The 20th Premier League campaign saw its final round of games yesterday and a chance to reflect on a mixed bag of pre-season predictions.
Back in August, I picked Man United as title winners – purely based on Man City’s unique ability to shoot themselves in the foot whenever they seem to be making progress.
Ironically, after Man City had done exactly that – losing a comfortable lead in the title race and falling eight points behind Man United in April – it was their Manchester rivals who self-destructed, and in doing so left themselves needing a highly improbable combination of results on the final day in order to take the title.
Yet it was a combination of results which looked set to occur at the moment when the final whistle was blown at the Stadium of Light, where Man United had beaten Sunderland.
Man United were technically the league leaders at that stage, with Man City’s home match against QPR still to finish, and with QPR holding a 2-1 advantage as the game entered a second minute of added on time, there was every likelihood that Man United would stay on top.
Even an equalising goal by Edin Dzeko wasn’t enough to swing the title race back in favour of Man City, but an almost immediate winner in the 94th minute by Sergio Aguero sealed one of the most remarkable title wins, and City’s first since the 1960’s.
Chelsea and Liverpool – my picks for 3rd and 4th place – both had disappointing league campaigns, though each club did at least collect some silverware to show for a more impressive showing in knockout competitions.
Arsenal did qualify for the Champions League after a roller-coaster season of their own. Recovering from a poor start, a surge in form put them in pole position for 3rd place before a late wobble almost led to Arsene Wenger’s side throwing it away.
Tottenham’s form was quite the opposite. After a slipping out of contention for the title shortly after the turn of the year, they went on to drop out of the top four altogether before recovering in recent weeks to finish ahead of Newcastle, who lost three of their final four games.
Spurs still have a week to wait in order to discover whether or not their efforts will be enough to see them qualify for the Champions League. A Chelsea win against Bayern Munich would see them, rather than Spurs, claim one of the four slots allocated for English clubs.
Away from the teams battling for the title or for a top four position, I predicted that Everton would be 7th, which they did. Unfortunately for David Moyes’ team, the Carling Cup was won by a side finishing lower in the table, which prevented a Europa League place from being available to the 7th placed team in the league.
Offering predictions as to who will go down is always a risky exercise before the season has kicked off, but only a late Stoke goal denied me a two-out-of-three success rate! Swansea never looked in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle, and deserve credit for following the likes of Wigan, Stoke and Reading in surviving a first year in the top flight when so many people expect them to go straight back down.
Bolton’s inability to hold on for a win at Stoke yesterday meant that it was they, rather than QPR, who would go down. They joined Blackburn and Wolves in dropping into the Championship next season.
Blackburn’s miserable 18 month spell in the hands of new owners had already seen them end a 12-year run in the top flight, and after Wolves sacked the man who had kept them in the Premier League during the previous two seasons, they went on a 13 game run without a win to ultimately finish 12 points from safety and end the season rooted to the foot of the table.
For the neutral, it’s been a great end to a season which at one point looked on course to have every major position decided long before the campaign ended.
As a Liverpool fan, it’s just been great to end the season!