Don’t believe the doom merchants who have classified the 2012-13 vintage as the worst season the Premier League has ever produced. Despite some dark moments, we were treated to some great football, wonderful goals and surprising results. With this season now confined to the history books, it’s time to take a look at the 2012-13 winners and losers.
1) Sir Alex Ferguson – This season will always be remembered as Fergie’s final act and, fittingly, it was a class one. Smarting from having the title snatched from his team’s grasp in the cruelest of fashions last season, Sir Alex’s decision to spend £24m on Robin Van Persie proved to be the Scotsman’s last masterstroke as the former Arsenal man plundered in 26 league goals in 35 appearances, propelling United to their 20th title.
United might not have been as swashbuckling as in other seasons, but they were as ruthless as any of Fergie’s sides, becoming the first team to win 25 times in the first 30 league games of the season and winning the title at a canter.
2) Gareth Bale – Rarely have a club’s fortunes been hinged so crucially on one player as Spurs’ were on Bale in their fruitless race to secure Champions League qualification. Despite the disappointment on missing out on fourth spot, Bale enjoyed a wonderful season winning the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year award, becoming only second player to have won all three awards in the same season.
Stunning solo efforts against West Bromwich, Norwich, West Ham and Sunderland and match-winning performance against Manchester United and Aston Villa weren’t enough to secure a Champions League spot for Spurs, but cemented the Welshman’s status as the best player in the league. It’ll be intriguing to see whether Bale will be happy to commit his future to Spurs or whether he’ll seek greener pastures elsewhere.
3) Christian Benteke – Up until January Villa looked doomed as Paul Lambert’s gamble to faith in youth looked to have spectacularly backfired. The last four months of the season saw a transformed side climbing away from the doldrums of the relegation zone thanks to their talismanic striker who netted 12 times in the last 14 games of the season.
The first Villa player to pass the 20-goal mark in all competitions since Juan Pablo Angel in the 2003-04 season, Benteke’s 18 league goals have made him one the Premier League’s hottest strikers. He will be a player likely to be the centre of attention during this summer’s transfer window, but Villa should be confident of holding on to him.
4) Swansea – Many thought the task of replacing Brendan Rodgers at Swansea would have got the better of Michael Laudrup, but the Dane proved doubters wrong – in fact he blasted any doubters out of the water. Not only did Laudrup guide Swansea to a ninth-place finish and to League Cup glory, he also plucked some gems in the transfer window.
Signed for a mere £2m, Michu, by many rightly considered the bargain of the season, produced a string wonderful performances and his 18 league goals were a major factor in Swansea’s successful season. Add to the mix the performances of other new boys De Guzman, Ki Sung-Yueng and Pablo Hernandez and the fact Swansea continued their Barcelona-esq football and you can see why they were one of the winners of the 2012/13 season.
5) Juan Mata – Life’s never dull at Stamford Bridge and this season was no exception. Six wins in the first seven games of the season weren’t enough to guarantee Roberto Di Matteo a full season in charge and despite the farcical hostility surrounding Rafa Benitez’ appointment, Chelsea still finished third and won the Europa League.
Unsurprisingly, diminutive Spaniard Juan Mata was the Blues’ shining star, scoring 12 goals and assisting just as many in 31 league appearances. The Spanish schemer’s ability to pick a pass and unlock defences is a sight to behold, and one that will be crucial to Chelsea’s hopes of regaining the title next season.
1) QPR – A season that had promised so much after a summer that had seen £21m invested on players quickly turned into a nightmare and with it QPR’s season in to a circus. Players looking for one last big career pay-cheque are rarely what a team on the brink of the relegation zone needs and, even after Harry Redknapp replaced Mark Hughes, the writing always seemed on the wall for the Loftus Road club. A massive clearout is required in the summer if QPR are to return to the top-flight straight away and swerve some financial issues.
2) Sunderland – Premier League survival is just about the only reason Sunderland fans will look back on this season with some fondness, everything else they no want to forget as quickly as possible. Despite signing Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher for a combined £24m, Martin O’Neill never got his side going as injuries and a lack of cutting edge up-front dragged the Mackems towards the relegation zone. After the Irishman was sacked, Sunderland’s on-pitch turmoil engulfed the off-field proceedings too with Paolo Di Canio, O’Neill’s successor, under intense scrutiny because of his political beliefs.
The Italian managed to secure Premier League status for another year and even oversaw a famous win at St James’ Park but, as he himself as said, a lot things will have to change at the club…it will be an interesting summer that should quickly make the 2012/13 season a distant memory.
3) Manchester City – Having won their first title in 44 years in incredible fashion last season, City failed to capitalise on last season’s success and were left to contemplate a first trophyless season since 2010. Roberto Mancini bemoaned a lack of investment during the summer, which saw City signing Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia and Scott Sinclair while neighbours United only major signing was Robin Van Persie (who turned City down).
City only showed glimpses of last year’s free-scoring machine and surrendered their crown without much of a fight, even missing out on the FA Cup. David Silva had an indifferent season and the new signings failed to make an impact. Mancini, meanwhile, was unceremoniously shown the door before the end of the season, as a lack of success in Europe and a confrontational style with players and board caught up with him.
4) Peter Odemwingie – After scoring 25 league goals in the last two seasons, Odemwingie turned into West Brom’s pantomime villain this season. The striker took to Twitter to voice his desire to leave the club, before accusing his employers of “reaching into his pocket” and, finally, driving all the way down to Loftus Road on the deadline day only to be refused entry as WBA had declined to QPR’s offer. Unsurprisingly, WBA fans want to see the back of him.
5) Goal music – A virus spreading at an alarming quick-rate, music being blasted out of the tannoy after the home team has scored makes football matches resemble something between a circus and a dodgy TV commercial. Whatever happened to the good, old fashioned, “you’re not singing anymore?”