With the Premier League season done and dusted, we take a look back at the campaign to discover who stood out, who fell out and who should get out. Warning, some partisan viewpoints contained herein…
Team of the Season
To me, there are only really two contenders for this – Chelsea and Southampton. The Blues because, well, they won the League at a canter, with a mixture of guile, power, creativity and defensive brilliance. Mourinho’s side truly were the best side by far, and the question now will be whether the Special One can go on to do what he has so far failed to do at Stamford Bridge – bring home the Champions League. One thing’s for sure though, this year belongs to Mourinho and his men.
Close runners-up have to be Southampton. Shorn of four of their most important players in the summer (with Liverpool plundering pretty heavily in particular) and their manager, there were plenty (myself included) predicting Saints to struggle this season. How wrong we were. Ronald Koeman was a revelation at St Marys, surprising everyone as Southampton finished in seventh.
Player of the Season
It’s difficult to look anywhere else than the main man in the main team – Eden Hazard. The Belgian has been in sparkling form, at times being the vital attacking ingredient that has made the difference for the Blues. A couple of years ago, Hazard remarked that he had genuine ambition to be regarded as one of the very best in the world, and this season has brought him a lot closer to that goal.
Signing of the Season
Plenty of contenders for this one, but I’m going for Diego Costa. Last summer, Mourinho knew exactly what deficiencies in his team needed fixing, and went after them big time. After realising the reason his team ceded the title to City last season, the Portuguese went straight for the best striker in Europe, and Costa hasn’t let him down. More injury-prone than those at the Bridge would like, Costa provided the vital goals that has kept Chelsea’s campaign ticking over during those months when other teams fall away.
Young Player of the Season
Has to be Harry Kane. The Spurs striker tailed off a little towards the end of the campaign, but when you consider where he was at the start of last season, his ascent has been remarkable. With 31 goals in a season at the age of 21, a star may well have been born. Cynics – myself included – will want to see whether Kane can recreate his form next season, but for now, let’s just applaud one of the brightest British talents we’ve seen for quite some time.
Worst signing of the Season
There are a few options available here, with Radamel Falcao, Mario Balotelli and Angel di Maria all high-profile transfer nightmares. There is a real case to be made for Balotelli purely because of the massive impact that his failure to fire had on the team he signed for. Shorn of the brilliance of Luis Suarez and having to make do without Daniel Sturridge, the Reds needed goals, and after a couple of failed attempts for other players, they ended up gambling on the fiery Italian. The gamble backfired, with Balotelli netting just four goals in 28 appearances.
However, the Man Utd duo don’t get off that easily. Both Falcao and di Maria came to Old Trafford with massive reputations and it’s fair to say that both players have been massive disappointments. Falcao has failed to show any form really, and given the massive price tag for what was essentially a loan move, the Columbian has unfortunately been an utter waste of money, whilst di Maria looks wildly overpriced at £60 million.
On balance, Balotelli has to clinch this award, purely because of how crucial he was supposed to be to Liverpool’s campaign. Di Maria and Falcao were poor, but at least they didn’t hamper what United needed to achieve this season.
The ‘he’s lucky he’s still in a job’ award
Without a shadow of a doubt, this award must go to Brendan Rodgers. After last season, people were expecting big things from Liverpool, and in truth, they absolutely bottled it. It became clear that without Suarez and Sturridge, the Reds were a very ordinary team, and as Rodgers presided over an exit from the Champions League and a drop in the Premier League table from second to sixth, there were plenty wondering how the Northern Irishman still had a job. The 6-1 spanking at Stoke City added further weight to that point of view.
Rodgers may well have been given a reprieve, but there’s absolutely no doubt that he’s on rocky ground – a few bad results at the start of next season and it’ll be goodbye Brendan.
The ‘Really?!’ award
As QPR’s season got worse and worse, it seemed more and more clear that the Rangers were destined for relegation and the sceptics among us might suggest that Harry Redknapp was aware of this too, deciding to step down as QPR manager a day after failing to land any targets on January deadline day, citing knee surgery that was going to keep him out for 10 weeks. Three weeks later and he was ready to get back in the game. Go figure.
The ‘We’re looking forward to seeing what they’ll do next season’ award
Let’s end this on a high – whilst this season was a little predictable, next season is likely to be a whole lot more interesting. When a club wins the League by quite some distance, the other teams around them usually step up and I’m expected big things from Man United and Arsenal, both this summer and next season. Further down the table, it’ll be fascinating to see West Ham in their new (huge) stadium, whilst Stoke City continue to improve under Mark Hughes. For sheer entertainment value though, I’m going to have to give this award to Man United – another season of Louis van Gaal, with arrogance restored following their Champions League qualification, will be utterly fascinating.