For the second time in three Premier League seasons, the champions are Manchester City and deservedly so. Much like two seasons ago, the fight for the title went down to the final day. However, unlike two seasons ago, it didn’t go down to the final minute. Manchester City never really looked in any danger as they comfortably saw off West Ham 2-0 and this demonstrates the progress City have made since they were last crowned champions.
Throughout this season for all of the style in which they’ve swept teams away (sometimes with minimal effort), they’ve also shown that they can meet all the other requirements needed to be champions elect. They’ve shown that they can dig in and produce a result even when they’ve been below par, they’ve responded to going behind in games (most notably and recently at Goodison Park, which has been a “bogey” ground for them in recent years) and after defeats. After losing away at Sunderland (one of four away defeats before Christmas), they annihilated Spurs 6-0. During their most difficult part of the season in which they won the Capital One Cup but were eliminated from the FA Cup and the Champions League in quick succession, they continued to string wins together in the league that kept their title challenge alive. Most other sides, having suffered such disappointments, might have crumbled and their season would’ve been completely derailed. Also, the experience of successfully seeing off the challenge of their Manchester rivals two seasons ago would have given them an edge.
After a season of many twists and turns, and many changes in leadership of the table, Liverpool emerged as the closest title challenger to City. However, they ultimately came up short in the exact same aforementioned areas in which Manchester City were very strong. As mentioned above, City were able to bounce back quickly after one or two disappointing results. City lost at home to Chelsea in what was dubbed at the time as a title “showdown” and then drew 0-0 away at Norwich, who they had put to the sword earlier in the season. However, their form soon returned after that and those two games in which they gained only one point and failed to score a goal was the only real “blip” of their season. When Jose Mourinho’s men did the same “job” to Liverpool, despite their run of 11 consecutive wins, there was a strong sense that the Merseyside dream had died. Having not been involved in a title race to this extent for so many years, Liverpool just lacked the necessary know-how of getting over the line. A draw in that game against Chelsea and holding onto their three goal lead at Crystal Palace would’ve been enough (provided they still beat Newcastle on the last day).
Make no mistake, Liverpool had a fantastic season and would’ve been the neutral’s choice to win the title for a number of reasons; their free-flowing, attractive football which blew many teams (except Chelsea) away, the fact that they would’ve been a new name on the trophy (in the Premier League era) and the fact that their team has a core of good and mostly young English players. They were far from a “one man team” like many suggested they were at the start of the season.
However, Manchester City were undeniably the all-round team to beat. Putting it simply, they have most of the league’s best players. You probably wouldn’t swap many of the Manchester City players in their starting line-up (and possibly their subs) for any other players in the league in their respective positions. Luis Suarez would be the only one that immediately springs to mind as he is probably the best striker in the world right now based on this season’s form. Therefore, if they have the best ingredients at their disposal, they should win the league and it should be no surprise that they have done.
The fact that Manchester City’s overall squad was superior (and not just their strongest eleven) also proved to be crucial as well. Even when injury problems kept the likes of Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure sidelined for sizeable chunks of the season, they were able to replace (top class) quality with (top class) quality. Whenever Alvaro Negredo has been called upon, he’s scored goals. Whenever Edin Dzeko has been called upon he’s scored goals. Even when Joe Hart was dropped for a spell, Costel Panitilimon was a very capable deputy. And also, the one big scapegoat and perceived weakness of the team, Martin Demichelis, improved significantly in the final few months of the season.
All of this makes Manchester City the force they are and going forward they will prove to be very difficult to stop as it looks inevitable that they will be adding to their trophy cabinet in the coming years. It already looks like a very difficult task for anyone to get the better of them over 38 games next season. Unfortunately, it appears as if Liverpool’s one big chance has come and gone and whilst they may still be a force next season, it’s difficult to see them mounting a challenge as serious as they did this season. The red half of Manchester have fallen way behind and Arsenal are still lacking about three or four marquee signings. Chelsea look the best bet for as long as Mourinho is in charge but even they will probably start in August as second favourites. The blue moon has risen once again and this time it looks even more ominous for the rest, congratulations to Manchester City for coming out on top at the end of a great season of Premier League football.
Photo: hm-photo (via Flickr)