Week 40 – Season review (Premier League column for Goal.com Japan)
As far as Premier League climaxes go, it wasn’t exactly up there with last year. Manchester United reclaimed their trophy with four matches still to play. Arsenal made it over the line ahead of local rivals Tottenham Hotspur and ensured that England will be represented by the same four teams in the Champions League next term as it was this. Wigan Athletic’s defeats to Swansea City and the Gunners ended the relegation battle early and denied us the prospect of anything up to a ten-way, final-day decider.
But there was still plenty to keep us excited throughout the season. Swansea and Wigan both picked up their first ever major trophies – the former beating League Two giantkillers Bradford City to lift the League Cup, while the latter became the first FA Cup winners to suffer the drop in the same campaign. Chelsea overcame a gruelling 69-game season to win the Europa League and become the first English side to lift all three major continental trophies. And, on a mental final day, Sir Alex Ferguson bowed out with the Premier League’s first ever 5-5 draw, away to West Bromwich Albion.
Read on for my winners and losers of 2012/13.
(4-4-2 narrow diamond)
GK: Petr Čech
DF: Rafael da Silva, Phil Jagielka, Jan Vertonghen, Leighton Baines
DM: Michael Carrick
MF: Juan Mata, Gareth Bale
FW: Robin van Persie, Luis Suárez
The toughest decision comes in goal. Asmir Begović of Stoke City was the clear star man in the first half of the season and David de Gea of Manchester United in the second, but neither will especially enjoy looking back on the other 19 matches of their respective sides’ campaigns. In the end I’ve gone for the consistency of Chelsea’s Petr Čech.
The signing of the season at just £2 million (£2 million?!) from Rayo Vallecano, Michu was an utter joy to behold – not only for his 18 goals but for the glorious, ghosting runs between the number ten and nine positions when afforded the opportunity to start behind the Swansea City front line.
Otherwise, the differences from the PFA Team of the year come in defence. Rafael da Silva’s new-found maturity – his recent red card against Chelsea notwithstanding – sees him come in at right-back for Pablo Zabaleta, while Everton’s (for now?) Phil Jagielka edges Rio Ferdinand in the middle.
Other honourable mentions must go to Santi Cazorla, Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard, Marouane Fellaini, Matija Nastasić, Gareth McAuley, and – for their tremendous performances since joining Liverpool in January – both Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho.
Player of the season
A major issue with the PFA Player of the Year award is how significantly the vote appears to be influenced by its timing. The latest winner, Gareth Bale, was right in the middle of his terrific goalscoring purple patch as the nominations were cast this season while Robin van Persie, one of the two other leading candidates, experienced a sudden dry spell.
Perhaps controversially, though, I am going to pick the third. On his day, when he happens to be in the right mood, Luis Suárez can be the biggest idiot in world football. The PFA ceremony came amid a ten-match ban that curtailed his season and will delay his next. This is now his final chance – Liverpool must sell up if the Uruguayan ever disgraces the club’s name again.
But it is in everyone’s best interests that that doesn’t happen. This season, Suárez has lit up English football to become one of its true stars, netting 23 times in the Premier League and 30 in all competitions. He began the campaign essentially doing all the goalscoring work for an entire front three, before the arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho allowed Liverpool to better take advantage of his creativity and tireless movement to and from wider and deeper positions.
Best young player
It is hard to see the point of a player as established Gareth Bale being awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year award as well as the main prize – not least since he was overlooked for the former honour while winning the latter two years ago.
Christian Benteke, on the other hand, has come fresh out of Belgian football to take England by storm. Having first made his name as a 17/18-year-old with 14 Jupiler Pro League goals for Kortrijk in 2009/10, the DR Congo-born hitman netted 16 in 32 league games for Genk last season and three in five at the start of this before a deadline day move to Villa Park.
Benteke’s power, pace, and sheer confidence ensured that the step up to the Premier League was managed at a single bound. Aged 21 at the time, he scored on his debut against Swansea City and went on to register 19 in the league plus a further four in Aston Villa’s run to the Capital One Cup semi-finals. Even while the club struggled, his attacking play alongside Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor was simply explosive – not least during a 3-1 win at Anfield where Benteke scored twice either side of a back-heeled assist for the Austrian.
SIR ALEX FERGUSON
Aged 71 – and after 26 and a half years, 13 Premier League titles, and 38 major honours – Sir Alex Ferguson bows out on top.
On paper, Manchester United’s best eleven ought to have been bettered both by Manchester City and, arguably, Chelsea. Certainly, the playing resources at Ferguson’s disposal did not constitute a vintage by Old Trafford standards and they had no right to consider that a winning margin of fully 11 points could even be a remote possibility.
For all the contribution of Robin van Persie, the difference that made United such comprehensive champions came in the dugout. While Roman Abramovich lost his nerve with Roberto di Matteo at Stamford Bridge and Roberto Mancini’s credentials slowly unravelled at Eastlands, Ferguson once again did what he does best – rising to the latest challenge in the most emphatic manner possible.
Just as he had in 1992, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010, the Scot used the bitter disappointment of last season to instil a near-unstoppable winning mentality into his charges. Sometimes they had to come back from one or two goals behind, sometimes they left it late, sometimes they played poorly. But almost always, they won anyway. Ta-ra, Fergie.
It is strange to think now that, back in August when sportswriters around the United Kingdom and the rest of the world wrote their season previews, a lot of people fancied Swansea City for the drop. The loss of manager Brendan Rodgers to Anfield, plus the departures of star players Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair was supposed to reduce the Swans to one-season wonders. Michael Laudrup arrived as a big name in the hot seat but with a coaching reputation that was, they said, unproven.
Swansea won their first match 5-0 away to Queens Park Rangers and never looked back. Michu sparkled together with other new signings such as Pablo Hernández, Jonathan de Guzmán, and Chico Flores. Ashley Williams was a bedrock at the back alongside the latter; Ben Davies stepped out of the youth team to replace the injured Neil Taylor and looked like he had been a Premier League player for years.
Laudrup, it turned out, was the next logical progression within the club’s long-term model of sustainability. He added directness, flair, and versatility to make the side even more attractive, win their first ever major trophy, and finish in the top half.
Most disappointing team
Given their status as the richest team in English football history, Manchester City’s Premier League title defence must go down as one of the lamest. Just as their neighbours’ successful campaign began the moment the previous season finished, City embarked upon their path of failure when they managed to spend the summer ensuring they would start 2012/13 with a weaker squad than before. Allowing Nigel de Jong to leave and replacing him with Javi García, at a net loss of almost £14 million, goes down as a shocking piece of business.
The fired Roberto Mancini ostensibly retains the love of the City fans for bringing them their first trophy in 35 years and their first championship in 44, but perhaps also for reminding them of the self-deprecation that kept them going through the wilderness years. His man-management skills were exposed not only with the eventual departure of Mario Balotelli but also the public criticism of Joe Hart, plus several woefully undermotivated performances from the team as a whole and Samir Nasri in particular. In terms of tactical awareness, his ill-considered experiment with 3-5-2 was reminiscent of a teenager trying out different settings on the PlayStation. According to the Italian, it was never his fault. Now, it is no longer his problem.
There is a strong sense this May that English football has reached the end of an era with a list of famous retirements including Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen, and – most significantly – Sir Alex Ferguson.
For the first time, Manchester United will enter a Premier League season with a new manager. It will be the first time that any English champion has done so since Kenny Dalglish became director of football at Blackburn Rovers in 1995. Even more incredibly, each of this year’s top three – and four of the top six – will undergo managerial changes over the summer break as well.
This presents us with greater unpredictability than at this point in any other year since the Premier League began. David Moyes’s United will likely begin next term as third favourites for the title, but how will the former Everton man seek to make his mark after he unofficially takes over at Old Trafford this week? Will José Mourinho negotiate a route out of Madrid back to Chelsea and, if so, can he carry on where he left off first time round? Will Manchester City look to Manuel Pellegrini, and possibly Isco, to recreate a bit of neighbourly racket?
Watch this space.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Week 40 – Season review (Premier League column for Goal.com Japan):
» Cheap Oakley Sunglasses [Cheap Oakley Sunglasses]
considerably garments as well as totes that were sent to the woman's, the girl essential the area Clogs having trousers stuff and also a [Read More]
Tracked on 05/31/2013 at 12:00 AM
» maillot de football [maillot de football]
I like the worthwhile info you supply within your posts.I’ll bookmark your blog and investigate yet again listed here recurrently.I’m quite convinced I will be taught quite a bit of recent stuff perfect right here! Excellent luck for the subsequent! [Read More]
Tracked on 06/04/2013 at 05:28 AM
» louis vuitton outlet online [louis vuitton outlet online]
I relish, bring about I recently found what exactly I was looking with regard to. You might have finished this four time extended search! Lord Bless you man. Have a very good time. Bye In order to determine your web internet site presents itself slight... [Read More]
Tracked on 06/08/2013 at 09:26 PM
Tracked on 06/19/2013 at 12:45 AM
» outlet louis vuitton [outlet louis vuitton]
with Glitschka's extremely critically acclaimed e-book, "Vector Simple Schooling: A scientific Inspiring Process for Making Detail Vector Art, inches the particular hands-on training course can guide members via a systematic process for creating with G... [Read More]
Tracked on 06/19/2013 at 10:48 AM