The 2011/2012 Premier League season has been full of twists and turns, and will go down as one of the best campaigns in the recent memory. From the heart-warming story of Swansea and Norwich, to the season-long scramble to climb out of the relegation spots, to Liverpool’s woodwork woe and the topsy-turvy seasons of the top six teams, it has been a thrilling campaign.
With all to play for on the final day, the best was saved for last. Two last-gasp stoppage time Manchester City goals sealed the Etihad Stadium club’s first top-flight success since 1968, and broke Manchester United fans’ hearts, as their team lost out on goal difference. United threw away an eight-point lead to relinquish their title, whilst City have played some fantastic football this term.
Arsenal sealed third place with victory at West Brom, Spurs took fourth with a 2-0 win over Fulham, whilst Newcastle came unstuck against the Toffees and ended up in fifth. Harry Redknapp and his men must now watch on as Chelsea do battle with Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, knowing that a Blues victory would rob them of participation in next season’s competition.
With Roberto Di Matteo rejuvenating the Stamford Bridge club, most will not chance their free bets in writing off Chelsea, but the final against Bayern at the Allianz Arena will be a fitting end to the club season before Euro 2012 gets under way.
At the bottom, Wolves and Blackburn’s fates were confirmed before the last day of the season, and Bolton joined the pair in being relegated to the Championship. QPR survived by the skin of their teeth despite throwing away a win at City, whilst Wigan’s unexpected heroics see them stay up to fight another day.
Here’s our snapshot, team-by-team preview of the 2011/2012 season, looking briefly at what each team has achieved this season and their plans for the summer transfer window. Feel free to leave your own review of your team (or of the season) in the comments section at the end.
Arsenal fans feared the worst after the sale of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy last summer, and a shaky start to the campaign hit rock bottom with an unthinkable 8-2 humbling at Old Trafford. However, Arsene Wenger’s transitional side have fought back to capture third place and Champions League football once more for next term.
The highlight for the Gunners faithful was the turnaround 5-2 victory over Tottenham at the Emirates in February, with the respective sides heading in different directions after the result. PFA Player of the Year Robin van Persie has inspired the march up the league with 30 goals in the campaign, whilst the continued progression of Alex Song and rise of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stand out in a good campaign. A new attacker in the shape of Lukas Podolski will reinforce Arsenal, who will look to push on and challenge for the title next term.
Villa fans were dubious at best when former Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish was hired in the summer, and the Scot has done little to inspire confidence at the Midlands club. A lowly seven wins this term is the second worst in the league, and Villa have lacked potency in attack, whilst looking short of concentration in defence. McLeish’s men avoided relegation by two points, and the manager’s position will come under jeopardy in the summer.
The final blow of a disappointing campaign was the news of captain Stiliyan Petrov being diagnosed with leukaemia, which has knocked the side for six. Villa must keep Darren Bent in the summer, and spend some money to avoid a frustrating 2012/13.
Steve Kean has had to deal with a barrage of criticism from both the media and a section of his own fans, as Blackburn spent the majority of the season in the bottom three and were relegated before the last day. The sales of defenders Christopher Samba and Phil Jones have blighted the Ewood Park side’s backline, and Rovers fans have had to watch the ball hit the back of their net 78 times this term.
The positives for the Lancashire club are the emergence of young stars such as Junior Hoilett and Grant Hanley, and the return to form of seasoned attacker Yakubu. Hoilett is out of contract and sure to move to bigger and better things in the summer, whilst the future of Hanley, Kean and owners Venkys is still undetermined.
Bolton have suffered a downturn in confidence and form over the last 12 months, with Owen Coyle’s men going from a tough team to beat last term to a soft touch this season and suffering relegation. Wanderers have been another side that have looked odds on for the drop throughout the campaign, and their traditional stubbornness, especially at the Reebok Stadium, has been lacking.
The club has been rocked by the health issues of Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest back in March. Mark Davies has impressed in an under-performing team this year and is likely to leave the Reebok Stadium in the summer. The Trotters should back Coyle in trying to get them back to the top flight, but may have to sell a sizeable chunk of their playing squad.
The promise offered by talented coach Andre Villas Boas failed to come to fruition for Chelsea this term, but a rejuvenation under interim boss Roberto Di Matteo could result in a memorable season for the Blues. Unexpectedly through to the final of the Champions League after heroics against Barcelona, they must beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena to qualify for next season’s competition and seal a memorable turnaround. An FA Cup triumph against Liverpool at Wembley was the domestic highlight for the west London club after a sixth place finish in the Premier League.
Di Matteo has reinvigorated the at-times failing old guard, who have proved that they are not ready for the scrapheap just yet. The ability of attackers Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge has stood out, but one feels that Roman Abramovich must get his selection of manager right for the club to consistently challenge.
A season of two contrasting halves, Everton has recovered from a below-par start to the campaign to rediscover form and beat some of the leading teams in the league in the process. David Moyes has celebrated ten years in charge at Goodison Park with another top-half finish and the Scot has excelled given limited resources. Finishing in seventh, ahead of Merseyside rivals Liverpool, gives the club’s supporters local bragging rights, even if they were beaten three times by the Reds this term.
The January signing of Nikica Jelavic has been an inspired one, and the Croat marksman looks to have given the Merseysiders a cutting edge up front. The permanent resigning of Steven Pienaar would be a good move, but Moyes needs to ensure the likes of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini do not leave this summer.
Martin Jol took a while to get back into the swing of English football, but the Dutch maestro has ensured that Fulham have been competitive at worst and impressive when they hit their straps. A ninth place is no mean achievement, and they ended up joint on points with Liverpool; the Craven Cottage outfit will look at a top half finish as a strong season.
Clint Dempsey has been the standout player for the Cottagers, who will face a battle to hold onto the United States international this summer. Bryan Ruiz has improved after a slow start to life in England, whilst an attempt to make Pavel Pogrebnyak’s move permanent is expected.
Despite Carling Cup success and the progression to the FA Cup final, this term has not been one Liverpool will look back on fondly. Inconsistent form in the league, especially disappointing results at Anfield, saw the Reds finish in eighth place, with a woeful second half of the campaign threatening the Merseysiders with even dropping out of the top half.
Luis Suarez has shown his best and worst sides this term, with stellar individual performances being counteracted by his racism scandal. The Fenway Sports Group need to further invest in the playing squad if the Reds are rediscover former glories, it needs to select a worthy successor to Dalglish.
Last-day drama brought Manchester City their first title since 1968, with two goals in stoppage time against QPR proving the small margins between success and failure. The new champions have been the most consistent and impressive team this term, and despite winning the league on goal difference are worthy victors. Roberto Mancini’s men have been scintillating at times this term, and the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure are some of the country’s best.
More big names are expected to join the revolution this summer, with Eden Hazard reportedly the club’s number one transfer target. The future of talented troublemakers Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez is still up in the air, but Mancini’s men will look to retain their title and make an assault on the Champions League next term.
The defending champions had the Premier League title in their hands, but surrendered an eight-point lead to be beaten into second place on the last day. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have not shown the panache and ruthlessness of previous sides, and the Scottish coach will be livid at the nature of relinquishing their crown.
United have undoubtedly missed injured senior campaigners Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher, and have relied on Wayne Rooney for goals. Antonio Valencia has impressed and Paul Scholes coming out of retirement has provided a short-term fix in the centre of the park. The summer should see a couple of players leave, with a full-back and attacking midfielder on the transfer wishlist and needed if United are to wrestle the title back from their noisy neighbours.
The surprise package of the season, Newcastle should be praised for their considerable efforts this term in exceeding expectations and challenging for a top four spot. Although they ended up in fifth place after a last-day defeat to Everton, Alan Pardew and his team should be saluted for an excellent campaign.
Although the Tyneside club will look to strengthen in the transfer window, the real battle will be to hold onto their stars, with Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Cheik Tiote in particular not short of suitors. The January signing of Papiss Cisse has been inspired, and the Senegal international has been one of the stars of this year’s campaign.
Newly-promoted Norwich have abided fears that they could be instantly demoted back to The Championship with a no-fear approach and some excellent football along the way. Paul Lambert has his team believing in their abilities; the Carrow Road club finished in 12th place and were never in danger of the drop.
Grant Holt has been the club’s talisman by leading from the front, whilst Anthony Pilkington has looked accomplished and by no means out of his depth. The Canaries will look to be sensible and astute in this summer’s transfer market to ensure another competitive season in 2012-13.
QPR have had a tough season back in the top flight, and although they got markedly better since Tony Fernandes’ takeover and under Mark Hughes’ tutelage, they needed to wait to the last day of the season to guarantee Premier League football for next term. Excellent home form has been the reason for survival, with victories over Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham sticking out in the memory.
QPR have added some real quality since the turn of the year, with the likes of Djibril Cisse, Bobby Zamora and Taye Taiwo contributing to better performances. If the Londoners can sort out their form on the road, Fernandes’ money could power Rangers into a comfortable Premier League club next term.
Stoke have flown under the radar slightly this season in the Premier League, with Tony Pulis’ men continuing to prove tricky customers without threatening the top half or risking relegation. The Potters had their first adventure in Europe, beating some established sides before they were eliminated from the Europa League by Spanish giants Valencia.
Peter Crouch has been a fans’ favourite since moving to the Britannia, and alongside Jonathan Walters has proved a handful for most defences this term, but not scored enough goals. However, for Stoke to really progress you feel added creativity in the centre of the park is needed this summer.
Again a tale of two halves of the season, Sunderland have avoided a relegation-threatened campaign with the replacement of Steve Bruce with Martin O’Neill. The Northern Irishman has added a steel to the Black Cats that was previously missing, but the honeymoon period started to rub off towards the end of the campaign. Despite this, a 13th placed finish will be satisfactory after a poor start to the campaign.
James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon have been the club’s standout performers this term, and O’Neill will look to add his own feel to the club this summer in the transfer market. A commanding central defender is needed to banish lapses in concentration at the back, whilst Nicklas Bendtner’s return to Arsenal will leave a gap in attack.
First-time Premier League team Swansea have been arguably the team of the season, playing excellent football and surprising the footballing community with an assured debut campaign in the top flight. Brendan Rodgers employs an attacking brand of football that has to be admired, and the Liberty Stadium outfit will take pride in their wins over Arsenal and Manchester City in particular this term.
A gifted midfield of Leon Britton, Joe Allen and loan star Gylfi Sigurdsson has been the side’s heartbeat, and the Swans will look to make the latter’s move to Wales permanent and add a few more experienced heads to excel next term. An 11th placed finish is an outstanding achievement, in what has been a dream season for the Liberty Stadium club’s fans.
From title contenders to potentially missing out on European qualification altogether, Tottenham fans have been delighted and frustrated in equal measures this season. An at-times scintillating attacking style has seen Spurs within a couple of points of the top this term, but a loss of form since February threatened to destroy a promising campaign.
Spurs finished in fourth but are not assured Champions League football next term, as they must wait to see whether Chelsea will snatch their place by winning this term’s competition. Holding onto stars Luka Modric and Gareth Bale is crucial, whilst a new striker, central defender and in the long-term goalkeeper is needed to continue the White Hart Lane club’s charge for recognition.
Roy Hodgson has turned West Brom’s season round since the new year, with a run of positive results moving the Baggies away from the relegation dogfight and comfortably into mid-table; they finished 10th. Such has been the progression of the Hawthorns club, that Hodgson has left the club to assume the England manager’s position.
Peter Odemwingie is arguably the most talented of an enthusiastic group, but has been linked with a move away from the club in the summer. West Brom have missed injured captain Chris Brunt, and need to solidify at the back to finish in the top half next year. Their search for a new manager will begin in earnest now that the campaign has finished.
Perennial basement boys Wigan have again had an arduous journey in 2011-12, with the Latics seemingly leaving any resistance to the second half of the season when in danger of the drop. Roberto Martinez’s men have shown that they have what it takes to play in the top flight however by beating Manchester United, Newcastle and Arsenal this term and ended up in 15th place, seven points above the bottom three.
Victor Moses has been a revelation his season and captured the imagination with progressive displays. The DW Stadium club have done well given limited resources, and will look to add a few more lesser-known stars to the squad this summer.
Wolves will play in The Championship next term, after a poor decision by the club’s board effectively ended their season. The sacking of Mick McCarthy, despite a bad run of form, has deflated the squad and Terry Connor has not been backed by the players, resulting in a woeful five wins in total this season.
The club will most likely lose their star players such as Steven Fletcher, Wayne Hennessy, Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle, and will look to regroup and bounce straight back after demotion to English football’s second tier. Stale Solbakken is set to be announced as the club’s new manager, and the Molineux outfit fans will look to put this season’s disappointments behind them.
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