Looking back: Highs and lows of 2013-14 English Premier League season
The wait is over. The 2014-15 English season is here and we will have the best of footballing action coming our way. But before we ring out the previous season, let`s have a look at how the 2013-14 season had transpired vis-a-vis it`s many highs and lows.
Last time around, Manchester City won the title with a 2–0 victory over West Ham United on the final day, finishing with 86 points, two ahead of Liverpool. For the seventh time in the league history, the title was won on the final day. The season witnessed the first place changing hands for 25 times in the 38-week competition, which was four lesser than the record 29, set in the 2001-02 season.
Manuel Pellegrini`s side won the title after just leading the race for a mere 14 days on the final stretch. But three other clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal had also flirted with the title with Gunners leading the title hunt for the longest time until their campaign collapsed at the start of a new year.
Same thing can be said about Brendan Rodger`s Reds, but their chase for silverware was already on a wrong foot with Luis Suarez missing the first six matches at the start of the season following a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in the previous season.
It seemed that the Uruguayan would become a reformed man after the ban. But it wasn`t to be! At the start of the season, Suarez made it public that he wanted to leave Liverpool to play along side big boys in the Champions League. It was understandable considering Liverpool`s faltering fortunes.
Then, offers from league rivals Arsenal and Serie A giants Juventus made his demands soar to a new level. But Rodgers and his board thwarted all such moves to keep their best man at Anfield. After protracted negotiations, Suarez declared himself to be a proud “kopite” and signed a new long-term contract in December. Then, Liverpool found themselves fighting for the league title with Suarez leading from the front. He won the Player of the Year award with an unrivalled goal-scoring prowess which helped the Anfield outfit qualify for the UEFA Champions League after a hiatus.
Thus Suarez stories, on and off the field, dominated the season as if he was the chosen one while the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and newly-arrived Gunner Mesut Ozil failed to hit the form and headlines.
It`s another matter that, now Suarez will represent Barcelona in La Liga after yet another biting incident at the 2014 Brazil World Cup, and another round of exile from the game. But Suarez, the character, which many believed to be a flawed one, despite all the sparks of a genius, will continue to be an enigma – a footballing force who almost single-handedly helped Liverpool win their first league title in 24 years.
Chelsea welcomed back their Special One with open arms as Roman Abramovich continued to pursue silverware with every means possible. After spending three years as Real Madrid boss amidst talks of infighting and dirty politics, and limited success, Mourinho needed some place like home which could provide him the comfort and freedom to do what he loves best.
But the biggest talking point of the season was how poorly the defending champions and the beacon of English football, Manchester United, performed after the managerial change-over. Sir Alex Ferguson had hand-picked fellow Scot David Moyes as his heir to the Old Trafford throne.
Moyes, who helped Everton stay afloat for more than a decade with an old widow`s cruse, found the settings at Greater Manchester beyond his grasp and means – too affluent and classy for a little club`s manager. It turned out to be a sorry affair, which transpired under the watchful eyes of the Boss himself.
Sir Alex continued as a director of the club after taking a voluntary retirement at the ripe age of 71. Despite his presence there, Red Devils` fortunes took a drastic turn as they finished seventh in the league. Their biggest rivals Liverpool, registered a league double, including a 0-3 humiliation at Old Trafford. Other Merseyside outfit, Moyes` former club Everton, also achieved the feat, which was considered a wild dream for many managers during Sir Alex`s reign.
The season also marked by a tenacious fight in the relegation zone. Gus Poyet arrived in Sunderland after the departure of Paolo Di Canio and helped the Black Cats survive one of the meanest fights for survival in the league`s history. They became only the second team to survive the drop after spending the Christmas Day at the bottom of the table. Like Poyet, Tony Pulis arrived at Selhurst Park to help keep newly promoted Crystal Palace afloat in the league.
The Welshman replaced Ian Holloway as the as the new manager at Palace and his work was to instil some sense of respectability at the London club. From a lowly 19th place in mid-November, he helped the club to a respectable 11th position, when the final league standings were revealed next. In the process, he scripted some of the biggest shocks of the season. By the end of the season, Poyet was honoured with the Manager of the Season award.
Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff City failed to stay up and were relegated after a poor final stretch. On the opposite half of the table, both Manchester City and Liverpool breached the 100-goal mark for the first time in history, since Chelsea`s title winning campaign in 2009-10.
All-in-all, the 2013-14 EPL season was one of the best in recent memory. Let`s hope, the new season continues to provide the same competitive football with new players and managers breaking new grounds.