There are many things that the 2009/2010 Premier League season will be remembered for. The demise of Portsmouth will be one thing that stays in the mind of the masses for a long time, particularly the unfortunate fans of the club. Tottenham Hotspur will be remembered for breaking into the top 4 with their most successful season since the Premier League began. Manchester United will be remembered for the green and gold army that has become a mainstay of the Old Trafford crowd, whilst Liverpool will be remembered for the massive underperformance and behind the scenes problems.
Chelsea are the obvious candidates here even though it was a strange old season. Despite a fairly poor season in terms of number of games lost they did enough in Carlo Ancelotti’s first season to win the league and even broke the hundred goal barrier. Some could argue that Chelsea only won the title as a result of the shortcomings and failures of the other teams around them but, at the end of the day, the table doesn’t lie.
Tottenham Hotspur made history this season by qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since the Premier League was formed. At the beginning of April it looked unlikely after losing 3-1 at Sunderland. Heroic back to back victories at home to London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea put them right back in the picture but, after a 3-1 loss at Old Trafford, their hopes depended on an away game at Manchester City. In a pretty poor game Tottenham were the better team and came away with a narrow 1-0 win that sealed their qualification for the Champions League.
Fulham were the neutrals’ favourites this season with a wonderful run all the way to the final of the Europa League. They were narrowly beaten 2-1 in the final by Atletico Madrid as the red hot Diego Forlan continued his run at the sharp end of the season after providing the firepower to knock out the season’s underperformers, Liverpool, in the previous round. Although Fulham finished much lower in the league this season in 12th nostalgia will remember the heroic European nights rather than the final league position.
Birmingham and Wolves were both expected to be heavily involved in relegation battles in their first season back in the Premier League but both clubs defied the odds under the guidance of Alex McLeish and Mick McCarthy respectively. Birmingham started particularly well and, but for a lull near the end of the season, could have actually contested for a place in the Europa League next season. Both clubs are clear examples of how clubs being promoted to the Premier League should look to conduct themselves bar, of course, the infamous team selection from Mick McCarthy against Manchester United! Neither team has spent recklessly, instead continuing the good preparation that had been put in place in prior seasons and the continuity has served them well.
Everton suffered a horrendous run of injuries early in the season that had them languishing in the bottom half for a long time. Despite some encouraging displays from their youngsters, which can only bode well for the future, it was just a little too early for some of them. As soon as the first team players began to return to fitness the performances picked up. I read somewhere that if the league was calculated based on results since the turn of the year then Everton would have been 3rd – how they must be ruing their early season injury crisis that effectively put paid to their quest for another season in Europe.
Liverpool were amongst the biggest losers of the season as they not only dropped out of the top 4 for the first time in five years but they also managed to crash out of the Champions League in the group stages and only just finished in a high enough position to qualify for the Europa League next season. There are clearly big problems at Anfield that seem to be in all areas. Financially they are in a mess and desperately need to be taken over by somebody with the funds to propel them back into the top four and to build the new stadium that will help generate the sums of money needed to be amongst Europe’s elite. On the pitch things were also very bad with several players no longer looking up to the task, injury crisis after injury crisis, long periods of lost confidence and, in some cases, downright bad attitudes. It is clear that Benitez has a big job on his hands to put things back in order next season.
Portsmouth were involved in the biggest story of the season that, whilst shocking, was not really a shock at all. Their reckless financial management had long been a source of debate and the merry go round ownership that occurred during the season was nothing short of pathetic. Portsmouth represented everything that is wrong with the modern English game; greedy owners who gamble on the long term futures of the club with bids for success that are just not sustainable. I would love to see the business model that was in place at the club over the past few seasons. I suspect it is not very detailed!
A quick look at the scoring charts for the season tells you that Drogba, Rooney, Bent, Lampard, Tevez, Defoe, Torres and Fabregas were at the top of the game. Drogba hit a massive 29 goals during a season in which he was also absent for the African Cup of Nations in January; remarkable! Rooney had his best ever season with 26 goals and Bent showed that, despite not being the most fashionable of strikers, he certainly knows where the goal is!
Lampard posted his highest ever goals return with the rampant Chelsea whilst Tevez went a long way to disprove the myth that he wasn’t much of a goalscorer. Defoe played a huge part in Tottenham’s tremendous season, providing 18 of the goals that provided them with their first chance to compete in Europe’s elite competition since the Premier League was formed. Torres, despite being injured for long periods of the season, posted 18 goals in 22 appearances and was also the most lethal with a goal every 95 minutes and 10 seconds, 33 seconds better than Drogba and 9 minutes and 29 seconds better than Rooney.
Of course, the heroes of the season are not always the players that get the goals. Joe Hart played a huge part in Birmingham’s superb performance this season and, as a result, is now being coveted by some of the top clubs in the Premier League and looks like he may even end up as England number one in time for the World Cup. At Tottenham, Michael Dawson and Ledley King showed the world what they are capable of with both players featuring on a regular basis and showing the class required at a top four team. It was a different picture from 12 months ago when Dawson looked clumsy and King couldn’t play two games in a week.
At Everton Jack Rodwell had a superb season and showed that the future is bright for Evertonians. His season was so good, in fact, that he has recently been the subject of much speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United. Unlike Rooney, it looks like Rodwell actually does love Everton though as he has just put pen to paper on a new contract, reportedly worth around 30k per week. Steven Pienaar also had another superb season for Everton and did even more to disprove my formerly held notion that he would lack the physicality for the rough and tumble of the world’s most demanding league.
The Most Disappointing Players
Steven Gerrard has been up on a pedestal now for about 7 or 8 years at Anfield and, up until this season, deservedly so. His never say die attitude, his ability to lift others around him and the knack of coming up trumps at that vital time have become synonymous with him. This season, however, it has been almost the complete opposite. He has looked disinterested at best and the good attitude that has rubbed off so well on team mates in the past appears to have been replaced with a bad attitude that has seemingly affected his team mates just as much. It has been a bad season for Gerrard and I am sure he will be looking to put that right next time around. I am sure he would be the first to admit that he has been simply not good enough but I do wonder whether a better attitude at times might have helped this season.
John Terry is another who prides himself on his ability to give that little bit more than most and deliver high standards time and time again. This season, however, he has certainly not been up to his usual standards and you have to wonder just how much of a part the off the field antics have played. There is no doubt in my mind that he will get back to his best but this season, by his standards, was pretty poor and he can count himself lucky to still have his England place seeing as Capello alleged early in his reign that he would pick his teams based on form, not reputation. You have to wonder, if he were picking on form, should the likes of Dawson and King be taking his place?
Another player who must be very disappointed with how his season has panned out is Michael Owen. He signed for Manchester United in the hopes of playing and scoring enough across the season to gain a place in Capello’s World Cup squad. Despite managing to be involved in 31 games across the season and scoring a respectable 9 goals given the fact that a lot of his appearances were as a substitute, he only managed 3 goals in 19 league appearances before picking up an injury that finished his season. I am sure that, looking back, Michael was expecting much more from this season and is probably now waving goodbye to any hopes he has of wearing an England shirt again.
My Team of the Season