The curtain drops on another entertaining Premier League season

IMAGE, MCFC.CO.UK

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

The Barclays Premier League season brought several twists and turns in the race for the title and in the despair of relegation.

Although the final day ended anti-climatically, it was still another wildly entertaining season. With the final whistle blown on the campaign, here is a look back on the season’s biggest story lines.

1. Manchester City, Champions – It didn’t always look like Manchester City would get their hands on the league trophy. However, with Liverpool and Chelsea dropping points in crucial games, it allowed City the chance and they took it with aplomb.  Vastly experienced manager Manuel Pellegrini, earns his first league title.

It was the way City won the league that should be the model for the rest of the Premier League squads.  While Liverpool could score goals, they couldn’t defend well with any kind of consistency. Chelsea was great at packing in the defense, but couldn’t score often enough.

The key word for City was balance.

The club will now celebrates its second title in the last three years.

2. Remaining Champions League Places– Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal rounded out the top four places for Europe’s top club competition. While Liverpool and Chelsea will be entered into the group stage, Arsenal will have to go through a qualifier after their fourth place finish.

Although it will be heartbreaking for Liverpool to have come so close, they can take much pride from their season. After a seventh place finish last year, the Reds became one of, if not the most enjoyable teams to watch in the Premiership. They scored lots of goals, they gave up lots of goals, sometimes in comical fashion. However, in the end they fell just short. That being said, there should be no complaints from the Liverpool faithful with Champions League on the horizon and a platform to build on.

The “donkeys,” as Jose Mourinho branded his team in the end, came up just that. The club failed to be a consistent attacking threat and it very well may have cost them the Premier League title. How much better would the Blues have been if Romelu Lukaku wasn’t loaned to Everton? He will surely be in the mix next season, and for Chelsea, it almost certainly will be a brand new strike force. Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba should be worried.

For the Gunners, it’s the same as usual. Although Arsenal needs to find a way to take the next step from fourth place to bonafide title contenders, they still have a FA Cup Trophy to play for. Also, there are signs that Arsenal could make a real fight for the title sooner than later. Aaron Ramsey has become one of the most exciting young midfielders in the league, easily the Gunners player of the season when fit. Mesut Ozil will also have had more time with his teammates and should be well adjusted to the rigors of the Premier League when the season kicks back off in August. Also, both players were injured for long stretches of the season along with Theo Walcott and surely leaves a “what if” taste in many Gunners supporters mouths.

One thing definitely needs sorting out. Arsenal need another top class striker to play alongside Olivier Giroud or start in his stead. At the very least, a striker needs to come in so Yaya Sanogo isn’t the only striker option off the bench.

3. The Relegated Three– It could have been any one of about six clubs that saw their Premier League journey end. In the end, it was Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich.

The teams knew their fate after the penultimate game of the season. While the clubs would have wanted to give their supporters a good send-off to the Premier League, only Fulham was able to take a point in a 2-2 draw with Hull.

The Championship is no easy league and it could very well be tough going next season. Each of the three clubs will have a difficult task in bouncing right back up. It wouldn’t be a surprise to not see any of the relegated clubs making it back into the Premier League season in their first shot. Fulham may be the one to bet on though.

4. Manchester United Out Of Europe– The league season finished with Manchester United in seventh place. It is the first time lower than a third place finish since 1991.

Not only was the season a disaster under David Moyes, the Red Devils now have no European nights to look forward to.

When Liverpool fell from the Top Four of the Premier League, it took them several years to find their way back. Will the same happen to United?

It’s possible, but if Louis van Gaal does in fact take over, it could be a step in the right direction.

5. The Year Of The Managerial Change– The list of managerial changes was endless this season. It is a cruel reality of managing in the modern era. Cardiff, Fulham, Norwich, West Brom, Sunderland, Swansea, Crystal Palace and Manchester United changed their manager during the season. The Cottagers had three managers during their campaign.

With only Manchester United finishing in the top half of the table, changing managers isn’t necessarily a guarantee for success. Tony Pulis at Crystal Palace may have had the biggest impact of any manager taking over in the middle of the season. However, any manager that was able to keep their team up can take positives in that.

However, there needs to be more patience afforded to managers to allow them to impart their tactics and build the squad the way they’d like to. It could go a long way in helping teams with continuity and long-term success.

6. Other Headlines– There was the head-butt seen around the world. Alan Pardew‘s decision to lower his head on Hull midfielder David Meyler was shocking. Newcastle also finished the season on a run of seven losses in eight games. Although, Pardew didn’t lose his job in the immediate aftermath of the incident, it could be in Newcastle’s best interest to cut him loose.

Sunderland had a tremendous escape under Gus Poyet. However, what lies ahead for Jozy Altidore? The American striker played a bit-part in the Black Cats’ revival. Poyet instead preferred Connor Wickham, who didn’t disappoint. Although Altidore only made a big money move to start the campaign, it wouldn’t be a total shock if he moved elsewhere come next year.

The emergence of Ross Barkely was another great story. Everton found a new style under Roberto Martinez. Barkley was allowed to use his creativity and became the fulcrum for the Toffees attack. It has almost certainly earned him a trip to the World Cup and he is a player to watch in the present and future.