Naturally you have to look at the champions for the obvious candidates. Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart and Yaya Toure have been the best in their respective fields this season but as excellent as they have been – they have been shining lights in an already brilliant team. Clint Dempsey was the most scandalous omission from the PFA team of the year after scoring 17 goals this season and new signings Papiss Cisse and Juan Mata look to be incredible shrewd pieces of business.
However, my pick is a man that almost single-handedly got his team where they finished this season, Robin Van Persie. If it wasn’t for his consistently marvellous one man show efforts during the Christmas period in particular, Arsenal wouldn’t be in Europe next season. Having stayed fit for the entire season – which is a marvel in itself – he raised his level to talismanic extremes keeping Arsenal’s head above water in the difficult moments and then inspiring them to go on that great run in March – just look at the 1st half against Spurs – and April that ultimately got them a 13th successive Champions League campaign guaranteed. How much will he be missed if he leaves in the summer to Man City or Serie A Champions Juventus?
To keep up any newly promoted side is an achievement, but to do it with the style and panache that both Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers accomplished is extra special. Both must be wary of the dreaded second season syndrome in three months time but they will be confident they can make their sides stay at the pinnicle for a while yet.
The three Roberto’s also deserve a mention for completely different reasons. Mancini won the title and that is never easy no matter how much money you have. Di Matteo took over a club completely mentally destroyed and in three months won the FA Cup for the fourth time in six years and is on the brink of winning the Champions League for the first time. Martinez managed to galvanize a side that everybody had written off for the drop in December into one of the best footballing sides in the world creating one of the best runs in Premiership history at the turn of March. Could 3-4-3 be the new go to formation for Premier League sides?
But the winner is Alan Pardew. To break into the top six without the backing of an oil tycoon and a very thin squad – which got thinner at the start of the season with the sales of Enrique and Nolan – is a magnificent achievement. The signings of Cisse, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye were all in the top 10 and added to the staggering improved performances of Coloccini, Krul and Simpson, Pardew has created one of the best ‘spines’ in the league. And even when some of his stars were either injured or absent on international duty, he managed to get the best out of players like Perch, Guthrie and Ameobi. We all questioned why Mike Ashley had brought in Pardew for the competent Chris Hughton two years ago, well now we know.
Never has a season seen so many truly great and weird games. Whether that is down to a more fearless approach used by away teams or just an general inability to defend we might never know. Just some of the highlights include Man Utd beating old rivals Arsenal 8-2 then losing 6-1 AT HOME to the ‘Noisy Neighbours’ a month later. Chelsea throwing away a three goal lead to Man Utd at home and losing 3-5 to Arsenal who at that point looked to be at rock bottom. The honour of best game looked to be a done deal when Man Utd twice let Everton recover from a two goal deficit drawing 4-4 letting Man City back into the title race
And yet City were to upstage them on the final day with what might be not just the best game of this season but in the entire twenty year history of this great league. Never has a game with so much riding on it for both clubs produced so much drama. Zabaleta’s goal before half time looked to be easing City to the title but QPR with Cisse and Mackie – who needed to win to make sure of survival – had other plans scoring two goals to give the away side the lead. With five minutes to go. City needed two goals to win the title and what happened after that is history. As Martin Tyler said, “drink it in- it won’t get better than this.”
This is personal thing because I always try to make the judgement of best signing of the season over the course of the whole campaign. This unfortunately rules out Cisse and Jelavic who have been outstanding from January to May but if they had been signed in August they certainly would have romped home with this.
Honourable mentions go to Mata, Ba and Cabaye but in one moment this next player turned this season on its head. The signing of Sergio Aguero has somewhat been overlooked thanks to the mega money thrown around the world by Man City’s sheihks. But even though he cost a massive £35 million, he has been worth it.
Even if you take his last minute goal out of the equation, he has been the top goalscorer for Man City with 23 goals when their other strikers have underperformed. Tevez acted like a spoiled brat majority of the season and Mario Balotelli – although he hasn’t been as responsible for City’s failings as the media envisage – was more trouble than his worth. Dzeko has been a massive disappointment since signing last January so without Aguero, City would be nowhere near the title. But of course THAT goal has added many brownie points to Aguero’s claim of signing of the season.
Please tell us your highlights from what has been a fantastic Premier League season.