On the whole, it’s been disappointing for English clubs competing in Europe in the last five years but this year brought a little bit more success. Last season, not a single English club made it through to the quarter finals of the Champions League – although Sergio Aguero finished 9th in the top goal scorers list for the competition with 6 goals. In 2013-14, Manchester United were knocked out by Bayern Munich in the quarter-final and Chelsea were beaten by eventual winners, Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals but this season, Manchester City defied the odds and made it through to the semi-final before being knocked out by Spanish giants, Real Madrid. Considering they announced the departure of their manager over two months before, it was a good achievement for City to reach the latter stages and it was important for English football for a club of the Premier League to do well. Chelsea and Arsenal both made it through to the Round of 16 but were knocked out by PSG and Barcelona respectively.
In the Europa League, Liverpool almost went all the way, defying all the odds and making it through to the final in Basel on Wednesday evening. After knocking out Manchester United in the Round of 16, they overcame competition favourites, Borussia Dortmund in a historic match at Anfield before knocking out Villarreal in the semi-final. They led 1-0 after a dominant first half performance against Sevilla in the final but a complete collapse in the second half saw the Spanish outfit lift the trophy. Tottenham made it to the last 16, along with Manchester United but both were knocked out by Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool who met in the quarter-finals.
Leicester City, West Ham United and Southampton all have European football to look forward to next season as Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton all miss out. However, it’s Spanish football which dominated yet again as Sevilla secured the Europa League title and Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid battle it out in the Champions League final next week.
A number of English players have had phenomenal seasons with Dele Alli and Jamie Vardy standing out above the rest. Tottenham and Leicester City have provided Roy Hodgson with a lot to think about regarding selections and his recent Euro 2016 provisional squad announcement provided a few surprising but celebrated call-ups.
Manchester United’s 18 year-old sensation, Marcus Rashford, made his senior debut by default when Anthony Martial suffered an injury in the warm-up ahead of their clash with Arsenal in February. He burst onto the scene with two debut goals and hasn’t seemed to stop scoring since. Less than three months later and Rashford could be heading to France as part of Roy Hodgson’s England squad at the European Championships.
Tottenham’s form in the second half of the season which saw them compete for the title against Leicester City was largely impacted by the rise of the PFA Young Player of the Year, Dele Alli. The youngster has cemented a position in Roy Hodgson’s plans and is almost a definite to be heading to France for the Euros. His English team-mates, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Harry Kane have all had brilliant seasons too, with two of those players making the PFA Team of the Year. Kane also collected the league’s Golden Boot as he outscored Jamie Vardy (24) by scoring 25 goals throughout the league campaign.
Jamie Vardy was England’s brightest breakthrough and the Leicester City forward has written his name into Premier League history with his record-breaking run of 11 consecutive games in which he scored in each one. His team-mate, Danny Drinkwater was also a rising star and deserves his place in Roy Hodgson’s provision 26 man squad. Everton’s John Stones was a revelation at the start of the season and his performance at centre-back earned him an international call-up and has attracted the attention of the league’s biggest clubs. He made 33 blocks in the league this season, trumping his team-mates and announcing himself as one of the brightest young defenders. Unfortunately his form in recent weeks has been disappointing and has correlated with Everton’s dramatic collapse under Roberto Martinez but Hodgson will be hoping he can regain some of his previous form to head into the Euros.
Raheem Sterling cost Manchester City £49m from Liverpool and he was tipped to be the next best England youngster. There’s no denying the kid has talent but when he’s being left out of the Manchester City squad for Jesus Navas, you know he’s underperformed. Chelsea and Manchester United were battling it out for most of the summer to secure the services of former Barcelona winger, Pedro, and the Blues were successful. However, when he eventually came to the Premier League, he was a flop, just like the rest of his Chelsea team-mates.
Liverpool’s biggest signing was Cristian Benteke for a whopping £32.5m. The former Aston Villa striker was sensational last season but has been nothing short of disappointing for the Reds this year. He’s been that poor, Jurgen Klopp has chosen to play Roberto Firmino up top ahead of him and Benteke has been shunted down the striker list to Liverpool’s number four, behind Sturridge, Origi and Firmino.
The biggest flop of them all was Memphis Depay, who signed for Manchester United for over £30m. The Dutch forward has made just 16 starts this season and has contributed very little. He’s scored just five goals in total, with only two of those in the league and he’s failed to record a single assist all season.
An exciting summer ahead…
Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton fans will wait in anticipation to find out the future of their club as on-going speculation surrounding the futures of Van Gaal and Wenger continues and Martinez’ sacking creates an opening at Goodison Park. Jurgen Klopp will have his first opportunity to bring in a host of stars to Anfield and Pep Guardiola will arrive at the Etihad with reputation, expectation and a large sum at his expense.
Will Manchester United go for Jose Mourinho? Will Arsene Wenger be leaving the Emirates? Will Rafa Benitez stick with relegated Newcastle United? These are all questions that will be answered in the upcoming weeks and there’s nothing but anticipation heading into next season’s campaign. As Phil McNulty stated for the BBC, ‘The prospect of former La Liga foes Guardiola and Mourinho recreating their crackling rivalry at Barcelona and Real Madrid in the same city is mouth-watering’ and that’s just the beginning.
The Premier League also welcomes Championship new boys, Middlesbrough, Burnley and the winner of the Play-off final between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday. The three promoted clubs will have a very important summer ahead, re-building and re-shaping their squad in order to compete at the highest level of English football. You never know, one of them could ‘do a Leicester’ and win the league!