So how will we remember the 2009/2010 season? The season of a genuine title challenge? The end of the Big Four’s reign? The horror show at Fratton Park? The year we all shouted for Fulham in Hamburg? Well, first and foremost what must be conceded is that this season represented a drop in the standard of England’s Premier League. Supporting evidence is commonplace, no English side made it as far as the Champions League semi-final for the first time since 2003. The all-English clash of 2008 is but a distant memory and based on this season, won’t be a reality relived any time soon.
The fact that the ‘big four’ didn’t enjoy the armchair ride of recent years is down to their new-found mediocrity as opposed to a significant jump in standards elsewhere. That said, credit must go to Arry and his Spurs for a tremendous season, in which they featured among the most appealing and compelling to watch.
As a ManU fan, you’d expect Liverpool’s demise to inspire unbridled joy but as a football fan it’s a shame to see such a proud side, once such a force in England and Europe, crumble into mid-table nothingness. Xavi Alonso’s departure, Gerrards inexplicably poor form and Torres’s patchy fitness the primary contributors. Throw in a manager whose anything but the people’s champion and ownership conflicts and you’ve got a team freewheeling on a downward slope.
With the best manager, the best team and by far the best squad in terms of depth, Chelsea have few excuses for not wrapping things up much earlier. Inconsistency was a feature throughout their season, you have to wonder how a team can lose, and deserve to lose to the same team they put eight past on the final day. United merely flattered to deceive and were always the pretenders in the run-in, their inferiority confirmed by defeats home and away to Ancelotti’s blues. Ronaldo’s absence may have been the catalyst for Rooney’s greatest season to date but the England prodigy couldn’t shoulder the burden of Ronnie’s absence on his own, despite the unspoken expectancy for him to do so. With Rio and Vidic unable to reestablish their partnership of recent seasons and not to mention the always entertaining if cringeworthy Gary Neville Show at right back United’s defence was less daunting for visitors to Old Trafford.
And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Michael Carrick! I feel so weak, so powerless, all I have are words, surely not enough to properly convey the worthlessness of the South Africa bound Carrick. He does nothing! Now now, that’s a bit harsh he is well able to miss crucial penalties against teams like Burnley. When you look at the arguments made by those in the pro-Carrick camp the same tripe is constantly recycled, they play better when he’s there, he does a job in midfield, he’s a good passer….bollox! When it’s backs to the wall time and you really need that commanding presence, someone to step up to the mantle in the way any of the ’99 midfield quartet would have, where is Carrick? As Fletcher tackles all around him, Nani and Valencia torment fullbacks, where is Carrick? I’d even call into question his passing, he’s rarely the one to put Rooney or Berbatov (don’t even get me started) into space, he has officially been credited with 2 assists this seasons. He’s notched just 17 goals in 188 appearances. Fabregas, Lampard, Gerrard, Milner, Modric, Arteta, can we honestly say theat Carrick merits inclusion on this list of top-class Premiership midfielders. If one signing is made by Sir Alex, it would want to address the Carrick situation problem.
It says something about the season that the most gripping battle was for fourth place. Villa, City and Spurs all looked favourites at different points. Once again O’Neill was hampered by a wafer thin squad, a predicament certainly not applicable to Man City who have so many players they don’t know what to do with them – Santa Cruz, Ireland, Petrov, Wright Phillips. But it was Harry’s predominantly British army, with a good old-fashioned centre-back partnership and an unlikely hero in the shape of Gareth Bale, who prevailed. Late season form was enough to suggest that Everton could have been in the running were it not for injuries.
At the less glamorous end of the table Pompy’s exit from the top-tier was a formality from Christmas onwards. Pityful form, the shame of being the first Premier League club to enter administration and just to prove that fairy tales don’t exist defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Burley collapsed after a wonderful start particularly at home, the departure of Owen Coyle a turning point in their ultimately disappointing season. Meanwhile no amount on half-time public tongue-lashings could have saved Hull from the drop.
The 2009/2010 season: exciting, unpredictable and utterly, utterly disappointing.