Premier League 2013/14 Review: EPL End of Season Awards
The 2013/14 Premier League season has come to an end. Despite all the excitement this season's title race provided, the final day had a routine feel about it.
Manchester City cruised past West Ham to clinch the club's second title in three seasons, so the drama was at a minimum.
But it has been fun this season, especially when you compare it to last year.
We've seen a thrilling title race, a couple of great escapes at the bottom and even a decent battle for fourth place.
But what stands out from this season most?
Here are some awards acknowledging the player, manager and team of the season, to name just a few.
Player of the Season: Luis Suarez
Honourable mention: Yaya Toure
The Man City midfielder has shown exactly why he is the best midfielder in the Premier League and one of the best in the world. His contributions in the final few weeks of the title race were crucial and the Ivorian finished the campaign with 20 goals from midfield. His goal against Crystal Palace epitomised Toure's skill and power.
But the winner is...
Luis Suarez has won the PFA Player of the Year award, the Football Writer’s Player of the Year award and, to cap it all off, he comes out on top here.
It is not even up for debate, no matter how much Jose Mourinho tries to dispute it. The Uruguayan managed 31 goals in just 33 Premier League appearances, with 12 assists on the side. Not only was he outstanding and a major reason why Liverpool challenged for the title, he managed to do it with little controversy.
In pre-season, it looked like Suarez might not be a Liverpool player much longer. He asked to leave but no team coughed up the right amount of cash. A promise of Champions League football and a nice pay rise on top convinced the striker to sign a new deal, cough cough, "for the fans."
The season did show, however, that his commitment to Liverpool has not diminished on the pitch. Other than the odd dive to show he is still by no means an angel, Suarez's football, not antics, grabbed the headlines.
His team failed to clinch the title, but Suarez and Liverpool can now look forward to Champions League football next season together, in perfect harmony…maybe.
Manager of the Season: Tony Pulis
Honourable mention: Brendan Rodgers
It is harsh not giving this award to Rodgers after what his Liverpool side achieved this season. No one expected Liverpool to challenge for the title; there were doubts over whether they would even crack the top four. But Liverpool achieved their pre-season top four target comfortably and they found themselves in the title race.
It looked like they might just do it after they beat Man City 3-2 at home, but Rodgers' men ultimately fell short. That should not take away from what they did achieve, though, or what Rodgers has built in such a short period of time.
But the winner is...
No one gave Crystal Palace much of a chance after the London club were promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs. When the Eagles only picked up four points from the first 11 games, survival was looking almost impossible.
Ian Holloway was inevitably sacked and in came Tony Pulis, a man who has never seen his side relegated. That record looked under threat at Palace, but Pulis managed to somehow turn it around.
In the end, Palace not only escaped relegation but finished a comfortable 12 points clear of the drop and only five points away from a top-half finish. As a result, Pulis has confirmed himself as one of the Premier League’s best managers, despite all his critics.
Goal of the Season: Arsenal Feat. Jack Wilshere
Honourable mention: Pajtim Kasami
This was a close call. There will be those who prefer Pajtim Kasami’s stunning goal for Fulham against Crystal Palace, and understandably so. Anyone who argues against Kasami’s goal because "there have been many goals scored like his" are wrong. Yes, there are many volleys scored each season, but that is where any comparison ends.
But the winner is...
The winner, though, was scored by Jack Wilshere in a 4-1 win over Norwich. It would be inaccurate to simply describe it as "Wilshere’s goal" like you can with Kasami’s. A better way to describe it would be "Arsenal—featuring Wilshere."
The end product was a result of an end-to-end move starting with Wilshere and finishing with the very same man after the best one-touch football seen all season.
Signing of the Season: Wilfried Bony
Honourable mention: Fernandinho
Yaya Toure scored 20 goals from midfield this season. His newfound freedom that allowed him to score those goals was a result of signing Fernandinho.
When Man City signed the Brazilian for £30 million, the reason was obvious. Selling Nigel de Jong to AC Milan the previous year was a mistake, and Fernandinho was the fix. His first season in the Premier League showed that he is also an upgrade from De Jong.
Fernandinho took very little time to adapt. He contributed goals as well as performed his defensive duties, which included regaining possession quickly to mount another attack. He does all this, but with more flair and less violence than his Dutch predecessor. An excellent signing.
But the winner is...
The transfer window is a crazy period. Players like Andy Carroll can be sold for £35 million, Marouane Fellaini for £27 million, but sometimes a club hits gold and that is what Swansea did with Wilfried Bony.
Swansea splashed a club-record fee of £12 million on the Ivorian striker from Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem. Signing players from Dutch clubs can sometimes backfire, though, so it was a risk. Jozy Altidore, for example, had an excellent spell at AZ Alkmaar but has had no impact in the Premier League.
Fortunately for Swansea, the gamble has paid off.
With the pressure brought on by Europa League commitments, the Swans have had a long and hard campaign. Then Michael Laudrup left and Garry Monk was left to take charge and guide the Welsh club away from relegation. Bony's 16 goals in 34 league games were key.
If newly appointed permanent manager Monk is right and Bony stays, then with a couple of additions and no European football, Swansea could do well in the Premier League next season.
Worst Signing of the Season: Marouane Fellaini
Manchester United had a horrid season. The fiasco at the end of the summer transfer window was a foreboding of what was to come in the 2013/14 under new manager David Moyes.
The club’s pursuit of Ander Herrera ended in embarrassing fashion, with fake Man United representatives turning up in Spain to pay his buyout clause, which the club did not actually agree to.
With time running out, Moyes made an all-too-familiar mistake managerial mistake, purchasing a player out of desperation. As a result, Fellaini was bought for £27 million in an excellent bit of business for Everton.
Injuries have not helped his cause, but the Belgian midfielder has contributed little, if anything, to his new club. If we say the glass is half full, then maybe the only way is up for Fellaini.
Emerging Player of the Season: Adnan Januzaj
Honourable mention: John Stones
Quality centre-backs have been the one constant in England sides over the years. Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry fulfilled their potential. Who knows what would have been if Ledley King was not cursed with injury?
In John Stones, we have found another talented central defender. The 19-year-old's 21 appearances this season for Everton have not only caught the eye of fans but have been enough to put the youngster on Roy Hodgson's standby list for the World Cup in Brazil.
His ability on the ball and his defensive capabilities makes Stones an ideal starting centre-back for Roberto Martinez. The former Barnsley player certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
But the winner is...
This was almost too close to call, but sitting on the fence was not an option.
In a season full of negatives for Manchester Unitd, 19 year-old Adnan Januzaj was a silver lining who some may argue was Man United's player of the season.
In fact, Januzaj carried United when more experienced players like Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, etc., were not delivering. He saved them from defeat away to Sunderland, when his two goals overturned a 1-0 deficit.
His performance in United's 3-1 win at home to Hull drew plaudits from Tigers manager Steve Bruce, who called Januzaj the most promising player in Europe.
There have been comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo's first season at Old Trafford and the stats support it.
For Man United fans, Januzaj served as a glimpse of what the coming seasons could hold. There is no doubting the young midfielder is the future.
Surprise Package of the Season: Liverpool
Honourable mention: Dejan Lovren
When Southampton signed Lovren from Lyon, it raised a few eyebrows. The Croatia centre-back struggled in his final season at Lyon and was awarded Worst Player of the Week three times by L'Equipe.
But Lovren adapted to the Premier League immediately and deserves credit for Southampton's defensive record this season, which was the sixth best in the league.
But the winner is...
Hands up, who predicted Liverpool would challenge for the title? If your hand is up, it is safe to assume you are lying.
Now, who predicted the Reds would finish in the top four? I believe you. Well, most of you.
We could all see what manager Brendan Rodgers was trying to build at Liverpool, so it is no surprise Liverpool have been playing such entertaining football. What has taken everyone by surprise is how quickly it has all clicked together with such a small squad.
He put together a young but talented squad with heaps of potential, which, with a few additions, could mount a serious challenge in a couple of years. But with no European football to worry about and two consistent scorers in Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, as well contributions from many others, Liverpool’s title challenge was brought forward a couple of seasons.
Liverpool fell short in the end because of inexperience and terrible defending. Rodgers will have learned some valuable lessons. This will include the importance of building a system that includes defending.
Rodgers and Liverpool surprised us all. The question now is how will they build on this next season?
Most Inevitable End: Arsenal Finishing Fourth
Arsenal finished fourth this season. Was anyone surprised? No, I thought not. Even though Arsenal was five points clear on top earlier in the season, the eventual collapse still seemed like an inevitable end to the season. The squad simply is not good enough.
The Gunners did manage to bring in Mesut Ozil in the summer, who was an excellent signing. There was, though, still no striker signed. Gonzalo Higuain ended up at Napoli and Arsenal’s feeble £40 million plus £1 bid for Suarez was laughable. But everyone could see the need for additional firepower. Olivier Giroud could not do, and is not capable of doing, it all on his own.
Arsenal almost lost out on fourth to Everton. A 3-0 defeat away at Goodison made it look an even more likely ending. Everton, however, ultimately fell short, so disaster was averted.
The same questions will now be asked of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. It is inevitable. A win in the FA Cup final will ease the disappointment, but Arsenal was top for a total of 128 days. What on earth happened?
Team of the Season
Marshall had to deal with a lot more than most Premier League goalkeepers, so he was given more scope to stand out. But he was outstanding all season and pulled off some world-class saves in the process.
Seamus Coleman will be many's choice for best right-back this season, but the end of season saw Zabaleta just pull out in front. The Argentinian, along with Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure, was one of Man City's key players in the club's final title push.
The key to any title-winning side is continuity and solidness in defence, especially in the central positions. Chelsea may not have won the title, thanks to a lack of strikers, but their defence was sound.
Cahill stands out as of the most reliable centre-backs in the Premier League after this season and formed a solid partnership with John Terry, one that will be handy during the World Cup.
Terry went through a difficult period during which it looked like the former England captain's days as one of the best defenders in the Premier League would soon be over. But under the management Jose Mourinho and alongside Cahill Terry has re-found his form.
Shaw has shown himself to be very mature for his age and has all the attributes to excel at the top. His performances have been enough to convince Roy Hodgson to take him to the World Cup ahead of Ashley Cole.
Lallana is an outstanding midfielder who is technically adept and can use either foot. He likes receiving the ball in tight areas and uses it so well. His rewards are an England call-up and a potential transfer to Liverpool. England have calling out for a player like Lallana, so his emergence is timely.
With power and silky skills very few footballers are blessed with, Toure is one of the best midfielders in world football. His goal during Man City's 4-0 win over Aston Villa was a great demonstration of the gap between him and the rest. The rest can only chase, but they cannot catch him.
Now that Gerrard has adapted to his holding role, he has emerged as one of the Premier League's best-performing midfielders once again. Whether he is feeding off the energy of the younger members of the squad or has just gained a natural second wind at the end of his career, the Liverpool captain has continued to be one of the club's top assets.
How much longer can Gerrard perform at this level? We will have to wait and see.
The PFA Young Player of the Year, Hazard was also Chelsea's most important attacking threat with no one else challenging for that claim. He scored 14 goals and assisted seven in the Premier League. Along with Aaron Ramsey, Hazard was one of the outstanding players for the first half of the season. No player created more than his 92 chances in just 35 appearances.
His form may have dipped in the closing weeks, but that does not detract from the fact Hazard is one of the Premier League's most talented players.
Man City's Sergio Aguero was close to knocking Sturridge out of his place in this team, but the Liverpool striker just edged it.
At Chelsea in particular, Sturridge was disappointing. He received criticism for his selfish play, but a move to Liverpool has turned out to be just what he needed. Under the guidance of Rodgers, the England forward has developed his game to work with those around him and formed a prolific partnership with Suarez.
His 21 goals in 29 appearances and seven assists were a major contribution to Liverpool's unlikely title challenge.
We have seen the stats. His strike rate coupled with his desire to win have proven to be a frightening combination. There were a lot of distractions at the start of the season, but the Uruguayan put his head down and delivered.