The Premiership Review: 2011/12

The dust has settled on yesterday’s remarkable end of season finish that significantly reduced the life expectancy of everyone watching. Manchester City are the Champions, ending 44 years of hurt, while Bolton joined Blackburn in sliding through the trapdoor into the Championship. Here is the Coin Toss’s definitive review of the best ever Premier League season, starting with the Top 10:

MANCHESTER CITY

Position: 1st

BBC’s August Predictions: 2nd

Top Scorer: Sergio Aguero (23)

Hero: Vincent Kompany

Zero: Carlos Tevez

What can you say about Manchester City. Champions for the first time in 44 years, but boy did they leave it late! 2-1 down with five minutes of stoppage time on the clock at the Etihad Stadium when first Edin Dzeko, and then Sergio Aguero found the net to send the blue half of Manchester into delirium. It was the fitting end to a season that has been so topsy-turvy for Roberto Mancini’s men. They went unbeaten until Chelsea beat them 2-1 in December, a run of 14 matches that included the 5-1 win over Spurs and of course that infamous 6-1 drubbing of United at Old Trafford. The wheels then came off the City bandwagon as they seem to implode under the pressure, winning just one game in five in a miserable run in March and April, a spell that saw them slip eight points behind United. However, Vincent Kompany’s header saw off their bitter rivals at home and they were ahead until the end of the season before the last ditch heroics sealed the title. Off the field, it’s been a tumultuous year as well. The Carlos Tevez affair soured the first half of the season and Mario Balotelli went from lovable rogue to deplorable idiot with some petulant behaviour against Arsenal and Sunderland. However, none of that matters now as City finally achieved the dream set out for them by their Arab owners three years ago. Accusations that they bought the title may helped the bitter and twisted deal with City’s victory, but nobody at the Etihad will care one jot. Mancini still has some tough egos to handle and the dressing room balance isn’t quite right yet, but he has some star quality in that squad that can enable him to build a legacy at City for years to come.

Season Rating: 10/10

 

MANCHESTER UNITED

 Position: 2nd

BBC’s August Prediction: 1st

Top Scorer: Wayne Rooney (27)

Hero: Wayne Rooney

Zero: Dimitar Berbatov

Although both halves of Manchester will wake up horribly hungover this morning, those with Red leanings will feel a whole lot worse than their counterparts in Blue. United were so close to spoiling City’s party and did everything they needed to do on the final day. The defending Champions were keen not to relinquish their crown without a fight and set off in August in sparkling form, spanking Bolton, Spurs and Chelsea and of course, the memorable 8-2 win over Arsenal. However, United were playing catch-up to City after the shock of that 6-1 defeat and miserable performances against Newcastle and Blackburn at the turn of the New Year seemed to rule United out of contention. However, Sir Alex brought Paul Scholes out of retirement and United’s season swung into action as they notched up 34 points out a possible 36 to overhaul City going into the final part of the season. However, remarkably for Sir Alex and his boys, they blew it. A shock defeat to Wigan was followed by them throwing away a two goal lead against Everton and losing at the Etihad sealed their fate. United need to strengthen significantly in the summer as they can be sure those around them will.

Season Rating: 7/10

ARSENAL

Position: 3rd

BBC’s August Prediction: 5th

Top Scorer: Robin Van Persie (30)

Hero: Robin Van Persie

Zero: Per Mertesacker

Oh to be an Arsenal fan. The final day perhaps reflected their season as a whole, dreadful start against West Brom before gradually clawing their way back to find a winner and therefore a third place finish that guarantees them Champions League football next year. Quite frankly, Arsenal were appalling at the beginning of the year, losing 8-2 to United and suffering the embarrassment of a 4-3 reversal against Blackburn. The loss of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy in the summer left the squad threadbare and Wenger’s refusal to spend any money seemed to have finally hit them hard. By the time Spurs took home the North London derby spoils in October, Arsenal’s title hopes were already in tatters, much earlier than their usual March collapse. Although the fans just about refrained from calling for Arsene Wenger’s head, unrest was obvious at the Emirates. However, an eight match winning streak saw them roar into contention for a Champions League spot. In true Arsenal style, they promptly ruined this by losing three in a row. Just two more defeats all season followed though, against QPR and Wigan, and Arsenal gradually overhauled Spurs in the race for third spot that became all-important after Chelsea’s run to the Champions League final. Arsenal fans should feel happy at the way the season has gone, especially considering how it started. Spending money is imperative this summer to try and challenge for trophies again, while it’s fair to say, without Robin Van Persie, Arsenal would be nowhere the Champions League. Their hopes all rest on keeping the Dutchman at the Emirates.

Season Rating: 8/10

 

TOTTENHAM

Position: 4th

BBC’s August Prediction: 6th

Top Scorer: Emmanuel Adebayor (17)

Hero: Emmanuel Adebayor

Zero: The FA

Think back to February. Tottenham had just smashed Newcastle 5-0 at home and were nicely positioned in third, with a shot at the Premier League title not out of the question. Everyone, including Sir Alex Ferguson were commending the quality of football that the side were piecing together. The fans could barely believe nothing had gone wrong before a huge Fabio Capello-shaped hole appeared in their season. His sacking as England manager left Harry Redknapp the overwhelming favourite for the job. For whatever reason, Spurs capitulated, picking up just six points from a possible 27. As the England saga dragged on, Spurs just couldn’t seem to win a game, undoubtedly affected by the speculation surrounding their manager. They just about recovered, winning three of the four last games to hang on to fourth spot, but they now rely on Chelsea losing the Champions League Final to Bayern Munich. It’s an unfortunate situation for a side that at times this season, looked unplayable, with the skills of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Rafael Van Der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor giving the White Hart Lane faithful some of the best displays they’ve seen in years. A Chelsea victory would leave the future of the club uncertain though, Bale and Modric are yet to commit if Spurs don’t reach the Champions League, while Daniel Levy is struggling to find the money to pay Adebayor’s wages permanently. Redknapp has assembled a good squad and Champions League football would enable him to add further quality to that. The 19th of May is therefore a very important date for Tottenham fans.

Season Rating: 8/10

 

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Position: 5th

BBC’s August Prediction: 15th

Top Scorer: Demba Ba (16)

Hero: Demba Ba/Papiss Cisse

Zero: Gabriel Obertan

The Toon Army fans are still in dreamland having seen their side produce a remarkable season of football. When Alan Pardew replaced Chris Hughton as manager last year, the fans were outraged at yet another supposedly awful decision from Mike Ashley. How wrong they were. Pardew made a collection of signings that can only be described as brilliant. Yohan Cabaye joined from Lille, Davide Santon signed from Inter Milan and more importantly Demba Ba was acquired on a free transfer from West Ham. Subsequently, the Magpies went unbeaten until the 19th of Novemeber when they lost to Manchester City. Many expected the bubble to burst, but they just carried on in a similar vein of form with Demba Ba scoring left, right and centre. A 3-0 win over Manchester United showed this Newcastle side was made of tough stuff and the signing of Papiss Cisse proved to be the decision of the season. Six straight wins left the fans dreaming of the Champions League again and although they missed out by the slimmest of margins, the club can be proud of what they achieved. There were so many magical moments, none more so than Cisse’s stupendous volley against Chelsea and just imagine if Ba and Cisse could score at the same time. Hanging onto their best players is now the next task for the PFA’s Manager of the Season Pardew and if he can make another couple of signings like last season, Newcastle are onto a winner.

Season Rating: 9/10

 

CHELSEA

Position: 6th

BBC’s August Prediction: 3rd

Top Scorer: Frank Lampard/Daniel Sturridge (11)

Hero: Roberto Di Matteo

Zero: Andre Villas Boas

Last summer proved rather eventful for the Blues, with Roman Abramovich choosing to replace Carlo Ancelotti with Andre Villas Boas after he failed to win a trophy in 2010/11. However, only Juan Mata was purchased that added any real quality to Chelsea’s squad and the Blues struggled from the outset with their patchy form leaving them fighting for Champions League contention. This wasn’t the plan for Abramovich at all, who expected another title at Stamford Bridge. However, it wasn’t just the poor form that hindered Villas Boas, but also his decision to alienate the senior players, creating dressing room unrest. With Chelsea’s Champions League campaign hanging by a thread after a 3-1 defeat away at Napoli, the most expensive manager in history was discarded and assistant Roberto Di Matteo placed in charge. Things soon changed as Di Matteo harnessed the senior players, inspiring the club to an FA Cup victory and the Champions League final, after a stunning semi-final win over Barcelona. He unfortunately failed to secure fourth position though, leaving the Blues needing a win in Munich to remain in Europe’s premier competition. Chelsea’s summer hinges on this game and Di Matteo could be given the job permanently if he pulls off what looked previously impossible. Oh, and he even got Fernando Torres to score!

Season Rating: 6.5/10

 

EVERTON

Position: 7th

BBC’s August Prediction: 7th

Top Scorer: Nikica Jelavic (9)

Hero: David Moyes

Zero: The Everton Coffers

Another season, another top half finish for David Moyes. Once again, the Scot worked wonders with the limited resources at his disposal, but those resources looked to have cost the Blues dearly in the first half of the season. A draw with Blackburn ensured they only occupied 14th position in January and without a striker that could ever find the net, never mind on regular occasions, it looked as if Everton were heading for a poor finish. However, Moyes was allowed a little leeway in January and he used it wisely, bringing in Nikica Jelavic from Rangers for £5.5 million, while Steven Pienaar returned on loan from Spurs. This did the trick for Everton and Jelavic made the transition to English football look easy as he finally provided the Blues with a threat upfront to go with their excellent midfield. They went on a nine game unbeaten run to end the year in their traditional seventh position and they will hope to add one or two quality players in the summer. However, Liverpool seem to have a hoodoo on them at the moment, winning all three games against them this season, including the FA Cup semi-final. Moyes will want to end that next year.

Season Rating: 8.5/10

 

LIVERPOOL

Position: 8th

BBC’s August Prediction: 4th

Top Scorer: Luis Suarez (11)

Hero: Daniel Agger/Martin Skrtel

Zero: Take your pick – Kenny Dalglish, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Andy Carroll or Luis Suarez for other matters.

Kenny Dalglish revitalised a Liverpool team that lost its way under Roy Hodgson last year and after spending £100 million combined from January and the summer on a host of talent, many pundits predicted a return to the Champions League for the Reds. The season turned out to be an absolute catastrophe though, with Liverpool missing talisman Steven Gerrard for the first half of the year. Big signings Carroll, Henderson and Adam didn’t pay off while £20 million man Stewart Downing contributed a remarkable zero goals and zero assists to the Liverpool effort this year. Luis Suarez shone in patches but his eight game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra brought the club into disrepute, especially after the players ran out wearing T-Shirts supporting the Uruguayan. After Christmas, their form only got worse and a run of six defeats in seven games ended all hopes of a Champions League finish. Just to compound their misery, they lost the FA Cup final and a final day defeat to Swansea left everyone questioning Kenny Dalglish’s future. Absolutely wretched year at Anfield.

Season Rating: 2/10

 

FULHAM

Position: 9th    

BBC’s August Prediction: 11th

Top Scorer: Clint Dempsey (17)

Hero: Clint Dempsey

Zero: Bobby Zamora

Mark Hughes’s sudden departure caught Fulham unawares in the summer and although they picked a good replacement in Martin Jol, they made a dreadful start to the season that saw them languishing just above the drop zone in November. However, the team began to gel together under Jol and they patched together more consistent form right up until the end of the season that saw them sneak into the top half of the table. The fans can be pleased with a ninth placed finish, a position that further underlines the Cottagers’ consolidation of their Premier League place. They are indebted to Clint Dempsey though for his impressive tally of goals and everyone involved with Fulham will be praying the club hangs onto the American next season. Pavel Pogrebnyak came in January and notched a decent tally of six goals, proving himself to be an impressive replacement for Bobby Zamora who quit for QPR in the search for more money. However, fans will want to see more of Bryan Ruiz who has disappointed since his big money move from FC Twente. They will expect Jol to make some solid additions and once again be competitive in mid-table without ever really threatening any of the big boys.

Season Rating: 7/10

 

WEST BROM

Position: 10th

BBC’s August Prediction: 13th

Top Scorer: Peter Odemwingie (10)

Hero: James Morrison

Zero: Once again, the FA

West Brom were impressive last time around, finishing in 11th position and they expected something similar under Roy Hodgson again. The Baggies made a terrible start though, winning just one of their first seven games that saw them battling the drop. Hodgson however, turned his side’s fortunes around and relatively consistent form, including victories over Liverpool and Chelsea, saw them finish in a promising tenth position. The FA may have poached Hodgson from his dugout at the Hawthorns, but there is a promising squad for the new man to work with. They have a pair of decent strikers in Odemwingie and Shane Long and in midfield, there is some unsung quality, with the likes of Chris Brunt, James Morrison, Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu pulling the strings. If Roberto Di Matteo doesn’t get the job permanently at Stamford Bridge, what odds on a return to the Midlands…

Season Rating: 7/10

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