Curtain Call – Season Review; Premier LeaguePosted: April 19, 2012
As another controversy filled Premier League season comes to its conclusion, it is looking very much like the title is returning to Manchester. But which half of Manchester, remains in question.
City had the edge over their bitter rivals for the majority of the season, which was summed up nicely by the 6-1 victory at Old Trafford. They looked to be cruising to their first league title since 1967-68, but their incapability to take advantage of their position led to them losing first place to their cross-town, who constantly remained within arms length in terms of points.
It seemed as though the title was returning to Old Trafford once again, following City’s slump in form, as United gained a 8 point lead, but the return of the formerly estranged Carlos Tevez has revitalised The Citizens’ attack, while a defeat to a fighting Wigan side for United means the race for the title is up for grabs, but from past experience (the 2008/09 season being a good reference) I can’t see United giving up this lead so late in the season and I think the Premier League title will find itself in familiar surroundings.
The race for Champions League football will also certainly heat up. Arsenal are currently sitting in third place with a 5 point cushion over their own noisy neighbours, Tottenham Hotspur, who have a battle on their hands remaining in fourth place and Champions League football next season, with Newcastle United and Chelsea snapping at their heels.
Arsenal have endured a bittersweet season. A terrible start to the campaign was made worse when they were on the receiving end of an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford which forced Arsene Wenger to bring in some new faces in the dying hours of January deadline day. The most important signing in my opinion being Mikel Arteta, who has fitted in seamlessly in Arsenal’s midfield. Their star man, Robin Van Persie, has also been injury free and has been in red hot form for Arsenal, scoring 27 goals and at points this season, has carried his team to victory. However, The Gunners face the risk of losing their star man, who is approaching the final year on his contract, and with teams like Barcelona interested in the Dutch man, he may be following in the footsteps of many of Arsenal’s star players before him to the exit door in search of more silverware to show for their career.
Spurs once have had another great season under Harry Redknapp and are in the running for another season in Europe next year, but whether that is in the Champions League or Europa League, is in their hands. Like last season, they started this season in top form but mid way through, they seemed to lose their way slightly, which coincided with the sacking of Fabio Capello from the England job and all the eyes of a country were laid on the Spurs boss to succeed him. If Redknapp will take the job is another question, but if he does, he will want to leave on a high, and qualifying for the Champions League will be just that.
It has been a fairytale season for Newcastle, who, under Alan Pardew, have massively over achieved in the league this season and now are a matter of goals away from the reward of Europe’s top flight club competition, Spurs hanging on narrowly by goal difference. Newcastle pulled off the signing of the season during the Summer by bringing in Senegalese striker Demba Ba, who has scored 16 goals in the league. Another top signing followed in January, when they signed Papiss Cissé from Freiberg for around £9m, who, like Ba, has been a goal machine, scoring 11 goals in 10 outings. With these two, and players like Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Tiote and Krul, if they could strengthen their defence and attack just a little further, they could be considered a real contender next season.
Chelsea on the other hand risk finishing in their lowest position in the league since the take over of their Russian owner, Roman Abrahmovic, whose knack of firing managers makes Lord Alan Sugar blush. The latest victim to Roman’s axe was André Villas-Boas, a manager who I had high hopes for when he first arrived following a highly successful season at Porto, but after a poor season, in terms of results and overall team performances, AVB followed the path of many managers before him and was replaced by Roberto Di Matteo. However, since then, the team has been given a new lease of life and have fought their way back into contention for Champions League football. Anything else for Chelsea and their free plastic flag waving fans would be a disaster.
At the foot of the table, it seems almost certain that the first casualty of relegation with be Wolves who are sat in 20th place, with 23 points, 8 away from safety. It is very much a season of frustration for everyone involved with the Molineux club, and poor results in the league meant it was the end for the relationship between Wolves, their fans and Mick McCarthy after 6 years in charge for the Barnsley born manager.
Wigan Athletic were mixed within the usual suspects of relegation but once again seem to have turned on the engines at the last minute and now find themselves 5 points above the drop zone following a string of victories, most notably, against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.
The teams most likely to be joining Wolves in the Championship next season will be two of either Queens Park Rangers, Bolton Wanderers, and Blackburn Rovers.
Both QPR and Blackburn spent large amounts of money (for them at least) during the summer, and expected to finish in a comfortable position in the league but both have had very poor seasons. The only difference between the two being QPR sacked their manager, Neil Warnock, while Blackburn’s owners stuck by Steve Kean despite constant calls for him to be kicked out of the Ewood Park hot seat.
It’s difficult to put your finger on what exactly has gone wrong at Bolton this season, they are usually a well drilled side who usually give most teams a good game, but this season they have looked nothing like their former selves, bar in short blasts. Disaster almost struck the Reebok Stadium residents, when in a FA Cup game at Spurs, midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest and had to fight for his life, a fight he almost lost. Luckily, the player has now made a full recovery and has very recently been discharged from hospital. At the end of the day, even relegation wouldn’t have been as bad as losing a beloved member of the team for Bolton Wanderers.
It is well and truly squeaky bum time in the Premier League and there is still a lot to play for and there seems to be a surprise around every corner, but what ever happens, it’ll only be fun for the neutrals.