Team Of The Year
The 2014-2015 season was not the finest in the history of the Premier League. The performance of Chelsea at the beginning of 2014 was such that it was generally considered that by December the title was theirs to lose. It shouldn’t take anything away from Chelsea’s season long performance, but it was made an awful lot easier for them that all of their title rivals offered such a limp attack on the Premier League crown.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the league, it seemed nailed on from reasonably early on that Burnley, QPR and Leicester would head straight back down from whence they came. But Leicester had other ideas, becoming the league’s form team towards the end of the season, dragging themselves out of the mire and ensuring that several teams endured something of a squeaky bum time in the final few weeks.
Aston Villa were a team lost in the quagmire of an underperforming manager and an owner that was looking everywhere for someone to buy him out of his share in the club. They would follow one good result with several bad ones, and it seemed likely that they would struggle to avoid relegation. Then Randy Lerner decided to open the windows and let a breeze of optimism wipe out the negativity surrounding the club, with Paul Lambert moved on and Tim Sherwood brought in to breathe fresh life into the squad. He did exactly that, steering them clear of relegation and taking them to the FA Cup final.
Arsenal may not have offered much of an attack on the Premier League title, but they’ve made it to the final of the FA Cup for the second year in a row, beating Hull, Manchester United and Reading along the way. They’ve also looked far more assured than in recent seasons, with Alexis Sanchez offering them a bite and intelligence that they’ve lacked in recent seasons.
Truth of the matter is, though, that Chelsea did exactly what they needed to do to win the Premier League. At the start of the season they played interesting, exciting attacking football, blowing teams off the pitch and getting a healthy lead at the top of the table. Then, when the players started to tire after Christmas, Mourinho went back to type and played the sort of defensive pragmatic football he’s known for. They did what they needed to do to win the league with games to spare. That’s why Chelsea are our Team Of The Year.
Game Of The Season
It may not have been the most exciting season ever, but there were certainly a number of absolutely cracking games. The year was not short of shock results either, with even Chelsea taking a 4-2 battering at the hands of Bradford at Stamford Bridge.
The final day of the season alone saw goals flying in all over the place, with Leicester City enjoying a relaxation having secured their Premier League status by beating QPR 5-1. Meanwhile at The Emirates Arsenal stuck 4 past the famously defence Tony Pulis’s West Brom side. Yet the biggest shock of the day surely came at The Britannia, where Stoke City scored 6 (SIX) past Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool.
The penultimate week of the season also saw some interesting results. Most people thought the game against Aston Villa and Southampton would be tight, with Villa potentially needing at least a point if other results at the bottom of the table went against them. Three goals in three minutes from Mané put to that, with Villa losing 6-1 and their fans having a few panicky hours waiting for results to come in elsewhere.
The 18th of May saw Chelsea travel to The Hawthorns to play West Brom. They’d already won the title, but even so the bookies still fancied Chelsea as strong favourites for the win. It was a strange game to say the least, though, with Cesc Fabregas getting a red card for hitting the ball into a group of players. Then Jose Mourinho used his post-match interview to blame his team’s rivals for the loss, as they didn’t push Chelsea to the end in the chase for the title.
The Manchester derby is always a tense affair, and in recent years the fortunes have favoured the blue side of the city. So when they visited Old Trafford with United having hardly set the world alight, most people thought it would be a simple win for Pellegrini’s side. United won 4-2, with their second only coming as a result of a late consolation goal from Sergio Aguero.
Arsenal 4-1 over Liverpool, QPR beating West Brom 4-1 at The Hawthorns, Southampton smashing 8 past Sunderland, Spurs beating Chelsea 5-3 with a masterclass from Harry Kane. The list of shock results is endless when you look back over the course of the season.
Surely, though, the biggest shock of the season came on the 21st of September last year, when Manchester United travelled to The King Power Stadium. Prior to kick off Leicester City had scored just 4 goals in their opening 4 games, and Louis Van Gaal’s appointment as Manchester United manager was supposed to have breathed fresh air into the North-West club. So when news came through that Leicester had beaten United there was a feeling of surprise, and when the result came through surprise turned to shock.
That’s why Leicester City’s 5-3 victory over Manchester United wins our Game Of The Season Award.
Player Of The Year
For a time, it seemed as though Diego Costa was going to score every time he took to the pitch. He scored 7 goals in Chelsea’s first 4 games, including a hat-trick against Swansea at Stamford Bridge. He fired Chelsea to a strong lead at the top of the table and put them in a driving seat for the title that they refused to give up. 21 goals in 39 appearances is an impressive tally for anyone’s first season, and Diego Costa is sure to keep Chelsea there or thereabouts for the foreseeable future.
Another striker who has caught the imagination is Harry Kane. Seemingly coming out of nowhere and taking the country by surprise, the Tottenham forward notched up 32 goals in 53 appearances in all competitions. He was part of the reason that the London club were in the mix for a top four spot, and a large part of why they managed to pip Liverpool to fifth place.
To complete the hat-trick of strikers in our Player Of The Year shortlist, it’s impossible to ignore the goal-scoring feats of Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. The winner of the Golden Boot notched up 32 appearances in 44 appearances in all competitions. Think about that; there were just 12 games all season in which the Argentinian made it on to the pitch and failed to score. Whilst all of the world talks of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and even Luis Suarez, Aguero just quietly goes about his business of putting the ball in the back of the net.
There’s also the man that footballers themselves voted to be the player of the year: Eden Hazard. The 24-year-old scored 14 goals and got 9 assists in 38 Premier League games, being Chelsea’s focal point of attack. His successful pass completion rate was 86.8% over 3379 minutes. In a Jose Mourinho team primarily based around being a defensively strong unit, Hazard was an attacking beast.In the modern game fans like flash, which is why it is strikers and forward players that always catch people’s imaginations. Yet sometimes the number 1 can be a team’s number one, and that is definitely the case at Old Trafford. David De Gea played 37 league games for Manchester United, making 93 saves and getting 10 clean sheets in the process. It’s widely considered that Manchester United may have finished up mid-table, let alone outside of the top four, if not for their goalkeeper. Joe Hart may have won the Golden Gloves, but it’s not overly difficult to keep clean sheets when you’ve got a world-class defence in front of you, and his 87 saves over De Gea’s 93 show as much.
That’s why David De Gea is our Player Of The Year.
Young Player Of The Year
What counts as young? For the purposes of our award, it’s anyone that was 23 or under at the start of the season. That means our shortlist includes some reasonably prodigious young talents.
We’ve already discussed David De Gea, and it’s important to remember that the Spaniard is just 24. Given that goalkeepers tend to hit their prime much later than outfield players, it’s scary to think just how good he could become.We’ve also covered both Harry Kane and Eden Hazard in our Player Of The Year discussion, so we won’t go over old ground there. But sufficed to say that the pair of them are players with the world at their feet. The emergence of Kane took everyone by surprise, and the big question hanging over the young Londoner is whether he’s got the ability to carry it on next season. Hazard went from the PFA’s Young Player Of The Year in 2014 to the Player Of The Year in 2015, so if Kane can follow in his footsteps then surely all of the big boys will come calling in 2016.
Thibaut Courtois not only came into the Chelsea squad and replaced Petr Cech, he also made a real impression on the Premier League with his excellent performances. During the two-legged League Cup semi-final against Liverpool the Belgian was in such searing form that it seemed to affect the Merseysider’s mentality. On more than one occasion a Liverpool player seemed to try to be overly precise with their shot, such was their conviction that Courtois would save it if they didn’t.
One player who didn’t feel the need to be quite so precise was Raheem Sterling, who ran through the Chelsea defence before slotting the ball past Courtois. The Liverpool forward might have tainted people’s opinion of him due to the big mouth of his agent in recent weeks, but he’s been in outstanding form for the Reds this season. He created 75 chances, more than even Ronaldo or Messi managed at the same age, and scored 7 as well as created 7 assists in 34 appearances.
Another Liverpool player who should be considered is Philippe Coutinho. He hasn’t managed the same sort of statistics as the likes of Sterling, with 5 goals and 5 assists from 32 appearances. But he has been the focal point of a reasonably poor Liverpool team’s games throughout the season. He’s scored some cracking goals – including a goal of the season contender against Southampton – and his play has caused many to suggest Brendan Rodgers, should he remain Liverpool manager, should build his team around him in the future.
From zero to hero, scoring 21 goals in 34 appearances is impressive by anyone’s standards. That’s why Harry Kane is our Young Player Of The Year.
Worst Team Of The Year
Ordinarily it might be fair to assume that the team that finished bottom of the league was the worst team of the year. Yet there are actually a few different contenders for this particular award.
Don’t misunderstand us, QPR were dreadful. Yet somehow they were also entertaining to watch. They scored 42 goals and conceded 73. Whatever you can say about them, you wouldn’t have been bored if you had been to see them. Though their fans may not quite agree.
Meanwhile, also down at the bottom of the table, Burnley failed to set the world alight, but were also quite boring to watch. They scored just 28 goals – the least in the league – and conceded 53, notching up 12 bore draws in the process. In fact, 26 of their 41 games in all competitions saw 2 goals or less on the scoreboard. Their last 8 games looked like they were written in binary code, finishing 0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1, 0-0 and 0-1.
Hull didn’t impress much either, and Liverpool fans were disgusted with their team’s performance over the course of the season given how exciting they were to watch the season before, yet neither of them are really contenders for the Worst Team Of The Year Award.
Newcastle fans haven’t had an awful lot of fun in recent years. Mike Ashley has been sucking the life out of the club since he took it over in 2007, and it all seemed to culminate in their performances this season.
The Magpie fans initially took their anger out on Alan Pardew, but they soon realised they should have been careful what they wished for as Pardew made Crystal Palace the form team in the league for a short while, and Ashley replaced him not with a well-known manager – as many had hoped – but with a member of the backroom staff, John Carver.
Newcastle failed to win 10 of their final 11 games, drawing 1 and losing 9. Prior to that they beat Aston Villa 1-0 after taking a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester City. They narrowly avoided relegation, and even then it was only because Hull had the run-in from hell and couldn’t up their game enough to get the results they needed.
They may not have been relegated, but for a while they were close and absolutely nobody on Tyneside seemed to enjoy themselves this season. That is why Newcastle win our Worst Team Of The Year Award.
Worst Signing Of The Season
There have been some stinkers as far as Premier League transfers go in the 2014-2015 season. Hull might have been reasonably pleased with the signing of Jake Livermore, for example, until he tested positive for cocaine. Perhaps Spurs were pleased with the capture of Ben Davies from Swansea for £10m, but 14 appearances and very little impact later and they might have changed their mind.Liverpool have had a poor season, and their signings are a big part of the reason why. Dejan Lovren has been so full of mistakes that Brendan Rodgers replaced him in defence with a 21-year-old player that had originally been signed as a midfielder. £20m has never been spent more poorly. Or has it?
Wilfred Bony left Swansea to sign for Manchester City in a deal worth £28m. He made just 2 starts and 9 substitute appearances for Pellegrini’s side, scoring 2 goals.
Even that is better than Mario Balotelli’s performance at Liverpool. The Italian firecracker made 10 starts for the Reds and scored just 1 goal. At differing points in the campaign Brendan Rodgers preferred both Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling up front to Super Mario, neither of who are a striker. When midfielders are being played up-front instead of you and you’re actually a striker, you know you’ve got problems. That’s why Mario Balotelli is voted our Worst Signing Of The Season.
Best Signing Of The Season
Southampton were supposed to get relegated. That was the over-whelming sense at the start of the season after they had lost most of their best players. Yet not only did they stay up, they also finished 7th after a brilliant season under the guidance of Ronald Koeman. Most of their strong play was due to the fact that they replaced their lost players so well, with Dusan Tadic and Saido Mane working well alongside Graziano Pellé. All 3 of them could easily be considered the best signing of the season.
Another team that did exactly what it needed to do during the summer was Chelsea. Mourinho realised that he needed someone to control his midfield and help Eden Hazard link up with his attack, plus an attacker to put the ball in the back of the net. Cue the arrivals of both Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. Costa scored 7 goals in his first 4 games, killing the idea that Chelsea couldn’t sign high profile strikers without destroying their careers. Fabregas, meanwhile, got 18 assists – just two shy of Thierry Henry’s record – and won the title that he never managed to pick up with Arsenal.Liverpool desperately wanted Alexis Sanchez as part of the package that saw Luis Suarez move over to Barcelona, but the Chilean decided that the bright lights of London were what he really wanted to see. Merseyside wasn’t right for the winger, so Arsenal managed to bring him to The Emirates for £30m.
He was involved in 35 goals for the Gunners in all competitions, scoring 24 goals and getting 11 assists. He also scored in high-profile games against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, so it’s no wonder that the Arsenal supporters took him to their hearts. Given that Liverpool paid £20m for Lovren and £25m for Adam Lallana, £30m for Sanchez must be, pound-for-pound, the best signing of the 2014-2015 season. That’s why Alexis Sanchez wins our Best Signing Of The Season Award.
Goal Of The Season
It’s true that we all like to see a top-class save or a crunching tackle, but nothing in football gets the blood pumping like the ball hitting the back of the net. This season has seen some superb goals, with some coming from unsuspected places – like the boot of Charlie Adam. Here’s our round-up of the best ones.
Philippe Coutinho was criticised last year for not scoring enough goals. This season he’s upped his goal count a touch, but has decided not to bother with simple goals, instead opting for some absolute screamers. His first was against Southampton, when he thundered a ball past Fraser Forster.
His second stunning strike came in Liverpool’s home game against Manchester City, when he spotted Joe Hart off his line and shifted the ball onto his right foot before smashing it past England’s number 1.
He isn’t the only Liverpool player who managed to get the better of the England goalkeeper that day either. Jordan Henderson saw Coutinho’s effort and decided that he could do just as well, if not better. The midfielder picked the ball up on the left side of the area, in a similar position to where Coutinho had it, moved it onto his right and found the top corner.
Angel Di Maria hasn’t been the sensational signing everyone in Manchester had hoped he would be, but he scored a stunning goal against Leicester City that can only really be described as being a golfer’s flop shot, lifting the ball over Kasper Schmeichel and into the back of the net. It got lost from the headlines because Leicester went on to win 5-3, but it was a stunning finish nevertheless.
As we’ve already said, QPR had an appalling season with very little to celebrate. Their fans took a degree of joy in the away game against West Bromwich Albion, though, when Bobby Zamora had a foot-race against Joleon Lescott and ran into the right hand channel, before launching an audacious chip over the Albion goalkeeper without even breaking his stride.
Surely the finest goal of the entire season, though, came from the aforementioned boot of Stoke’s Charlie Adam. The Potters were 1-0 down to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when Chadam picked the ball up well within his own half. He looked up and noticed that Thibaut Courtois was quite a distance off his line, so the midfielder unleashed a tremendous left-footed thunderbolt that the Chelsea ‘keeper could only get a light hand on.
The goal made it 1-1, but it also meant that Charlie Adam scored our Goal Of The Season.
Premier League XI Of The Season
No pre-amble, no in-depth analysis of each player. Just a list of the eleven best players from the 2014-2015 Premier League season, plus four more on the bench.
Ivanovic Terry Skrtel Bertrand
Sanchez Siggurdson Hazard
Aguero Costa Kane
Bench: Hart, Cahill, Fabregas, Sterling, Benteke