In the nineteen seasons previous, there had been four champions of England (Manchester United, Blackburn, Arsenal and Chelsea). In the Premier League’s twentieth, it now has its fifth champion: Manchester City.
On a dramatic final day that saw Manchester City take the lead, then go behind before triumphing in injury time, it’s been a crazy season full of stunning goals, results, phantom goals, strange officiating and great escapes. Has it been the best season? It’s tough to say and while the Premier League isn’t as strong as it once was, the league’s competitiveness has led to some riotously entertaining games and some freaky scorelines. Here are some of the moments that made the headlines.
The battle of Manchester
It was a Manchester domination from the off with two North West clubs going toe-to-toe as the season clicked into gear and they were still at it, at the end of the season. City fans will fondly remember filling their boots at Old Trafford with the 6-1 beating and then beating their rivals 1-0 at the Etihad. After nineteen games both teams had 45 points, after thirty-eight they had 89 points. There was little to separate them but in the end City did enough.
Arsenal rise from the ashes, then fall apart, then rise again…
Arsenal began the season in a pitiful state, exemplified by the 8-2 thrashing that United dished out in August. Losing to Blackburn 4-3 a few weeks later didn’t help matters as they fell down the table. A mid-season charge saw them beat Chelsea 5-3, then reel in Tottenham (12 points behind at one stage) before a shaky run-in saw them lose leads and points to give their fans one more scare as they chased the final automatic qualification spot.
Promoted teams prosper
What was the betting on all three promoted sides staying up at the beginning of the season? It can’t have been good because it’s a feat that’s been rarely achieved in the top flight (with Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton escaping the trap door back in 2001/02). Despite giving away a Premier League record of five penalties in five games, Norwich proved to be no pushovers in the long-run. Swansea frustrated the big teams with their immaculate passing game and QPR survived by the skin of their teeth on the final day.
Old-heads start to lose their heads
Bolton suffered from a protracted hangover, rueing significant injuries to Stuart Holden and Lee Chung-Yong. Wolverhampton Wanderers were stuck in a losing rut and only peaked their heads out a few times, beating fellow relegation candidates Wigan who were also enduring some wretched form.
In the space of a week, two incidents re-ignited the debate of racism in football: Suarez and Evra, Terry and Ferdinand. Both were unsavoury and both left a lingering taste that soured the league and its image. Suarez/Evra-gate refused to die down and the Terry/Ferdinand rumbles on to its court case in July.
Spurs fall apart
In January they were potential title challengers before a defeat at the Etihad saw them relegated to Champions League chasers. In pole position for the coveted third place position something happened. The reasons are still unknown but Spurs crumbled and scraped into fourth when third really, and surely, should have been grabbed with both hands.
Bringing into sharp focus the health of footballers not only in England but throughout the world, Farbrice Muamba’s struggles brought the best out of fans and teams who supported him as he recovered from a cardiac arrest on the pitch.
Here’s a few. Guess the games: 1-6, 1-5, 5-2, 5-2, 4-3, 5-0, 8-2, 4-4, 3-3, 4-0, 3-5. Unfortunately these score lines occurred less and less as the season went on but for most of the season, betting shops and punters would have had a tricky time predicting scores.
Managers get the guillotine
As Christmas came around club owners start to itch their trigger fingers. The managers under pressure? Andre Villas-Boas, Neil Warnock, Mick McCarthy and Steve Bruce. Warnock and Bruce were replaced by Mark Hughes and Martin O’Neill respectively before merry season had begun. Villas-Boas limped on, not helped by an underperforming team and club politics before being dumped in March with McCarthy removed in February after a 5-1 shellacking at the hands of Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion. Alex Mcleish followed at the end of the season for Aston Villa’s dour performances.
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Image courtesy of Michi Beck