Regardless of the FA Cup Final result, it will be Hull City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton going to the Europa League, with Manchester United missing out after a dismal campaign under David Moyes. Stoke City finished at a high on 9th, while Newcastle’s and West Ham’s managers are facing an uncertain future despite finishing a respectful 10th and 13th respectively.
Sunderland and Crystal Palace survived relegation after impressive upturns in form, but Fulham, Cardiff and Norwich waved goodbye to the Premier League. They are to be replaced by Leicester City and Burnley, with the third team yet to be decided. Let’s hope it’s Wigan.
There have been plenty of twists, turns, goals, winners and losers this season. And so, Shashwat Mohanty and Neil Nagwekar try to recognize the successes and failures of the Premier League, through imaginary awards distributed to players, teams and managers which they will never get.
1. Best Player
I never liked Luis Suarez. Still don’t, as a matter of fact. He is a racist and dives a lot and aggravates the atmosphere on the field by a few notches. But what he has done this season is beyond doubt.
At the start of the season, there were many rumours as to Suarez wanted a transfer elsewhere, mainly because of Liverpool ailing to win trophies year after year, and the lack of Champions League football. I presume all those doubts have been laid to rest now, seeing him score 31 goals and provide 12 assists for Liverpool.
Some say, to give Suarez this award would be to give goals more importance than style of play. Well, goals win matches, don’t they? Enough said.
This season was a breakthrough for many players. The likes of Oscar, Aguero, Eden Hazard and Ramsey had a brilliant first half, while players like Bony and Dzeko shone in the second. And while Yaya Toure gave a stiff fight to the winner towards the end, I think there can be no doubts to who takes this award home.
Luis Suarez came ever-so close to single-handedly winning Liverpool the Premier League title. His 31 Premier League goals, none of which were penalties, firmly put him in the race of the world’s hottest striker. Shashwat and I are unanimous on this; PFA’s player of the year also wins the Brangled Minds Award for the best Premier League player. Should Real Madrid manage to snap him up, it’ll be hard to see Liverpool around the top four next season.
2. Worst Player
I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, Nicolas Anelka, my pick for worst player of the season. Picked by West Bromwich Albion for the season after his contract with Shanghai ran out, his antics this season not only might have cost him his own career, but also that of Steve Clark, who was fired earlier this season.
Bought at the start of the season to replace Lukaku, the Frenchman was widely speculated to be unsettled at the club, even after claiming he would be ending his career at the Hawthorns. For an experienced player like him, he should’ve saved Albion from the relegation myriad that they were in.
And as just things were looking good for the Frenchman, he performed the quenelle gesture, and it all went downhill from there. An FA investigation was followed by an £80,000 fine, and a five-match ban. Neither WBA nor Anelka appealed against the ban, and shortly after, Anelka announced on Twitter that he had left the club, even though Albion categorically denied any such knowledge. Finally, the drama came to an end when he was ousted from the club, and Clark’s untimely departure has also been partly attributed to him.
My, were they a few. All of Tottenham’s seven signings underwhelmed, while Kaboul became kind of a joke at the heart of their defence. Manchester United’s farcical campaign was largely down to their shoddy midfield. Cleverley didn’t impress.
The winner, however unexpected this may seem, is Craig Bellamy. 22 appearances for a sinking Cardiff, yet managed to muster more yellow cards than goals and assists together.
3. Most exciting prospect
In my personal opinion, there cannot be another player more fit for this award than Luke Shaw. The highly-rated left back is only 18, yet has nailed down a starting position in Southampton for the past three seasons, and has been instrumental in their exploits this season. It was a pleasant surprise to see him in the PFA Team of the Year – well deserved. Having made the England squad for Rio, it can only get better for Shaw from here.
But for now, here’s wishing the best to Lukey at Rio, and beyond!
In every Premier League season, breakthrough players are always seen, that’s the purpose of having a league season, really. I would have taken Aaron Ramsey, but at 23, he isn’t much of a youngster anymore. Also, I wanted to stay away from Arsenal for the pure sake of variety. I thought long and hard about giving the award to Sterling, but then decided against it. Cruelly, his Merseyside rival gets the nod.
Ross Barkley has the two essentials that one needs to make it big in the Premier League – power and pace. This season, probably under the guidance of Roberto Martinez, he has added technique to that. And what a player he has evolved into. At 20, he can only get better. Make no mistake, this guy is a Yaya Toure waiting to happen.
4. Best transfer
It’s been a particularly difficult one to choose, as most of the signings in the transfer window haven’t really paid their money’s worth. However, there is one man in my eyes who stood out: Wilfried Bony.
Being signed for a club record £12m from Vitesse in the summer, the Ivorian has been brilliant all season for the Swans, scoring a total of 20 goals (16 in the EPL and 4 in the Europa League), and has been one of the most outstanding players for them. In a season which has seen Swansea struggle to cope up with European football commitments, as a result of which the injuries mounted (Michu, De Guzman and Dyer), he has not only managed to stay fit, but also give consistent performances.
Sure, there were some good signings. Negredo, at around £20m was a steal. Flamini, at free, was even better. Simon Mignolet was a shining light in Liverpool’s sorry defence, while Fernandinho impressed for the Citizens too.
Ozil had a huge psychological impact on Arsenal, but wasn’t good enough statistically. Bony, like Shashwat said, was brilliant all season for Swansea, but still isn’t a standout winner for me. And so, instead of mulling over it and having second thoughts later, I’m leaving this open to the readers. Who, indeed, was the best signing of 2013/14? Help me decide.
5. Worst transfer
With Gareth Bale leaving White Hart Lane, there had to be a replacement for the Welshman. With the herd of players arriving at Tottenham Hotspur at the start of the season, their most expensive buy stood out: Erik Lamela.
Bought for around £30m from AS Roma, the Argentine was widely speculated to be the driving force for the Lilywhites this season, combining with Eriksen, Soldado and Paulinho to perhaps drive them into Champions League reckoning. The end result?
Nine appearances and one yellow card.
Officially, he has been out of action since December due to a back injury. But rumours suggest that after the departure of Villas-Boas, he has been uncomfortable at the club, and would like a move elsewhere.
It remains to be seen if he can fight for his place next season, or would squander off to some other club in the summer transfer window. Congrats, Erik!
All seven of Tottenham’s signings were frankly, hogwash. I was tempted to let my hatred for that club put up another poll featuring Soldado, Lamela and the works.
There were a lot of bad buys, but for me, Marouane Fellaini takes the cake. 19 appearances, 1 assist and 1 red card. Considering that he was experienced in the league and went to United with much pedigree, this was an absolute failure. Buck stops with Moyes.
6. Best manager
From desperation to sheer delight in a matter of months. That’s how you would describe Crystal Palace’s 2013-14 EPL season. And one man has done it all – Tony Pulis.
Pulis took a job not many had wanted. When he got the job, Palace had seven points; they now have forty five. While the other two promoted teams have gone back to the Championship, Palace have finished a very strong 11th, their best ever. Pulis has managed to squeeze every ounce of fight his players had, and with some smart business in the January transfer window, he has managed to keep their boat afloat – and how!
He has managed to establish Joel Ward as a complete outstanding player, and has extracted excellence from club captain Mile Jediniak. The latter has completed 90.58% of his tackles this season, more than other player in the EPL. So Tony, you cap-wearing prick, congrats, for you have proved me wrong. And for once, I’m happy being proved wrong.
Oh, geez. This is an award almost impossible to distribute without any backlash. For one, Pellegrini deserves huge applause for guiding City to the title in his debut campaign. Roberto Martinez too – I was impressed at how quick he managed to stamp his footballing philosophy onto Everton with immediate success. Kudos.
Brendan Rodgers took a huge gamble by focusing his approach play purely on attack, a gamble that nearly pulled off as they finished runners-up by two points. Pochettino, too, emerged as a surprise candidate, assembling a young, energetic side that could well be the future fulcrum of England.
However, Tony Pulis has somehow managed to become a beloved figure in football, owing to his work with Crystal Palace. I hated the guy in Stoke – his long passing football, dirty tactics, cap-donning dimwittedness disgusted every fibre of my being. But today, I’m not ashamed to say I love the man.
My footballing highlight of the season wasn’t David Moyes, nor was it the mess going on at Tottenham. Indeed, it was Liverpool’s hilarious 10 minute collapse at Selhurst Park, one masterminded by Tony Pulis. ‘Hats’ off, Tony, well deserved.
7. Worst manager
I have written so much about him that I don’t think I have stuff to write anymore. It could’ve easily been Di Canio, for getting his team into such a lurch. It could’ve been Villas-Boas, for his assembled squad couldn’t perform half as good as Bale did. It could’ve been Pardew, for playing such rugged football.
But it is what it is: David Moyes, the chosen one.
Given the time he had at Manchester United, there can surely be no competition. David Moyes, for me, dug his grave when he fired United’s backroom staff and replaced them with his inexperienced Evertonian men. As time passed and one crazy decision followed another, United became a joke, and the Glazers didn’t have much choice.
Let’s see if van Gaal can sort out this mess.
8. Most improved team
While Neil has chosen a more obvious and statistically-based team, I have chosen a more performance based one, and hence, my choice for this award would be Everton. Statically, they have climbed only one spot, but with an increase in 9 points from their previous campaign.
With Moyes in (and out of) Old Trafford, the vacated position was filled by Roberto Martinez, who was previously with Wigan Athletic. Goodison Park has seen some exceptional football this season under him. His decisions while loaning players were quite crucial as well – all three of his major loan deals paid off handsomely.They would’ve been really sad at the prospect of losing out on Champions League football, having to settle for Europa.
They have played some exceptional football this season, and have made Goodison Park a tricky place to visit. Let’s hope that unlike Swansea this season, their next season isn’t ruined by Europa League action, but rather bettered by it.
The choices were a lot. Arsenal could have made it had they not slipped to their usual season-end collapse, while Southampton could also have had a say, had they overtaken Tottenham for Europa. Palace was an option too, but seeing that I’ve already given their manager credit, it would be unfair to heap more praise on them. So that was Pulis’ team out of the running.
I considered Everton, I mulled over it for a frickin’ long time. However, in the end, ignoring Liverpool’s transformation would have been criminal. Brendan Rodgers has made them into a formidable attacking outfit, rebuilding the forms of Sturridge and Sterling at lightening pace. One loss and one draw in 2014, what a record. Should Rodgers sort out the defence and keep Suarez for another season, they’d be massive contenders for the league title next season.
9. Most regressed team
From Champions to seventh league position. From European glory to no European football at all. From Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes to Ryan Giggs. From glory to ashes.
From Manchester United to Manchester United.
10. Most entertaining match
When I look back at the EPL season that has gone by, there is one match that distinctly stands out – the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. It ended 3-3, but a stalwart like no other.
At the 72nd minute, Lukaku slotted home an equalizer just moments after his free-kick was blocked by Mignolet. The changes made by both managers showed their intent to win the three points on offer- Deulofeu coming on for Baines and Sturridge coming on for Lucas. But it wasn’t till Lukaku’s second, heading in a Mirallas corner into the top corner of the net. With only 8 minutes to go, Everton felt they probably had it in the bag, considering the home support.
Liverpool continued to push forward, with Suarez and Sturridge threatening time and time again. It wasn’t till the 88th minute, where Distin was shown a yellow for a tackle on Suarez. Gerrard’s looping cross was met by Sturidge’s header, and Howard could not help but see it fly past him.
Alas, the honours were shared even at the end of the game, with both teams grabbing a point. Very entertaining, and quite deserving to be the most entertaining match of the season!
Liverpool have officially taken over from Arsenal as the Premier League’s entertainers, so it was no surprise to see many entertaining matches include the Kops. The 3-3 collapse at Selhurst Park will always be an iconic moment of the season, but the 3-2 victory against Manchester City should not be forgotten. The moment Anfield became reborn and Steven Gerrard seemingly thought Liverpool had done the impossible was one of the moments that united football fans all around.
Manchester City overpowering Arsenal 6-3 could also be considered as a candidate, but in the end I went with Shashwat. The Merseyside derby had everything; goals, kamikaze football, comebacks, tons of yellow cards, even a Luis Suarez free kick. A draw was a fair result in the end to a terrific contest.
11. Goal of the season
Whoever said tiki-taka football sucks should have a look at this beaut of a goal. Wilshere combines majestically with Giroud to score this one, and times his run exquisitely to score what is rightly the goal of the season. Few goals are scored like this one, with an upbeat build-up and slotting it home so calmly. Sure, you have your share of stunning free-kicks and Rooney-esque goals, but what you don’t have, is Arsenal combining so well to rip the opponents to pieces.
So scroll down, and watch that video.
There was an average of only 2.77 goals per game, the lowest since 2008/09. However, none can argue that the quality of goals have increased quite significantly.
There were THREE halfway strikes this season, each from Rooney, Suarez and (would you believe it) Jonjo Shelvey. Rosicky scored a tippy tappy goal, while Kasami scored a belter against Crystal Palace. Yaya Toure’s lung-bursting goal in the dying seconds against Aston Villa was some pretty amazing stuff as well.
The winner, for me, is Wilshere’s goal vs Norwich. It’s impossible to look at this goal as fluke. This was pure genius, football at its best. Were I not an Arsenal fan, I’m sure I would have picked this goal anyway. What a beauty.
12. Alternative TOTY
Instead of having a normal team of the year, Shashwat and Neil decided to have an alternative PFA team of the year i.e. a TOTY excluding players who were already given a berth in the PFA team of the year.
For those who don’t know, the PFA’s TOTY included Cech – Coleman – Cahill – Kompany – Shaw – Lallana – Gerrard – Yaya Toure – Hazard – Sturridge – Suarez. For reasons mentioned above, these players cannot be in Shashwat’s and Neil’s teams of the year.
Here are the teams. Which one is stronger?
So, this season has seen some really great ups and downs. With the title not being decided till the last game week, and relegation battles possibly involving Manchester United, Manchester City have been prevalent as the champions of England.
The TOTY differ a bit for each of us, but that’s a given, considering both of us like different styles of football. The Most Regressed Team, Worst Manager, Best manager, Best Player, Goal of the Season and the Most Entertaining Match of the Season were unanimous decisions.
Worst player was a bit tricky to choose for both of us, Anelka and Bellamy being nominated. Most exciting prospect was a divided choice between Shaw and Barkley as well. Best Transfer had Neil splitting his hair, and hence the vote at the end, while Shashwat was clear in Bony being his choice. The Worst Transfer was something the both of us furiously argued upon; trying to convince each other that Lamela/Fellaini was the worse one. Finally, the Most Improved Team was a disagreement as well, with the honours shared by the Merseysiders.
That’s that for this season, it’s been a pleasure. Be back for the World Cup, can’t wait!
-By Shashwat Mohanty and Neil Nagwekar