Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. Nevertheless, in this year’s Barclays Premier League, consistency and sustainable strength reigned supreme. In a final day that killed off any remaining hope of a Liverpool snatch-and-grab, Manchester City saw through a routine 2-0 win over West Ham to secure the title for the second time in three years.
To say that their season has been steady and stable is not to cast aspersions on their style: their football has, at times, been scintillating. They have been ruthless in their destruction of lesser teams to an extent not usually seen in a league as competitive as the Premier League, recording a 7-0 victory against Norwich and 5-0 against Fulham, to name but two. Even more impressively, City have shown no fear against teams closer to them in ability, thrashing Spurs 6-0 and 5-1, although their record against title challengers Liverpool and Chelsea has, admittedly, been less impressive. City, then, have been every bit as free-scoring as Liverpool, their title rivals.
When we talk about City’s stability, then, we largely mean that there has been no great collapse, no notable dip in form at any point in the season: they have dropped points in consecutive games only twice, both times a loss followed by a draw. They are, in short, a juggernaut.The contrast with Liverpool, then, is clear. Between 8 February, when Liverpool issued a bold statement in beating Arsenal 5-1, and 20 April, when they narrowly survived a late Norwich recovery to win 3-2, Liverpool did not drop a single point; they won eleven consecutive league matches.
Indeed, when they beat Manchester City in the tenth of these, they looked set for a historic title triumph. Less than a month later, having fallen prey to Mourinho’s tactical mastery and Tony Pulis’ much revived Crystal Palace outfit, their title hopes were in tatters. They started the last day of the season with a faint hope still glimmering – if they could beat Newcastle, and West Ham could defeat City, the title would be theirs.
The day, however, did not go to plan, with a Skrtel own-goal putting Liverpool behind after twenty minutes. Though they would go on to rescue the game and win 2-1, the victory was not even bittersweet: in the context of their late surrender of the Premier League title, it meant nothing at all. Viewers, moreover, will have felt cheated at the notable lack of a crying Luis Suarez.
Elsewhere in the league, Chelsea came from behind to beat Cardiff, a team condemned to an ignominious return to the Championship, whilst Manchester United managed to salvage only a draw at St Mary’s. So much for Giggsiola. There was late drama at Craven Cottage – though nothing, of course, on this year’s Varsity football match – as Fulham scored a ninetieth minute equaliser to leave the top flight with a bang (if rescuing a last-minute draw at home to Crystal Palace can really be considered a ‘bang’).
Though the fourth place trophy was already in the cabinet by kick-off, Arsenal fans will have drawn confidence from their team’s 2-0 win at Carrow Road; the performance, especially that of Aaron Ramsey, who chipped in with a delightful volley, bodes well for next week’s FA Cup Final. For Norwich, meanwhile, their fate in the Championship was finally confirmed. Arsenal’s North London neighbours, Tottenham, cruised to a 3-0 victory against Aston Villa, securing their entry into the highly prestigious Europa League next season.
From North London to the North East, Sunderland – who were mathematically safe before Sunday’s games – proved that they genuinely only play properly when they can be bothered to do so, losing 3-1 to Swansea. Everton, meanwhile, beat Hull 2-0, while a late goal from Charlie Adam dragged Stoke to their best league finish since 1975, completing a 2-1 victory away to West Brom.
Manchester City, then, are champions, while Steven Gerrard will be wondering where it all went wrong (it’s quite clear, actually, Steven), Mourinho’s Chelsea occupy third place, fol- lowed by Arsenal. Manchester United, meanwhile, finished seventh, leaving them out of Europe for the first time in a quarter of a century. Few pundits are predicting that the lack of ‘European distraction’ will see United storm to a title victory next season.
At the bottom of the table, Norwich, Fulham, and Cardiff were relegated. Norwich fans, who required a victory at the Emirates combined with a 17-0 victory for Stoke over West Brom in order to stay up, are said to be shell-shocked. Cardiff fans can look forward to Vincent Tan’s summer signings Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, while the Fulham faithful will surely take comfort in being quite liked by everyone.
Transfer rumours have already began circulating, with Liverpool bidding for Southampton captain Adam Lallana. and rumours abounding of Luke Shaw moving to Manchester United
In a season in which Liverpool threatened to buck the trend, the Premier League ended as most predicted it would, with City champions. August cannot come soon enough. But while we lie in anticipation of epic clashes like Leicester vs Hull and West Brom vs Sunderland, there is the small matter of the Summer’s World Cup in Brazil to tide us over.