Home > Football > Premier League 2011/12 Season Review: Blue Moon Rising

Premier League 2011/12 Season Review: Blue Moon Rising

“Never again this way, please” – Vincent Kompany lifts the Premier League trophy but preferably wants his side to get the job done a whole lot earlier next time. Photo: AFP

“Football is incredible. But in the end I think we deserved to win this game. We deserved to win this title.” – Roberto Mancini

Wow. What a finish to the season. For the neutral, it would have been amazing to see these unbelievable set of circumstances unfold. For Man City fans – well they’d be beside themselves. But as a Man Utd supporter, although it was great drama, it is of course a disappointing ending to a crazy season – watching the club’s 20th title disappear in a matter of minutes is never easy.

So, where does this leave us at the conclusion of the Premier League’s 20th season? Let’s break it down, starting from the top.

Champions

Congrats Manchester City. It’d be easy to say they bought this title, given the outlay over the past few seasons to bring in some of the world’s finest players. You can buy all the talent in the world, but they have to be able to function as a team, which is why I applaud the efforts of Mancini in managing his squad. He probably had 20 or so players on his books that would be walk-up starters in clubs all over Europe, and he somehow managed to keep their egos in check (for the most part) and was able to deal with two players that would have been cut a whole lot earlier at other clubs – Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli. One enjoys golf, the other has a penchant for setting off fireworks in his own home (among other things), but they were still there on the final day of the season. The number of different nationalities as well – as seen by the various national flags worn by the players following the game – must have been another challenge, but Mancini took it all in his stride. Aguero – need I say more? Great signing, and made the difference when it counted. Also interesting that Džeko scored against QPR – it was rumoured he’d be parting ways in the summer, but it’d be hard to cut him now.

So close…

Moving onto Manchester United, an interesting season. Arguably one of the weaker squads of the past few years, this team went oh-so-close to a 20th title. Positives from this season included the return to form of Wayne Rooney, after a pretty ordinary 2010/11 campaign. He hasn’t been dominating games, but it’s more of what you’d expect from the £250,000-per-week man. Also the rise of Antonio Valencia – highly underrated in my opinion. Importantly, Danny Welbeck got some great experience this season. As I’ve said previously, the midfield needs a bit of a shake up. This was meant to be the season Tom Cleverley came into his own, but a series of injuries stopped that happening. So they replaced Paul Scholes with… Paul Scholes. An absolute legend of the club and the game, but you can’t base your team around a 37 year old in the most physically demanding position on the field. Add to this Ryan Giggs (38) and Park Ji-Sung (31, but unfortunately a shadow of his former self) and you begin to see the problem. These players can continue to play, but can’t be expected to play 90 minutes every week (which admittedly they didn’t, but who else put their hand up to take over?) There were some issues defensively as well – if Nemanja Vidić didn’t miss half the season, I truly believe the title would be back on the red half of Manchester. If anything, this season will prompt Sir Alex to go out and invest – while there’s no way the club can match it with City in terms of sheer spending power, I know they will be smart with the funds available. Things might be tight (there’s still that debt to pay off) but I have faith in the manager and players. There’s been a lot of talk about a “shift” in the “balance of power”, but how many times have we seen this in the past? I don’t buy into it. United will continue to evolve and needs challenges like this to maintain this progress in the squad.

Champions League, baby!

Next up is Arsenal. Great to see them come back from the 8-2 thrashing to finish in third spot, ensuring another season in the Champions League. For a club which bases its whole financial model around making it into the top competition in Europe, this was a good result to say the least! I’m looking forward to see who they bring in next season.

Tottenham grab the last Champions League spot in fourth (assuming Chelsea don’t win the CL Final), meaning they can again attract more top-class players to the club with the offer of playing CL football. Harry Redknapp is sticking around after not moving into the England job, and has unfinished business in Europe.

Europa League ahoy

This season’s surprise packets Newcastle didn’t quite make it into the CL, but are part of the Europa League instead next season. While they will be disappointed, it’s still been a season to remember. Nobody truly believed they could stay in the top four for as long as they did, and the Europa League is a step in the right direction for them. They can only hope their roster isn’t torn apart by the other clubs – Alan Pardew has done an amazing job with this side, and was a very deserving recipient of the Manager of the Season award.

After sacking Andre Villas-Boas mid-season, Chelsea have gone onto win the FA Cup and (at the time of writing) make a Champions League final, something few could have predicted just months ago. While I still question the move to remove AVB, I guess when you’re a billionaire, you expect immediate results. AVB was bought in to rejuvenate the squad, and his project was over before it truly began. Roberto Di Matteo was then appointed caretaker manager, and the rest is history. Football is a funny game – he himself was sacked from WBA just last February, but has taken a struggling (albeit under-performing) side in Chelsea all the way to a CL final. It seems as though he let John Terry, Didier Drogba and co. have a greater say, which might be great for this season and the next, but isn’t sustainable long-term. I have a feeling Abramovich knew the services of Guardiola were going to be available sooner rather than later. Interesting times ahead for the London club.

Just missing out

Everton did what they do best, and that’s finish seventh. Just outside of the European places, but ahead of the rest. Another good season for The Toffees and their boss David Moyes, who might have lost some quality players this season, but still managed to get the best out of his squad. The signing of Nikica Jelavić proved to be crucial – a top-class striker at a bargain basement price? It’s amazing what he’s done (again) even though things are tight. I just hope they give him something to work with this summer!

This next team definitely under performed in season 2011/12. After spending over £100 million, Kenny Dalglish hasn’t been able to get Liverpool back into the Champions League, instead, they’ll be in the Europa League next season thanks to their league cup win. They were pretty ordinary in the league, and I don’t know if the league cup and an FA Cup final appearance will be enough for their supporters. I don’t know what the answer is either – do they continue to spend? What about the manager? You just know things will change at Anfield one way or another over the Summer. I wonder what LeBron will bring next time he visits?

Mid-table madness

Fulham finished in ninth position, in a mixed year for the club. I must say this – they certainly are entertaining to watch. When you sit down for one of their games, you know there are going to be goals scored either way. Probably about where most thought they’d finish.

No, your eyes don’t deceive you, that is West Bromwich Albion in the top 10. A strong finish to the season saw them rise from relegation battlers to mid-table marvels. You never know quite what to expect from The Baggies, and with Roy Hodgson moving onto the England job, the door is open for a new manager.

Two promotion clubs have made it safely into the next season in Swansea and Norwich, with both sides performing well in the top flight. Swansea in particular have played an attractive brand of football under Brendan Rogers. Great to see two deserving sides stay up.

At one point it looked as though Sunderland were going to struggle to stay up, but the arrival of boss Martin O’Neill saw the side become a really difficult proposition. They spent heavily last summer, and might have expected to finish higher, but can certainly build on their efforts, even though they didn’t exactly finish too strongly.

Stoke didn’t adjust to playing in Europe well, and have failed to meet expectations. Truth be told, they didn’t really have the depth to handle it. They will again have a single focus on the Premier League next season, and will be better off for it.

Phew…

Will someone please tell me how, year after year, Wigan manage to stay up? I like many others thought this would be the season we bid farewell to the Latics, but a late season resurgence meant they were safely through to another season in the top flight. At times, they were ordinary, but victories over LiverpoolArsenal, Newcastle and Man Utd were pretty damn impressive. I’m sure manager Roberto ‘Spanish Bob’ Martínez was proud. He always is.

Aston Villa continued to play an exciting brand of attacking football this season… hah. They battled their way to 16th position on the ladder with 17 draws. Villa fans certainly have it in for manager Alex McLeish, but it seems he has other plans. Speaking after the 2-0 loss to Norwich, McLeish had the following to say: “That team needs a change and there will be change. We need to bring more quality into the squad. I’m expecting the board to back me. I understand the fans’ frustrations about that display but I’m not a quitter.” So there you go. Looks like there are going to be a few changes at Villa Park this Summer.

QPR managed to avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth. A move back to the Championship would have been disastrous for the club, as I’m not sure their owners would have continued to back them in the second division. They certainly put up a fight on the last day of the season, but I don’t quite know if Joey Barton is the right man to captain this side next season… This was some of his work on Twitter following the game: “Can do nothing but apologise to the players and the fans. Still don’t think its a sending off. Tried to take 1 of their players with me. Still not my proudest moment but who gives a f***, we are safe … and that is all that matters.” I guess he’s passionate about the club, but err… yeah. Will be looking to spend big, hopefully on the right players, in the upcoming transfer window.

Farewell

This year we see Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and perennial battlers Wolverhampton Wanderers drop to the Championship. I don’t think many would argue that they have been the three worst sides in the league this season. I do think Brett Emerton saw the writing on the wall though when he left Blackburn at the start of this season – Gary Cahill also did well to move away from Bolton before the drop. No need to dissect what went wrong – I’m sure their fans have heard enough.

Right, that will do me! What a season. As always I’d love to hear your thoughts. How did you rate your team’s performance this season? Agree or disagree with my views? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter – @adrmcm.

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