The 2011/12 season has been debatably the best one yet in the Barclays Premier League, with countless twists and turns throughout, and Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City side ultimately lifting the trophy. Here I will analyse each club’s fortunes over the course of the season, and name their season’s hero on the pitch, and their most disappointing player.
Arsenal (3rd) – Star Man: Robin van Persie – Flop of the Year: Park Chu-Young
Despite missing midfield maestro Jack Wilshere for the duration of the season through injury, Robin van Persie’s goals lifted out of a few dips in form and helped them to secure a spot in the Champions League group stages. They will need to keep van Persie this summer and strengthen in key areas if they want to challenge the two Manchester clubs next term – the early signing of Lukas Podolski suggests that Wenger won’t be afraid to dip his toes into the water during the transfer window.
Aston Villa (16th) – Star Man: Barry Bannan – Flop of the Year: Charles N’Zogbia
A dreadful season for the Midlands club which saw Alex McLeish sacked the day after the final game. Charles N’Zogbia was signed to replace Ashley Young who left for United, however the French winger offered precious little in the way of goals and assists. The injury to Darren Bent proved to be devastating, and Agbonlahor couldn’t fill the goalscoring void left by him.
Blackburn Rovers (19th, relegated) – Star Man: Junior Hoilett – Flop of the Year: Simon Vuckevic
The arrival of new owners brought a sense of optimism, however their promises of becoming a club capable of contending in Europe were broken within weeks, as Blackburn struggled in the relegation zone for most of the season. Two men shone for the Rovers however – Canadian winger Junior Hoilett, and robust forward Yakubu – who netted 17 times despite his team’s misfortunes.
Bolton Wanderers (18th, relegated) – Star Man: Kevin Davies – Flop of the Year: Marvin Sordell
A poor season in terms of results was overshadowed by a traumatic event, as Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during their cup match against Tottenham. The absences of Chung-Yong Lee and Stuart Holden through long term injuries left them without their main creative outlets, and they produced little for the fans to cheer about throughout the season. However, all involved with the sport are delighted that Muamba is on the road to recovery, his wellbeing far more important than Bolton’s failures this season. Such an incident really does put football into perspective – it certainly isn’t a matter of life and death.
Chelsea (6th) – Star Man: Juan Mata – Flop of the Year: David Luiz
Chelsea’s fortunes were varying. In the league, they slipped out of the European places with manager Andre Villas-Boas getting the sack, however they beat Liverpool in the FA Cup final, and will face Bayern Munich in the final of the Champions League under the temporary stewardship of Roberto Di Matteo – a game they must win to participate in the competition next year. Juan Mata had a successful first season at the Bridge, and Drogba showed his worth with some crucial goals towards the end of the campaign.
Everton (7th) – Star Man: Marouane Fellaini – Flop of the Year: Tim Cahill
David Moyes continues to deliver on Merseyside despite being given little financial backing. Smart acquisitions such as Nikica Jelavic, and the return of Steven Pienaar on loan, bolstered the team’s creative options and helped them to finish above their local rivals Liverpool. Their star player of recent years Tim Cahill had little luck this term however, failing to live up to expectations in front of goal.
Fulham (9th) – Star Man: Clint Dempsey – Flop of the Year: Bryan Ruiz
The appointment of Martin Jol boosted Fulham, and star performances from their talismanic forward Clint Dempsey drove them up the table – there will surely be interest in him this summer, and Fulham will need to replace him or they’ll face a struggle next year. Pavel Pogrebnyak’s scoring record since joining in January was another highlight, while high profile signing Bryan Ruiz failed to live up to expectations, showing merely a few flashes of brilliance in a very inconsistent season for him.
Liverpool (8th) – Star Man: Martin Skrtel – Flop of the Year: Stewart Downing
Despite their Carling Cup victory and FA Cup final appearance, this season was disappointing for Liverpool, mainly because of individuals failing to perform. Expensive and relatively new signings Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing all failed to impress, with Downing managing neither a goal nor an assist in the league despite featuring a lot this season. On top of this, Luis Suarez was a constant figure of controversy and his wrongdoings surely had adverse effects on his team’s season.
Manchester City (1st) – Star Man: Vincent Kompany – Flop of the Year: Aleksandar Kolarov
All of the investment has finally paid off for Sheikh Mansour – his City side have at last lifted the Premier League trophy. It most likely set him back around a billion pounds to achieve, but neither he nor anyone associated with the Sky Blues will care about that. Sergio Aguero’s last gasp goal on the final day of the season snatched the title from the hands of their local rivals in the most dramatic of manners. Defensive warrior and captain Vincent Kompany deserves a lot of credit for their terrific season, his goal was the difference when the two sides met a few weeks earlier.
Manchester United (2nd) – Star Man: Antonio Valencia – Flop of the Year: Javier Hernandez
Pipped to the title by City on the final day, United endured a rare trophyless season this year. However their points total would have been sufficient to win the league in a typical term, and fans should be proud of their team’s achievements. Their highlight was undoubtedly inflicting an 8-2 defeat over Arsenal at Old Trafford, however the 6-1 home defeat to Manchester City was surely a low point for the supporters. Paul Scholes’s return from retirement sparked new life into an uninspiring side midway through the season, but it wasn’t enough to retain the title.
Newcastle United (5th) – Star Man: Tim Krul – Flop of the Year: Gabriel Obertan
Alan Pardew led his Magpies to an excellent 5th placed finish this season, and they were in contention for a Champions League spot even on the final day. The signing of Demba Ba proved to be a masterstroke in the first half of the season, and Pardew brought in another Senegalese forward, Papiss Cisse, from Freiburg in January. He picked up where Ba had left off, finding the net 13 times in his 14 league appearances, including a wonder strike against Chelsea.. Goalkeeper Tim Krul deserves a mention, being the star of their extremely resilient defence early on in the season.
Norwich City (13th) – Star Man: Grant Holt – Flop of the Year: James Vaughan
The Canaries were widely tipped to struggle this season, however they impressed fans and neutrals alike in finishing 13th. Paul Lambert’s men relied heavily on their aerial presence, with the majority of their goals being headers from the likes of Grant Holt and Steve Morison, and midfielder Anthony Pilkington made the step up from League One Huddersfield to net 8 times this season. They will be hoping that ‘second season syndrome’ doesn’t haunt them next season, and that they can establish themselves in the Premier League for years to come.
Queens Park Rangers (17th) – Star Man: Clint Hill – Flop of the Year: Shaun Wright-Phillips
The newly promoted London side were hoping for a dream start to a new era under Tony Fernandes’s ownership, however their big spending reaped little rewards – acquisitions such as Shaun Wright-Phillips, Luke Young and Joey Barton looked to strengthen the squad hugely, however they seemed to disrupt the winning mentality which helped them to the Championship title the previous year. Perhaps they would have had more success had they stuck with that side, instead of making drastic changes as they did.
Stoke City (14th) – Star Man: Jonathan Walters – Flop of the Year: Wilson Palacios
A mixed season for Stoke – they started well, with a typically excellent defensive record at home, and were very resilient. However their lack of goals, only 36 all season, prevented them from finishing higher than they did. No team scored fewer times this term than the Potters, and despite the summer signing of Peter Crouch, they lacked firepower throughout the season. Pulis will need to dip into the transfer market and acquire at least one new attacking player if he wants his side to improve on this season’s relatively poor showing.
Sunderland (13th) – Star Man: Stephane Sessegnon – Flop of the Year: Ahmed Elmohamady
After an awful start to the season under Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill took the reins at Sunderland and guided them to a respectable 13th. He turned to Stephane Sessegnon as the answer to their lack of cutting edge and deployed him as a lone striker, despite him being regarded as an attacking midfielder; however he produced the goods for them in the second half of the season. O’Neill also took a gamble on young Irish winger James McClean in January, who showed his flair and creativityin abundance, netting 4 times in the process.
Swansea City (11th) – Star Man: Michel Vorm – Flop of the Year: Wayne Routledge
The first Welsh team to participate in the Premier League did their nation proud this term, playing their attractive brand of football, and picking up excellent results in the process. Danny Graham was prolific, having been top scorer in the Championship for Watford in the previous season. However the man who kept Swansea going in the final months was the Icelandic midfielder on loan from Hoffenheim, Gylfi Sigurdsson. His creativity and set-piece ability was crucial for the Jacks in the latter stages of their season.
Tottenham Hotspur (4th) – Star Man: Scott Parker – Flop of the Year: Steven Pienaar
Spurs started the season with great promise, and maintained their place in 3rd for numerous weeks on end. At times they looked like they could genuinely challenge the Manchester clubs for the title, however the speculation surrounding Harry Redknapp’s future unsettled everyone at the club, and they slipped behind Arsenal in the table and were made to settle for fourth. On the bright side, they have a chance of playing Champions League football once again next year, and Redknapp will remain at the helm with Roy Hodgson named as England manager.
West Bromwich Albion (10th) – Star Man: Youssouf Mulumbu – Flop of the Year: Paul Scharner
The Baggies managed a hugely impressive top half finish under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, and their counter-attacking brand of football produced some impressive results. The centre-back pairing of Olsson and McAuley with Ben Foster between the sticks was as sturdy as West Brom fans have seen at their club in recent years. Unfortunately for them, Hodgson has left to coach the English national side, so there may be changed to the way the team operates next season depending on who replaces him.
Wigan Athletic (15th) – Star Man: Victor Moses – Flop of the Year: Hugo Rodallega
A few weeks before the end of the season, Martinez’s side looked destined to end their seven year stay in the top tier. However a masterful change of tactics, which saw the Spaniard deploy a 3-4-3 formation with wing backs, saw them rise out of the relegation places. Victories over Arsenal, United, Liverpool and Newcastle all within the space of just over a month, ensured the side from Greater Manchester would once again play in the Premier League next season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (20th, relegated) – Star Man: Steven Fletcher – Flop of the Year: Roger Johnson
Wolves’s season can be summed up pretty well by the affairs of their marquee signing, Roger Johnson, this season. He signed for a fee of around £7m in the summer, failed to impress on the pitch, and was left out in the cold after turning up to a training session drunk. Manager Mick McCarthy was sacked, and things only became worse from there. They failed to appoint any one of the managers they had targeted, and Terry Connor stepped up from his coaching role to lead the side. There was to be no fairy tale ending for Connor, and Wolves finished bottom.