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Dublin: 11°C Sunday 9 May 2021

Big money signings and referees - the winners and losers from the Premier League season

As the curtain closes on another Premier League season, we look back at the last nine months of top-flight football.


1. Jose Mourinho

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Chelsea v Sunderland - Stamford Bridge Jose returned to deliver another Premier League title to Stamford Bridge Source: Mike Egerton

IT MAY SEEM like an obvious choice for this category but Jose Mourinho reminded the Premier League why he’s the best manager in the business at the moment. His Chelsea side were head and shoulders above everyone else, even if the chasing pack struggled to get out of second gear, as they cruised to a fourth league crown.

From the moment he returned to Stamford Bridge, Mourinho stamped his authority on the club once again and built a squad suited to his style of play. The recruitment of Diego Costa and Cesc Farbregas reinforced areas Chelsea needed to strengthen and this side, although perhaps not as formidable as the one he assembled a couple of years ago, had all the trademarks of a Mourinho team.

His touchline antics rarely endear him to the neutrals but Mourinho is a winner and to deliver a Championship title and League Cup in his second season back in England speaks volumes of his insatiable appetite for success and improvement.

No doubt he’ll strain tirelessly over the summer to ensure Chelsea are even better next season.

2. British managers

Soccer - Premier League Package There's still hard work ahead for Sherwood but he's done an incredible job to reverse Villa's fortunes Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Only a couple of years ago, there was a shortage of British managers on the top-flight circuit with clubs opting to hire a foreign boss but the balance has begun to shift in the opposite direction, as evidenced by this season.

It says a great deal about the current landscape that 12 of the twenty Premier League managers this year were British and while some didn’t enjoy productive campaigns, they were the exception.

Without forensically analysing each of their seasons, Alan Pardew, Tony Pulis, Garry Monk and Tim Sherwood’s stock rose considerably while Mark Hughes’ Stoke continue to punch above their weight and Nigel Pearson managed to, somehow, keep Leicester afloat. 

The job Sherwood has done at Villa stands out. Of course, there is still much work to do but having taken over from Paul Lambert, Villa were in grave danger of falling through the trap door. Now, they can look forward to another season in the Premier League with great optimism and, in the short term, an FA Cup final at Wembley.

3. Harry Kane 

Soccer - Barclay's Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City - White Hart Lane Kane was just one of a number of young English strikers to star during the season Source: EMPICS Sport

Much like British managers, it was a great season for young English strikers with Harry Kane, Danny Ings, Saido Berhaino and Charlie Austin all taking the league by storm.

Kane, in particular, enjoyed a breakthrough year which saw him score 21 league goals and become the first Tottenham striker to break the 30 goal mark in all competitions since Gary Lineker.

The 21-year-old was named PFA Young Player of the Year, an award which reflected his growing stature within the game and unprecedented achievements for the North London club.

Kane almost single handedly carried Spurs through their indifferent form as manager Mauricio Pochettino took time to settle into the job before firing them into the Europa League with a fifth-placed finish.

It was a landmark season in so many ways for Kane as he made his England debut and became one of the hottest young strikers in Europe.

The battle for Spurs going forward will be to retain his services but having signed a new long-term deal at White Hart Lane, Kane will now hope his prolific form carries over to 2015/16.


1. Big money signings

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool - The Hawthorns It's difficult to see Balotelli being at Anfield next year Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

It was a forgettable season for a host of big name stars with Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Mario Balotelli and Juan Cuadrado failing to make an impression after arriving from Europe.

It appears Manchester United are ready to dispense of the services of Falcao and it remains to be seen what the future holds for di Maria but the former Real Madrid winger did little to justify his £59.7 million price tag. An injury blighted year ended in almost fitting fashion on Sunday as he lasted just 27 minutes at Hull before hobbling off.

He lasted the 90 minutes in just seven games this season. After a bright start, di Maria’s year went downhill and three goals is evidence of that.

Although he didn’t cost as much, Balotelli was arguably a bigger flop. Having been given an opportunity to reignite his career, the Italian was rarely seen in red as he proved to be more trouble than he’s worth, once again. It’s unlikely we’ll see him at Anfield next year.

For every Sanchez, Costa or Fabregas, there will always be players that can’t quite adapt to the demands of the Premier League but this year there was more than usual. Eliaquim Mangala cost Manchester City over £30 million but looked out of his depth, Wilfried Bony’s £28 million transfer fee was excessive and Dejan Lovren did little to prove he was really worth £20 million.

2. Fans

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Cardiff City v Manchester City - Cardiff City Stadium Attendances were still high throughout but ticket prices are becoming a prominent issue Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

It’s widely acknowledged that this season has not contained the same level of drama and excitement as recent years but that’s not to say there has been any shortage of entertainment.

Yet, fans, for the first time, may feel somewhat short-changed as they count the cost of following their side. There were several protests during the campaign as the price of tickets continued to soar with Liverpool supporters staging a boycott of their game at Hull last month.

There has been an increased level of opposition with the new Premier League broadcasting deal – worth £5.14 billion – putting the spotlight on clubs to do more to subsidise the prices.

3. Referees

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - West Ham United v Swansea City - Upton Park Chris Foy was among the referees criticised for his performances Source: Scott Heavey

In January, the former referees’ head Keith Hackett slammed the standard of officiating in the Premier League and called for his successor, Mike Riley, to stand down.

Hackett called for five top-flight referees to be dropped from the roster and said another, Lee Probert, should also lose his position if he was to fail a fitness test. It was a damning appraisal of the current state of officiating in the Premier League and it wasn’t made without reason.

Earlier in the year, Graham Poll also publicly criticised the current roster and while referees can often be made a scapegoat of by irate managers in post-match interviews, more often than not, they’ve got the big decisions wrong this season.

Of course, their mistakes are accentuated but when the stakes are so high, getting the big calls wrong is inexcusable. Chris Foy’s decision to rule out Jan Vertonghen’s goal against Sunderland is one incident that stands out.

The advancements in technology will help assist referees and the introduction of the Vanishing Spray was a welcome one but the sooner a review system is brought into the Premier League, the better.

Whatever happens, we’ll do it all again next season. There’s just 75 days to go, you know.

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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