title challengers has made them look worse than usual, while City and Chelsea’s extravagant stockpiling of players hadn’t necessarily given them the options either team needed. Everton’s success made the already poor decision by United to appoint Moyes look even worse and Spurs even more self-defeating, while offering other project clubs like Southampton the hope of offering real competition in the future.
Both teams fell short of their new goals, but they have hopefully given the teams around them the push needed to sort what has been a sorry state of affairs for several years now.
Player of the Season
A record 31 goals. 12 assists. Despite missing the first five games of the season through suspension. Luis Suarez was simply a level above.
Young Player of the Season
If we are going by the idea of anyone 23 and under, then the PFA’s choice of Eden Hazard remains the stand-out candidate, but it seems to negate the purpose of the award if it doesn’t go to a rookie. Raheem Sterling has become a key part of Liverpool’s title challenge, yet there wasn’t really much in the way of competition, with only Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley getting near his standard.
Goal of the Season
This year’s two best goals came on the same weekend. What do you prefer: tricky passing moves that can only be achieved through years of practice at the highest level or lucky volleys from mad angles? Yeah, Pajtim Kasami‘s goal against Palace it is.
Manager of the Season
Tony Pulis, Gus Poyet and Steve Bruce all did fantastically amongst the dross in the lower half, but just how bad those other teams were has possibly elevated their achievements more than they should have been. Manuel Pellegrini finally has the major European trophy that his accomplished time in Spain never afforded him, yet his team wasn’t as convincing as it perhaps should have been – for every destruction, there was a lethargic showing. It was only really the Merseyside clubs who had truly overachieved, and Brendan Rodgers, rather than Roberto Martinez, had taken the bigger leap.
Disappointment of the Season
Moyes is the obvious candidate here, but it doesn’t quite do justice to the situation that’s arisen at Manchester United. Although few could see quite the extent of how low he would drag them, it’s fair to say few outside of the kind of people who ring up football phone-ins thought Moyes would herald a second decades-spanning borderline-dictatorship of glory. It had the same air of Peter Principle appointment that surrounded Roy Hodgson at Liverpool: a reactive manager who had mildly overachieved at a lower level but had no business being anywhere near a club with genuine ambition.
Nevertheless, he wasn’t exactly left with the best squad. When Ferguson finally retired, it was expected he would leave a strong young squad ready to blossom in the years that followed and a shiny European Cup to say goodbye. Despite the league win, the team was relying on players past their best, with a lacking midfield and a dubious flock of youngsters. United proceeded to wait until the final moments of an embarrassing transfer window to even begin correcting these flaws and managed to make just as big a mess of Moyes’ sacking seven months later.
Team of the Season
Honourable mentions:Â David de Gea, Laurent Koscielny, Martin Skrtel, Luke Shaw, CesarÂ Azpilicueta, Fernandinho, James McCarthy, Aaron Ramsey, Steven Gerrard, Willian, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo