As the curtain falls on the campaign, the blue half of Manchester rejoice.
London too, shares the spoils as Chelsea and Spurs sneak into the top four with draws to guarantee Champions League football next season.The Gunners fail to reach Europe’s premier competition for the second successive season but may still qualify if they beat Chelsea in the Europa League finals come June.
Manchester United on the other hand, ended the season in jeers with a humiliating defeat to a relegated side in Cardiff at Old Trafford.
United started the season on a historic low with Jose Mourinho taking the Red Devils to 6th position a week before Boxing Day. He was eventually succeeded by a familiar face – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who then won 10 of his next 11 matches. The Norwegian however, ended the season ironically, back at 6th position.
Liverpool on the other hand, must be shaking their heads in disbelief. 97 points – the third best finish ever in a Premier League but still, no silverware.
Their 29 year drought was destined to end but for an Abu Dhabi-funded powerhouse called Manchester City. Nobody can deny the prowess of City’s team, regardless of the money spent. Pep Guardiola has raised the bar in the league far beyond what most managers could dream of.
After all the ups and downs, here are your winners and losers of this dramatic campaign.
To break your own goal-scoring record with another, it says a lot. Manchester City has clearly lifted the Premier League into greater heights. They are not just champions, they have redefined the term ‘dominating’.
Out of 38 games, they have scored more than three goals on 17 separate occasions. Mind you, these are not just wins against mid-tier teams. Chelsea was demolished 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium in February, United and Arsenal also conceded three to City in 3-1 losses. A total of 20 clean sheets by Ederson puts him just behind Liverpool’s Alisson for the Golden Glove. To say this squad deserves to win the title is an understatement.
City is also evolving to a team that is more than just marquee names – every player has blossomed into an integral part of Guardiola’s core and most importantly, they set their egos aside to play as one unit – very similar to NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling both contributed 10 assists each, Sergio Aguero and David Silva has eight apiece and Bernardo Silva has seven.
Riyad Mahrez has accepted his role as a bench player and comes off with important goals when needed, as do Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan. Kevin De Bruyne’s absence from the team was barely felt even though he was out for majority of the season.
“Only when the people suggest we can be one of the best, that’s enough,” Guardiola said in an interview.
“I always have this theory, it was the same in Barcelona – when I was there it was the best team ever or whatever – if in 10, 15, 20 years and people talk about this team it is because we are a really good team.
City’s next opportunity comes at Wembley, where a victory over the feisty Watford will see them become the first ever side to win the domestic treble. Adding the FA Cup to the Premier League title and the Carabao Cup.
Africa and the Trio of Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
The success of these trio is evidence that African players are thriving in the Premier League with this, only the third time in history that more than one player shares the award.
When Nuno Espirito Santo took the Wolves to the Premier League, many pundits felt that they would not achieve much.
The Portuguese manager summoned eight of his compatriots to join him in his tirade as they stir up the league.
Ruben Neves, once Porto’s captain, Joao Moutinho a midfield general and Diogo Jota, a blooming winger-turned-striker became his on field lieutenants.
The three Portuguese players combined for 14 goals and 16 assists for the club this season, and not to forget their talisman forward, Raul Jimenez who contributed 13 goals and seven assists.
Matt Doherty has been a menace on the flanks with four goals and four assists to his name while Willy Boly’s dominance in the penalty area is evident with his four goals.
The Wolves sit 7th placed at the end of the season, something admirable for a team newly promoted from the Championship. On the brink of European competition, they sit only nine points away from 6th placed Manchester United.
What impresses most is that they are not afraid to compete with the best, and has seen some brilliant results against the top dogs in the league.
They knocked out Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup, defeated Tottenham and Arsenal 3-1 and also took down Manchester United and Chelsea 2-1 at Molineux. They have beaten five of the top six teams in the league outright.
“It shows we competed well and it shows a lot about the improvement of the team,” Nuno said humbly in an interview. “But it meant the same as a win against Cardiff in such a tough moment of our competition.”
Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, and Liverpool’s defence
Just three years ago when Jurgen Klopp took over, Liverpool had one of the worst defences in the league.
Conceding 50 goals in 2016, 42 in 2017 and 38 last year, the team has gone a long way since the likes of Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure.
During the winter transfer window of 2018, Liverpool turned heads and raised eyebrows as they paid a then-world record £75million for Virgil van Dijk. Van Dijk’s addition to the squad amplified Liverpool’s defence by miles, transforming Anfield into an indomitable fortress almost immediately.
The Dutch defender was so impressive in fact that he became the first defender since John Terry in 2007 to be named the PFA Players’ ‘Player of the Year’.
Alisson’s 21 clean sheets for the season has awarded him the Golden Glove for the season, but a majority of his success is attributed to his defence. Since his arrival from Roma, the Brazilian custodian has been nothing short of spectacular for the Reds.
Finally, both full backs.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson has combined for 23 assists for Liverpool this season and both made it to the PFA ‘Team of the Year’.
Liverpool’s complete overhaul of their defence contributed significantly to their domestic and European title push.
The Bournemouth winger has been on a tear. registering seven goals and 14 assists this season.
The Scottish international narrowly missed the ‘Playmaker of the Year’ award to Eden Hazard who has 15. However, his tally of 14 betters Lionel Messi, who has 13 to his name in La Liga.
Fraser’s performance has granted him rumours of a transfer to Arsenal. With his contract with the Cherries expiring next summer, and having made it clear an extension isn’t a viable option, Fraser appears to be heading for the exit door this June.
Where do we start? The abysmal start to the season by Jose Mourinho or the sheer lack of identity from its players?
But lets forgo all of that, and focus on the only two things that cemented their name in this list – the final two games of the season.
United knew that they needed to beat Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City to have a chance of capturing that elusive final spot for Champions League.
The Red Devils also knew that goal difference could well be crucial, with Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and themselves tightly bunched up. A sense of urgency was definitely in the mix for Solskjaer and his men but that did not translate to anything on the pitch.
An early goal against a relegated Huddersfield was soon cancelled out by a counter attack. Still, United were not trying to win the game until the 75th minute when the moment had finally hit them – but it was too late.
A week later, another match-up against another relegated side – Cardiff – was at Old Trafford. This was the final game of the season at the Theatre of Dreams.
But it proved to be a nightmare instead with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing scoring twice with no reply from Solkjaer’s men despite having superior possession (74%), taking 26 shots and registering 10 on target.
The loss effectively sealed their fate and they will miss out on qualifying for the Champions League next season.
The Chilean struggled for fitness and form throughout the campaign and scored just one goal in his 20 league appearances.
The former Arsenal man was drawing wages of £490,000-a-week and was United’s highest paid player. There is nothing much to be said about Sanchez aside from disappointing. He literally did nothing for United the whole season except for that single goal against Arsenal. Oh the irony.
A side that got relegated by March. The Terriers became only the second club to go down that early in a season, matching Derby County’s dismal record in 2007-08.
From January, they lost 14 matches in a row, and managed to draw the last two for nothing more than a tinge of consolation. Dropping out of the Premier League is nothing to be ashamed of, given their comparatively tiny budgets but achieving the third lowest points total in Premier League history is.
I would consider the left-back for Manchester City as half a winner and half a loser.
The French international has only featured in 22 games across 12 months but has won a mind-blowing six trophies during that time.
Starting from back-to-back Premier League titles, two Carabao Cups, the Community Shield and the World Cup.
He only played 40 minutes for France during their run in Russia but now may have already lost his place in the starting berth to Oleksandr Zinchenko, a 22-year-old Ukrainian who taken over in Guardiola’s rotation.
Lastly, Liverpool made its way onto our list as the only Premier League club to have led the league four times (1996/97, 2008/09, 2013/14 and 2018/2019) during Christmas and still miss out on the title.
Nevertheless, Jurgen Klopp has done a great job pushing the title race to all the way to the final match of the season.
He has also now reached three European Finals in as many successive years with the latest one against Spurs coming up in June at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, for the Champions League final.
If he breaks his duck and win, he will fulfil his promise to the Liverpool fans when he first joined the club – of a title in four years.
Lose, and well, we already have the team here in this list.
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