Football: Premier League Best Of The Rest 2012


Yahoo! Cisse celebrates bashing in another outstanding goal.

Newcastle Utd: Best In Show

Can it be that Newcastle actually started the season with Joey Barton in their ranks? It’s a measure of the stunning transformation in the side that it seems almost inconceivable that any of their previous olde engerlish spine of Nolan, Carroll and Barton were anything other than a distant memory for the club.

Their dramatic rise from mid-table mediocrity to the foothills of Europe is down to the most effective set of transfers since Wenger first brought in Viera, Petit and Anelka. Demba Ba, Cabaye and, above all, the inspired Cissé have blended spectacularly with Krul, Coloccini and the excellent if erratic Hatem Ben Arfa to produce the surprise team of the season.

If it was a bit of a shock to see Newcastle regularly holding down a top four position during the first half of the season, it was rewarding to see them there or thereabouts during the run in. Ultimately they were only undone thanks to losses to some of the big boys like Arsenal, Man City and, er, Wigan (although they weren’t the only ones to get a grand duffing by the upstarts).

It’s a tribute to manager Alan Pardew that Newcastle have become everyone’s second favourite team (narrowly pipping Swansea), playing great football and scoring tons of fabulous goals (3 out of the top ten goals of the season ain’t bad). And it’s a veiled compliment that all the big teams are looking at their star players. Let’s hope the team stays together for at least another year as I look forward to their participation in the Europa League – they’ll surely take it more seriously than Spurs or Liverpool and have a far more realistic chance of success. A season there and they’ll be ready for the Champions League.

Chelsea: That’s Not Rebuilding, That’s Killing Your Children

The first real disappointments of the season, Chelsea’s problems are a snapshot of the difficulties of the Prem. A successful side looking over the edge of the hill, they were desperate for rejuvenation, a dose of fresh blood to provide respite to the aging legs of the Drog, Terry, Lampard, Cole, Cech and co, while bringing on the second squad of Ramieres, Miereles, Malouda and, above all, Torres. Bouyed by an new manager, the Europa League winning André Villas Boas, what could possibly go wrong?

Strangely enough it seems that the aging big boys didn’t take kindly to being told that they were no longer the be all and end all of the club’s planning. Equally, new tactics failed to spark the new boys into action. You sense if Villas Boas had been able to get something (anything) out of Torres things might have turned out differently. Instead Chelsea flopped down the table (not as drastically as Arsenal, but pretty badly nonetheless) and serious action was required.

Amazingly Di Matteo has pulled the team around and despite only finishing sixth, their worst season for a long time, they have achieved Abramovitch’s dream of the Champions League final and have a genuine chance of winning the one prize he really values.

Everton: Overachievement As Standard

God knows what Everton manager David Moyes does during the summer. But whatever it is he really needs to change it. Everton’s season was, well, classic Everton. Start poorly, come good over the Spring and the run in and finish in the Top Ten. You sense that if only he could get Everton to kick off their season in, say, October rather than February, then Everton would be genuine contenders.

Instead, yet again, Everton are left to ruminate on what might have been. If only Pienaar hadn’t got googly eyes for the big time at Spurs, where his benchwarming stats were impressive, if only Cahill hadn’t been injured, if only they’d bought Jelavic in the Autumn rather than the Spring. If only they’d beaten Liverpool in that FA Cup semi-final.

Still finishing above Liverpool makes this a season to savour for the blues.

Liverpool: That’s Not A Season, That’s A Catastrope

£100 million+ spent on new players, a venerated manager with Premier League winning experience, the most expensive English striker, what could possibly go wrong? Try September 18. when possibly the worst Liverpool team in living memory was comprehensively shafted by Spurs at White Hart Lane. Liverpool were so bad that they were four down by the 67th minute and had lost two men by full time. After this, the team was simply a carcrash waiting to happen.

Add to this the kind of PR fuck up that only Gerald Ratner could dream about, as Liverpool managed to turn the Suarez/Evra racist incident from a mishap into a total disaster. Rather than coming out and saying something like , “hey, he/we made a mistake, we’re really sorry, Liverpool has always been about fair play and values, we’ve seen great players come to Anfield and their talent has never been related to their skin colour”, a move which might have turned a calamity into an advantage, they reinforced the sense of blind, pig-headed entitlement that suffuses the city.

They even managed to make winning the Carling Cup, where they scraped by a poor Championship side, look like more of a disaster than Arsenal’s loss the previous season.

With an seemingly endless set of failures, Carroll, Adam, The Invisible Henderson and, above all, Downing, Dalglish managed to turn even Liverpool supporters against him (albeit very politely). Whether he gets the chance to continue the job next season is highly debatable.

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