Some thoughts then:
Manchester City look a good team to me, but not as good a team as they should be. Carlos Tevez could have had this league sewn up some time ago, and the fact that they needed the 95th minute of the last game of the season suggests some under-achievement. They’ll win the next few though I imagine. Whoopee.
United did fantastically well to get so close, and will look back on that silly home defeat against Blackburn with horror. They’re well set for the future but it feels like they need another superstar in the middle of the park. Perhaps Tom Cleverly is that man.
Arsenal will also look back on the season and wonder what might have been. If anything, their predicament teaches us not to panic if short term results go askew – this is football, bad things can happen to good teams, whatever Piers Moron might think.
Spurs are a fine team and with a world class centre-back and the retention of Adebayor might push on a level next season. But they need to keep Modric and Bale as well, and that won’t be easy.
Newcastle I have a lot of respect for. They also raise the question of how much of a centre-forward’s success is his own and how much is the system he plays in? Demba Ba scored a hatful then was moved sideways to accommodate Cisse, at which point Cisse scored a hatful. Are Newcastle just really good at creating good chances? In any case, they have a fine squad and I don’t think this is a fluke – should be top 7-8 next year, too.
Chelsea need to have a good hard look at themselves. If they wanted to stay as they were then why hire someone to change things? Villas Boas could, I’m sure, have just sat back from day one and let them good ol’ boys do their thing, but that wasn’t the brief, was it? How annoyed he must feel now. They have progressed with Ramires and Mata, fine players, but next year perhaps need to make Torres the focal point. At a strange juncture and it’s not immeiately clear where they go from here.
Everton managed to reunite that lovely Pienaar-Osman-Fellaini-Neville midfield and survived a terrible off year from Tim Cahill to finish more or less where they always do. Jelevic was a revelation for them up front. And they seem to have a couple of good young players, and the ever impressive Baines. Also Tim Howard, underrated for ages. So it’s all there and they’re a bit like Fulham, good, solid, but lacking that extra £50m or inspired signing or three to do a Newcastle. Or did Newcastle just do an Everton and Fulham without the form dip? Perhaps.
Liverpool will have a big season next year. I don’t like them or what they have been up to but they had a comically unfortunate season, hitting the post more than anyone and converting a miniscule proportion of chances. Both of these almost have to be statistical freaks, outliers, and therefore likely to rebound to normalcy for the next season. This makes Liverpool a good bet to outperform expectations next time around I reckon.
Fulham did well, I think, and we’ll talk about this a bit more in due course, but inquiring minds are now wondering whether this team might take itself a bit more seriously as contenders. “The best of the rest” (as Jol put it) is probably about fair, and it’s greedy and probably wrong headed to take the second half of the season as the ‘real’ team while sweeping the first half under the carpet, but it’s tempting to wonder if we mightn’t have done a bit better overall. We must remember that ‘transition’ word and point to the disruption that was Zamora as well as the Europa League farce, but I’m now wondering if we didn’t slightly waste Clint Dempsey’s golden farewell (if that’s what it is).
WBA did well, too, funnily enough. The amusing thing is that Roy started winning away games, which makes me wonder if the whole “Fulham away” thing does indeed transcend managers, playing styles, or anything, and simply “is”.
Swansea were a delight and were the top half of the table not so competitive would look to ‘kick on’ next year. As it is there’s really no room for anyone without lots of money so this is probably about as good as it gets. Yay Premier League.
Norwich are the same and like Swansea, have one of the better managers in the game. Norwich don’t have a signature style like Swansea but do have lots of players called Russell and Wesley and Bradley, which is quite something. If Lambert gets offered a big job I’d expect Norwich to plummet but who really knows? Eh?
Sunderland are lower than I’d have expected. Martin O’Neill is one of those managers who seems to be a little bit overrated but clearly he got his team playing well. Next year will be interesting though, I have some doubts.
Stoke… I can’t be bothered really.
Wigan defied belief, apparently by switching to three at the back. This raises all kinds of interesting questions about tactical flexibility in the English game, but fair play to them, it was one hell of a run in and if Martinez can get them playing before February then they might even finish in the lofty and much coveted 12-14 places.
Villa fans seem to be blaming their manager, and this might not be unreasonable, but against that, they did sell, y’know, all their good players. Football’s silly and doing things like ‘balancing books’ is not a good way to progress as a club. Randy Lerner must wonder what on earth he’s doing.
QPR survive, thus ensuring more southern games next year. It’s fashionable and funny to castigate Mark Hughes and his motley crew, but Hughes is a really good manager and they too will be fighting with us for the esteemed 9-13 places next season. It’s going to be epic.
Bolton didn’t, and have been a shambles for a while. (insert platitude about them, Blackburn and us coming up at same time). Frankly they’re not good enough to survive, and Owen Coyle seems to have been found out. You can’t have a centre-back pairing that contains the word “Zat” in this day and age and expect to progress. They had some good players but Coyle couldn’t work out how to use them.
Blackburn were terrible too, and for all the pity aimed at Steve Kean, we must remember that until he was appointed Sam Allardyce had them firmly in mid-table and above. Kean’s ruined all that, his owners have produced some comedy moments, and all that’s stopping them flying all the way down the league is the Premiership Parachute Bonanza, which they might still misuse anyway. Goodbye, Blackburn.
Wolves also deserved to go for comedy villain purposes (bye-bye Karl Henry). Like Villa they haven’t spent money for ages, and like Blackburn seem to have adopted the “let’s do some weird things” approach to operations. Not entirely clear where they turn now, but the squad should remain more or less intact because nobody will want them in the top division, so they’ll presumably soar reasonably high in the Championship. So we may well meet again.