Premier League 2010-11: Review of the Season
And so the dust has settled on another Premier League season.
The campaign has been memorable for many reasons, from record breaking transfers to controversial manager sackings.
At the end of it all, Manchester United found themselves at the top of the table to claim a record 19th League title and surpass bitter rivals Liverpool as the most successful team in English league history.
However, the season was so much more than that for all the teams competing. This article will look at each of those sides individually and rate their performance over the course of their campaign as well as what needs to be done to improve next time around.
We'll start at the bottom and work our way up, so without further ado...
West Ham United
Key player: Scott Parker
Season review: Despite not being anywhere near most pundits' relegation candidates at the beginning of the season, West Ham will be playing Championship football next season. Under the stewardship of Avram Grant, the Hammers never looked a cohesive unit and whilst capable of moments of brilliance, as demonstrated by their League demolition of Stoke or unceremoniously dumping Man Utd out of the Carling Cup, positive results were few and far between.
Once in danger of relegation, the side never threatened to escape their fate, despite the brilliance of captain Scott Parker, and thoroughly deserved the drop.
Musts for next season: The Boleyn Ground hierarchy have already taken a positive step in replacing manager Grant with the seasoned Sam Alladyce. Whilst the Hammers will struggle to keep stars such as Parker, striker Demba Ba and goalkeeper Robert Green, Alladyce has enough experience to ensure a swift return to the Premier League, and I expect them to come back up as the Championship's champions.
Overall rating: 3/10
Key player: Charlie Adam
Season review: Never before has a team so undeserving of relegation gone down. I know this won't be the first time you've read this, but it's true. Blackpool have been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League. Their approach to the game under manager Ian Holloway has seen them provide some of the most entertaining matches in the history of the competition, and doing the double over giants Liverpool will live in fans' memories for some time.
A brilliant start to the season saw the Tangerines keep out of the danger zone until as late as April, but their top heavy squad soon took its toll as the defence proved too fragile for the attack to keep up with and a sequence of results that saw just two league wins in 2011 doomed Blackpool to their fate.
Musts for next season: Firstly, the retention of Holloway as manager is key. It seems unlikely players such as Charlie Adam will remain at Bloomfield Road as Premier League suitors come calling, so Holloway's transfer market and tactical nous is a must if Blackpool are to consider returning to the top flight. Even so, funds are likely to be tight and a rebuilding job will likely take a couple of seasons. Their best hope for promotion next year is going to come through the playoffs.
Overall rating: 7/10
Key player: Roger Johnson
Season review: Another side that would of expected to be a long way from the drop zone that have found themselves with the punishment of relegation. Birmingham enjoyed a solid first half of the season which saw them hold Liverpool and beat Chelsea at home and seemed to put any thoughts of Championship football firmly out of sight.
This was further confirmed when they won the Carling Cup over heavy favourites and League heavyweights Arsenal.
The hangover from this success was remarkable though as the Blues won only two games from the remaining 13 saw their four-year tenure in the top flight ended.
Musts for next season: With rumours of financial unrest swirling around St. Andrews, the future is uncertain for Birmingham. Like Blackpool, keeping the services of their manger, Alex McLeish, is a must. Not a squad packed with star names, it's unlikely the team will be broken up by a large number of players leaving, but they must strengthen to secure a return to the Premier League.
Hopefully next season's jaunt into the Europa League can provide lure enough to acquire the services of talented players.
Overall rating: 6/10
Key player: Kevin Doyle
Season review: Wolves began the season as relegation favourites and this seemed to be confirmed as manager "Mad" Mick McCarthy attempted to accommodate club record signing Steven Fletcher in an unfamiliar 4-4-2 formation. Results would pick up when they reverted back to the 5-4-1 formation, and despite the loss of the influential Kevin Doyle in January to a ligament injury, Fletcher would fit right in as he scored five goals in five to help Wolves to a third consecutive season in the Premier League.
Musts for next season: Wolves have never been a team to spend big to secure quality players, and for that reason, fans can expect to see them battling relegation again next season. McCarthy will no doubt look to the relegated sides and other Championship teams to strengthen, but I fear it could be Championship football come 2012-13.
Overall rating: 5/10
Key player: Charles N'Zogbia
Season review: Despite their survival, Wigan were guilty of playing the most dreadful football for large swathes of the season. Kicking off their campaign by conceding 10 goals in their first two League games, both at home, the Latics were rock bottom for the majority of the season.
Despite this, manager Roberto Martinez was able to resist his natural attacking instincts and motivate his side in latter stages of the season, alongside some stand out performances from winger Charles N'Zogbia, that saw Wigan beat the odds and retain their Premier League status.
Musts for next season: With Charles N'Zogbia being linked to a plethora of Premier League sides and loanees Tom Cleverley and Ali Al-Habsi returning to their home teams, the Wigan squad looks dangerously thin. The goalkeeping position needs urgent attention, and a creative force in midfield will be required if N'Zogbia does leave.
Overall rating: 4/10
Key player: Phil Jones
Season review: Under Sam Alladyce you can guarantee two things: unattractive football and Premier League survival. So why the board sacked him over something as small as a comment made to media and replaced him with an unproven rookie is beyond me.
However, new manager Steve Kean just managed to guide the Riversiders to survival, in no small part thanks to the central defensive partnership of Chris Samba and the 18-year-old academy player Phil Jones that saw just 16 goals conceded at home, a feat not bettered by anyone below sixth in the League.
Musts for next season: Firstly, the retention of the aforementioned defensive duo, though this seems unlikely with both Arsenal and Liverpool rumoured to be sniffing around. Whilst Blackburn have kept goals out, scoring has proven much harder and a decent threat up front will need to be added to the squad to ensure this season's mishaps are not repeated.
Overall rating: 5/10
Key player: Daniel Sturridge
Season review: Bolton are very much a team in transition right now as manager Owen Coyle attempts to build a squad that reflects his passing game approach to football. This can be seen in the last two games of the season—defeat to Blackpool followed by defeat away at Manchester City.
Whilst never setting the League on fire, the Trotters never looked likely to be relegated, and when Daniel Sturridge arrived on loan from Chelsea and started his sensational goalscoring streak, safety was confirmed.
Bolton also enjoyed a good FA Cup, reaching the semifinals, but they will be disappointed with their 5-0 capitulation at the hands of Stoke, a team very much their equal.
Musts for next season: If possible, Bolton will want Daniel Sturridge back at the Reebok Stadium, be it on loan again or in a permanent deal especially with leading goalscorer Johan Elmander having now left the club on a free transfer. Other than this, Coyle will look for players that allow him him to play attacking, passing football as he attempts to guide Bolton higher up the table.
Overall rating: 6/10
Key player: Jon Walters/Robert Huth
Season review: Once again, Stoke have proven to be more than at home in the Premier League. The summer additions of Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters bought some much needed goals into the side and allowed manager Tony Pulis to get his side to play passing football rather than the route one game his side had become synonymous with. Indeed, in their home tie against Chelsea, they played the reigning Champions off the pitch for most of the game.
Stoke also enjoyed their first ever FA Cup final, though they would finish as runners-up at the hands of Manchester City. Despite this, they have still earned qualification for the Europa League, their first ever journey into European football. All in all, a rather good season for the Potters.
Musts for next season: It's difficult to see how Stoke can strengthen without spending huge volumes of cash they don't have. Pulis was linked to Charlie Adam in the January transfer window though, and if Liverpool can be fought off for his signature, he will provide a much needed creative force in the middle of the park.
Overall rating: 7.5/10
Key player: Kevin Nolan
Season review: A season of consolidation for the Magpies after the shock relegation of their previous Premier League campaign saw them finish in a respectable mid-table position. The needless sacking of former manager Chris Hughton was a low point though, especially after all he had done for the club.
Despite this and despite the loss of talisman Andy Carroll to Liverpool, Newcastle enjoyed a relatively incident-free season. New manager Alan Pardew is a safe pair of hands and fans can look forward to a continued Premier League presence.
Special mention should go to Newcastle's contribution to the game of the season. Playing Arsenal at St. James' Park, they found themselves 4-0 down at halftime only to come back to 4-4 courtesy of a 92nd minute screamer from Cheik Tiote.
Musts for next season: Pardew will know he has money to spend after banking £35million from the sale of Carroll and replacing him will be a priority. On top of this, several players' futures need to be tied down to St. James Park including Tiote, left back Jose Enrique and midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa.
Overall rating: 7/10
West Bromich Albion
Key player: Peter Odemwingie
Season review: Having yo-yoed between the Premier League and Championship for a while now, it will come as a relief to Baggies' fans that they have stayed up with some authority this season. Having looked in danger under the management of Roberto Di Matteo, he was replaced in February by Roy Hodgson, who rebuilt his shattered reputation by getting West Brom to play attractive football and leading them to their highest top flight position in recent memory.
Musts for next season: Hodgson will no doubt have his work cut out in keeping leading goalscorer Peter Odemwingie with rumours abound that Arsenal are interested in securing his services. Strengthening the squad will come in second place to ensuring that Hodgson remains, however, as an experienced manager has been something have lacked in their Premier League tenures, a fact that has been a major contributor to their constant relegations.
Overall rating: 8/10
Key player: Phil Bardsley
Season review: Another year in mid-table from Sunderland, and despite significant spending in the summer, they were only able to add three points on to last year's total, a disappointing return. Though the Black Cats enjoyed the moment of their recent Premier League history when they demolished Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
The midseason sale of leading scorer Darren Bent coincided with an alarming slump in form that saw them go nine games without a win, a run of results that had many touting them as potential relegation candidates.
Manager Steve Bruce has enough about him to ensure that was never a realistic possibility though he will be looking for a significant improvement next season.
Musts for next season: Bruce should have the funds from Bent's sale available, and a replacement for him is a must, especially with loanee Danny Welbeck expected to stay at Manchester United next season. On top of this, Bruce will be looking to add a strong central defender to aid a leaky back line.
Overall rating: 5/10
Key player: Ashley Young
Season review: Despite being in the relegation mix with just five games to go, Aston Villa have secured a top-10 finish for the fourth consecutive year, though they have vacated the sixth position that has been their's to occupy the past three campaigns.
Villa have been up and down all season. Recent victories against Arsenal and Liverpool have been tempered with defeats to lower sides, including an opening day spanking at the hands of Newcastle. How much of this has been down to the health of Gerard Houllier is unclear, but it became obvious as the season closed he was never the right man for the job.
None the less, Villa showed ambition in January with the club record £24 million signing of striker Darren Bent, and they took points from all top five teams this season. Regardless, most fans will view this season as step backwards, albeit a small one, and will expect progress come August.
Musts for next season: The first thing owner Randy Lerner needs to sort out is to find a new manager. Mark Hughes and Carlo Ancelotti are names that have been linked and the Villans would be served well by either. It will then be the new manager's role to persuade the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing to stay as the Champions League sides start circling.
And to top it all off, a new goalkeeper is required to replace the Tottenham-bound Brad Friedel as well as new centre back to shore up the defence.
Overall rating: 6/10
Key player: Clint Dempsey
Season review: Fulham drew more games then any other team this season (16) and a long string of one-pointers led many to call for the now outgoing manager, Mark Hughes', head. However, eighth place and Europa League qualification via the Fair Play tables represents a good season for Fulham.
Despite being deprived of key striker Bobby Zamora for most of the season, the Cottagers have managed to keep themselves in the goals with American Clint Dempsey stepping up impressively. Fans will look back fondly on the 4-0 drubbing they dealt to London rivals Tottenham to dump them out of the Cup as well as avoiding all the relegation drama at the end of the season.
Musts for next season: Another team in need of a new manager, with the bookies placing Martin Jol as the current favourite. Jol would be a welcome figure at Craven Cottage, and there is not a lot of rebuilding that needs doing, with only the midfield force of Danny Murphy needing replacing as he racks up the years.
Overall rating: 7/10
Key player: Leighton Baines
Season review: Manager David Moyes continues to get the best out of an Everton side put together on a shoestring. The acquisition on Jermaine Beckford on a free from Leeds has proven key as he finished joint top scorer for the season.
Like Aston Villa, Everton can take points of the Premier League big boys but then let themselves down with defeats to the lower sides of the division. Moyes will no doubt be delighted they managed to keep their hoodoo over Manchester City though, with another two league victories this season.
If these slip-ups can be got rid of, then Everton will be a genuine top four challenger.
Musts for next season: It's the same old story for Everton. They still need that 20-goal man as Louis Saha is the physio's best friend and Beckford's temperament is questionable. Although where the money will come from is anyone's guess as Everton's purse strings are famously tight.
Overall rating: 7/10
Key Player: Luis Suarez
Season review: Despite it being the biggest cliche in football, Liverpool's season has been one of two halves.
In the first half, under Roy Hodgson, Liverpool looked limp, uninterested and at one brief moment, were mentioned in the same breath as relegation. Granted, it didn't help that star striker Fernando Torres was in a permanent sulk, but Hodgson should of done better.
Then the second half. Rejuvenated under "King" Kenny Dalglish and the expensively rebuilt strike force of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll after Torres' departure to Chelsea, Liverpool climbed back up the table and included a morale boosting 3-1 victory over bitter rivals Man Utd for good measure.
The turnaround came around too late to ever threaten the Champions League places, but Liverpool fans no doubt are hopeful for next season.
Musts for next season: Liverpool's biggest problem for next season will be the retention of talent rather than the need for it. With Arsenal rumoured to be interested in 'keeper Pepe Reina and any number of clubs circling around the younger talent unearthed at Anfield this season, Dalglish may have a fight on his hands.
Overall rating: 7/10
Key player: Rafael van der Vaart
Season review: No doubt about it, this has been one hell of a season for Spurs fans. Huge European nights at White Hart Lane that saw reigning champions of Europe Inter Milan comprehensively beaten and AC Milan dumped out of the competition are tempered with frustrating League form and poor showings in the domestic cups.
Manager Harry Redknapp got a bargain in the £8 million he payed for attacking midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, and with the emergence of Gareth Bale as a world class winger, Spurs will be bitterly disappointed with missing out on Champions League football next season.
Toward the end of the season, the adventures seem to take their toll on the squad with draw after defeat after draw which has left them with just Europe's second competition, the Europa League, to look forward to next time out.
Musts for next season: A recurring theme, Spurs need to tie down Redknapp with rumours that Chelsea want to bring him to Stamford Bridge refusing to die. Once secured Redknapp will no doubt be looking for a centre back that can manage more than one game without breaking down having already created competition for the hilariously error prone goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes with the signing of Brad Freidel.
Overall rating: 8/10
Key player: Samir Nasri
Season review: Well what can be said about Arsenal that hasn't been said a million times before? Having looked for so long to be the only contenders to Man Utd's grip on first place, the team once again remembered it doesn't own a spine and collectively proceeded to spin the whole thing away.
Wenger's disdain for England's cup competitions is becoming more and more frustrating especially as it comes with a view to prioritising the Champions League, a cup which they were so outplayed by Barcelona, they deserved to be knocked out twice.
Arsenal are still far too vulnerable to the sides that hassle them and get up in their faces, and whilst this is still the case, they will not win the Premier League.
Musts for next season: You all know this already. Keep Fabregas. Buy a brute of a central defender. Buy a bigger brute of a midfielder.
Overall rating: 6/10
Key Player: Yaya Toure
Season review: The season couldn't really of gone much better for City. Breaking into the top four with authority, only failing to claim second because of goal difference and securing the Middle Eastern owner's visions of Champions League football at Eastlands.
On top of this they won the FA Cup, a victory made all the sweeter as they knocked out city rivals Utd on their way to the trophy.
Manager Roberto Mancini has found himself under fire because of his negative tactics against the larger sides, but this all seems redundant when City have taken points of everyone around them in the top six, a sign of the good teams.
Musts for next season: The whole Carlos Tevez saga needs ending. City have bent over backwards for the Argentine and still he complains and threatens to leave Eastlands. No player is bigger than the team, and if this carries on, he needs to be shipped out. It's not like City can't afford a replacement, and now they have Champions League football to offer as well.
Other than this, it will be business as usual for the blue half of Manchester as they look to throw their cheque book around Europe's biggest names once again.
Overall rating: 9/10
Key player: Didier Drogba
Season review: And so, as the Champions League evades Abramovich again another world class manager is thrown onto the scrapheap. It's obscene.
Chelsea's season started so promisingly as they burst out the blocks and netted 21 goals in their opening five league games. However, untimely injuries to star players Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba saw the good form arrested alarmingly as Chelsea suffered the mother of all midseason slumps, which allowed Manchester United to tighten their grip on the League.
Abramovich attempted to solve this with money, splashing out £25 million on defensive recruit David Luiz, a deal which looks every part a good one, as well as a British record £50 million on Fernando Torres, whose one goal since signing has made him look like a very, very expensive bench decoration.
As Drogba and Lampard returned, Chelsea's results picked up, and they soon found themselves back in the title hunt only to be knocked back by Man Utd at Old Trafford in a game which all but killed off the Blues' title aspirations.
Musts for next season: Management is the key here, with Guus Hiddink and Harry Redknapp both being linked to the job. Once that's secured, whoever takes the seat has a huge rebuilding job on their hands. The squad at Stamford Bridge is starting to creak with Drogba, Lampard, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Nicolas Anelka all in their 30s.
Overall rating: 6/10 (Would of been seven but for the ludicrous Torres deal)
Key player: Nemanja Vidic
Season review: Another season, another League title for Manchester United and from a side currently in transition. Whether this is praise for Sir Alex Ferguson's management skills or a comment on how poor the competition was, I'll leave you to decide.
While Utd's away form was the worst out of all the top four teams, Old Trafford regained its fortress moniker as only two points were dropped their all season, a Premier League record and the main reason United were crowned Champions.
The signing of Javier Hernandez was inspired by Ferguson, but it was the old reliables of defender Nemanja Vidic and 'keeper Edwin van der Sar that kept United in the title race.
The biggest disappointment of the season came one week ago at Wembley when they were once again given a lesson in football by Barcelona in the Champions League final. Still, second best in Europe ain't bad is it?
Musts for next season: With van der Sar retiring, a new goalkeeper is high on the agenda with Atletico Madrid's David de Gea looking the likely replacement. With the retirement of Paul Scholes and the ineffectiveness of Michael Carrick in the face of genuine quality opposition, a creative midfielder is also desperately needed, with Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder being the most likely candidate for that role.
Overall rating: 8.5/10