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5 talking points from the final day of the Premier League season

Our thoughts on City’s title win, United’s failure to qualify for the Europa League and more.

Liverpool's Luis Suarez is fouled by Newcastle United's Paul Dummett during their Premier League match.
Liverpool's Luis Suarez is fouled by Newcastle United's Paul Dummett during their Premier League match.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. City worthy winners

There have been grumblings about Man City’s title win owing to both the substantial sums that have been invested into the club and the lack of English players involved in their triumph.

However, few could deny that over the course of a 38-game season, they are worthy winners.

In Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, the spine of their team is as impressive as any Premier League side in recent memory.

Their attack is arguably not quite as dazzling as Liverpool’s in full flow, but their backline is patently more secure, with Pablo Zabaletta in particular quickly establishing himself as a cult figure in Manchester thanks to his committed displays, which contradict those who brand City a ‘soulless’ club.

Moreover, they achieved it all with the burden of European football, not to mention playing as many games as possible in the League Cup, and getting to the FA Cup quarters, playing significantly more games than their rivals in the process.

City are nothing if not resilient and if there is one reason to celebrate their title victory, it is the manager Manuel Pellegrini, who calmly attributed the success to their talented players rather than his own astute decision-making in his customary dignified and modest manner.

2. Liverpool can’t single out Gerrard slip

Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea was an unfortunate moment in Liverpool’s title campaign, however there is a tendency among supporters and critics to exaggerate these isolated incidents beyond all proportion, as the Reds’ bid for glory ended in failure this afternoon.

One mistake does not lose a team a Premier League title, particularly one in a game that Liverpool had another 45 minutes to recover and failed to do so.

Furthermore, you could also credit Gerrard with invigorating Liverpool’s title bid in the first place, after he produced an inspirational performance in the 3-2 victory over Fulham near the start of their impressive winning run.

So ultimately, a combination of factors, including a lack of squad depth, a porous defence and almost too much of an emphasis on attack at times, among other issues, contributed to their ultimate undoing.

3. Will Man United rue missing out on Europa League?

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Southampton v Manchester United - St Marys Source: Chris Ison

(Juan Mata scores with a free-kick)

Even ardent defenders of the Europa League will agree that there are downsides to the competition.

Travelling to faraway locations for Thursday night matches is less-than-ideal preparation for any team with an already hectic domestic schedule, and particularly for such an ambitious club as United.

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That said, there are some virtues to qualifying — over the years, teams such as Atletico Madrid have used the competition to gain invaluable experience of playing in Europe, something that would be especially beneficial to younger United stars such as Adnan Januzaj.

Moreover, the club need to maintain their considerable European ranking points or they could potentially end up in an extremely difficult qualifying group when/if they do eventually return to the Champions League, à la Man City in recent years.

Finally, they could have done with playing Europa League football, as from next season on, winning it will constitute an alternative means of qualifying for the Champions League — a nice fall-back option for teams whose top-four challenges prematurely go awry.

Hence, United missing out on the Europa League today may not be quite the blessing in disguise that some people are portraying it to be.

4. End of an era for Chelsea?

It was perhaps fitting that Fernando Torres scored the winner in what turned out to be a relatively meaningless game between Chelsea and Cardiff at Stamford Bridge today.

The Spanish star is likely to leave the club in the summer, and several more of their veteran stars could follow him, prompting the fixture to feel even more climactic than the average end-of-season game.

Doubt surrounds the future of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and several others, as Jose Mourinho looks to substantially rebuild his squad in the summer.

It would be a surprise to see Terry in particular go, given how indispensable he’s been to Chelsea’s campaign this year, but then again, the Special One is no stranger to making ruthless decisions.

5. Have Tottenham and Everton underachieved or overachieved?

According to the official Premier League narrative this season, Spurs have been desperate and Everton have been inspired.

Yet is it really fair to make such assumptions about two teams that ultimately finished just three points apart from one another, with both receiving the dubious honour of Europa League football for their troubles?

Of course, there is an element of truth to the inference — Everton have undoubtedly developed following the David Moyes era, while Spurs have regressed to a degree since last year, but the tone in which both sides are talked of would suggest they are worlds apart.

Granted, Spurs spent £100million plus and delivered some desperate performances along the way, but most teams would struggle to an extent after losing their talisman (in this case, Gareth Bale).

Everton, meanwhile, have played some brilliant football, and have been rewarded with their highest-ever points tally as a result, but the Toffees’ lack of experience in such circumstances ultimately proved costly in the end-of-season run-in, as their bid for a Champions League place ended in failure.

Consequently, it will be fascinating to see whether both these very differently perceived clubs can build on their undoubted potential next year.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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