Premier League season review: Top four was as predicted but fans were missed

John Roycroft reflects on the English soccer campaign, where Man City regained their crown
Premier League season review: Top four was as predicted but fans were missed

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates with the Premier League trophy. Pi: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

THE entries from the 'big five' countries of Europe have carte blanche access to the finals each year. No matter what the results they achieve each year, they are guaranteed a place in the finals the following year. 

Even if they finish in last place, without a single point, they can be assured of their position in the top tier of the competition. They do not face relegation, or the need to qualify. Just straight to the finals each year.

No this isn't the breakaway European Super League, but rather the format of the Eurovision Song Contest. At least we now have an idea where the ESL got their idea for their super league.

Back in the world of the current setup, the question of qualification to Europe's top competition was sorted out on the final day of the season. The nerves of Liverpool fans were eased relatively early as both Leicester and Chelsea tripped over their laces on the home straight.

So we have finished the season without much ado, bar the little matter of the all-England Champions League final tomorrow night.

At this point, it is customary that we look back at what I predicted the table would look like at the start of the season and compare it to what we ended up with.

It's fair to say I got my predictions pretty much wrong in most cases. However, at the time I did warn that a global pandemic and empty stadiums were bound to have an unforeseeable effect on results.

The good news, I managed to predict two team's final positions dead on. They were Brighton in 16th place and West Brom in 19th. Ok, Mystic Meg I am not, but in my defence, I got two of the three relegated sides right, the exception being Sheffield United going down rather than Aston Villa which I predicted would happen.

No fans no fun

I think the Blades, along with Liverpool, suffered more than most by the absence of fans at their home grounds. I was sorry to see the demise of Chris Wilder at Sheffield United I think he and his side were a breath of fresh air and for no other reason, it will be sad not to see Cork's John Egan in top-flight action again next season.

Sheffield United's John Egan celebrates scoring in the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Sadly we will not be seeing him in the Premier League next season.
Sheffield United's John Egan celebrates scoring in the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Sadly we will not be seeing him in the Premier League next season.

On the positive side again, I correctly predicted the top four sides... not necessarily in the right order... in fact, none of them in the right order.

I voted Liverpool to retain their crown but did warn that I feared the lack of fans might affect them in which case I wouldn't be surprised if Man City won the league again. So I had Liverpool first, Man City second. I thought Frank Lampard would push on this year to bring Chelsea to third, as it turned out it was Thomas Tuchel that led them to fourth. And I hand Man United fourth rather than second. I admit that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved a lot more resilient than I believed and at the start of last season I would have predicted that he would have seen it out to the end of the season.

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (left) and Chelsea's Thiago Silva battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham. Picture: Richard Heathcote/PA Wire.
Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (left) and Chelsea's Thiago Silva battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham. Picture: Richard Heathcote/PA Wire.

Indeed, there were a couple of fine performances from teams and managers that I did not see coming. I felt Aston Villa were good but didn't have enough to stay up, but some dogged performances along with the qualities of Tyrone Mings, Trézéguet, and Jack Grealish saw them to a solid mid-table finish.

Another unexpected achievement was Steve Bruce at Newcastle. Starved of talent and finance, Newcastle were my dark horse to go down, but credit to Bruce, he steered the side out of troubled waters and finished comfortably enough in 12th.

West Ham United's manager David Moyes during a lap of appreciation at the end of the Premier League match at the London Stadium, London. 
West Ham United's manager David Moyes during a lap of appreciation at the end of the Premier League match at the London Stadium, London. 

The manager of the year will probably go to Pep Guardiola. Three league titles in four years can't be denied, and maybe even a Champions League come tomorrow. But for me, the most improved manager for the season was David Moyes. Moyes has finally got over being the butt of jokes for his poisoned chalice time at Man United and steered a solid but uninspired West Ham side to sixth in the table and a far from unexpected European qualification place. I had seen them finish 11th they finished sixth, above their much-vaunted London neighbours Spurs and Arsenal.

Moyes and West Ham are the side to finish the furthest from where I predicted them to finish. And while there were solid performances from the likes of Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, and Jesse Lingard. I think Moyes got more out of this side than the sum of their parts suggest. And even came close to breaking into the top four.

The task that awaits him next season will be to see if he can achieve that.

The most disappointing team of the season was shaping up to be Liverpool. Beyond the obvious excuses of personnel and fan absentees, a trophy-less season is a bad return after their previous two seasons. Yet grabbing qualification for the Champions League from out of the fire and an unbeaten run of 10 games at the end of the season show the quality is still there and building for hope next year.

No, the most disappointing side this year remains, for me, Arsenal. It's hard to point to any real progress being made and but for a few fortunate results, they could have even ended the season in a worse position.

So that's that for my 2020/2021 predictions. I'm just glad I didn't put any money on it. 

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