Another Premier League season has come and gone, and what a thrilling one it was. Well, depending on what team you root for. As a Liverpool fan, all I can say thank heavens this season is over, and when does the next one start?
Chelsea probably feel somewhere along the same line, while Blackpool fans will just relive their first half of the season over and over and pretend the month of January never passed. Manchester United fans are always happy, or at least they have been since 1992.
In looking at who the best performers from the past season have been, possibly the most intriguing thing is that few are familiar faces, as the stars of last season, for the most part, faded and were replaced by a wave of new, young talent.
Let me know who doesn't belong, who's missing and who's misplaced!
Seriously, how does he do it? Ryan Giggs is 37 years old and his goal against Newcastle on the first day of the season means he has scored in 21 straight top division seasons, the first two coming in the First Division.
He made his 600th league appearance in January at Tottenham, and he became the oldest scorer in the Champions League in April at Schalke.
Most importantly, he kept Manchester United together in their more ragged-looking moments, especially away from home, and he was central to the Red Devils winning a record 19th title.
Wayne Rooney was anything but the Rooney we're used to for the majority of this season. He carried his pitiful World Cup form into the first half of the season and made it worse with his off-field scandal and horrible contract negotiations. But he was certainly good when he needed to be.
He picked it up once the year changed and scored 11 league goals, including a memorable (for all the wrong reasons) hat trick at West Ham, an impressive bicycle kick to seal a victory over neighbors Manchester City and the goal that won United's 19th title.
For most, it would've been a great season, but for Rooney, especially after last season, it was just getting the job done.
Peter Odemwingie came to West Brom last summer and has been a revelation for the club along with manager Roy Hodgson, who was appointed in January.
He's scored 15 goals to keep the Baggies in the Premier League for another season, including one at the Emirates in a 3-2 win over Arsenal early in the season and both goals from the spot in a 2-1 win over Liverpool.
Odemwingie will likely receive plenty of attention this summer from bigger clubs, but for now, he's said he's happy at the Hawthorns.
Sunderland broke their transfer record for Asamoah Gyan last summer, and the Ghanaian showed in his debut season in England that he'll be worth every penny.
He scored 10 league goals for the Black Cats, including a later equalizer against rivals Newcastle in January to prevent them doing the double and a goal in the 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, and he was a big part of Sunderland's first-half success that saw them go as high as sixth in the table.
However, like Sunderland, Gyan went in a bit of a downward spin when Darren Bent left in January, and his season ended with a hamstring tear in April. But he'll certainly be someone who can keep the Black Cats in the top half of the table if Steve Bruce can hold on to him.
Didier Drogba opened the season with Chelsea in excellent fashion, bagging a hat trick opening day against West Brom. The next week, he had three assists in another 6-0 win for the Blues.
But his midseason bout with malaria obviously hampered his play, and with him and Frank Lampard out, Chelsea went on a miserable run that lasted several months.
He scored 11 goals this season but also had 15 assists. He has yet to really link up with new strike partner Fernando Torres, and there is speculation that he won't get the chance.
Gareth Bale was all anyone could talk about the first half of the season. So why is the Tottenham winger down all the way at No. 20 on my list?
For the most part, Bale was a non-factor in the second half of the season, due to both injuries and the fact that some defenders figured him out. But his pace and crossing skills mean the 21-year-old will certainly be someone to watch out for in the future. He scored seven league goals, while his best performances came in the Champions League.
He became just the fourth Welsh player to be voted the PFA Player of the Year, which is voted on by his peers, so that's got to count for something.
Harry Redknapp will likely be able to keep Bale another year, but if he can stay on the pitch and continue to baffle defenses next season, the world's biggest clubs may become too much to ignore.
Dirk Kuyt will never be the star of any team he plays on, but he's the kind of player every team needs. He's the hardest working guy out there, and his knowledge of the game is evident in how he is always in the right place at the right time.
Just ask Edwin van der Sar. Kuyt notched his first ever Liverpool hat trick against his countryman and Manchester United at Anfield in March, and each goal came as a result of anticipating where to be and when and always being a step ahead of the defenders.
He scored 13 league goals for the Reds this term, including taking over penalty duties in Steven Gerrard's absence and a five-game scoring streak from April 11 to May 9th, making him the first Liverpool player to score in five successive games since John Aldridge two decades earlier.
Luis Suarez was easily the best purchase of the January transfer window. David Luiz of Chelsea also settled in quickly but faded a bit and also does not play as integral a position as the Uruguayan.
Suarez's arrival at Liverpool was largely overshadowed by the deadline-day circus that was Fernando Torres' unceremonious departure and the £35 million arrival of Andy Carroll. But Suarez rectified that by scoring on his Liverpool debut a couple days later with the second goal in a 2-0 win over Stoke at Anfield, just 16 minutes after coming off the substitutes' bench.
Since then he has scored two more goals, both in spectacular fashion, but he has dazzled fans with his runs and his ability to get away from defenders almost at will.
His fantastic run in the penalty box, past three Manchester United defenders and keeper Edwin van der Sar put the ball on a plate for Dirk Kuyt's first goal in Liverpool's 3-1 victory in March.
He can take the Premier League by storm next season as long as he keeps his temper under control and his hands down.
Luka Modric is another player who underperformed and was wasting away at Tottenham until Harry Redknapp came in.
The midfielder is a prime of example of what an attacking midfielder needs to be. Though he only scored three goals this season, his quick movement both on and off the ball confused defenders and helped Tottenham win the midfield, and therefore a number of games, and even got them into the title discussion early on in the season.
Modric is similar to Liverpool's Raul Meireles (Fan's Player of the Year), except Meireles really only showed what he could do in the second half of the season and also battled injuries.
If Modric has another season like this one next year but Tottenham is unable to get back into the Champions League, he could be one to leave.
Clint Dempsey has been one of Fulham's top performers for several years. It's just unfortunate he and his teammates have to play behind a Michael Jackson statue.
In March, he scored his 10th goal of the season, becoming the first American to score 10 league goals in a season. On April 27, he scored two against Bolton to break Fulham's Premier League goalscoring record with 33 to his name and 12 on the season, topping fellow American Brian McBride in both records.
Andy Carroll set the Premier League alight in the first half of the season with Newcastle and had England tongues waging.
He scored 11 goals for his hometown club, including a hat trick in a 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa, the winner at Arsenal and a sublime shot from 25 yards out against Liverpool in December.
He then became the most expensive British player ever when Liverpool purchased him for £35 million in January. He was sidelined with an injury until March, but scored his first Liverpool goals, both in wonderful fashion on April 11 in a 3-0 victory over Manchester City at Anfield.
Injuries prevented the striker from really making an impact in his first half season with Liverpool, but his link up so far with Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt has been spectacular and has Reds fans clamoring for next season already.
Joe Hart produced numerous Man of the Match displays between the sticks for Manchester City this season. He often had to against the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United because of Roberto Mancini's defensive mindset.
He's kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this season, and his superb saves from the first game at Tottenham throughout the season are a big reason why City will be playing in the Champions League next season.
He kept 18 Premier League clean sheets this season and 29 total, setting a new City record.
It's incredible that Dimitar Berbatov is the joint top scorer this season given how little he's played since January.
Of his 20 goals, some memorable ones were: his first Manchester United hat trick and the first by a United player in 64 years against Liverpool in September, his five goals in the 7-1 victory over Blackburn (only non-Englishman to score five), his January hat trick in the 5-0 win over Birmingham City and his 88th minute winner in January at Blackpool to give United a 3-2 victory after trailing 2-0 until his 72 minute goal.
He became he first United player since Ruud van Nistelrooy to notch three hat tricks in one season and finally looked like he merited such a big transfer fee three years ago.
For as much as Darren Bent complained that Tottenham was holding up his dream transfer to Sunderland two summers ago, he sure was quick to leave them in January. Bent went to Aston for £24 million, a price few could believe, but he's scored enough for the Villains to be happy with their purchase so far.
He scored eight goals in 20 appearances in the first half of the season but became even more lethal with Aston Villa, scoring nine in 15. A team with Villa's talent had no business being so close to the drop zone to begin with, and Bent picked them up, though not to where they've been in recent years. Sunderland, however, went in the opposite direction.
Bent very well could be a replacement for the aging Emile Heskey and Ashley Young, who is looking more likely to leave this summer with each passing minute.
Carlos Tevez's goals per game ratio is really becoming offensive. He hasn't been City's star player this year by a long shot. He's butted heads with manager Roberto Mancini, he requested a transfer then 30 minutes later withdrew it but is still to fully commit his future to the club (depends on family issues) and he's battled injuries.
With all that, he still scored 20 goals (tied at the top with Dimitar Berbatov) in 28 appearances this term, most recently two superb strikes against Stoke, one after brilliant footwork and the other a wonderful, curling free kick.
It's not like City couldn't afford any replacement they want (save Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi), but Tevez is really a player they do not want to lose.
With Manchester United's defense changing just about each week, the one constant has been Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian even took over the club captaincy on a permanent basis early in the campaign (though I can't figure out why Ryan Giggs wouldn't get it when he's on the pitch).
He started 34 games this season and was only sent off once at Chelsea in March, which was OK because it meant he missed the following game at Liverpool, where he hasn't lasted a full 90 minutes in three years.
He's also scored five goals—one being the second in the 2-1 victory over Chelsea that all but sealed the title—his highest total in six seasons in Manchester, and was the Barclays Player of the Year.
Manchester United stayed unbeaten and at or near the top of the league for much of the first half of the season, without playing good football for the most part. A big reason why was Nani.
Though he scored just nine goals in 32 appearances, he had 18 assists (not counting the one for Dirk Kuyt) on the year to lead the league, his pace and skills consistently frustrated defenders and his United teammates voted him as their Player of the Year. He was easily their most consistent attacking player all season.
Now, if he could just stop rolling on the ground and crying when he gets nicked ever so slightly. When you score 53 goals in a season, then we can talk.
Edwin van der Sar's final season wasn't his best, but he was still his typical, dominant self. Considering the four in front of him were ever changing and frequently dozed off a bit on defense, van der Sar played a very large role in bringing the 19th title to Old Trafford.
He didn't win the Gold Glove, but in 32 appearances, he made numerous vital saves to preserve his team's lead and was named to the PFA Team of the Year.
No matter what happens in the Champions League final, van der Sar is certainly going out on a high note.
Though David Silva scored just four goals and had nine assists this season, he still made a huge mark in his first season with Manchester City.
His pace and skills frequently baffled defenders and meant he needed extra attention from defenders, thus leaving his teammates in more open positions.
He took a number of shots from long range that forced excellent saves from the best keepers in the Premier League, and he was perhaps the most vital key in getting Manchester City into third place, and therefore automatic Champions League qualification.
When City went out in a defensive mode, it hampered Silva's game as he was unable to really put his mark on the midfield, but that is hopefully not a tactic Roberto Mancini will employ next season.
Charlie Adam was another new face that took the Premier League by storm this season, and along with his manager Ian Holloway, he led Blackpool on an amazing charge up the table during the first half of the season.
The most noteworthy part of Adam's game is clearly his skill from set pieces. In February, he scored directly from a corner kick against West Ham for one of 12 goals to go with nine assists, and Sir Alex Ferguson claimed that Adam's free kicks alone were worth at least £10 million. He was obviously the engine for Blackpool as when he was missing, the team simply looked aimless.
Blackpool had to fight tooth and nail to keep him in January and manged to despite a transfer request from the player himself. However, with Blackpool returning to the Championship next season, there's very little chance their talisman will be going with them.
They've still got Holloway though.
If Arsene Wenger ever figures out how to keep Robin van Persie off the injury list, watch out.
The Dutchman scored 18 goals (a personal high) in 25 appearances this season, including ending the season on a nine-game scoring streak. Early in the season, he scored two goals against West Ham to give him 51 in the Premier League, making him just the fourth to do so.
His goal at Bolton in April meant he had scored in seven successive Premier League away games, breaking Didier Drogba's record of six.
Seriously, if this guy could just stay healthy...
For the first half of the season, Rafael van der Vaart was looking every bit the signing of the season and a total bargain at just £8 million for Tottenham.
In his first four Premier League games, he scored three goals for Spurs and had them flying so high that people, however deluded, were even claiming Tottenham could make a run at winning the league.
The team regressed a bit in the second half of the season as van der Vaart battled injuries, but he still ended the season with 13 goals and nine assists. His last goal was a 25-yard cracker to open the scoring in a 2-0 win at Anfield that all but secured Europa League qualification for Spurs over Liverpool.
Harry Redknapp can definitely claim he made the second best signing of the season...
Arsenal fans will have to contend with Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona rumors again this summer (it could very well be the last time), but as long as they keep Samir Nasri, they'll be in good shape to set things right next year.
Nasri is the Gunners most important player, not Fabregas. He is the perfect example of a player who controls and helps his team without necessarily scoring or even assisting.
He scored 10 goals this season, but when he was off the pitch, battling injuries like every Arsenal player it seems, the Gunners were hard-pressed to create any sort of attacking play.
This was Nasri's breakthrough season, and if he can also stay off the treatment table, he'll certainly help Arsenal win that elusive trophy after six long years of drought.
Like Charlie Adam, his team may have gone down, but it's highly unlikely Scott Parker will. West Ham were the favorites to be relegated all season long and finally were on the penultimate weekend of the season, but Scott Parker was one of the standout performers on the season.
He scored three goals in his first six games, and though he scored just five all season, he was still one of the most consistent performers all season, and he did his best to lead West Ham out of the relegation zone, but it was not to be.
Parker's performances earned him his place back in the England squad in February and March and the FWA Player of the Year award.
At age 30, he won't be the hottest commodity on the market this summer, but there's little chance the midfielder isn't playing for both a Premier League side and England next year.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez was without a doubt the signing of the season. Manchester United signed the Mexican forward in April 2010, before he set the world alight at the World Cup in South Africa, meaning they didn't have to pay an inflated price like Real Madrid did for German sensation Mesut Ozil.
If you look up "cunning" in the dictionary, I believe you'll see a picture of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Chicharito simply knows how to score, and he does it at the most crucial moments. He scored the equalizer at Blackpool in a game United went on to win 3-2 after trailing 2-0 until the 72nd minute, and it took him just 36 seconds (the second fastest goal of the season) to open the scoring over Chelsea at Old Trafford in the 2-1 victory that for the most part sealed United's 19th title.
He also scored numerous late headers—some winners, like against Everton, and others just consolation, like at Anfield—simply by always being in the right place. He molded in with his teammates and into the Premier League almost effortlessly and was United's best attacking player all season long.
So, who's ready for next season?