And so it finished with a Romantic Ending……
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The FA Cup
Who would have thought that Wenger would have had the last laugh this season. He walked into the sunset on Saturday with a record winning 7th FA Cup, a record that had been held since 1926. Overtaking George Ramsey, who had won 6 FA Cups from 1884 to 1926 with Aston Villa.
Arsenal came out deserved winners in Saturday’s FA Cup Final contest. Even if there was debate about Sanchez’s early goal having stood due to him handling the ball on the build up to it, they were still clearly the better team throughout. For Chelsea’s part, for once, they didn’t turn up. They looked part tired and part at odds with themselves, maybe concisious of the fact that they were on the verge of a historic double.
With the gap between the top teams in the Premier League getting tighter, it could be quite sometime before we see a team win the double in the future.
As for Chelsea, it just seems that they had an off day here at Wembley. While otherwise producing an outstanding season, and cannot really be faulted for just been simply outclassed by a better team on the day.
But on the other hand for Arsenal, serious questions remain. More questions than answers. How can a team that clearly has so much quality turn it on with such a quality performance like they did on Saturday, but not turn up for so much of the season in crucial big games.
Of course, the players have a lot to answer for here, but so does the manager as there is clearly a lack of discipline and application within the team and it’s ethos.
It may seem harsh, making this blunt assessment after such a fine performance and winning the FA Cup, but where were these performances all season ?
The Premier league 2016 – 2017
Chelsea – Premier League Champions 2017
So Chelsea came out deserved winners in the Premier League with a whopping points total of 93 points with a total of 30 wins for the season. They were head and shoulders above the rest and really left no question to who the dominant force was this season.
The league was won when they went on a great run starting back in October when they were well down the table and at the time seemed out of the running.
On the 24th of September, they were humbled to Arsenal at the Emirates 3 – 0, and lay in a lowly 8th position – with 10 points from 6 games, 8 points behind Man City who had a 100% record at the time.
At the time everyone was talking up the coming of the Messiah – Guardiola, and Conte’s job was on the line.
How times would change.
Conte would go on to change to a back 3 formation and discovered a system that worked and from there Chelsea went on an incredible sequence of 13 straight wins. Until Spurs beat them on the 4th of January. They then regained full control by following that with 6 wins & 2 draws up until the 18th of March and at no point did they ever look like giving up their lead in the title race.
All Chelsea’s gambles seemed to pay off from last summer’s dealings. Re-signing David Luiz, signing Player of the season – Kante – who was immense.
And of course, bringing in Conte, which was a master stroke. For him to then go out and win the League in such convincing fashion in his first season in the Premier League was all the more impressive. Especially when you look at the pedigree of the the other managers in the Premier League.
The Best of the Rest –
Spurs continuing to improve year on year, and were unlucky.
As any other normal season would have seen them as Premier League Champions with a points total of 86 points which they finished on in runner up spot.
For instance, Leicester won the league with a Point total of 81 points last season.
Spurs were just unfortunate to come up short against one of the best (and most complete sides) to have graced the Premier League.
Harry Kane, also continues to improve, as he claimed the Golden Boot on the last day of the season scoring 7 goals in the last 2 games to overhaul Lukaku.
Spurs are a joy to watch and will be there or thereabouts next season. It will be interesting to see how they perform in the Champions League next season also.
Man City, Liverpool & Arsenal
Man City and Liverpool took up the 2 other remaining Champions League spots with Arsenal deservedly just missing out, considering the talented players they have at their disposal.
On paper, and in terms of quality, Arsenal should be finishing above Liverpool, but due to their players having a soft centre, and been molly coddled by Wenger, they are not able to deliver any sort of consistency and grind out results.
In stark contrast, Klopp has done well with the players and resources he has at at his disposal. 4th spot represents a realistic target which was achieved. And it has been 3 years now since they have been in the competition so Klopp & Co will be relieved to be back in it. It will also help with his recruitment drive this summer as he can offer signings the prospect of playing in the Champions League.
Guardiola had a baptism of fire to the Premier League, and soon found out what the most competitive League in the world is all about. He started off well at the start of the season, but it wasn’t long before the wheels came of the City Train and their title race started to derail.
He will look at the season as a failure as he picked up no silverware for the first time in his managerial career. But it is one that he would have learned alot about himself and the Premier League. There must be a sense of relief that they are in the Champions League at least without having to play a qualifier as they secured 3rd spot.
But by his exacting standards, the season will be a deemed a failure and next season will need to bring silverware playing the brand of attacking football he demands.
As mentioned above, and as witnessed in the FA Cup Final, Arsenal have the quality, and can perform and win when things go there way. They have a team that possess real technical quality and finesse.
Unfortunately, this on it’s own does not win you league titles, or the Champions League. This team is capable of winning the Premier League but won’t in it’s current state, because they have a soft centre, and have zero fight in them when the going get’s tough.
Manchester United getting in through the Back Door
So they miss out on the 4th Champions League spot in the Premier League, and decided to focus on the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League.
The gamble by Mourinho paid off. And as he said himself he would take 6th in the league, rather than 2nd, 3rd or 4th, and a Europa League trophy instead.
As a result, Mourinho’s first season in charge will be considered a successful one.
3 pieces of silverware, the Europa League Cup, the League Cup, and the Community Shield, along with automatic qualification for the Champions League. Doesn’t seem like a bad return after all.
Mourinho, and Man United’s performance in the final against Ajax was a tactical masterclass. At no point did they look like they might lose it as they were in absolute control from the start to the final whistle. That said, Ajax did seem naive in the way they played and let Man United play on their terms.
As far as finals go, it was a pretty dull affair, as was the Europa League in general. The standard and quality of football is way off the Champions League, light years behind it.
Uefa should never have allowed the 3rd placed teams from the end of the group stages in the Champions League enter the Europa League. By doing so they have undermined the competition, and turned it into a 2nd tier competition – Losers / Rejects League.
As for Man United in the Premier League, they ended up with alot of draws and were hard to watch at times. They are a solid team but need somebody like Griezmann up front to get them the goals they desperately require.
Further down the table
Everton took 7th spot with 61 points, 8 points behind Man United, and a massive 14 points behind Arsenal in 5th spot.
That said Koeman has done a relatively good job with them, they look good moving forward to next season and should improve on this season. They need to hold on to their big players such as Barkley, though Lukaku is on his way out as he has requested a transfer. If they can hold on to their marquee players, or use the sale of those players wisely and invest sensibly and replace them for like for like players while improving their squad with the sale they may well been in the running to pull a surprise with a Cup win next season under Koeman.
Interestingly, below Everton, Southampton finished in 8th. But there is a significant gap with Southampton a massive 15 points behind Everton.
To add, there is only 6 points dividing Southampton in 8th position with 46 points, and Watford in 17th position (last position outside the relegation zone) with 40 points.
It seems like there is a divide between the top 7 teams and the other teams within the Premier League at the moment. It will be interesting if this remains or widens next season.
You would expect that newly promoted Newcastle under Rafa Benitez to be up among the top 6 or 7 next season though.
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