After a season like the one we’ve just witnessed, with it’s remarkable stories, incredible shocks and just pure magic, to name 10 things we’ve learned is a lot easier than in recent seasons. The 2015-16 Premier League campaign has taught us things we didn’t even think were possible, defied odds that seemed impossible. Truly one of the greatest seasons ever. Here are 10 of the things we’ve learned…
1. Harry Kane is the real deal
After winning the 2014-15 PFA Young Player of the Year award following a stunning end to the campaign, Harry Kane started the new campaign very slowly, scoring just once in his first nine league games.
But in October he hit form again with a bang, netting a hat-trick as Tottenham beat Bournemouth 5-1. From then on, the 22 year old didn’t look back and was a star as Spurs challenged Leicester for the title. He ended the season with 25 goals, meaning he took home the golden boot. Since the start of 2014-15 campaign, he has 46 league goals – only Sergio Aguero has more.
And they weren’t just taps in either. Kane possesses great skill and strength, and his goal in the North London derby in March was one of the best of the season. He goes into the Euros set to spearhead England’s attack, and I for one am pinning a lot of my hopes on him. Excel in France, and Kane will only affirm his place as on the continent’s best finishers.
2. Everyone loves a ‘rags to riches’ story
One of the best parts of Leicester’s incredible title win was the journey that all of their players had been on to reach the top. Kasper Schmeichel had to go down to League Two and work his way up, not to mention having the pressure of following in his father’s footsteps.
Both Danny Simpson and Danny Drinkwater were rejected by Manchester United, whilst the likes of Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton have had similarly difficult times in their career.
But perhaps the most remarkable rises of all are the Foxes’ three PFA Player of the Year nominees. Five years ago, N’Golo Kante was playing for Boulougne in the French third tier, Riyad Mahrez was in the French second division with Le Harve and Jamie Vardy was playing non-league football at Halifax Town. Now they all have Premier League winners medals and will play in the Champions League next season.
3. Arsenal will always be, well Arsenal
They may have achieved their highest finish since 2005 after pipping local rivals Tottenham to second on the final day, but this season surely has to still be considered a failure for the Gunners, who missed their best chance to lift the league title in a long time.
With Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool never really in the race and Manchester City pre-occupied with the Champions League, usually that would mean Arsenal would be nailed on to take the crown. But the North London side failed to take advantage of their rivals’ short comings, and instead it was Leicester and Spurs who were the competitors for the trophy.
Arsenal were actually top of the league on goal difference going into the New Year, but ended the campaign 10 points adrift of Leicester as they suffered their usual capitulation – they won just one of their first five league games of 2016.
Is it time for Wenger to go?
4. This Aston Villa side are one of the worst Premier League teams in history
It’s no secret that Aston Villa have been on a rapid downhill spiral for a number of years now, and 2015-16 finally saw the end of their time in the Premier League. And they barely put up a fight to survive.
The Midlands club spent over £50 million last summer on players from around the continent, but it seemed that there was no scouting structure at all, as these players looked as though they couldn’t be bothered as Villa were relegated in mid April. They finished the campaign on just 17 points, only Derby (11 – 2008) and Sunderland (15 – 2006) have managed a smaller tally.
Their biggest defeat was a 6-0 home thrashing at the hands of Liverpool, after which centre-back Joleon Lescott tweeted a picture of a luxury car, supposedly accidentally from his pocket. Then after the club were relegated, he again angered fans, describing it as “a weight off the shoulders”. What a joke.
5. Money does not always equal success
If Villa spending over £50 million and still getting relegated doesn’t prove this point, then read on. Going down with them are Newcastle, who spent £49.25 million last summer.
Meanwhile, the biggest spenders were as usual Manchester City, who splashed £153.5 million on the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. Fourth. And the list goes on – Manchester United (£108.1 million) finished fifth, Liverpool (£78.4 million) were eighth and Chelsea (£66.15 million) slumped in 10th.
I think you know where this is going. Title winners Leicester City spent £26.7 million last summer, making them the league’s 13th highest spenders. Just when we thought that money was taking over football through multi-million pound sponsorships and TV deals, this is a breath of fresh air and a hope that there is still sanity in this world.
6. The future is bright for England
I’ve already discussed Harry Kane’s superb season at just 22 years old, but the 2015-16 Premier League season saw a number of other young English talents set the division alight, granted most of them are from Tottenham.
The Spurs side that challenged for the title also contained Eric Dier (22) and Dele Alli (20), both of whom have developed into two of the league’s best midfielders, with the latter winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Fellow nominee Jack Butland, 23, had his breakthrough campaign at Stoke City as kept 10 clean sheets before injury cut short his season. Finally, upfront Marcus Rashford shone for Manchester United aged just 18 as he bagged five goals, including the winner in the Manchester derby, to earn a place in the provisional Euro 2016 squad.
I think we have a great chance in France this summer but probably won’t win it, but if the names above continue to impress, all these years of hurt might just end in joy.
7. Is the gap between the Championship and Premier League really that big?
Norwich may have gone straight back down to the second tier this season, but Bournemouth and Watford, who were promoted with the Canaries last year, have taken to the Premier League likes ducks to water.
Neither really had relegation fears for most of the season, with the Hornets never actually being in the bottom three for any of the season. Meanwhile, the Cherries spent just 35 days in the drop zone. You can argue that both spent a lot of money to stay up, but who doesn’t in the modern era? The majority of the players in both sides’ usual starting XI were also part of the promotion winning sides.
Huge credit must go to bosses Eddie Howe and Quique Sanchez Flores for the work they’ve done, but strangely that latter has been sacked which is utterly ludicrous. In the end, Watford finished 13th and Bournemouth 16th, will either suffer ‘second season syndrome’?
8. The Black Cats aren’t running out of lives just yet
A few years ago, it was Wigan Athletic who were the perennial ‘great escapers’ in the Premier League, but now Sunderland have taken over that title after surviving their fourth successive relegation battle. The fact that the Black Cats have had five different managers in the past three years tells you all you need to know about their continuous struggles. It was Dick Advocaat who resigned in early October with the club winless and 19th in the table and Sam Allardyce.
It wasn’t an immediate turn around, but Sunderland were probably the club that got the most out of the January transfer window, with new signings Jan Kirchhoff, Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri proving key in their survival push along with 33 year old striker Jermain Defoe, who banged in 15 league goals.
The Wearside club were actually in the bottom three for longer than any other club in the division (yes, even more than Aston Villa), but lost just one of their final 11 fixtures. Impressive wins against Manchester United, Chelsea and finally Everton secured their safety with a game to spare.
9. Anything is possible
Just when you thought that the Premier League was going to be dominated by the so called ‘big teams’ for years to come, the English top flight throws up surprises to restore your faith in football.
Of course Leicester City are the main story, winning their first ever top division title, becoming the first side to do so since Nottingham Forest in 1978. But don’t forget Tottenham, who may not have won the title, but also beat the big(ger) boys to achieve their highest finish since 1990.
Both Southampton and West Ham United were only promoted from the Championship four years ago, but now will be playing in the Europa League next season after fantastic seasons – finishing in sixth and seventh respectively.
Finally, perhaps the fall of Chelsea was the biggest surprise behind Leicester. The Blues dominated the league in 2014-15 and smashed their way to the title. But this time around, Jose Mourinho was gone by Christmas with the club in 16th, just a point off the drop zone. They only ended up finishing 10th, their worst positioning since 1996. Crazy.
10. The Premier League is the best league in the world
And those points just go to prove that the Premier League is the best league in the world. It may not have the best players in Messi and Ronaldo, but for pure entertainment factor it is the greatest.
Where else in the world you get a team that was only promoted two years ago, win the league title by 10 points? Leicester’s success means the Premier League has had four different winners in the last four years. Compare this to Serie A (Juventus have won the last five), Ligue 1 (PSG have won the last four) and the Bundesliga (Bayern Munich have won the last four), which all seem pretty monotonous. Even La Liga has seen Barcelona win six of the last eight seasons.
We also saw one of the greatest games in Premier League history this season as Liverpool defeated Norwich 5-4. It provides great entertainment, especially for neutrals like myself, and this diagram below shows how competitive the division is – and that was just after 13 games!
What a season it has been. Roll on August!