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Arsenal (3rd) – Ben Fryza
Overall verdict: A very positive season. Started slowly but played really well since the New Year as shown by the points since Christmas (Arsenal 48, Chelsea 45, Man City 40, Man Utd 38). If we can carry that form into next season we have a real chance. Capped off the season with a brilliant performance at Wembley to retain the FA Cup.
Thoughts on the manager: Again very positive. A new, more controlled approach to big away games worked well, leading to wins at City and United, a vast improvement on some of last year’s disasters. He spent well over the summer and it paid off as he won his sixth FA Cup to become the joint most successful manager in the cup’s history.
Player of the season: Alexis Sanchez – For me the best player in the country this year. Has everything; incredible work rate, fantastic technique and 25 goals, capped off by a thunderbolt at Wembley.
Best moment: The final whistle of the 2–0 win at Man City. It showed that we can adopt a different approach and be successful against the other big teams. Also highlighted the emergence of Coquelin who has come out of nowhere this season.
What’s needed in 2015/16: A goalkeeper is a priority; Cech would be ideal. A striker and cover for Coquelin in defensive midfield would leave us in a good position.
Chelsea (1st) – Tim Stickings
Overall verdict: Worthy champions. Played outstanding football before Christmas, led by Fabregas, Hazard and Costa, then found the guts and determination to succeed where others wilted by grinding out wins when we weren’t playing so well.
Thoughts on the manager: Most of Mourinho’s predecessors stuck to the spine of Mourinho Mk1. The man himself has been back two years and built a new side in his own image, confident on the ball and tireless in defence. Any manager can have a plan, but Mourinho inspires fierce loyalty and gets his superstars to carry it out. A winner.
Player of the season: Hazard has been exceptional but I’d go for Terry, who played every minute and organised the back four into a formidable unit. Scored important goals too.
Best moment: Fabregas’ pass to Schürrle in the opening game at Burnley was an early sign of class. But coming from behind to win that game 3–1 was unremarkable; doing the same at Leicester in April, to put us within three points of the title, was exhilarating. Worthy mention goes to a fine League Cup final victory over Spurs.
What’s needed in 2015/16: Another striker, as Costa’s fitness problems aren’t going to go away. Perhaps another defensive midfielder to stop Fabregas having to fill in there. Improvement from Cuadrado.
Liverpool (6th) – Sam Nutt
Overall verdict: A great disappointment – given the second place finish the year before, and the relative poor quality of the current top four, the drop-off to sixth place was embarrassing.
Thoughts on the manager: Excluding a 15-game run mid-season (mirroring Sakho’s inclusion and the advent of the 3–4–3), Rodgers came up very short. Our recruitment was again abysmal, and selection was at times risible. He will be given a chance, but his position will be untenable should Liverpool start the season poorly.
Player of the season: Phil Coutinho was the only player to have improved upon his previous season’s performance. He is the real deal if he can continue to add end product.
Best moment: The tributes to Gerrard before his final game at Anfield were touching and well deserved for such an immense player.
What’s needed in 2015/16: Ings and Milner are decent free signings, but big money needs to be spent (well) to improve the spine of the team – a good fit striker, a quality Gerrard replacement in midfield, a full back, and anyone but Dejan Lovren in central defence.
Manchester City (2nd) – Mahmudul Hassan
Overall verdict: Started the season fairly well and even though Chelsea had a better start, City managed to catch up by January but then a dismal run ended their title hopes but a strong finish ensured a respectable second in the table. The manner of City’s title defence is just not good enough for a team geared to conquer England and Europe.
Thoughts on the manager: Pellegrini is a true gentleman and great at motivating players and maintaining harmony in the dressing room, proven by the strong finish to the season after a disappointing midseason, but seems tactically inept, proven by the fact he was outsmarted by a lot of managers this season and his stubbornness with certain formations and style of play and inability to adapt to situations.
Player of the season: Must undoubtedly be Sergio Aguero. He seems to get better and better every season and continued his fine form this season even though everyone around him was struggling.
Best moment: Difficult to recognize the best moment in a very disappointing season and perhaps that’s why for me it would be towards the end of the season when City strung together 6 wins in a row in stylish fashion which also saw the emergence of Yaya Toure again and brought back memories of why City were crowned champions last season.
What’s needed in 2015/16: Smart transfer business by getting proven world class players to complement players like Aguero, Silva and Yaya and getting rid of average players who don’t have the desire and motivation anymore and get some youth into the team with Pellegrini at the helm as I believe he deserves another season to prove himself. Given which, he needs to be more ruthless with his players and his tactics next season.
Manchester United (4th) – Sam Bentwood
Overall verdict: Job done. The minimum requirement was to get into the top four and that was what was achieved. Manchester United should never celebrate anything less than first, but we are certainly heading in the right direction.
Thoughts on the manager: Took a while for van Gaal’s ‘philosophy’ to apparently sink in, but once it did we played some top quality football. He seemed to get the right system in the end, if more by luck than intention. Deals with the media and pressure infinitely better than David Moyes ever did. Looks and sounds like a proper Manchester United manager. World class end of year speech.
Player of the season: Whilst the obvious choice would be David De Gea, I’d give it to Ashley Young. Can’t remember the last time a player improved so much from one year to the next. Most fans wouldn’t have given him a second thought if he had been sold last summer but he has performed brilliantly for the majority of this season. To consistently and deservedly keep Angel Di Maria out of the team is no mean feat. (Having said that, one would hope that Di Maria is good enough to reclaim that position next year)
Best moment: Mata’s goal at Anfield. That game was probably our best game of the season and that finish was sheer class.
What’s needed in 2015/16: Two or three more quality additions after Depay, more consistency and a better start to the season. The increased number of games should help in giving our newer players more opportunities to play and settle in to Van Gaal’s system. With some better luck when it comes to injuries we should be more than capable of challenging seriously on all fronts.
Newcastle United (15th) – Alex Tarrant-Anderson
Overall verdict: A bare pass. International signings and a decent enough start to the season faded as the season was overshadowed by fan protest off the pitch and player failure on it. Relegation could have seen the club go the way of Leeds, Portsmouth and so many others. Thankfully the failures of the season were not fatal for Newcastle’s Premier League status but the very fact that status was called into question marks the season as one of almost complete failure.
Thoughts on the manager: John Carver made Alan Pardew look like the former’s mentor, Sir Bobby Robson. In the end however neither did a good enough job. Pardew’s points gained at the start of the season kept the club in the division ultimately, and the club’s owners missed a trick by not appointing an at least moderately experienced replacement. Instead Carver, who had a poor record even in the MLS, took the team dangerously close to the relegation zone with just a 15% win ratio and induced final day panic that seemed unthinkable in mid-January. The fans must give Steve McClaren time and the board must give him players of quality and actual squad depth for Newcastle to achieve anything remotely resembling success next term.
Player of the season: Ayoze Perez has impressed with his energy and vital goals, making the step up from the Liga Segunda with Tenerife to the the Premier League look very small indeed. Daryl Janmaat, save for a few rash and ill-tempered challenges has looked assured and has emerged as a potential future captain, one of the few players to keep their heads while all about them the rest of the team capitulated and lost theirs. Jonas Gutierrez’s story of overcoming cancer cannot be forgotten and Jack Colback’s desire to continue trying while most of the team had given up must be commended. Picking one, Ayoze’s 7 goals have helped to ensure Premier League survival and he has brought rare glimmers of flair in a dull season.
Best moment: Not a lot to choose from here, ending Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season comes a distant second to the winner. Jonas Gutierrez’s strike to seal Premier League safety on the final day was a moment worthy of being the final scene in a GOAL!-esque film. To be diagnosed with cancer, beat it only to be told there was no place for him on Tyneside, but to still keep trying to play and finally succeed and bring joy in a season of despair is an incredible story. The joy on his face after the goal was something amazing to witness. A sentimental award, but a completely deserved one.
What’s needed in 2015/16: Patience, money, belief and ambition, all four are needed for improvement. Mike Ashley has promised investment and an attempt to win a trophy. It is time for him to put his money where his mouth is, literally. Actions speak louder than words and if nothing changes the fan protests will be deafening.
Southampton (7th) – Ben Jones
Overall verdict: Tremendous season that defied all expectations. Threatened a top four finish for a long time before just slipping at the end but still maintaining a record breaking 7th place finish – the highest in our Premier league history.
Thoughts on the manager: What can be said about Ronald Koeman? The loss of Pochettino to Tottenham and the transfer window rout that followed left the club in such a dire situation only a true managerial genius could save us. Luckily that’s exactly what we found in Koeman – tactically astute, fearless and complete with an undeniable eye in the transfer window.
Player of the season: While many would look at Pellè’s 16 goal contribution and early season form, or maybe Sadio Mane’s record breaking hat trick, the player of the season for me has got to go to the big man at the back, José Fonte. With us since league 1, he’s improved week in week out to become our captain, lynchpin and saviour. Ever reliable Fonte is forever the optimist, bringing the players and the fans morale up when the times are tough- it’s no wonder he was this seasons player’s player of the year.
Best moment: While the 8–0 rout of Sunderland is well up there, as a fan the final home game of the season destruction of Aston Villa 6–1 has to be the best. With Mané’s record breaking hat trick and Shane Long’s 40 yard stunner after a struggling spell of games, this was by far the moment of the season.
What’s needed in 2015/16: Toby Alderweireld. No season review is complete without a mention of this man, on loan from Atletico Madrid, the versatile defender has been outstanding and the club need to make his signature a priority. With the return of Jay Rodriguez and some additional depth in midfield, Southampton could be the team to watch next season.
Tottenham Hotspur (5th) – Joe Stanton
Overall verdict: 7/10. An extremely steady season with plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. Mauricio Pochettino’s first season has seen us rediscover the compelling football we last saw under Harry Redknapp, enjoy the emergence of plenty of young talent, and reach both a cup final and a top five position in the league. So there’s really very little to complain about.
Thoughts on the manager: 8/10. For a first season, Pochettino has been excellent. We’ve surpassed the expectations of most people, and his desire to utliise the vastly underrated Spurs Academy has been a true delight. Therefore, Pochettino has the support of both the board and the fans. However, some questions remain to be answered. We still struggle to break down visiting teams and struggle to alter the pattern of a game. Therefore, next season may well be defining for Pochettino: he’ll need to exhibit more tactical nous and demonstrate whether he can change a game through substitutions.
Player of the season: Do you even need to ask? Harry Kane, though notable mentions go to Hugo Lloris and the vastly improved Danny Rose. But 31 goals despite not having an extended run in the first team is simply sensational, and while Eden Hazard is a wonderful player, Kane was robbed of the PFA Player of the Year Award. It will be fascinating to see if Kane can continue to be so consistently excellent: he signs suggest he’s not going to disappear anytime soon. The fact that he’s one of our own makes it all the better.
Best moment: Several to choose from but it has to be Kane’s winner against Arsenal in February. A technically brilliant goal, scored by an academy graduate, in the last minute, against our bitterest rivals. Not just this season’s best moment but one of my all time favourites as a Spurs fan.
What’s needed in 2015/16: Not a great deal, with an emphasis on bringing in some high quality first teamers. Kevin Wimmer has already been signed, and while he is certainly one for the future, he should go some way to addressing our defensive woes. Kieran Trippier of Burnley has been mentioned, and given Kyle Walker’s injury record, this would be an excellent signing. More pace and cutting edge up front to help Harry Kane would be good, as would a solid defensive midfielder to protect the defence. As usual, the key is to shift the deadwood of the squad whilst holding onto our best players: Kane, Lloris, Rose, and Christian Eriksen must be retained.