Lots of thrills, spills, upsets, drama and a season that did not have a winner till the last day. The 18-19 Premier League season did not disappoint. A 3-month hiatus starts now, but teams, managers and owners will use this time to plan ahead for the next season. Below is a brief review of the premier league season along with 5 key questions.
1) Can Man City make it a hat-trick next season?
Since 2009, no team has won the league twice in a row. The last team to accomplish this was, you guessed it right, Manchester United when they won three in a row from 2006-2009, under Sir Alex Ferguson. That team was a team of champions managed by a supreme genius of the game. Man city seems no different. Since taking charge of the team 3 years back, Pep Guardiola has won the league twice, shattering numerous records in the process. He has created a team of champions who have learnt to play consistently good football. Did we expect anything different? I guess not, having seen his exploits in the past with Bayern Munich and particularly Barcelona. With a record-breaking 198 points and just 6 losses over two seasons, he has taken the team to a different pedestal. Gone, it seems, are the days when 80 points would win you the league.
Having said that, the team has the tendency to explode from time to time. Losses against Liverpool and Tottenham in the Champions league come to mind. Pep will want to put that in the back-burner and improve those aspects of the team accordingly.
Will City buy anyone in the transfer window? And should they? I think a couple of acquisitions wouldn’t harm them in anyway as they have a big cash drawer at their disposal. Their biggest challenge next season will come from either Liverpool, Tottenham or Chelsea (if Sarri stays). But if any team can sustain this form, consistency and dominance, it is Pep’s City.
2) Will Liverpool finally break the jinx in 2019-2020?
97 points and still finished runners-up in the league. 97 points would have won Liverpool the title every single year since the Premier league began in 1992, except of course in the last two seasons. The reason – Manchester City’s haul of 100 and 98 points respectively in 17-18 and 18-19.
Klopp has done an outstanding job so far with the team. His energy, passion and charisma are exactly what the club and more importantly its supporters needed. With the history of the club, and the fact that Liverpool having not won a league title since 1990, looming large behind him, Klopp always knew the enormity of the task he undertook when he became manager of the club in October 2015. And although he hasn’t won any silverware with the club yet, he has got the team playing superb football. Two 4th place finishes and close runners-up in 2019 not withstanding, he now has the chance of winning the Champions league after falling agonisingly short last year.
But he knows better than any one else that he will be judged only by one metric – a Premier league trophy. Next season will be the most important in this regard, as it would be the first time in the recent past that Liverpool enter a season as favorites (one of) for the title. Whether Klopp manages these expectations and comes out victorious remains to be seen.
3) What next for Ole?
32 points in his first 12 Premier league games in-charge was followed by 8 in 9 games since. A Champions league loss to Barcelona and an FA cup exit at the hands of Wolves didn’t make things any better. With Europa league distractions next year, will United finish in the top 4?
The team needs strengthening at almost every position on the pitch, especially with Herrera and Valencia set to leave the club, and the futures of Lukaku, Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Mata, Darmian and Bailly in doubt. I am certain that Solskjaer will be given a heavy sum of money for player acquisitions and transfers, but with no Champions league next year, it will be incredibly challenging to get top players to join the club. The way the club goes about scouting players from all over the world and getting them in will matter big time. Recruitment will be absolutely key. Equally important will be to develop the talent at their disposal. Next season will be vitally important for players like Martial, Lingaard, Rashford and McTominay to step up, move away from the shadows of ‘Senior players’, and be counted. Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t acquire a team of champions, he created one. It is now Solskjaer’s turn to attempt to do the same.
4) Did anyone expect Wolves to qualify for Europe?
With City winning the FA cup, Wolverhampton Wanderers now get a shot at the second qualifying round of the Europe League. What an achievement this is for a team that just got promoted to the Premier league a year ago! With 57 points overall, and finishing 7th in their first season back in England’s highest footballing stage is no small achievement, especially considering they finished above the likes of Leicester, Watford and Everton.
Nuno Esperito has got this team playing resilient football with strong defensive performances that have helped them along the way. They conceded fewer goals than Man United and Arsenal, and created a lot of upsets during the season by beating them, as well as Chelsea and Tottenham through the course of the season. The second season in the league will be more challenging than the first and many teams have succumbed to this in the past by getting relegated. If Wolves strengthen in key areas, while retaining their core, they have all the chance to continue their fabulous run next season and make it through to the main draw of the Europa league.
5) How did Chelsea and Arsenal perform?
Both teams had new managers at the start of the season. Sarri was a surprising choice to many, but got off to a great start with the club. Chelsea were unbeaten for the first 11 Premier league games of the season. But as the season progressed, you could see cracks starting to develop in his relationship with some of the players and the club’s supporters, and that showed in the lack of consistency on the pitch. But a 3rd place finish, two final appearances, and a possibility of winning the Europa League should account for a very good debut season on the whole.
Unai Emery came from PSG, and replaced the talismanic Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. After early losses, he took the team on an unbeaten run of 22 games. Everything looked well and good then. But suspect defensive performances and a lack of consistency followed and the team never reached the heights that they did at the start. In the end, all they could achieve was a 5th place finish. A Europa league trophy guaranteeing the club Champions league football next season would not be a bad way to end the season. But a loss in the final would see them playing Thursday night football in Europe next year, and that won’t please the fans.
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