Ten things we learned from the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season

I am going to write a full review of the season in the next week or so, but to wet your appetite, have a read of this article I wrote for Touchline Talk: Ten things we learned from the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season…

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The last nine months have seen some enthralling games, outstanding goals and drama to a level never seen before, but the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season is unfortunately over.

The race for the title went right down to the final day, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the top spot, whilst Chelsea, who were in the hunt for the trophy until the last few games, finished in third.

Arsenal claimed the final Champions League spot ahead of Everton, who will compete in next season’s Europa League along with sixth placed Tottenham Hotspur and FA Cup finalists Hull City.

The relegation dogfight was also incredibly close for the majority of the season, but Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff City had all been condemned to next season’s Championship by the final day.

Other mentions go to Southampton and Stoke City, who both achieved their record points total in the Premier League, and Manchester United, who finished outside the top three for the first time in the Premier League era, ending up in seventh after David Moyes’ miserable time at Old Trafford came to a premature end with four games left to play.

Click to the ‘next’ button below to read through ten things we learnt from yet another fascinating Premier League campaign. Roll on August 16th!

1. It’s not easy to replace a legend

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Manchester United’s first Premier League season without Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to bring about some changes in more ways than one at Old Trafford, but nobody expected it to go this bad, especially his successor David Moyes.

The Scot arrived from Everton in the summer, and things started well enough with a 4-1 win at Swansea on the opening day, but that was pretty much as good as it got for ‘The Special One’.

The Red Devils suffered their worst home form in over a decade, and lost three games on the bounce for the first time since 2001, ultimately condemning them to a seventh placed finish.

By the time club legend Ryan Giggs took over for the final four games of the campaign, the damage had been done, and United finished the season with lowest ever Premier League points tally – 64.

Current Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal is expected to take over in the summer, and he will have the difficult job of repairing the squad who have made this campaign one to forget for supporters.

2. Yaya Toure: The best player in the Premier League?

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Yes, the PFA Player of Year award went to Luis Suarez, but should it have gone to Yaya Toure, who was battling it out with the Uruguayan for the title of the league’s best player all campaign long.

Although the battle was close, did Toure just pip Suarez to the win, regardless of awards?

The Ivorian scored 20 goals from midfield, only 11 less than Suarez managed, whilst he also got slightly less assists than the Liverpool striker. But in terms of both players’ all round games – surely Toure wins.

His goal against Aston Villa in City’s penultimate game of the season summed him up. He is a powerhouse of a midfielder, and his presence in the midfield means he can be allowed just to run, and then shoot whenever he chooses.

I also think that Toure was more vital to City than Suarez has been to Liverpool. The Ivorian was at the heart of everything Manuel Pellegrini’s side did, both going forward and defensively, and they would not have won the title without him.

Of course, Suarez was also key to Liverpool throughout the season, but at the start of the season when he was banned, The Reds coped okay, but whenever Toure was absent, there was always a nervousness in the City midfield.

3. Goal line technology works

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Referees must have been looking forward to the 2013-14 season, and although some areas for the men in black didn’t go quite so well (e.g Andre Marriner mistakenly sending off Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when Arsenal visited Chelsea in March), the introduction of goal-line technology into every Premier League ground has made their jobs slightly easier.

The first time the technology was used came on the opening day, when Chelsea’s Kevin de Bruyne had a shot saved by Hull goalkeeper Alan McGregor in   August, everyone including the player knew it hadn’t gone in because a computer said so.

Meanwhile, the first goal given by the system came at Manchester City in January, when Edin Dzeko’s effort was cleared off the line by Cardiff’s Kevin McNaughton, with the linesman not flagging for a goal.

However, within seconds, a signal was sent to referee Neil Swarbrick indicating the ball had crossed the line and City were quickly celebrating their 100th goal in all competitions for the campaign.

4. Big signings = flops

Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado

Many players were signed in the summer for big money, but the majority of deals have not paid off, with Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City being the worst effected by a case money not well spent.

Spurs spent the money they received from Gareth Bale’s transfer for Real Madrid on the likes of Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli, but the trio, all attack minded players, scored just eight goals between them in a combined total of 62 games.

Norwich also spent big, with big things expected of £8.5 million striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel. After scoring on the opening day against Everton, the Dutchman didn’t hit the back of the net for the remainder of the season, as The Canaries sacked manager Chris Hughton but were still relegated.

Other big signings in the summer also failed to live up to expectations, with Mesut Ozil, Marouane Fellaini and Stevan Jovetic, all under-performing for Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.

In fact, none of the 11 players in the PFA Team of the Year were summer signings.

5. English players come to life in World Cup seasons

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Some of the division’s best players in 2013-14 have been from this country, with five of the players in the PFA Team of Year, being English (Gary Cahill, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge).

Is there a link between this and the fact there’s a World Cup happening this summer?

Cahill, Gerrard and Sturridge were probably expected to go to Brazil at the start of the season, but Shaw and Lallana along with their Southampton teammates Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez, excelled throughout the campaign to stake their claim in Roy Hodgson’s squad.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez’s hopes were brought crashing down to earth after he ruptured his anterior cruciate knee ligament against Manchester City in April, but the other three aforementioned Saints players have all been selected by Hodgson to take to Rio.

Ross Barkley must also be mentioned, the Everton midfielder had his breakthrough season and also earned himself a place on the plane.

6. A managerial sacking is no longer a surprise

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Premier League managers were sacked here, there and everywhere in 2013-14, with the amount of bosses sacked in the top division accumulating to 11 by the end of the campaign, including Pepe Mel’s departure from West Brom 24 hours after the final day.

It now appears the ‘in’ thing to do when results aren’t going your way just to take the easy option and sack the manager, and in some cases it hasn’t paid off, with Cardiff, Fulham (twice) and Norwich all changing managers but still getting relegated.

West Ham were the only team to stick with their manager through a rough patch, with calls for The Hammers to give Sam Allardyce the boot over Christmas after a dismal run.

However in some cases, a change at the top hasn’t been such a bad decision. The obvious example is Tony Pulis’ introduction at Crystal Palace, but Gus Poyet and Garry Monk at Sunderland and Swansea respectively haven’t failed either.

7. Possession isn’t everything

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World and European champions Spain have set the example over the past few years that winning games is all about passing the ball around and keeping possession, whilst the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich have also achieved success on the club stage by adopting the same philosophy.

But on many occasions throughout the 2013-14 Premier League campaign we were told that the English, aren’t too good at possession, and even when we are, it’s not affective.

A prime example is the game that took the momentum out of Liverpool’s title charge, as The Reds hosted Chelsea in April. Despite having 73% of the possession, Brendan Rodgers’ side still lost 2-0 to The Blues.

Meanwhile, Swansea, who are known for their efficient, passing style and big possession statistics, only finished 12th.

This season has been more about goals than possession, as can clearly be seen by the fact that both Manchester City and Liverpool surpassed 100 strikes for the campaign.

8. Tony Pulis is one of the best British managers of the current day

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When Ian Holloway resigned as Crystal Palace manager in October, The Eagles look certain for the drop, despite having played just 11 games. Enter Tony Pulis, who had the extraordinary record of never being relegated as a manager.

But the task ahead of him seemed an impossible one. No one could have predicted the turnaround at Selhurst Park after the former Stoke boss’ arrival. He transformed them into a team who played quick and exciting football, but were at the same time incredibly hard working.

Wins against most notably Chelsea and Everton, but most vitally teams around them, put Palace in the unimaginable position of being able to relax for the final few games as their Premier League safety was secured with a win at West Ham in mid April.

But they weren’t just going to stop. Pulis’ side had a key role to play in the title race, when they came for three goals down to draw 3-3 with Liverpool on the penultimate end of the campaign, effectively ending The Reds’ hopes of lifting the crown.

With calls for him to be named manager of the season, Pulis will look back on the 2013-14 season as a hugely successful one, as he proved himself as a top manager by completing mission impossible.

9. There’s two sides to Luis Suarez

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2013-14’s PFA Player of Year Luis Suarez certainly had one of his better campaigns and one without any controversy, as he topped the scoring charts, hitting the back of the net 31 times, proving there is no finer striker in England: powerful, graceful and  supremely clinical.

His goal stats are even more incredible when you consider he missed the first five Premier League games of the season because he was still serving the ban he picked up at the end of 2012-13 for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

That’s the other, not so nice side about the Uruguayan.

Before this campaign, his previous two seasons in English football were plagued controversy. The aforementioned bite incident, racism allegations and actions about wanting to leave the club last summer led to heavy criticism of the striker.

But Suarez proved them wrong in 2013-14. Their is the problem of diving in his game, but on the whole, he has proved that he is one of the world’s best, and if he can avoid any unwanted incidents it should stay that way.

10. Liverpool surprise everyone

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Liverpool were not many people’s favourites for the top four last summer, let alone for the title.

Various managers were also very critical of The Reds’ chances. Jose Mourinho claimed that The Merseysiders weren’t capable of challenging, whilst Sir Alex Ferguson stated The Reds were ‘eight players short of becoming genuine title contenders’.

Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers made a mockery of both suggestions by being in the fight for the trophy all season-long, and had it in their hands before losing to Chelsea at the end of April.

Finishing second is certainly still a huge achievement though, especially after finishing seventh in 2012-13, the players can be very proud of a fantastic season.

They will certainly be more determined to come out on top next season, but there’s a slight feeling that they won’t get a better chance than the one they had this season in the next five years or so.

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This article is also being published on Touchline Talk, the website I write for. You can look at previous pieces of mine here:

http://www.touchlinetalk.com/author/olly-allen/

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