By Andrew Discenza - Premier League Season in a Nutshell
This was the year that everything changed. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, dominant for so long in the league, surrendered the title to their cross-town rivals in a heart-stopping, topsy-turvy season that came down to the very final minute.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the millionaire squad at the Etihad. Yes, the free-scoring Citizens came charging out of the gate and soon threatened to run away with the title. But United showed their experience by clawing their way back to the top in the spring, as Roberto Mancini’s men faltered at just the wrong time. With six games to play the Red Devils held a surely insurmountable eight-point lead. But there was a final dramatic twist in the tale.
Whether the turning point was United’s capitulation of a two-goal lead against Everton, or Vincent Kompany’s towering header that won the all-important derby match, City found themselves one win away from their first title in 44 years. That victory would come about in extraordinary circumstances, as a now legendary stoppage-time comeback was completed by Sergio Aguero, who willed his way into the area and fired home to signal a massive shift in power from Red to Blue.
The Manchester rivalry may have dominated the headlines and the top of the table, but no less remarkable was the obliteration of any notion of a Premier League “Top Four.” Five teams fought valiantly for the remaining European places, and throughout the season their rankings were shuffled like a deck of cards. Chelsea and Newcastle occupied 3rd and 4th through the middle of November, but the Blues’ campaign fell flat (a surprising 6th) and Newcastle missed out on their Champions League dream thanks to a pair of tough losses to end the season. Tottenham then dominated all other London clubs, looking like true title challengers as they sat just two points behind the leaders in January. But rumors surrounding manager Harry Redknapp and the England job unsettled the club, who managed only one win in eleven before recovering in time to finish 4th. Arsenal endured a horrendous start to the season and found themselves as low as 7th, but claimed the crucial 3rd place position courtesy of a few dazzling runs of form and a little luck. Perhaps the less said about Liverpool the better, as they flitted in and out of European contention before crash-landing at 8th.
The relegation battle may not have achieved the last-match drama of previous seasons, but at times it was agonizingly tight. Wolves were admittedly doomed early, but the next five places were only separated by five points all the way through April. More notable still was the tendency of the bottom teams to pull off stunning upsets that rocked both ends of the table. QPR, Swansea, and Norwich (the three newly promoted clubs) all survived, due in part to taking unexpected points off the big boys. You simply never knew what result to expect this season.
Team of the Season
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart
The Manchester City stopper was as sharp as ever between the posts, and although he enjoyed quiet spells thanks to a rock-solid defense in front of him, he pulled off crucial saves to earn valuable points against the likes of Aston Villa and Liverpool.
Right Back: Kyle Walker
The Young Player of the Year enjoyed success at both ends of the pitch, as he helped sure up the back for Tottenham, while also bombing forward with devastating runs, and chipping in with two brilliant goals.
Center Back: Vincent Kompany
Take away his winner in the Manchester Derby, and he’s still the best defender of the season by a country mile. Dominant in the air, strong in the tackle, and quick to anticipate, he was a force to be reckoned with. His never-say-die attitude was an example for every player in the league as he marshaled a defense which conceded just 29 goals all season.
Center Back: Younes Kaboul
Many defenders could rightly lay claim to this spot, but Kaboul gets the nod thanks to the quiet and workmanlike way that he formed the foundation of Spurs defense, which conceded the third fewest goals in the league.
Left Back: Gael Clichy
A rather unsung part of the league’s best defense, Clichy was ever-present, a reliable outlet out wide and a formidable obstacle to attacking threats. Arsenal’s loss was City’s gain, as he rarely put a foot wrong all season.
Right Midfield: David Silva
Suffered a dip in form toward the end of the season, and the effect on Manchester City showed just how valuable he is. His vision produced a league-best 14 assists, and he demonstrated world-class touch and ingenuity that was a joy to watch.
Center Midfield: Juan Mata
Also an assist machine with 13, Mata oozed class this season as playmaker for Chelsea. Single-handedly won a few matches for the Blues, and although he didn’t score too many, most of them were very special indeed.
Center Midfield: Paul Scholes
The fact that the veteran features after playing only half the season is testament to his influence on the Manchester United side. He was the single biggest factor in their surge for the title, the conductor in the middle of park who also popped with a couple of typically Scholes-esque golazos.
Left Midfield: Gareth Bale
Tottenham may have had a roller coaster season, but Bale was pure quality from the first to the last. During Spurs’ dreadful run he was by far their brightest player, and his sensational play down the wing led to 10 assists and 9 goals.
Striker: Sergio Aguero
8 assists to go along with 23 goals speaks for itself, but what the stats don’t say is how time and again the Argentine popped up with crucial goals for Manchester City. Often the difference between prolificacy and wastefulness, he scored one of the most memorable goals in Premier League history to give City the title in the very last minute of the season.
Striker: Robin Van Persie
Quite simply, the player of the season. After setting records for the calendar year, he finished off the season as the sixth Premier League player to reach 30 goals. He absolutely carried Arsenal to third place, as his goals were instrumental in no less than 13 matches, and by a conservative estimate he single-handedly earned 25 points for the Gunners. One of the finest individual seasons the league has seen.
Wojciech Szczesny misses out due to a slump in form, but keep in mind he was playing behind a very shaky back four all season, and his brilliant saves and daring interventions prevented a total meltdown early on for Arsenal.
Fabricio Coloccini was an absolute rock at the heart of Newcastle’s defense, with reliable performances week in and week out. Could have easily made the starting XI.
Luka Modric enjoyed another season full of midfield mastery. Harry Redknapp will hope to hold on to his prized asset, whose value is far from quantifiable by statistics.
Wayne Rooney scored a prolific 27 goals with his typical bull-like tenacity, but was just overshadowed by Aguero and RVP. To his credit, he barely put a disciplinary toe out of line after his Euro 2012 suspension, and may have finally learned a valuable lesson.
Goal of the Season
Who can pick between Peter Crouch & Papiss Cisse?
Crouch finished off a move where the ball never touched the ground, as he chested to control then unleashed a dipping volley that rocketed into the top corner.
Cisse produced outrageous spin with his half-volley, sending it swerving wildly across the face of goal to nestle impossibly into the side netting.
Manchester City will try and win back the Premier League title with this new soccer jersey from Nike!
Jamaica is in need of a win against the U.S. Get the jersey of the Reggae Boyz.
Support the USA national team with an official 2013 Centennial soccer jersey from Nike. Its Official.
Barcelona will wear this new home soccer jersey next season. They also have a new away jersey. Get them both.
The Nike Hypervenom is the latest cleat silo from Nike. It will change your game and is worn by the game's top players.
The hoop soccer jersey is classic and cool. The USA hooped jersey is perfect for every fan. Get in the Gear.
The adidas Nitrocharge is the most talked about new cleat in years. It was released on May 15 and will take your pitch by storm.
Germany is one of the top teams ever and they will play the US on Sunday.
England will debut their new away jersey against Brazil at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday. Get in the Gear
The USA will wear their blue away jersey against Jamaica in their World Cup qualifier on Friday night.