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Why 2014-15 was a Premier League season to forget

The chasing pack failed to keep up with Jose Mourinho’s champions, who had the title wrapped up with three games to spare

Chelsea's Didier Drogba celebrates with the trophy.
Chelsea's Didier Drogba celebrates with the trophy.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

FOR A LEAGUE that boasts about its unpredictability and drama, let’s be honest — this has been a relatively humdrum Premier League season, almost tediously easy to forecast.

Chelsea champions, the top places occupied by the biggest spenders, only the final relegation spot was decided on the final day on Sunday.

Newcastle and Hull supporters hid behind their sofas and wished their Premier League status was not in peril, but the rest of us would have preferred if there was more at stake.

We’ve been spoiled in recent years. There was Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell, Steven Gerrard’s slip last season and the ultimate, incredible drama of that finale between Manchester City and QPR in 2012 that cast Sergio Aguero into Premier League legend.

But this is a campaign that has panned out how many expected.

Chelsea won the title on the back of excellent summer spending, dethroning a Manchester City side that lacked the hunger to retain their crown.

Arsenal’s hopes were hit by an injury crisis and some dreadful defending. Louis van Gaal injected some charisma back into Manchester United, but stuttered through a transitional season at times. Liverpool, meanwhile, failed to recover from the sale of Luis Suarez or recreate the magic of the previous campaign.

That is the last nine months in a nutshell. Only Southampton and Leicester City performed above expectations in the whole of the division.

Chelsea fans will not care, of course, but it is a shame we were not treated to anything like the drama of the 2013-14 season, when four teams were still competing for the league as late as April and the final weeks were littered with dramatic moments.

Chelsea’s triumph ultimately stemmed from their brilliant business in the transfer market in the close season. Their work was done early and efficiently, the weaknesses in the squad plugged by the arrivals of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa.

In Eden Hazard, the Blues also boasted the best player in the country by far. The Belgian so often made the difference in turning draws into victories with special moments of genuine, world class quality.

Chelsea were pragmatic and, yes, boring in the last few months of the season, but nobody should forget the irrepressible attacking football with which they blew away all comers before the turn of the year.

They had the best goalkeeper, the best defence, the best attack and the best manager. The standard has been set and the chasing pack know they have a lot of work to do over the summer to catch Jose Mourinho’s men.

The pattern of the season was clear within nine matches — just one quarter of the season — when Chelsea were already six points clear of City, nine ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool, and 10 in front of United.

While Chelsea spent the campaign on cruise control, the teams that should have been their strongest challengers — Arsenal and City — either stalled on the grid or ran out of gas.

Arsene Wenger is confident that the Gunners can challenge for the title next season in light of their form since the turn of the year, but only six months ago, the Frenchman faced chants and banners calling for his head.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion - Emirates Stadium Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

(Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal can challenge for the Premier League next season)

Alexis Sanchez’s arrival created considerable excitement in north London and the Chilean did his part with some sensational performances, but he wasn’t backed up by the rest of the team. Some of Arsenal’s defending before Christmas was woeful, while the ‘injury crisis’ excuse has worn thin and has become a perennial occurrence.

City, for their part, were snapping at Chelsea’s heels in early January but then Manuel Pellegrini’s squad looked jaded and shaky defensively, lacked attacking fluency and dropped too many points due to careless defending.

Manchester United achieved their bare minimum requirement of qualifying for the Champions League under new boss Van Gaal after taking several months to come to terms with the Dutchman’s demands.

United have so much attacking quality but it is a sign of just how far they have fallen that they will need to match their enormous £150m spending of last summer to have any chance of competing for the title next term. The signing of Memphis Depay before the end of the season has signalled their intentions early.

Tottenham appear to be in a permanent state of transition. Mauricio Pochettino – replacing Tim Sherwood who himself had stepped in for Andre Villas-Boas during last season — got his feet under the table, but the astonishing rise of Harry Kane captured the attention and imagination in amongst the predictability of the title race.

It is hard to see how Spurs will reach the Holy Grail of the Champions League again, and the same could be said of Liverpool. Without Suarez, sold to Barcelona last summer, the Reds were blunt in attack and Brendan Rodgers has found himself under increasing pressure in the final weeks of the season.

Two Premier League legends, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, are leaving to join Major League Soccer. It will be left the the Americans to debate who is the better player now, but even in their last season in England they both provided some glimpses of their old quality.

Lampard’s goal against Chelsea for Manchester City was one of the most memorable moments of the season and his obvious mixed emotions made it all the more surreal.

Chelsea may have cantered over the finish line as expected, but there were some incredible matches. The Blues’ blood-and-thunder approach in the first half of the campaign led to some results unbecoming of Mourinho, like their 6-3 victory over Everton and 5-3 defeat to Spurs.

But the game of the season has to be Manchester United’s 5-3 loss to Leicester. They had led 3-1 against their newly promoted opponents — Angel Di Maria scored with a remarkable chip — before an England international in the making in Jamie Vardy led the remarkable comeback.

It wasn’t all boring. On one weekend in April, we were treated to three goals that would all have been worthy winners of goal of the season. Bobby Zamora dinked in a beauty with the outside of his foot against West Brom, Jermain Defoe smashed an unstoppable volley from outside the box in the Tyne-Wear derby, and Charlie Adam outdid David Beckham with a stunning strike from 60 yards for Stoke against Chelsea.

Adam’s strike will go down as the goal of the season but, ultimately, it counted for nothing as Chelsea turned the game around to beat Stoke 2-1 at Stamford Bridge that day.

It was one of the final steps towards winning a Premier League trophy that John Terry — who signed a one-year contract extension in March — lifted in west London on Sunday.

And on the evidence of the last 10 months, it will take a formidable challenge from one of Chelsea’s rivals to stop their captain doing the same again at the end of next season.

- By Greg Stobart

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