Who Finished Where and Why
Season 2013/14 saw the closest battle for the Premier League title in some time. All of the clubs that finished in the top four held the lead at some point and looked favourite to win it. Although Arsenal were never favoured by the pundits or even many of their fans, despite the fact that they led the table for 128 days or 48% of the season.
Manchester City once again proved that it is all about the club with the biggest wallet. Their huge multimillion dollar squad proved to be the undoing of Liverpool’s strongest bid in years and even Chelski’s big spending Russian oligarch.
It would be wrong to dismiss the contribution of City’s new manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who came in during the close season knowing that failure would inevitably mean being shown the door. Despite that, he was able to motivate the players, impose his tactics and manage the egos of his multi millionaire squad.
Despite my objection to sports teams becoming the playthings of billionaires, who can not think of anything better to spend their money on, you have to admire the skills of the players City have gathered, the goal scoring of Agüero and Dzeko and the all around ability of Yaya Touré. But I have to stop short of praising the Arsenal defectors.
No doubt City will be the team to beat next season, after another big dip into the transfer pool during the summer.
Liverpool came the closest they have to a title since the inception of the Premier League and many thought that they had it sewn up with a few games to go. Especially the heavily Liverpool biased pundits. But a loss to Chelsea, who parked the bus at Anfield and picked up two goals on the break, followed by a 3-3 draw with revitalised Crystal Palace, left them out of touch with Man City.
Despite their second place finish, Liverpool’s Brendon Rodgers was named Manager of the Year. Maybe this reflects the meagre player pool he had, compared to Pellegrini’s.
Grudgingly I have to acknowledge the great goals of Luis Suarez, 31 of them, after he started the season late, following his ban for biting hanging over from last season. However, I still can not really warm to the player because of his propensity to dive at the slightest contact or even without any and I have not forgiven him for the biting and racist outburst.
The Special One returned to Chelsea, along with his petulance, arrogance and tendency to be banned from the touchline for regaling match officials. He won nothing, but came close in both the Premier League and European Champions League. Will that be enough for Chelsea’s Obergruppenführer? Or will Jose Mourinho be taken out and shot at dawn, like so many before him (metaphorically speaking)?
Arsenal spent almost half the season at the top of the Premiership, but ended up battling to qualify for European football next season, only a few short weeks ago.
The fans, players and management will be disappointed with their fourth place finish. But they look favourite to win the FA Cup with their current run of seven consecutive victories and opponents Hull not having won any of their last five matches and finishing only four points above the drop zone. Couple this with the return of midfield stars Özil, Ramsey and Wilshere and an Arsenal loss will be as shocking as… well Man City’s loss to Wigan last year.
There is no doubt the decimation of Arsenal’s magnificent midfield, due to injuries, was a huge contributor to them not picking up the title this year. The proliferation of injuries to Arsenal players over the last few years really is something that bears major investigation.
Is it because they tend pick small players who struggle with the physicality of the game, or is it something to do with the training techniques? Maybe the boys should spend more time in the gym and build a little bulk to protect themselves.
As a dyed in the wool, life long Arsenal supporter, I have got to mention the penchant for Arsenal ‘fans’ on the web to knock the players and management of the club. The success of the late nineties and early noughties seems to have attracted a lot of glory chasers to the club. They look at sides like Chelsea and Manchester City and believe that all of the answers come from opening a cheque book and the suitable players will be there for you.
But Arsenal is run as a business and I fully agree with Arsene Wenger’s belief that UEFA should punish clubs that break its financial fair play (FFP) rules by excluding them from European football. But I would go even further and say the same should apply for domestic competitions. Maybe a ban would leave the competition a little empty, but how about a handicap? Let them start several points behind, depending on how much they have overspent by.
Finally on the subject of Arsenal and the deriding fans, I have to defend our centre forward, who has scored 22 goals and provided 8 assists, two of them arguably the best goals of the season. Yet he still comes in for so much criticism from Arsenal ‘fans’. He obviously suffered when the midfield was decimated, but he puts in the work all over the pitch and is probably the best centre forward in the Premier League at holding up the ball.
Yes Arsenal need another centre forward to back him up and rotate with him and a prolific goal scorer would be wonderful. But they don’t grow on trees and are difficult to pick up when they do become available. Besides the fact that they are not always successful when you get them. Look at the ridiculous amount of money Chelsea spent on Fernando Torres and Liverpool on Andy Carroll, where did it get them?
Added to this Olivier Giroud has played 36 games this season, which is immensely valuable, especially when you consider how much time other players have spent on the side lines, including the man he replaced Meneer Van Persie.
Everton deserve plaudits for their season. I have always seen them as an honest club and they replaced an honest manager in David Moyes with another and possibly even more talented one in Roberto Martinez. No doubt Everton will be vying for Champions League football again next season.
And finally I have to say a few words about the failures of Tottenham and Manchester United. No self respecting Arsenal fan could not take pleasure in seeing what befell them this season. Tottenham spent £100 million in the transfer market and finished with a goal difference that was barely positive and fewer points than last season. They sacked their manager and you can not help feeling that they would be doing much better had they stuck with Harry Redknapp.
Everyone must take a little pleasure in seeing the mighty befallen and Manchester United fell right out of the top part of the table. I feel for David Moyes, as I said, he was a good manager at Everton. Sadly this is probably only a temporary interruption of service and United have the funds and the structure to put themselves back in the picture next season.
By Max Power