A season finale like never before
The Liverpool fans who went to Istanbul in May of 2005 and saw their side overturn a 3-0 first half deficit to win the Champions League on penalties thought they had seen it all in football.
Manchester United fans had believed back in ’99, at the Camp Nou after scoring two goals in injury time to win the same Champions League, that football could not match that for drama. However, there is nothing in English football that has come close to what happened on the final day of the Premier League season of 2011/12.
As I wrote in previous blogs, I felt that City’s victory during the derby was going to give them the title as Man United would rue the carelessness that cost them two points against Everton after going 4-2 ahead and with less than 10 minutes to go.
Man Utd were champions after the 90 minutes had been played at both grounds, or so it seemed. However, it seems that City wanted to torture their neighbours some more – obviously doing the double was not enough – and they somehow contrived to score two goals in injury time to win the title. Agonising!
Personally, I was just changing channels after the United match was over and in that very second I saw Aguero skip past Taiwo’s tired challenge and slam the ball home. I honestly thought I was having an optical illusion as, in my mind, City were not supposed to score again – that’s how a fan’s mind actually works.
I was speechless and just sat back on my bed exhausted, even though I was nowhere near the Stadium of Light or the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City have by far the best squad in the league and I had felt for a long time that they should have walked the league. To win it is great.
Their fans will certainly hope it is the start of many to come and sometimes it is. However, football dynasties are not so predictable in their construction. Can Mancini stay there long enough to construct it? Will the owners not start dreaming too much?
Certainly the foundations are there for dominance. However, six years ago, Chelsea fans thought they would dominate after a second back-to-back title and now they have finished sixth. The margins in football are so narrow that sometimes we pundits need our heads examined when we start to make mindless forecasts.
Of the other teams, they really have to do much better. Despite what the doom and gloom merchants might say there is not that much wrong with Manchester United. The fans will want a more capable assistant manager for Sir Alex so that they might be a bit tighter in matches so as to avoid repeats of the calamitous defeat at home to Man City and the loss of points to Everton.
There is a myth that Man United have a poor midfield and hence Scholes had to come back to shore things up. Well, when Fletcher and Anderson were injured for the majority of the season and young Cleverly had fits and starts also because of injury, the manager chose to recall Scholes instead of buying in the transfer window. No brainer really.
The team came within a whisker of retaining their title without these players in midfield and the huge loss of skipper Vidic at the heart of the defence – who knows if Everton would have gotten that draw if he had been available.
What many observers who criticise Man Utd’s midfield these days forget is that over the years Sir Alex’s teams have never had their creative strength from the heart of the midfield. They have always come from the flanks and this team has three of the best wide men this season. If he is able to get a proper defensive midfielder to play alongside Michael Carrick next season they will be fine.
Arsenal finished third, but a full 19 points behind the top two, and have gone seven seasons without any trophy. If any Arsenal fan is not embarrassed then something is wrong. Frankly, the club has become a laughing stock and a great example of what it means to have delusions of grandeur as they continue to think they are a big club.
Come on, even Juventus have come back to win the Serie A. It is incredible how the manager has continued in his position despite not winning anything for so long. I think it demeans football and silverware that teams like Arsenal currently prize Champions League qualification above trophies. However, some of the players do not seem to agree. Witness the departures of Clichy, Fabregas and Nasri and possibly Robin van Persie in the summer.
Spurs have a squad depth comparable to Man City but I think they were undone by Harry Redknapp’s inept coaching/management. Redknapp is loved by the press, however I honestly consider him inadequate at the top end of the coaching spectrum.
That Spurs had to sneak in to fourth and now rely on Bayern Munich to make sure of qualification into the qualifying rounds of the Champions League is testament to the ineptitude of Harry Redknapp. Spurs will not be losing much in getting rid of him and employing Martinez from Wigan. In my view, the current Wigan manager will do much more with the squad currently at White Hart Lane.
Newcastle over achieved. Cabaye, Demba Ba, Hatem Ben Arfa and Pappis Cisse gave us great times. Collocini and Danny Simpson at the back played really well, while Krul was assured in goal. Next Season will be big for them, especially if they lose some of those players mentioned above. Alan Pardew showed fantastic tactical deployment of his players, depending on the opposition, and deserves his manager of the year award his peers gave him
If Roman Abrahmovic was in doubt about the extent of rebuilding needed at the Bridge, their final placement on the table shows it clearly. Even if Chelsea win the Champions League the current team needs dismantling. They can come good in cup games but the league is a different matter. The disgraceful performance at Anfield the other night was a proper example of the kind of season that squad of players are likely to have if nothing is done to the core.
The Anfield board will sit down in the summer and ask if finishing eighth and winning the Carling Cup is enough returns for the huge capital outlay, considering that the team finished a whopping 37 points off the champions. The answer will determine if Kenny Dalglish remains in the job at Liverpool.
My player of the season is Vincent Kompany, the Man City captain. First, Kompany is a fantastic footballer. He is as comfortable at the back as he is if he played defensive midfield. He kept the Man City team together as the Tevez affair was threatening to derail the title charge. His goal in the Manchester Derby was very important and then he marshalled the rest of the back line to keep out the neighbours. He was as vital to City as Vidic’s absence was felt by Manchester United in the end.
Goal of the season: Hatem Ben Arfa’s slalom solo goal against Bolton. Every time I watch the goal it just gets better and better. Cisse’s wonder strike against Chelsea was excellent but you can’t help getting the feeling that Pappis JUST hit it. Ben Arfa, on the other hand, constructed his from his half.
Let the next season roll on please. Manchester City are there to be shot at now.
Before then, there is the little matter of the European Championships in Ukraine and Poland. For Uefa’s sake and their mild handling of racism issues, let us all hope that at the end it will be football we will be talking about and not about black fans being attacked or black players being booed.