WRITTEN BY CHRIS HALL:
The full English domestic season has finally reached its conclusion. After an exceptionally long, unprecedented, and exciting campaign we finally have a new club winning the Premier League title. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have won their first title in 30 years since the great Kenny Dalglish lead Liverpool to glory. They have had an outstanding season, finishing with a staggering 99 points, winning 32 of their 38 games and losing only three times scoring a total of 85 goals. The reds raced away to Premier League glory this year, after finishing 18 points clear of former champions Manchester City in second place.
Elsewhere, Manchester United managed to secure a Champions League place for next season, finishing in third after beating Leicester City 2-0 on the final day of the season. Ole Gunner Solskjaer has done an impressive job in turning around United’s season, as European prospects looked disastrously bleak towards the end of last year. They ended the campaign finishing level on points with fellow Champions League competitors Chelsea with 66 points. Yet, the Blues defensive frailties led them to having a worse goal difference in comparison to the red devils. Leicester City and Spurs finished in Europa League spots, and Arsenal managed to secure a place too, after winning the FA Cup by beating Chelsea thanks to two goals from their top goal-scorer Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
At the other end of the table, after a final day of tension, uncertainty and anxiety for clubs battling to stay in the Premiership, fate was decided. Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth were at risk of joining Norwich to the Championship. Villa’s fate was in their own hands, after beating Arsenal 1-0 in the week to move out of the bottom three. After a day of nail-biting tension, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth and a manger exempt Watford were relegated. After a late attempt of a comeback from the hornets against Arsenal, it was far too late as they lost the game 3-2 at the Emirates. Despite the Cherries beating Everton 3-1 on the last day, their fate had already been decided. Dean Smith’s Claret and Blue army completed the great escape after a 1-1 draw with West Ham. Aston Villa finished just outside the bottom three with 35 points.
This season was full of exciting matches and moments which shall be remembered for an incredibly long time. Covid 19 brought a huge spanner in the works in March, meaning it took until July for proceedings to finally end. It also saw various young players coming into their own from various clubs across the table, as well as impressive managers. We also witnessed some amazing goals as well as some breath-taking saves.
Games of the season
Sheffield United 3 – 3 Manchester United
Who could forget this entertaining game against two mid table sides? High stakes, great goals, late drama! This game certainly had it all. The team from Yorkshire had luck on their side, as John Fleck’s deflected shot in the 11th minute gave the Blades an ideal start. Chris Wilder’s side then doubled their lead through Lys Mousset early in the second half. However, this inspired the visitors for a comeback and lead to a scintillating three goal salvation which put Man United ahead with 11 minutes to play. Sheffield were not defeated though, as Oil McBurnie grabbed a 90th minute equaliser to ensure the points were shared.
Norwich 3-2 Manchester City
I cannot remember Norwich winning a game, never alone beating the former reigning champions. The game was quite some time ago, but the canaries treated us to a fascinating against all odds story. A Kenny Mclean header got the hosts off to a perfect start before a second goal from September’s player of the month Todd Cantwell put them two up. Sergio Aguero struck back for City, but Norwich’s two goal cushion was restored when a trademark Nicolas Otamendi error allowed Teemu Pukki to smash home.
Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa
A ten-man Arsenal managed to secure all three points in this game. In scenes that shocked everyone, (including Troy Deeney) the gunners managed to show some cojones to come back and beat Villa 3-2 in a highly entertaining game. Arsenal went 1-0 down and had Anthony Maitland Niles sent off inside 41 minutes. Nicolas Pepe scored an equaliser just before the hour mark but was cancelled out 60 seconds later when Wesley scored a second goal for the visitors. Even though these unfortunate events rallied against them, they battled hard, managing to score two goals from Callum Chambers and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to eventually win the game.
Wolves 3-2 Manchester City
Manchester City’s defensive frailties were all to see as Wolves sliced through Pep Guardiola’s team in this Christmas encounter. The Cityzens had their goalkeeper Ederson dismissed 12 minutes in which added to their defence’s woes. The pure ease Wolves had in exploiting City’s defenders all but ended their title hopes. Raheem Sterling attempted a late attempt of a comeback for the Sky Blues. But it was not enough as goals from Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez and a late strike from Matt Doherty secured the three points for Nuno’s side.
Watford 3-0 Liverpool
Liverpool arrived at Vicarage road having won 26 of their first 27 games. The reds had lost to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League that week, but Watford were a different and far less fearsome project. It has been a strange and largely miserable season for the Hornets, but this game saw them defeat the champions elect by 3-0. The reds were looking to go through the season undefeated, but that is the beauty of football. You never know what to expect! Nigel Pearson’s men were by far the better team, managing to have 12 shots against the opposition. Ismalia Sarr grabbed a quickfire second half brace before Troy Deeney put the game beyond all doubt with a composed finish. It was arguably the shock of the season.
Southampton 0-9 Leicester
This was by far one of the worst performances a premier league team has produced from Southampton. They were defensively woeful, and the lack of team spirit was scary. The game was already won within the first 20 mins for Leicester when Ayoze Perez extended the foxes to a 3-0 lead. Although Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men had to play most of the game with 10 men, their game management was dreadful and many expected Ralph to lose his job after that result.
Southampton 1-0 Manchester City
How things can change after 10 months?!? The Saints fortunes shifted for the better, after that dreadful result against Leicester. Southampton’s 3-0 win over Norwich in their first post lockdown fixture all but confirmed their Premier league status. A remarkable achievement given their dismal state they were in after being thrashed 9-0 at home by Leicester in October. Yet, they still managed to find the courage to beat former champions Manchester City at home. After a mistake clearance from City goalkeeper Ederson, the Saints young striker in Che Adams managed to lob the ball over the Brazilian keeper to put Southampton in the lead early in the first half. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men managed to defend valiantly from City’s attacking onslaught to secure the three points.
West Ham 3 – 3 Brighton
In this game, most of the six goals were to a greater or lesser degree of rubbish defending, massive deflections, an own goal and also an extremely rare instance of an on field referee disallowing a goal for handball but VAR declaring it legal. But never mind that, this was a brilliant game. Entertainment of the kind that can only really be conjured by quite seriously flawed teams, but top-notch entertainment all the same. A game not for the faint hearted.
Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City
The reds already had a 5-point lead over fellow title competitors Manchester City going into this game. Many pundits said Jurgen Klopp’s side would have one hand on the title if they went on to win this game. This positive situation can sometimes bring fear into certain players. Not Liverpool though, as Fabinho took the lead after 6 minutes at Anfield, followed by Mohammed Salah 7 minutes after. Sadio Mane gave them a three-goal lead after half time, before Bernado Silva scored a late consolation goal for City. But it ended to no avail for the away side, as Liverpool secured a crucial three points towards their title winning season.
Liverpool 5 – 3 Chelsea
This game had far more meaning to Chelsea than it did to already deserving champions Liverpool. Yet, you would not have guessed that by watching the first half, as Liverpool were 3-1 up by half time. A wonder strike from Keita, a fabulous free kick from Trent Alexander Arnold and a poacher’s finish from Wijnaldum took the reds to a comfortable 3-0 lead. Frank Lampard’s Chelsea certainly added to the spectacle, with Olivier Giroud capitalising on a mistake from Alisson just before the break. Roberto Firminio scored his first home goal of the season in the second half. But, when Pulisic came on for the blues, the game changed in Chelsea’s favour. The 21-year-old American dribbled past several Liverpool’s defenders, before assisting Tammy Abraham to slot the ball into almost an empty net to make it 4-2. Moments later, Pulisic was again in the oppositions box, and controlled the ball beautifully with his chest from a N’golo Kante pass, before smashing the ball into the goal, reducing the deficit by one. Yet, the Blues hopes of a comeback were short lived, as Alex Oxlaide Chamberlain came on as a substitute to score a goal for the newly crowned champions to make it a final score of 5-3. This was an extremely pulsating game, and incredibly entertaining game for the neutrals. Mind you, the defender’s coaches for both sets of teams would have been pulling there hair out.
So those exciting matches was only the games. How about the young talent that has shone through this season? How about the exceptional performances from managers and coaches a like? Here are the young players that have shone through this season.
Trent Alexander – Arnold (Liverpool) 21 years of age.
It has been another season of wild achievement for the right back, one of only three qualifying players to appear in every Premier League game. The others being West Ham’s Declan Rice, who has not missed a single minute but who like his team has not always reached his full potential, and the excellent Burnley winger Dwight McNeil. For the second year in a row Alexander Arnold hit double figures in topflight assists – only Kevin De Bruyne registered more – but has improved his goal output, scoring a lovely low shot in the Boxing Day thrashing of Leicester.
Max Aarons (Norwich) 20 years of age
Most clubs are constantly searching for first team ready young talent, but Norwich seem particularly good at it. Perhaps in fact a little too good. The three defenders with the most appearances for this season are Aarons, a 20-year-old right back, Jamal Lewis, a 22-year-old left back, and Ben Godfrey, a centre back born 10 days before Lewis in January 1998. All three qualifying for this list, along with the midfielder Todd Cantwell, 22, while their key creative force, Emiliano Buendia is only 23.
Mason Greenwood (Manchester United) 18 years of age
Last season Greenwood made three league appearances and played three minutes in the champions league. This season he has crept slowly into the team. He did not start a league game until December, but it ends with him in Manchester United starting eleven and looking ready to stay there. A clearly instinctive finisher is a fast sprinter even than Marcus Rashford and has a knack for taking shots early that befuddles goalkeepers. “He’s developed fantastically this season, the sky’s the limit for him”, says his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Mason Mount (Chelsea) 21 years of age
The 21-year old’s first full season in the Premiership has been outstanding. He has proved himself in the big games for the blues, including scoring against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final, and on the last crucial game of the season against Wolves, confirming their Champions League spot. The Blues midfielder brings assists, moves intelligently and is a workaholic. Frank Lampard absolutely adores his hard work ethic and always tries to find space for him in the team. He has been Chelsea through and through, joining the Chelsea academy back in 2008. Lampard took him to Derby County on loan when he was manager last season and lead the Rams to the championship play off final. Mount has always been in awe of Chelsea’s greatest ever goal scorer and has a framed Premiership winning Chelsea shirt in the 2004/05 season signed by the man himself. If he keeps working hard and continues proving himself in big games, he could be following his footsteps in years to come.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) 21 years of age.
Christina Pulisic has arguably been one of the best players since the restart. He is starting to prove to the blues that he could be the one to replace their former star players in Eden Hazard. 9 goals and four assists in 25 appearances certainly is not bad and the American winger is only going to get better.
Declan Rice (West Ham) 21 years of age.
West Ham’s young star has already played 99 games in the Premier League at just the age of 21. Just goes to show how good Rice is. Reports suggest that he could leave the hammers this summer to join old friend Mason Mount at Chelsea, with the Hammers already turning down a £50 million bid for him so far. If he does leave, he will exit on good terms having played every minute of West Ham’s relegation battle this season.
Dwight McNeil (Burnley) 20 years of age.
Burnley’s left winger has started every game this season, which saw the clarets finish 10th. He has shown promises of being a star player in the future, with the likes of Manchester United being interested in capturing his services.
Managers of the season in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) Position – 1st.
Last season, Liverpool missed out on the league by inches to Manchester City. This season, they have won it by a country mile. Jurgen Klopp has created such an innovative team with unbelievable consistency. After winning the champions league last season, the German has pushed his players to further heights of winning the club’s first title in 30 years. With the red’s strength and depth within their squad, things can only get better for them under such a charismatic coach.
Chris Wilder (Sheffield United) Position – 9th.
The Blades were many pundits’ favourites to go down this season, with many of their players not having any Premier League experience whatsoever. Yet, Chris Wilder’s men managed to secure Premier League safety long before the end and ended up challenging for European Places. Sheffield were such a joy to watch, playing fearless football with their overlapping centre backs as well as being difficult to penetrate defensively. The team from Yorkshire also managed to score three goals against Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea. That is unusual for a newly promoted team.
Nuno Espirtio Santo (Wolves) Position – 7th.
Remember that curse associated with small team qualifying for the Europa League? Well Wolves have not heard of it, as they reached the quarter finals stages in Europe whilst surpassing last season’s points tally in the Premier League. What has been pleasing this season is the notable spectacular performances from Adama Traore, a player who is fulfilling his potential thanks to Nuno Espirtio’s coaching. He has inherited an exciting team including star talents including Rubes Neves, Leander Dendoncker and Romain Saiss.
Sean Dyche (Burnley) Position – 10th.
Everyone knows what to expect from Sean Dyches’s Burnley. Organised, hardworking, and difficult to break down. This just depicts how much of a good job the “worm eating” ginger nut has done. Even though he has given the team an almost boring identity in how they play, they have yet again managed to secure Premier League safety for a fifth year running. A remarkable achievement for a club with such a small budget.
Frank Lampard (Chelsea) 4th.
Chelsea have not had the easiest of seasons this year. With the Blues having a transfer ban in the summer due to going against financial fair play, Lampard had to resort in bringing back academy players into the first team squad. Also, the club lost their star player in Eden Hazard in the summer to join Real Madrid. Yet, despite of these setbacks, Frank Lampard has managed to lead his beloved Chelsea to a place in next season’s Champions League. Even though they have not won a trophy this season to show for it, it is safe to say the Blues have had a solid season under Lampard’s first spell as manager in the Premier League.