As the closing fixtures of the 2013/14 Premier League season draw near, it will be a campaign which is remembered with mixed emotions for fans up and down the country. Many managers have come and gone, countless records have been shattered, the battle for the coveted Premier League trophy has brought triumph and tears for all teams involved and the scrap for survival has created miracles and misery for teams either side of the red line.
So, before we all get excited for Roy’s boys’ summertime stint in Brazil, it is time to look back on the highs and the lows of the Barclays Premier League 2013/14.
Tough at the Top
The initial surprise at the top of the table was always going to be the demise of Manchester United. Oh how the mighty have fallen since winning the title last year and a turbulent ten months saw David ‘The Chosen One’ Moyes ousted after taking over from the retiring Sir Alex, only to be replaced with interim manager and United legend, Ryan Giggs.
It’s not all been doom and gloom in the North West though, as Manchester City and Liverpool have had their horns locked in the battle for the title. Liverpool could still technically win it if City slip up on Sunday, but its probably best not to mention the word ‘slip’ to Anfield captain Gerrard, after his ‘Bambi on ice’ impression against Chelsea all but gifted the crown to City.
The push for Europa League football next season has seen Tottenham Hotspur and Everton go head-to-head while Manchester United sit on the sidelines and hope results go their way. Although it looked doubtful at times, Arsenal have bagged their Champions League spot for a record 17th time on the bounce – and will play in the competition next season alongside Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Scrapping for Safety
Down in the depths of the league Fulham, Cardiff and Norwich have sealed their fate and will definitely be playing Championship football next season. One of the tightest relegation battles in the league’s history meant, at one point, any team in the bottom half could go down but now Felix Magath, Ole Gunner Solksjaer and Neil Adams – who were all drafted in during the season - all know their teams are down and out.
Sunderland performed miracles by becoming only the second team to be bottom of the league at Christmas and fight back to secure their place for next term in what is rightly being dubbed the Great Escape. Seven points adrift in mid April, an unexpected run of results including a draw at Manchester City and wins against Chelsea, Manchester United, Cardiff and West Bromwich Albion secured their Premier League status with one game to go.
Crystal Palace also looked certain for the drop when Tony Pulis took over the Eagles in late November, who were at the time nested to the bottom table. Fast forward to May and Pulis has achieved what may were calling impossible - guaranteeing Palace’s return to the Premier League next season. And he done so in style, taking them up nine places to 11th position still with a game to play, boasting an impressive 46% win rate and 10 clean sheets which also deservedly gifted Pulis the April Manager of the Month award.
While every team will argue that decisions against them have been controversial, nothing screams controversy more than Kieran Gibb’s sending off at Chelsea in March. A blatant handball from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave referee Andre Marriner no option but to stop the game, but when he pointed the red card to Gibbs – even after Chamberlain’s admission that he committed the offence - the crowd were left stunned and Arsenal went on to drop seven points behind leaders Chelsea.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has been at the receiving end of much criticism from the usually-loyal Toon fans (including a walk-out protest against the club’s 'lack of ambition'), but he surely gave the fans something to remember when he dished out a WWE-style headbutt to Hull player, David Meyler. Out of nowhere, the Newcastle boss lunged towards the ex-Sunderland midfielder on the touchline resulting in a seven match ban and fines totalling up to £160,000.
If Moyes’s reign at Manchester United wasn’t controversial enough, all eyes were drawn to the Scot when disgruntled fans hired an aeroplane to fly over the stadium with a banner reading 'Wrong One - Moyes Out'. The stunt happened before United's game against Aston Villa which they actually went on to win 4-1, but that wasn’t much help to Moyes who was sacked just weeks later.
Top Scorers - Luis Suarez, Liverpool (31 with 12 assists) Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool (21 with 7 assists) & Yaya Toure, Manchester City (20 with 8 assists)
Most Clean Sheets - Chelsea, 18.
Highest Scoring Game - Cardiff City 3-6 Liverpool, Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal
Longest Unbeaten Record - Liverpool, 16 games.
Longest Run Without a Win - West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Fulham, 9 games.
Most Managers - Fulham, 3 Managers.