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EPL Musings - The Soccerclips Awards
Going out on top - Ferguson
There was no such drama this time around – Manchester United had secured the title by late April, and FA Cup champions Wigan were consigned to the Championship along with QPR and Reading in the penultimate week, leaving only the question of whether Arsenal would pip North London rivals Tottenham to a place in Europe’s premier club competition for a second year running. Arsene Wenger’s side duly prevailed with a 1-0 win at Newcastle, rendering meaningless the most dramatic moment of the day: Gareth Bale producing yet another spectacular winner for Spurs against Stoke.
Rather than eleventh-hour heroics and heartbreak, this season will be defined by major departures up and down the division. The most significant, obviously, is the retirement of United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who capped a remarkable 27-year career with the Red Devils by leading them to a record-extending twentieth league title. Ferguson’s replacement, David Moyes, ended an 11-year association with Everton which yielded no trophies but earned him plenty of admiration for establishing the Toffees as regular contenders for European football despite limited resources.
Across town, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini paid for his side’s failure to build on last season’s success with his job, while Chelsea’s interim manager Rafa Benitez heads for the exit door despite what must be considered a fine performance under trying circumstances. Tony Pulis ends his second stint as Stoke manager having given the club their most successful years in recent memory.
On the playing front, Ferguson is joined in leaving Old Trafford by another United legend in Paul Scholes, who hangs up his boots for the second time; Jamie Carragher, held in similar regard at Anfield, does the same for Liverpool. Michael Owen’s retirement carries far less emotional heft, given the itinerant and injury-wracked nature of the latter part of his career, but he does leave as one of England’s most accomplished strikers.
The likes of Ferguson, Scholes, Moyes, and Carragher have all been feted accordingly in recent weeks for their achievements over the last couple of decades, so let’s focus on celebrating the stars of 2012/13.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON: Gareth Bale (Tottenham) Shifted from the left wing into a central attacking role by manager Andre Villas-Boas, the Welshman almost singlehandedly dragged his side into the Champions League. In the second half of the season alone Bale scored seven winning goals, many of them conjured out of nothing by his blistering pace, trickery, and explosive left foot. The 23-year-old’s 21 league goals were the third-most by a non-striker in the Premier League era, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard.
Honourable mention: Luis Suarez (Liverpool), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) There were initially questions over Villa boss Paul Lambert’s decision to favour the young Belgian over one of the Premier League’s most accomplished goalscorers in Darren Bent; Benteke would answer those questions in emphatic fashion. Not only did he demonstrate his own finishing skills by racking up 19 goals in his first season in England, he also proved himself a far more rounded player than Bent – he can play with his back to goal, links play well, takes players on with a devastating blend of speed, strength, and skill, and boasts a fearsome long-range shot.
Honourable mention: Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (West Brom), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Matija Nastasic (Manchester City)
MANAGER OF THE SEASON: Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) The legendary Scot signed off in style, with United’s 11-point margin of victory representing the Premier League’s best since Chelsea in 2005. With captain and defensive lynchpin Nemanja Vidic missing half the season, Michael Carrick often doing the job of two players in midfield, and minimal contributions from the wide areas, Ferguson’s side prevailed due to the ruthlessness and determination that have defined their manager’s storied career.
Honourable mention: Michael Laudrup (Swansea), Steve Clarke (West Brom)
BEST SUMMER SIGNING: Michu (Swansea) The Spaniard would have been in contention at ten times the price, so it still beggars belief that he only cost the Welsh side £2 million from Real Valladolid. Ostensibly an attacking midfielder, the 27-year-old was often redeployed with equal success as a lone striker, where he combined lethal finishing (18 goals in 34 league games) with shrewd movement and intelligent link-up play. Throw in a brace in the Swans’ 5-0 demolition of Bradford in the League Cup final and it’s hard to argue against the Oviedo-born attacker as the best pound-for-pound signing in England this season.
Honourable mention: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Sebastien Bassong (Norwich)
BEST WINTER SIGNING: Phillippe Coutinho (Liverpool) Teammate Daniel Sturridge had a similar impact after joining from Chelsea, but the 20-year-old playmaker gets the edge as he’s three years younger and had no prior experience in English football. Signed for £8.5 million from Inter Milan, Coutinho has offered everything one expects from a Brazilian number ten: vision, imagination, trickery, close control, and an eye for both defence-splitting passes and eye-catching goals. Given the Brazilian’s youth and undoubted ability, his price tag seems like highway robbery; even if he ultimately fails to build on this promising start, the Reds should have no problems recouping that fee for such a talented prospect.
Honourable mention: Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Loic Remy (QPR), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)
WORST SIGNING: Scott Sinclair (Manchester City) In a season without too many disastrous transfers to speak of, City’s moves stand out as being particularly dubious, with this one the most puzzling of all. Sinclair was decent but hardly outstanding at Swansea a year ago, let alone good enough to suggest he would add any value to the squad of the defending champions. Sure enough, despite a slow start from David Silva, the unreliability of Samir Nasri, and the fact that he was the only natural winger in the squad, Sinclair managed just two league starts for City all season.
Honourable mention: Chris Samba (QPR), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City), Danny Graham (Sunderland)
GOAL OF THE SEASON: Matt Lowton (Aston Villa) vs Stoke chested down a clearance and fired a perfectly-struck volley past Asmir Begovic from 25 yards.
Honourable mention: Robin van Persie (Manchester United) vs Aston Villa, Gareth Bale (Tottenham) vs Norwich, Leighton Baines (Everton) vs Newcastle, Luis Suarez (Liverpool) vs Newcastle
TEAM OF THE SEASON
GK – Simon Mignolet (Sunderland)
RB – Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)
CB – Sebastien Bassong (Norwich)
CB – Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
LB – Leighton Baines (Everton)
CM – Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
AM – Juan Mata (Chelsea)
AM – Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
AM – Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
ST – Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
ST – Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Bench: Asmir Begovic (Stoke), Matija Nastasic (Manchester City), Rafael (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Michu (Swansea), Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku (West Brom)
By prolifik on May 25th, 2013 in English Premier League Analysis
EPL Musings - The Soccerclips Awards
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