Review of the Premiership Season

May 15 2007

It’s been a great season. We’ve had the closest title race in years, a relegation battle that went down to the last day of the season (and may rumble on even longer), some sublime goals, fantastic games and the usual hilarious histrionics and bickering from the league’s more flamboyant characters.

Here’s my review of the top movers and shakers from the last nine tumultuous months.

Team of the Season
(4-4-2)

1. David James (Portsmouth)

Ben Foster, on loan at Watford from Man United, had an absolutely superb season, but he blotted his copybook by being beaten by Paul Robinson from 94 yards in a game at Spurs and conceding defeat at home to Man City with a sloppy pass straight to Darius Vassell.

James, too, has had jittery moments, but his authority at the back enabled Portsmouth to form a formidable rearguard, particularly in the first half of the season. Also broke the record for the highest number of clean sheets in the Premiership.

2. Steve Finnan (Liverpool)

It’s not been a great year for the country’s top right-backs. Gary Neville has been typically  dependable, but has missed the run-in through injury. Jose Mourinho still doesn’t know who his first-choice right-back is, and Emmanuel Eboue, for all his endeavour, is still far too prone to theatricals. Finnan, by comparison, has been as solid as ever.

3. Patrice Evra (Manchester United)

The archetype of the attacking full-back. Looked out of his depth in his debut season, but has proved this season that he can attack and defend with tenacity and temerity.

4. Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

Not too long ago regular mention was made of Ferdinand’s £30 million price-tag. People don’t seem to mention it anymore. He’s finally managed to iron out the lapses in concentration that many felt would prevent him from ever becoming a great centre half.

5. Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)

The best defender in the Premiership. Tough, quick, unthinkingly brave, strong in the tackle, imperious in the air and very dangerous at set pieces. In short, a slightly better John Terry.

6. Michael Essien (Chelsea)

Arguably the most complete midfielder in the Premiership. He tackles, passes, has limitless energy, and – as demonstrated against Arsenal – scores crucial goals. Has been Chelsea’s most consistent performer, despite regularly having had to slot into the back four.

7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

The outstanding talent in the Premiership. Has added goal-scoring consistency to his dazzling talent, turning him into a one-man match-winner in the process. Now appears to understand that his searing pace is often a greater asset than his mesmerising footwork.

8. Paul Scholes (Manchester United)

Has joyfully rediscovered his best form after the eye injury that threatened to finish his career last season. Hasn’t quite recaptured the heights he hit in the first half of the campaign, but his crucial equalising goal against Blackburn at Old Trafford demonstrated that he is still the man for the big occasion.

9. Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

On his day he is simply unplayable, and his performances throughout the season mean he should now be classed among the top goal-scorers in the world. Has had to put up with more than his fair share of scorn over the past three seasons, but this season he has been frighteningly effective, allying brutal power and pace with stunning technical accomplishment.

10. Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham Hotspur)

As welcome an addition to the Premiership as previous foreign stars like Juninho and Gianfranco Zola. Blessed with exquisite touch and awareness, he makes the game look so easy. His football is a joy to behold, and his burgeoning partnership with Robbie Keane has helped Spurs put one over Arsenal in the North London style stakes.

11. Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)

Throughout his career, Giggs has been accused of failing to fulfill his potential, but what he has achieved this season is something far greater. His transformation into the elder statesman in the middle of the Rooney-Ronaldo axis has made a mockery of the notion that he was destined only ever to be a silky, touchline-hugging winger.

Substitutes:
12. Ben Foster (Watford)
13. Joleon Lescott (Everton)
14. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
15. Benni McCarthy (Blackburn Rovers)
16. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Best Goal
Matthew Taylor, Portsmouth v Everton

We’ve been treated to some really special strikes this season. Robin van Persie’s incredible flying volley against Charlton and Paul Scholes’s thumping effort at Aston Villa spring most readily to to mind, and in general it seems that the Premiership’s top players are enjoying quite how much the new Nike match ball can be made to move in the air. But for sheer audacity, Taylor’s opportunistic 45-yard volley trumps them all.

Best Signing
Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham Hotspur) and Carlos Tevez (West Ham United)

At £10.9 million, Berbatov didn’t come cheap, but his performances for Spurs have demonstrated that he is a rare talent, and his touch and composure bring out the best in the young players around him.

For all the controversy surrounding Tevez’s signing, he has been an absolute revelation for West Ham, and his passion and endeavour and unrestrained lust for the battle have set him apart from similarly illustrious foreign imports who, in previous seasons, have shied away from the dirty work when the going got tough.

Biggest Disappointment
Andriy Shevchenko (Chelsea)

A massive, clunking let-down. For years Andriy Shevchenko was the striker in European football. 127 goals in 208 appearances for AC Milan, countless honours and a reputation as one of the most lethal marksmen in history. So what happened?

One suspects he was imposed upon Mourinho from above. Chelsea never looked comfortable with the 4-4-2 which Shevchenko’s arrival (and the absence through injury of Arjen Robben and Joe Cole) forced them to adopt, and it is notable that Mourinho quickly reverted to his tried and trusted 4-3-3 as the season approached its climax.

Best Game
West Ham 3 v 4 Tottenham Hotspur, Sunday 4th March

Pegged back to 2-2 after having gone 2-0 up, West Ham went into the final minutes of the game 3-2 up and still contrived to lose. A superb game of committed, attacking football which showcased the best the Premiership has to offer.

Best Team Performance
Bolton Wanderers 0 v 4 Manchester United, Saturday 28th October

Burnden Park was never an easy place to go and play, and under Sam Allardyce Bolton have made the Reebok Stadium a similarly discomfiting proposition for opposition teams. But at a stadium where so many of their rivals have traditionally struggled, United blew away their hosts with a display of relentless attacking football, capped by a fine hat-trick from the previously goal-shy Wayne Rooney.

Best Chant
“Put your hands up for Dirk Kuyt!” (Liverpool)

Good old Scousers. This song – to the tune of the dance hit ‘Put Your Hands Up For Detroit’ – wasn’t quite in the same league as their Michael Jackson-inspired ode to Djimi Traore (‘He just can’t/He just can’t/He just can’t control his feet!’) from a few seasons ago, but it still raised a smile.

Funniest Moment
Drogba v Lehmann (Chelsea v Arsenal)

Grown men – professional sportsmen, no less – falling to the floor like weak-limbed pansies. It would be even funnier if it wasn’t quite so pathetic. Shameful viewing for football fans everywhere, particularly those of a Chelsea and Arsenal persuasion.

Best Manager
Sir Alex Ferguson

Steve Coppell’s achievements at Reading should not go unheralded. On a tight budget he produced a team which was resilient, hard to beat and capable of fine football. But Ferguson’s achievement in overhauling the Chelsea juggernaut with a rejuvenated young team bolstered by just one close-season signing ranks among his greatest successes.

Worst Manager
Jose Mourinho

A controversial choice, perhaps, given the fact that Chelsea have competed on four fronts this season, but Mourinho has really let himself down at times.

Chelsea’s football became grim and uncompromising, he spectacularly failed to accommodate Michael Ballack or Andriy Shevchenko and he still had the nerve to blame defensive injuries for his team’s misfortunes after selling Robert Huth and William Gallas in the summer.

He certainly makes the league more interesting, but his blinkered partisan whingeing and graceless refusal to accept he has been bettered have plumbed new depths this season. With the resources at his disposal, are we really expected to feel sorry for him when things don’t go his way?

Next season

Next season we can expect an even greater level of intensity in the battle for the title, with United keen to push on to greater things, Chelsea intent on recapturing their crown and Liverpool and Arsenal seeking to prove that they can both go the distance in the league.

Tottenham, Everton and Bolton will look to bridge the gap that separates the top four from the rest, and Reading, Portsmouth, Blackburn and Aston Villa will look to build on the progress made over the past few months.

Add to the mix ‘sleeping giants’ like Newcastle and Manchester City (both of whom will start the season with new managers) seeking to reclaim a place among the league’s elite – as well as the return of a certain Mr Roy Keane – and it’s got all the ingredients of another fascinating campaign.

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2 Responses to “Review of the Premiership Season”

  1. Ewen Says:

    Great stuff matey…

  2. Spanish Fry Says:

    Yeah what a top review. Nice work


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