The final whistle has been blown; the final goal scored; and, after a captivating campaign that saw Manchester City edge out Liverpool by a single point, the trophy hoisted. Looking back on it all, theScore breaks down the best – and worst – the Premier League had to offer over the past season.
1. What’s your biggest takeaway from the 2018-19 season?
Michael Chandler: The three best active managers all work in England’s top flight (Klopp, Guardiola, Pochettino). Apologies to Pune City boss Phil Brown.
Gianluca Nesci: Taking the point above one step further, Europe’s two best teams currently reside in England. Watching Manchester City and Liverpool go blow-for-blow all year long has been spectacular. Either club would dominate the other top leagues on the continent. It’s a shame the Reds had to finish second, but it highlights just how incredible City – who won their last 14 league matches on the bounce – were to pip them to the crown.
Daniel Rouse: After decades of merely tutting about incidences abroad, English football appears to be taking a harder stance against racism in its own backyard. Better late than never, I suppose.
2. What was your favorite moment of the campaign?
Chandler: Jose Mourinho’s sacking. With all due respect, respect, respect, Jose Mourinho’s dismissal stands out as a highlight of a horrid campaign for Manchester United.
Nesci: David Silva’s hair transplant. The Spaniard’s follicle transformation – from covering up his receding hairline with flowing locks, to shaving his head, to unveiling his new, dark look – has truly been a sight to behold. Sadly, his waning performances in the latter stage of the season suggest he and Samson don’t share the same rulebook when it comes to hair growth.
Rouse: Although it was royally trumped by Liverpool and Tottenham’s European exploits over the following two days, Vincent Kompany’s thunderous wallop against Leicester City last Monday was tremendous. It obviously had huge title implications but, most of all, it was so unexpected. The only person who wanted him to shoot was himself and his emotion after the match showed how much it meant to him. A true leader.
3. Conversely, what about your biggest disappointment?
Chandler: Manchester United. A season removed from finishing runners-up, albeit by a 19-point margin, the Red Devils have regressed with a squad littered with glaring deficiencies.
Nesci: The Premier League’s continued archaic approach to sharing video content on social media. That, and Burnley managing to stay up. I’ve no desire to continue watching the Clarets pack 10 men behind the ball and pray for a header from Chris Wood or Ashley Barnes each week.
Rouse: The Premier League’s continued lack of appreciation for match-going supporters. Newcastle fans should never have to travel to north London on a Monday night, but the top flight’s big wigs bend to every whim of the television companies. A heftier issue is the Premier League’s refusal to move kickoff times in the men’s game so supporters can also watch their club’s women’s team.
4. Who was this season’s MVP?
Chandler: Eden Hazard. Chelsea would have flirted with a mid-table finish were it not for the Belgian’s involvement in 31 goals.
Nesci: Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool, once derided as a leaky unit that couldn’t be trusted to keep the opposition at bay, finished the season with the best defensive record in the league, conceding a mere 22 goals in 38 matches. He’s not the only reason for that newfound solidity, but without the towering Dutchman, the Reds would still be relying heavily on Dejan Lovren. If that doesn’t make him the MVP, nothing does.
Rouse: Raheem Sterling. His influence off the pitch continues to grow, just as his talents continue to develop on it. His confidence and his tactical know-how have improved immeasurably under Guardiola.
5. Best signing of the season?
Chandler: Golden Glove winner Alisson. His £66.8-million fee now looks like a pittance for a player who’s both been the bedrock for a reliable defense and a massive upgrade on error-prone Loris Karius.
Nesci: Raul Jimenez. The Mexican striker, initially signed on loan from Benfica, proved so critical to Wolves’ push for a European berth that they splashed a reported £30 million to make his move permanent in April. He’s one of only four players outside the “big six” to contribute to at least 20 goals this season – Jimenez found the net 13 times, chipping in with seven assists. That involvement makes up 42 percent of Wolves’ tallies. He’s been superb. A special shout, too, for Bournemouth’s David Brooks.
Rouse: Lucas Digne. Replacing Leighton Baines was always going to be a tough, drawn-out assignment for Everton. Finally, they’ve done it, and £18 million is a bargain for a left-back who constantly posts key passes and is a menace on set-piece duties.
6. Which “outsider” is most likely to crack the top six next year?
Chandler: Leicester City. They’re a young group blessed with potential and a sturdy spine featuring Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, and hopefully, Youri Tielemans should the Monaco midfielder agree to a permanent move.
Nesci: Wolves have the financial firepower, but I agree with my esteemed colleague. In addition to the talented core outlined above, the Foxes’ full-backs – Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell – are among the best pairs in the league. Finding a long-term replacement for Vardy is crucial; a 32-year-old striker who spent portions of his career chugging Skittles vodka probably doesn’t have much left in the tank. But with some more shrewd transfer business, there’s no reason why Leicester can’t slot into the top six.
Rouse: Agree. A likely Europa League campaign will test Wolves’ thin squad, and Leicester don’t require much in the transfer window aside from a striker to challenge Vardy. A winger wouldn’t hurt, either.
7. Are you going to miss any of the relegated sides?
Chandler: No, though I’m a bit sad for Junior Hoilett, as the Canadian has now been relegated from the top flight on four occasions with three different clubs.
Nesci: Huddersfield were utterly forgettable, and Cardiff City, despite some amusing episodes from Neil Warnock, simply didn’t have the talent to make for interesting viewing each week. I will miss Fulham, though; watching Tim Ream and Denis Odoi stumble over themselves all season while trying to “defend” was absolutely hilarious.
Rouse: If he was barred from speaking about politics, I would love to have a pint with Warnock. You’ve got to respect somebody who genuinely doesn’t give a shit about what people think, and he was desperately unlucky during the season. I will miss his antics, but I won’t miss Cardiff.
8. Which club intrigues you most going into the transfer window?
Chandler: Tottenham. Without a signing in the last two transfer windows, Spurs enter the summer with increased revenues moored to a luxe new ground and the guarantee of Champions League football.
Nesci: Liverpool. Outside of making a few depth signings, it’s difficult to see where, exactly, this team can really improve. And yet, the Reds clearly need to continue on their upward trajectory if they’re going to not only keep pace with Manchester City, but surpass them. Pep Guardiola and Co. aren’t going to sit on their hands during the summer window. How will Liverpool respond?
Rouse: Chelsea. While everybody busies themselves in the summer sales, the transfer-banned Blues are forced to assess the players they’ve sent out on loan and forgotten about for years. I think it will do them some good.
9. How much money will Manchester United spend this summer?
Chandler: £300 million. Rodri, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Jadon Sancho, Gareth Bale, and Raphael Varane are among a host of potential big-money upgrades that Ed Woodward should be monitoring.
Nesci: All of it.
Rouse: Not enough. This is a long-term project for United. They need to buy young players they can improve and find a club daft enough to take Alexis Sanchez off them. It wouldn’t be overly surprising to see a gross spend of £500 million or more across the next four transfer windows.
10. If they keep Pochettino, can Spurs push for the title next season?
Chandler: Yes. Doubting Tottenham has proved a fool’s errand, and with Pochettino likely to stay, Spurs should consider themselves legitimate title contenders.
Nesci: Retaining the beloved Argentine bench boss, which can only help with the recruitment efforts this summer, should make Spurs a legitimate threat. They went toe-to-toe with City and Liverpool for a large chunk of the season, only to fall by the wayside as injuries mounted and fatigue set in. With a few impactful signings to bolster Pochettino’s squad, Tottenham could be scary.
Rouse: A plush new stadium and reaching a Champions League final have propelled Spurs to a whole new level. They should expect to beat Manchester United, Arsenal, and continental behemoths to deals in the transfer window, and they still possess a young squad that continues to improve. Pochettino is a cracking manager and can spearhead a title hunt.