The EPL's 10 Biggest Stories of 2008-09
In one of the most exciting seasons in the history of the Premier League there are a number of stories that have had fans talking.
Aside from Manchester United's continued dominance and England's dominance in European play there have been other story lines that have played out during the season.
From Newcastle and Arsenal's respective woes, to out of control spending, and the unexpected results this season from Fulham and Stoke City these are the ten biggest stories in the EPL this season.
10. Fulham Surge and Pompey Slips
Last season, Pompey was the feel good story of the EPL, with their solid finish and FA Cup Championship, while Fulham hung on to the top flight by their finger nails avoiding relegation by goal difference.
However, as Portsmouth has struggled to meet the demands of both domestic and European play, it has been Fulham who have been this season's biggest surprise.
Roy Hodgston has worked his usual magic at Craven Cottage getting great performances from talent that has struggled under past coaching regimes. However, the key might be Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer who has had as solid of a season as Cech or Van der Sar.
For Pompey their struggles under Tony Adams led to his sacking and the side hasn't performed much better under Paul Hart, with the exception of Glen Johnson who's play is making a claim as the best defender in England.
9. Ryan Giggs Lifetime Achievement Award
Few players are as well liked or well respected more than the ageless Welshman who has been a fixture at Manchester United for as long as many supporters can remember.
Few players have gained as much respect or have as clean a disciplinary record (Giggs has never been sent off in over 800 at United).
Giggs is not just holding on to a place in the first team, but continues to play well although not as often as he once did. Playing in more of a central midfield role the ageless Giggs has adapted to his new role well.
This season he received what might be called a lifetime achievement award and was named the PFA Player of the Year. While a campaign to name him for knighthood has gained significant progress throughout Britain.
8. Stoke Stay Up
Going into the 2008-'09 season English bookmakers had Stoke as the odds on favorites to be relegated, however somebody forgot to tell the Potters to cooperate.
Despite some glaring losses (5-0 at Old Trafford) and struggles in cup play, Stoke have found themselves with some impressive results as well.
Taking a point from Liverpool at Anfield, downing Aston Villa, and the biggest shocker a win at home against mighty Arsenal showed the bookies that Stoke had no intentions of returning to the Championship next season.
Stoke will find themselves finishing in the middle of the table, and after the first few months of the season have never been in relegation trouble.
7. Good Times on Mersyside
Liverpool has long been a dominant force in English football for as long as anybody can remember, but over the past two seasons their Mersyside mates are looking to join them in a place among England's elite.
Everton has slowly been building a side that can compete with anybody in England with a side featuring the flamboyant Fellaini, American keeper Tim Howard, Australian Tim Cahill, Louis Saha, the ageless Phil Neville, and aquiring Jo on loan from Manchester City.
Under the guidance of manager David Moyes, Everton finds themselves fifth in the table and playing for the F.A Cup later this month.
Across the park at Anfield, Liverpool has finally made the strides in league play that their supporters have been waiting for.
The usual suspects have been performing well including Garrard, Xabi, Kuyt, and an on-form Torres; yet Liverpool has finally competed for the Premier League championship since the late '90s.
6. The Great Robinho Debate
This is a story that has played out on three different levels throughout the talented Brazilian's first season at Manchester City.
The first of course is the record transfer fee of £32.5 million, raising the annual debate of whether out of control spending and huge transfer fees are healthy for the financial stability of English football, and in particular during a world wide economic recession.
Second is the growth of foreign ownership in the English game, as where the past culprits were the Americans and a certain Russian oil magnate, this time it was the Arab's getting into the mix.
When a consortium of billionaires from the Emirates bought Manchester City and were willing to spend such sums many wondered if this would bring about a new challenger for "the big four."
Finally it has to be questioned if a player with such an infamous temperament was worth the financial risk.
Robinho while vastly talented had a tempestuous career at Real Madrid and has had his share of negative headlines in Manchester this season.
Between a rumored fall out with Mark Hughes, an unauthorized holiday back home in Brazil, and being questioned in a rape case, many pundits wonder if Robinho's 14 goals might not have been worth the money he's being paid.
5. Newcastle Going Down
Before there was a "big four" Newcastle was one of the strongest sides in English football.
With solid sides throughout the mid-to-late '90s and well into this decade Newcastle remained a mainstay in the top flight with players like Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, the Toon Army was never in danger of going down.
However, the past few years haven't been good in Tyneside, as Newcastle has struggled in the middle of the table yet nobody thought they would go down.
Once a model of stability, the past two years has seen turmoil grip the once proud club.
The mysterious departures of Sam Allerdyce and the ever popular Kevin Keegan, financial struggles, Joe Kinnear's health problems, and the pending sale of a club that nobody wants to buy have all contributed to Newcastle's on going drama.
Last month former legend Alan Shearer took over the managerial duties and has proven to be in over his head at the top flight. Gaining zero points since his appointment, Shearer seems to be changing coaching philosophies and formations as often as he changes shirts.
Add to these difficulties the Joey Barton's behavioral issues and Shearer losing total control of his side, and Newcastle has turned into what American's would call a SNAFU.
It appears that baring a miracle Newcastle United will find themselves in the Championship this season, and with the club's on-going turmoil might stay there for years to come.
4. Arsenal's Continued Struggles
"Continued struggles" might be a relative term here, but four years is a long time to wait when you are spending as much money as Arsenal does.
It has been a long five years since the Gunners have taken home any hardware and rumblings are beginning to surface that the once untouchable Arsene Wenger might be wearing out his welcome at Ashburton Grove.
Aside from finding his side a disappointing fourth in the table, Wenger also has suffered embarrassing results in cup play including a draw with Cardiff City in the FA Cup, and a loss to Burnley in the Carling Cup quarterfinals.
Adding insult to injury was the poor performance of Arsenal in the Champions League semifinals, ending in a crushing 3-1 defeat to Manchester United in the second leg at home.
Rumors are that Wenger will be looking to a youth movement at Arsenal bringing Walcott, Wilshere, and Hoyte into more prominent roles in the future, meaning that Arsenal may still be three or four years from regaining their top spot in English football.
3. The Chelsea Coaching Carousel
Soon after the end of this Premier League season Chelsea will be on their fifth manager in 20 months.
Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luis Fillip Scolari, Guus Hiddick, and whoever replaces Hiddick at season's end make up the coaching carousel at Stamford Bridge since September 2007.
Rumors surrounding "The Special One's" departure ran rampant yet Chelsea swengali/Chairman/Owner/Benefactor Roman Abromovich felt the need to fire perhaps the best manager in the world.
Replacing him was Israeli Avram Grant, who's primary career high until that point was being the manager of Israel's national team. Grant led Chelsea to second place in the League Cup, Premiership, and Champions League.
However, second place isn't good enough at Chelsea and Grant was gone.
Replacing Grant was Brazilian world cup winning coach Scolari who was a disaster from day one clashing with players and Abromovich.
Sitting third in the table with a number of embarrassing results, Scolari was canned and replaced by caretaker manager Guus Hiddick "on loan" from the Russian national team.
The lack of coaching stability at Stamford Bridge has led to a declining results for the club over the last two years and the best thing left to do is for Roman to stop meddling with his side's staff.
2. English Sides Dominate Europe
England's "big four" once again showed why the EPL is the best domestic league in football.
Half of the Champions League quarterfinalists were from the EPL, and 75 percent of the semifinalists as well, with Manchester United favorites to repeat as European Champions.
Fans could also argue that if not for some questionable officiating both teams in the finals could easily be representing England.
Where once Italy dominated European football, it's now the Premier League that has taken the title of clearly the best domestic league in Europe as the big four look to continue their dominance on the continent for years to come.
1. Is Man United the Greatest Team Ever?
It might not be too soon to make a serious claim that the 2008-'09 Manchester United side might very well be the best professional side of all time.
While the Champions League final and Premiership championship are yet to be decided, United could very well claim to be Carling Cup champions, champions of England, champions of Europe, and champions of the world.
Beginning the season with a win in the FIFA World Club Cup and with the Carling Cup in their possession, United also have a three point lead with a game in hand in the EPL.
As far as talent is concerned United might certainly be the deepest team ever assembled in football history with Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov, and Macheda in attack; Ronaldo, Giggs, Carrick, Anderson, and Ji-Sung in midfield.
Not to mention the cornerstone of the defense featuring the ageless Gary Neville, Vidic, Evra, Ferdinand, O'Shay, and the dynamic Brazillian teenagers. Adding Edwin van der Sar in goal and this United team rivals few in the history of the game.