The twentieth Premier League season ended on 13 May with new champions. The millions invested in Manchester City were repaid with the club becoming only the fifth to win the title since it became the Premier League in 1992.
It was a frenetic season no doubt, with some ridiculous scorelines: Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal, Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal, Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City. Yet, for all the “goal-crazy” talk, the total amount of 1,066 scored in 380 games, an average of 2.8 per game, is actually only three more than the previous season managed.
Below is our assessment of how each team faired in relation to pre-season expectations.
Final Position: 3rd (2010/11= 4th)
Analysis: After a catastrophic start in which Arsenal lost four of their first seven games, few Gunners fans would have believed their team would finish third at the end of the season. Missing the artistry of the departed Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri and conceding goals left, right and centre, they were hugely dependent on the astonishingly prolific Robin Van Persie for getting them back in the top four positions.
Arsenal will be playing in the Champions League next season so they will be optimistic they can persuade the Dutch marksman to sign a new deal. That would be their signing of the summer, without question.
Player of the Season: Robin Van Persie
Final Position: 16th (2010/11= 9th)
Analysis: All in all Alex McLeish’s tenure at Villa Park was an unmitigated disaster. The home fans just never took to him. After all, he came directly from city rivals Birmingham, who he’d just got relegated.
A solid if uninspiring start to the season was acceptable being as they’d lost both wingers, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing in the summer, but Villa went downhill fast after Christmas.
Injuries to key men, like goalscorer Darren Bent, and the loss of captain Stiliyan Petrov to a battle against leukaemia prompted a reliance on youth, which culminated in Villa’s lowest finishing position in six years. The end of the season came in the nick of time for them.
Player of the Season: Stiliyan Petrov
Final Position: 19th (Relegated) (2010/11= 15th)
Analysis: Blackburn essentially looked doomed from day one, with a vast number of fans vehemently voicing their dissatisfaction with manager Steve Kean at every home game. When considering their average performances during the season it’s amazing to think they ever pulled off that win at Old Trafford on New Year’s Eve.
In fairness, scoring goals were not the problem for Blackburn, with Yakubu having an excellent personal campaign, rather it was keeping them out. The drawn-out departure of Chris Samba in February was not surprisingly a major blow.
Player of the Season: Yakubu
Final Position: 18th (Relegated) (2010/11= 14th)
Analysis: The horrendous season Bolton have just endured was actually quite unexpected.
In retrospect it’s perhaps obvious that it was only the goals of January loan signing Daniel Sturridge that allowed Bolton to ease away from any potential relegation troubles the previous season.
With the young striker returning to Chelsea Owen Coyle had no one to take on that goalscoring mantle. So, by the time Chelsea also enticed key defender Gary Cahill midway through the season, the team had become considerably weaker at both ends of the pitch.
Player of the Season: Chris Eagles
Final Position: 6th (2010/11= 2nd)
Analysis: It’s quite difficult to be objective on how good Chelsea’s season has been. On league form alone it’s been extremely poor by their standards, sixth being their lowest placing for 10 seasons.
However, as a consequence of their Champions League and FA Cup triumphs you will find many of their fans calling it their greatest ever season. What is near-certain is that they were heading for disaster under Andre Villas-Boas and interim boss Roberto Di Matteo deserves enormous praise for their late season revival. At this point it’s impossible to say what next season’s Chelsea will look like.
Player of the Season: Juan Mata
Final Position: 7th (2010/11= 7th)
Analysis: Everton’s season played out exactly how we’ve come to expect: a poor start of six defeats in their first ten games, a gradual improvement which sees them climb to midtable and then a storming finish resulting in a top eight finish. One of these years David Moyes will get the balance right and Everton will be champions again!
It’s testament to Moyes ability to get the best out of his players that they constantly finish as high as they do on such a small budget.
If Nikica Jelavic resumes his goalscoring start to life in England and they can keep hold of Marouane Fellaini, the Toffees can possibly challenge for a top five place next season.
Player of the Season: Johnny Heitinga
Final Position: 9th (2010/11= 8th)
Analysis: Martin Jol appears to have carried on from exactly where Mark Hughes left off and that’s surely about as much as Fulham fans could have expected. Even the loss of Bobby Zamora was compensated for by the exceptional goalscoring form of Clint Dempsey, who is now a target for higher profile clubs. Moussa Dembele has also enhanced his reputation and Pavel Pogrebynak seems to have the potential to score goals.
With no significant changes, Fulham would appear well set up to have another good season next year.
Player of the Season: Clint Dempsey
Final Position: 8th (2010/11= 6th)
Analysis: Kenny Dalglish couldn’t have too many complaints about losing his job following another season that promised much but delivered little for Liverpool.
A League Cup success and FA Cup final appearance does not really compensate for finishing their league campaign well off the pace in eighth. The Luis Suarez eight-match ban was problematic on and off the pitch but was hardly responsible for the Reds failing to win 13 of their 19 home matches.
Whoever the new manager is they will have a tough task reinforcing the squad with the quality needed to mount a top four charge next season.
Player of the Season: Martin Skrtel
Final Position: 1st (2010/11= 3rd)
Analysis: City will be deliriously happy with a season in which their first genuine assault on the title granted them their reward in the final moments. Despite the vast amount spent on transfers and wages Mancini should take a lot of credit for the huge improvement in his team in the space of a year: an 18 point increase and a goal difference jump of 34.
The only real disappointment for City will have been their Champions League campaign, which saw them falter at the group stage. Mancini will now be targeting players for next season with that competition in mind.
Player of the Season: Sergio Aguero
Final Position: 2nd (2010/11= 1st)
Analysis: Relinquishing their title to the “noisy neighbours” will have been especially hard for United to take, but domestically at least United’s form this season has been as strong as ever, with a 20th league championship so nearly attained.
Attacking players like Nani, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia have really come into their own, but failure to win a trophy for the first time in eight seasons means Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to go all out to strengthen the squad this summer, particularly in midfield.
Player of the Season: Antonio Valencia
Final Position: 5th (2010/11= 12th)
Analysis: What odds would you have got at the beginning of the season on Newcastle finishing above Chelsea? In most seasons Newcastle would surely be awarded the shock of the season accolade, this year however they have to share the spotlight with promoted sides Norwich and Swansea.
Alan Pardew cannot be afforded enough credit for his shrewd transfer dealings, which also enabled the Magpies to finish above huge-spending Liverpool.
The Senegalese strike duo of Demba Ba and Papisse Cisse scored 29 league goals between them, despite the latter not arriving until February, while Yohann Cabaye was one of the league’s best midfielders throughout the campaign.
Player of the Season: Tim Krul
Final Position: 12th (2010/11= 2nd in Championship)
Analysis: Norwich’s first season back in the Premier League has surely exceeded even Paul Lambert’s expectations. Their commitment to attacking football, even at daunting venues like Old Trafford and the Emirates, brought them 52 goals and some shock wins that kept them fixed to the middle of the table throughout.
As with Swansea, next season may come harder for them, as the surprise factor diminishes and their opponents treat them more seriously, but you can bet Lambert will have his charges ready for it.
Player of the Season: Grant Holt
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Final Position: 17th (2010/11= 1st in Championship)
Analysis: Unlike their fellow promoted sides, QPR found life in the top flight quite a struggle. New owner Tony Fernandes splashed the cash once he’d brought his own manager in, in the shape of Mark Hughes, but survival on the last day was too close for comfort.
Hughes is expected to be allowed to further dismantle predecessor Neil Warnock’s team this summer and put his own stamp on the club. Of the two big name strikers he’s already brought in, Djibril Cisse scored goals that ultimately kept the Hoops up, while Bobby Zamora, if he can stay fit, is sure to find the net.
It’s defence and midfield where QPR need to strengthen, with the future of Joey Barton once again open to conjecture for non-footballing reasons.
Player of the Season: Clint Hill
Final Position: 14th (2010/11= 13th)
Analysis: Another midtable finish constitutes business as usual for Stoke. It’s now four successive seasons survived comfortably in the Premier League – Tony Pulis is obviously doing something right.
While neutrals might hope Stoke one day become more aesthetically pleasing, their own fans don’t seem to have too many arguments with a style that seems tailor made for Peter Crouch. The team also enjoyed themselves in a fairly successful Europa League run which ended at the hands of Valencia, but will have whet the appetite for future involvement in continental affairs.
Player of the Season: Peter Crouch
Final Position: 13th (2010/11= 10th)
Analysis: There’s no doubt Martin O’Neill rejuvenated the squad he inherited from Steve Bruce when he took over as Sunderland manager at the start of December, with the team going on a barnstorming run that pulled them away from the relegation zone. However, their rather underwhelming final position of 13th is actually only three places above where they were when Bruce was sacked.
There’s no doubt O’Neill will want to strengthen, but priority, especially with Niklas Bendtner unlikely to return for a second loan spell, should be keeping hold of danger man Stephane Sessegnon.
Player of the Season: Stephane Sessegnon
Final Position: 11th (2010/11= Championship Play-off Winners)
Analysis: A top half of the table finish, only four home defeats, comparisons to Barcelona- what a debut season in the Premier League it’s been for Swansea!
Playing in the top flight for the first time in 28 years, they were arguably the league’s biggest achievers this season, not only in terms of results, but for the fact they proved capable of playing their cultured brand of possession football at the highest level.
They may well face the difficult second season syndrome next year, but Brendan Rodgers will be confident in the knowledge players like Scott Sinclair have proved they can cut it at this level.
Player of the Season: Michel Vorm
Final Position: 4th (2010/11= 5th)
Analysis: A season to savour for Tottenham turned into one of disappointment, with the ultimate objective of securing a place in the Champions League taken from them by Chelsea’s win in that competition. Considering they were flirting with title aspirations up until an unlucky defeat at Manchester City in January, a season without any reward is a bitter blow. It seems more than coincidence that Spurs started to slip at the point Harry Redknapp became linked with the England job.
At least the manager who made them such an enthralling team to watch last season is now likely to stay, but will the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric be happy to make do without Champions League football once again?
Player of the Season: Scott Parker
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Final Position: 10th (2010/11= 11th)
Analysis: Another more than reasonable season for West Brom. Roy Hodgson has, for the second year in a row, steered them clear of relegation worries, a feat for which he’s been poached by England. Whoever the new man coming in is, his task will be relatively straightforward: don’t change anything.
Not since the seventies’ Big Ron days of Cyril Regis and co have the Baggies looked so at ease in this sort of company. They’ve managed to do so with an attacking style that’s got the best out of players like Peter Odemwingie and Chris Brunt and taken teams by surprise.
Player of the Season: Jonas Olsson
Final Position: 15th (2010/11= 16th)
Analysis: The great escape artists did it again. It’s as if Roberto Martinez presses a button in the final quarter of each season and his players’ performance levels increase by several notches. Wigan looked poorer than ever and certs for relegation in the first half of the season, yet in the end survived before it even went to the wire.
Safety was deservedly assured following an incredible “title-winning” sequence of results that comprised wins at Arsenal and Liverpool and a home defeat of Manchester United.
There’s a high probability Martinez will take a new challenge this summer, it would be intriguing to see how this Wigan side cope in his absence.
Player of the Season: Luciano Figueroa
Final Position: 20th (Relegated)
Analysis: The opening month of the season, when Wolves actually started to look like a bona fide Premier League outfit was clearly a false dawn. In fact it was their only bright spell of a dreadful season which they finished with 15 points fewer than they managed the previous campaign, when they only survived on the last day.
The writing was on the wall once the board made the fatal error of sacking Mick McCarthy in February and replacing him not with an experienced manager, but perennial backroom man Terry Connor.
The players surely needed to be galvanised by a man with belief and new ideas, instead their confidence was shattered.
Player of the Season: Wayne Hennessey
GOAL OF THE SEASON: Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle 2-0 Bolton, 9 April 2012
There were plenty of contenders, not least Ben Arfa’s teammate Papisse Cisse’s sensational swerving volley at Chelsea and Peter Crouch’s 30 yard smash on the turn for Stoke against Manchester City. Ben Arfa’s dribble from his own half past most of the Bolton team most deserves the award however. It was one of those ‘Maradona against England in ’86′ moments the Premier League so rarely produces.
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