I think we can safely say that the 2013/2014 season was one of the most pulsating, dramatic and entertaining in recent memory. With both the title and relegation battles going right down to the wire, teams, players and fans alike were left to face a thrilling end to the season.
The campaign saw Manchester City crowned Premier League Champions, Liverpool surging back up the table with Man Utd going in the other direction. Chelsea and Arsenal secured Champions League football yet again, with an impressive Everton outfit and a Spurs side in disarray grabbing the Europa League spots. Sunderland and Crystal Palace managed remarkable escapes from the drop with Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff the unlucky trio to be relegated to the Championship.
Let’s have a look at the highlights of the season:
The Title Race
For most of the season, there were four main teams that seemed would be in the run in for the title come the end of the season. Arsenal started the season on fire and were on top for much of the first half of the season. Ramsey, Ozil and co. were showing signs that the Gunners could finally challenge for the big one until a whole host of injuries dashed any chances come March.
Chelsea then took over the baton and saw their defence’s stinginess make up for their lack of goals from their strikers. However, losses to Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Sunderland all but ruled out Mourinho’s men, even though they didn’t lose to any of the top four teams.
Liverpool then looked like they’d be the team that could snatch a golden opportunity at the title. An 11 game winning streak put the Reds in a fantastic position to win their first title in 24 years, needing only seven points from the last three games. A crushing defeat to Chelsea was followed by a crazy encounter against Crystal Palace in which they threw away a 3-0 lead to draw the game.
Manchester City were on hand to take full advantage of Liverpool’s slip up and although they had only been on top for 16 days of the full season, they managed to lift the trophy after a 2-0 win against West Ham on the last game of the season. A good balance of attacking flare as well as a commanding midfield and defence was key to City’s second title in three years, given them a domestic double having already won the Capital One Cup.
Race for European Football
For a while it looked like Arsenal would run away with the league, but by the last two months of the season, they were in a battle for the last Champions League place with Everton. As well as Liverpool, Everton went on their own seven game winning streak, which actually included a convincing 3-0 against Arsenal at Goodison Park. Everton were primed and ready to snatch fourth place until an unexpected loss to Crystal Palace (yes, they had an impact everywhere it seems) was followed by defeats to Southampton and Man City within the space of their last five games, meaning they has to settle for a Champions League place.
The other Europa League place went to Tottenham, who had a dramatic season themselves after selling Gareth Bale, spending £100 million on several players to compensate and sacking former boss Andre Villas-Boas. Although Spurs were just one win away from equalling their highest points tally for a single season, their performances this term showed a lack of desire and determination from a number of their players. Having been prolific in Spain, Roberto Soldado, amongst other new arrivals had failed to adapt to the Premier League and Spurs’ style of play, which was also the case for Chadli and Capoue, whereas Eric Lamela was missing for nearly all of the season. The controversial figure of Tim Sherwood took over in the second half of the season and ruffled a few feathers both with the fans and with the players. The former Spurs player was not afraid to show his feelings and voice his opinions when he felt his side hadn’t performed to their ability, and has subsequently been sacked by the London club.
Everyone around the club knew that it would be an almighty task for David Moyes to try and emulate the greatest manager in English football history, Alex Ferguson, but to go from champions one season to seventh place the next was simply unheard of. The Red Devils suffered the most disappointing of seasons, with the invincible feel of Old Trafford well and truly gone. Nobody would’ve predicted that Moyes would not even last one season compared to the 26 years Ferguson was in charge, but the sacking was inevitable after their awful league form. Even though Moyes took the blame for most of the poor performances, many people around the club felt that it was the players that had been letting the manager, the fans and the club down. Ferguson was an expert on bringing the best out of players, even if they weren’t necessarily the most gifted of players. The current crop of players however have been branded mediocre and even the £37 million arrival of Juan Mata wasn’t enough to re-energise the team. There will be no European football for Utd for the first time for 24 years and the new manager (seemingly set to Louis Van Gaal) will have a huge job on his hands.
The Relegation Battle
For much of the season, any team from the bottom half of the table looked like they could be relegated, it was that close. Huge six pointers between the rivals down the bottom helped a number of teams whilst hindering others, capping off an exhilarating battle to stay in England’s top division.
Cardiff were the first team to be relegated after a controversial season which saw unpopular owner Vincent Tan sack fans’ favourite Malky Mackay, after a falling out. At the time, the team were getting into their stride with good results against both Manchester clubs amongst some good performances. However, after Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over at the helm, surviving the drop was always going to be a tough ask and results against other teams at the bottom didn’t favour them, resulting in only one season in the Premier League.
Fulham were the next team to bite the dust. After 13 years in the Premier League, the Cottagers were forced to say goodbye after a calamitous season which saw the London outfit change manager three times. Martin Jol started off the season but was soon replaced by Rene Meulensteen, who then was sacked in favour of Felix Magath, a so-called expert at avoiding relegation. All three managers had similar records in their time at the club which begged the question, was there any need for change in the first place?
After a solid middle period of the season for the Canaries, it seemed as though Norwich would avoid relegation very comfortably. Things did not go quite to plan, as the teams around them upped the ante and left Norwich in the dirt. A run of six defeats in the last seven games capped off a miserable end to the campaign and they now drop into the Championship.
There were some astonishing escapes this season with Crystal Palace and Sunderland being the pick of the bunch. Palace were rock bottom at the end of November and were staring down the barrel of relegation. Ian Holloway was then replaced by Tony Pulis who masterminded a fantastic second half of the campaign to eventually finish 11th at the end of the season. This was unbelievable on many levels, with Palace fans finding their good form hard to comprehend let alone general fans. Their team spirit was unquestionable and their work rate was superb and the 3-3 draw against Liverpool after behind 3-0 down summed up their season perfectly, with Tony Pulis rightly winning the Premier League Manager of the Year award.
Sunderland, however, pulled off arguably the greatest escape the Premier League has ever seen. With no wins and seven defeats from their eight games leading up to the last month of the season, Sunderland were as good as gone. Lying in bottom place, seven points adrift of Norwich in 17th, Poyet conjured up away wins with the help of Connor Wickham against Chelsea and Man Utd, with a crucial draw at Man City. Coupled with wins against fellow struggler’s West Brom and Cardiff, it capped of a monumental end to the season where they eventually finished in 14th position. An amazing achievement which will live long in the memory of Sunderland fans.
The Final Table
The season ended with the table looking like this;
A fantastic season from start to finish and I for one can’t wait for the new season to start, and well,there’s a little tournament called the World Cup before that which we will all look forward to.