The English Premier League has, for a long time, been labelled by many as the “best league in the world”. In recent times, as more fans have become aware of the quality of play in La Liga and the Bundesliga, that label has been changed to a more realistic “most exciting league in the world”. It has been hard to argue with that consensus over the last few years. The Premier League may not always contain the most technically advanced football, but it certainly contains the most exciting. At least it did until last season, as the 2012-2013 was far from being a vintage year in the Premier League.
Manchester United cruised to their 20th League Title, but did so playing a very functional brand of football in which they were hugely over reliant on the goals of Robin Van Persie. They seemed to lack a lot of creativity in midfield, which is an issue that David Moyes will have to rectify reasonably quickly if he is to have any success in his debut season as Manchester United manager.
United won the title without any great challenge from their rivals. Manchester City never got going last season and, as in previous seasons, had too many issues going on off field for them to have any hope of defending the title they had won in such extraordinary fashion in 2012. That, coupled with an embarrassing FA Cup Final defeat at the hands of lowly Wigan, resulted in Roberto Mancini receiving his marching orders. It remains to be seen if Manuel Pellegrini is the right man to revitalise Manchester City, or if he will be able to provide them with the “holistic” approach to management that Mancini was criticised for lacking.
The relegation battle contained more excitement than the title chase last season, but in the end, Reading, QPR and Wigan all went down with a bit of a whimper. Wigan at least had that FA Cup victory to soften the blow, and can look forward to playing European football next season.
It was also a poor year for Premier League teams in the Champions League. Manchester City and Chelsea crashed out of the competition in the group stages. City did so without even winning a game. Arsenal and Manchester United fared a little better in reaching the Round of 16, but that was as good as it got in that particular competition.
Chelsea did at least go on to win the oft derided Europa League, but doing so as “lucky losers” will have made it a bittersweet victory.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. There are many reasons to look forward to the coming season with great excitement. A record TV right’s deal has enabled Premier League clubs to start splashing the cash once again. Indeed, there is so much money available to spend that even Arsene Wenger looks likely to indulge in a spot of extravagant shopping.
The return of Jose Mourinho will add to the drama of proceedings, and it will be interesting to watch him get his claws into the likes of Pellegrini and Moyes as he attempts to destabilise them during their first season at their respective new clubs. It’ll also be interesting to see how Stoke City and Everton get on with their new managers, how willing the promoted clubs are to spend their new found wealth, and whether or not Liverpool and Tottenham can shake things up in the fight for Champions League places.
Add to that the fact that 2014 is World Cup year, and there is plenty to look forward to in the coming season.