Radio Research

Premier League Premier League 2014-15 review of the season
Premier League 2014-15 review: Our writers’ best and worst
Our writers name their player of the season, the best goal, the best match, the worst flops and their ideas for the future
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard had an outstanding season for Chelsea and is one of five players selected by our writers as their Premier League player of the season. Photograph: Huw Evans/REX Shutterstock
Guardian and Observer football writers
Monday 25 May 2015 12.00 BST Last modified on Saturday 30 May 2015 17.18 BST

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Best player
Paul Doyle John Terry. Captain, leader, legend. Fact. See also José Fonte.

Dominic Fifield Eden Hazard, the player who consistently propelled Chelsea forward and was a constant source of opportunities and goals, with a bit more defensive responsibility thrown in.

Owen Gibson Harry Kane and John Terry have strong claims. Eden Hazard, however, trumps both after thrilling in the first half of the season, during which he often seemed to be playing and thinking at twice the speed of his opponents, and then continuing to produce the goods when it mattered most to drive his team over the line.

Barry Glendenning Eden Hazard has consistently been a delight to watch in a team who have not consistently been a delight to watch toweards the back end of the season. Still, he and they got the job done.


Andy Hunter John Terry. Not to belittle Eden Hazard’s claims on the Professional Footballers’ Association or Football Writers’ Association awards by any means but Chelsea’s title win was built on the strongest defence in the division – and the veteran was the best component in it.

David Hytner Harry Kane. The most romantic, scarcely plausible individual storyline of the season. The boyhood Tottenham fan did not start a Premier League game until 9 November, which has served to cast his impact and numbers in an even more astonishing light. When he was rewarded with his England debut against Lithuania, he was obviously going to score after 78 seconds.

Jamie Jackson Harry Kane: 21 Premier League goals and an old-fashioned Boy’s Own story that this age of no surprises is supposed to prohibit. Can he keep it up? Tune in next season to find out.

Stuart James Guess it has to be Eden Hazard. Either that or the players and the football writers got it all wrong – could that be possible? Hazard is a joy to watch, a magical player. Harry Kane, however, deserves an honourable mention. Great to see a home-grown player making that sort of impact.

Amy Lawrence Heart says Esteban Cambiasso because of his exemplary influence in the Leicester fairytale. Head says Eden Hazard because he elevated the champions.

Scott Murray David de Gea. Without him the modern Manchester United, arguably the biggest club in the world, would be in uncharted mid-table waters. And all the more fascinating for it: United’s 1970s travails were so much sexier than their 1960s successes. Though on that latter point, their supporters may understandably demur.


Sachin Nakrani Sergio Agüero. The Premier League’s top scorer and a consistently dazzling threat for the deposed champions. He also produced the two best individual displays I saw in the flesh this season: during City’s 2-2 draw with QPR in November and in their 1-0 win at Tottenham this month.

James Riach Harry Kane. Sergio Agüero may be the best striker in the Premier League but the Tottenham forward has to win this award. Who saw this season coming? Thirty-one club goals, 21 of them in the league, having started his first Premier League match for Spurs in April 2014. Remarkable.

Barney Ronay Harry Kane. There are no genuinely outstanding outfield players in the Premier League this season. Eden Hazard has been the classiest but Kane gets my vote for his gloriously unexpected sense of verve and sustained goalscoring impact.

Jacob Steinberg Eden Hazard. He terrorised opposing right-backs, scored crucial goals during the run-in and assumed responsibility when Chelsea were in need of inspiration during tight matches. José Mourinho chided him at times last year but Hazard has responded brilliantly to the tough love and has blossomed into a player of authority and maturity this season. No one can accuse him of failing to make the most of his talent.

Daniel Taylor Harry Kane. Honorary mentions for Eden Hazard, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and a few others but I expected that level of performance from them. Kane has taken the Premier League by surprise, scored 32 goals in all for club and country and won more points for his team than any other player.

Louise Taylor Harry Kane. The most thrilling young English centre-forward to have emerged since Alan Shearer.

Paul Wilson John Terry. Every minute of every game says it all. Eden Hazard has done the same and is easier on the eye but considering Terry’s age, experience and the fact he is still looked up to as an effective captain it is hard to see how anyone could have had a more impressive season.

Best manager
Nigel Pearson engineered an extraordinary late-season revival to keep Leicester City in the Premier League. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Nigel Pearson engineered an extraordinary late-season revival to keep Leicester City in the Premier League. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Paul Doyle Nigel Pearson. Because he never succumbed to the fear and made his team fun to watch even when up to their necks in muck.

Dominic Fifield José Mourinho, for getting his key transfer business done efficiently and early last summer though he only just edges out Ronald Koeman, Garry Monk and Nigel Pearson. Each surpassed expectations at his respective club.

Owen Gibson Ronald Koeman. To put Southampton’s achievement into context it is necessary to rewind to last summer when they were a popular pick for the drop amid a mass exodus of players and endless scrutiny of the owner. To occupy the top six for most of the season was one thing. To do so with style and class, while integrating a host of new faces and bringing through yet another wave of young players was something else.

Barry Glendenning Garry Monk’s achievements at Swansea have been quietly impressive, taking them to their highest Premier League points tally, despite losing a possible 16 of them from winning positions in the first half of the season, followed closely by his best striker. Monk also fathered twins and got married but seems to have coped heroically with the stress of it all, which would suggest his wife, Lexi, also deserves a tip of the hat.

Andy Hunter Ronald Koeman. Let’s be honest, most people outside Southampton predicted a relegation fight at St Mary’s back in August. Instead the Dutchman, in his first season in English football, constructed an outstanding defence, a potent attacking threat and kept Southampton in contention for European qualification until the final game of the season.

David Hytner José Mourinho. Sized things up last season and knew what he had to do to win it this time. Promptly made the necessary additions and did win it. Silverware is the ultimate currency for settling arguments.

Jamie Jackson Nigel Pearson. Leicester City were in the morgue, ready for burial on 3 April, rooted to the bottom on 19 points, seven from the last safe spot, with only nine matches remaining. Then, the sometimes controversial Pearson, who was apparently sacked then reinstated in February, somehow revived the side and fashioned a breathtaking run of six wins, a draw and a sole defeat from the next eight matches to make the Foxes safe before the season closed.

Stuart James Garry Monk. Eighth in the Premier League, in his first full season in management, with the seventh-smallest budget, did the double over Arsenal and Manchester United, sold his best player for £28m in January and never acquired a replacement yet the team’s results got better – it’s a no-brainer.

Amy Lawrence Ronald Koeman. Walked into a supposed mess with a smile on his face, belief in his players, some shrewd signings and fresh ideas. He has managed all season as if sent to the south coast to spread happiness.

Scott Murray Tim Sherwood. Does more right than he is given credit for and also is the first top-flight manager in a long while to recognise that football is nothing more than a big pantomime. His sense of joy is contagious, his brooding hot funks Brandoesque.

Sachin Nakrani Ronald Koeman. I cannot be the only one who tipped Southampton to be flirting with relegation this season after they sold a string of their best players and lost their manager during the summer. It looked then that Koeman was walking into a tornado of trouble but he melded the club’s recruits with those who remained at St Mary’s to create a team who have outperformed the class of 2013-14, in league position and points total. An incredible achievement.

James Riach José Mourinho. The obvious choice but the Portuguese has crafted another formidable side who could dominate the Premier League for years to come. Some strops along the way, of course, but Chelsea have been head and shoulders above their rivals. The signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fàbregas adapted quickly and Nemanja Matic has excelled. Other managerial shout-outs to Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew and Ronald Koeman.

Barney Ronay Nigel Pearson, for the laughs and for having the last one himself.

Jacob Steinberg Honourable mentions to Garry Monk, Ronald Koeman and Nigel Pearson but it has to be José Mourinho. Arsène Wenger, Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pellegrini were no match for Chelsea’s trophy machine. To accuse Mourinho of boring football is irrelevant. The man knows how to win.

Daniel Taylor Ronald Koeman. Just think back to the insecurity that was polluting the air at Southampton last summer. Nobody could have imagined that until mid-February they would be in the Champions League places.

Louise Taylor Ronald Koeman. Made radical change seamless rather than intensely painful. An oasis of polite, measured, quietly amused calm in an often insane world. And Southampton play some lovely football, too.

Paul Wilson José Mourinho. The league table does not lie. Other managers have had memorable seasons – Garry Monk, Ronald Koeman, Alan Pardew and so on – but, if the task is simply to name the best manager in the Premier League, then the chap who has just made winning a third English title in five seasons look easy is ahead by quite a distance.

Best goal
Charlie Adam’s goal for Stoke City at Chelsea from inside his own half was an outstanding moment of the season. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Charlie Adam’s goal for Stoke City at Chelsea from inside his own half was an outstanding moment of the season. Photograph: James Marsh/BPI/REX
Paul Doyle Charlie Adam. Because in an era of spreadsheets and chalkboards, rocketing the ball into the opponents’ net from inside your own half confirmed the comic book hero is king.

Dominic Fifield The best I witnessed were Charlie Adam at Stamford Bridge and Cesc Fàbregas at Selhurst Park, with a nod to the flash of skill from Yannick Bolasie in the build-up to Crystal Palace’s thrilling second against Liverpool last November.

Owen Gibson Charlie Adam’s extraordinary strike for Stoke City from more than 60 yards at Stamford Bridge, narrowly over Chelsea’s mesmerising team goal at Burnley that was melded by Eden Hazard and Cesc Fàbregas and finished by André Schürrle.

Barry Glendenning So many contenders, with quite a few scored on one remarkable early April weekend for “worldies”. As a fellow left-footer, Charlie Adam gets the nod for that 66-yard strike against Chelsea. Many players couldn’t kick the ball that far, let alone with such precision.

Andy Hunter Charlie Adam’s over Thibaut Courtois stands out but, selecting from games attended, it would have to be Phil Jagielka’s 92nd-minute equaliser for Everton at Liverpool. In terms of execution, timing and, in the context of a Merseyside derby, it was a Roy of the Rovers finish. And from a centre-half who started the season burdened by a poor World Cup but went on to enjoy a commanding campaign.

David Hytner Juan Mata’s second goal for Manchester United versus Liverpool on 22 March. This goal deserves the highest acclaim because it ticked every box, not least the one about producing on the grandest stage. Mata showed composure and technique to settle the biggest game in English football with a breathtaking scissor kick.

Jamie Jackson Juan Mata’s second at Anfield in Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool: a balletic scissor-kick that only the silkily smooth Spaniard could fashion.

Stuart James Charlie Adam’s goal at Chelsea was special but I’m going for Bobby Zamora’s lob for QPR at West Bromwich Albion earlier the same day. Zamora was running down the right-hand channel, outside the penalty area, and it looked as if he might, at best, swing over a cross with his right boot. Instead, he struck the ball with the outside of his left foot, without breaking his stride, and Boaz Myhill was left totally stranded as it sailed over his head.

Amy Lawrence Bobby Zamora versus West Brom. Improvised, delicate, a perfect arc. Perhaps even more surprising than Charlie Adam’s as it is not as if he tries the outrageous too often. What’s not to love?

Scott Murray George Boyd for Burnley against Manchester City. A pearler that continued one of English football’s most glorious traditions: relegation-bound teams giving reigning champions an almighty belt in the chops.

Sachin Nakrani Bobby Zamora versus West Brom. Yes, I know, Charlie Adam scored from inside his own half but I’ve seen that before. What I haven’t seen before is a 34-year-old with a hip problem lobbing a goalkeeper from a ludicrously tight angle and with the outside of his foot. Joleon Lescott certainly didn’t see it coming as he ushered Zamora towards the corner flag after the forward had run on to a long upfield punt. Within seconds, however, the Albion centre-back was gawping in shock and awe, just like the rest of us.

James Riach Phil Jagielka v Liverpool. The classic centre-half bosh.

Barney Ronay Bobby Zamora’s exhausted dink on the run against West Brom – because it was brilliant but you could still half-imagine being able to pull it off yourself some day at the 100th attempt.

Jacob Steinberg André Schürrle against Burnley on the opening day. The pass from Cesc Fàbregas told him where to go.

Daniel Taylor Ángel Di María, Manchester United at Leicester. The goal feels like a deception now bearing in mind we thought this would be the norm from Di María, not the exception, but there is always something exhilarating about the running, dinked chip.

Louise Taylor George Boyd for Burnley in a 3-3 draw at Newcastle on New Year’s Day. After collecting a Danny Ings pass Boyd surged imperiously through the home defence before beating Jak Alnwick with a fabulous low shot.

Paul Wilson I’m going with Jermain Defoe’s against Newcastle because it was exciting, unexpected and perfectly executed. I realise you could say exactly the same about Charlie Adam’s wonder-strike against Chelsea, which was unarguably the most prodigious goal of the season, but this is not a precise science; it is whatever takes your fancy. There were people who thought Sunderland were wasting their money on Defoe, and I was one of them, so fair play. I don’t mind being proved wrong so elegantly.

Best match
Harry Kane scored two goals in Tottenham’s 5-3 victory over Chelsea on New Year’s Day. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Harry Kane scored two goals in Tottenham’s 5-3 victory over Chelsea on New Year’s Day. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images
Paul Doyle Everton 3, Chelsea 6. It was breathtakingly bonkers and showcased The New Chelsea before they toned down their exuberance later in the season.

Dominic Fifield Tottenham Hotspur 5, Chelsea 3 on New Year’s Day, a game that defied belief, given Chelsea’s customary solidity but ended up confirming Harry Kane’s ability to influence on the grander stage.

Owen Gibson Tottenham Hotspur versus Chelsea: 2015 started with an almighty hangover for José Mourinho, blown away 5-3 on New Year’s Day at a rocking White Hart Lane in a match where Harry Kane definitively announced his arrival at the top table with a performance of swaggering ebullience against a defence that had hitherto been rock solid.

Barry Glendenning Everton 3, Chelsea 6 at Goodison Park in late August was bonkers. Not too many teams score three goals against the champions and still end up on the wrong end of a hiding. Boring, boring Chelsea indeed.

Andy Hunter Everton 3, Chelsea 6. Only the third game of the season but, with the benefit of hindsight, it contained a weight of evidence as to why Chelsea would win the league and Everton would struggle. A breathless, end-to-end contest with mistakes, enthralling football and a bit of aggro thrown in. Only a stunning save from Thibaut Courtois prevented Kevin Mirallas making it 4-5 in the 81st minute. Only when Diego Costa punished another lapse in the 90th could Chelsea relax.

David Hytner Leicester 5, Manchester United 3. A metaphor for Leicester’s season. Seemingly down and out at the hands of the big boys, they produced a comeback to defy the odds and win the day at the death. The scenes after the fightback from 3-1 down will live long in the memory of those who were present.

Jamie Jackson The Nigel Pearson-masterminded 5-3 victory over United for Leicester in September. The Reds were cruising at 3-1 up as the hour passed before four unanswered goals in 21 minutes produced a result Louis van Gaal continues to reference as his side’s poorest of the season.

Stuart James It would have to be Leicester City 5, Manchester United 3. A staggering game of football to watch, let alone report on and try to make sense of at the end. One statistic summed up why this was such an extraordinary afternoon: it was the first time in 853 Premier League matches United had surrendered a two-goal lead and lost. Come the end, Jamie Vardy was running United ragged and Ryan Giggs, sitting alongside Louis van Gaal, had one hand covering his eyes.

Amy Lawrence Am I allowed at least to mention Chelsea 2, Bradford 4 in the FA Cup? Not in the rules? OK then, how about Leicester 5, Manchester United 3. It was a gawp or fall on the floor or jump-about-in-astonishment game to watch.

Scott Murray Everton 3, Chelsea 6. A rout. Sort of. It was jaw-dropping, one-sided nonsense, apart from the 20-minute period during which Everton enjoyed 73% possession and nearly completed an astonishing comeback. That’s tedious Chelsea for you.

Sachin Nakrani Leicester 5, Manchester United 3. When Leonardo Ulloa struck his penalty past David de Gea on 83 minutes, it felt as if the earth had shaken. This type of thing simply did not happen to Manchester United, even during the darkest of David Moyes days, but here it was – a 3-1 lead blown to bits through a combination of United’s naive defending and Leicester’s never-say-die swagger. They’ll be talking about it in the east Midlands for years.

James Riach Tottenham 5, Chelsea 3. This dramatic game almost got lost amid the Christmas binge but it was a stunning result. Inspired by Harry Kane, Tottenham were rampant and Chelsea’s defence looked lost on a wild evening at White Hart Lane. Mourinho’s side responded well but for a moment their vulnerabilities on display here livened up the title race.

Barney Ronay Leicester City 5, Manchester United 3. Nuts. Fun. And, ultimately, significant for both teams.

Jacob Steinberg Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal. The day that Kane-mania reached fever pitch.

Daniel Taylor Everton 3, Chelsea 6. A wild, bad-tempered and brilliantly eccentric game, with a result that felt like a throwback to the days when football was watched in black and white.

Louise Taylor Newcastle 2, Chelsea 1 in December. Papiss Cissé scored twice as Alan Pardew’s then side ended Chelsea’s 23-match unbeaten run. Those were the days.

Paul Wilson I don’t think there were many outstanding games. Leicester 5, Manchester United 3 is the one that sticks in the memory, although it would be pushing it to describe it as the best of anything. Everton 3, Chelsea 6 was also a remarkable afternoon.

Best referee
Mark Clattenburg gets plenty of votes as the Premier League’s best referee from 2014-15. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Mark Clattenburg gets plenty of votes as the Premier League’s best referee from 2014-15. Photograph: Paul Childs/Action Images
Paul Doyle Martin Atkinson. Unfussy manner, generally good decisions, accurate pointer, textbook whistle action.

Dominic Fifield Mark Clattenburg appears to offer players the best explanation for his decisions. Michael Oliver’s reputation grows but it has not been a great year for referees.

Owen Gibson Mark Clattenburg may have an unforgivable penchant for Ed Sheeran and should drop his chummy act with some players, but he gets most of the big decisions right. For a referee, that’s pretty much the only yardstick.

Barry Glendenning John Terry.

Andy Hunter Mark Clattenburg, which says it all about the standard of refereeing this season.

David Hytner Michael Oliver. Brave and generally sound.

Jamie Jackson Michael Oliver, although as most men in black seem to lack feeling for the game, can former players please be encouraged to take up the whistle.

Stuart James Not Lee Mason, there’s a start. I like Mark Clattenburg: he gets some stick – don’t they all – but I think he’s a decent official, not easily swayed by supporters and seems to have a reasonable rapport with the players. Should be refereeing the FA Cup final but somebody on high doesn’t like him.

Amy Lawrence Michael Oliver. It is perhaps not the most competitive field it has ever been in the refereeing department but his generally sharp eye and calm authority work well.

Scott Murray Mark Clattenburg, who manages to annoy managers, players, fans and his own bosses in equal measure. Marvellous. Good on him. Just think how boring it would be if referees were always right.

Sachin Nakrani Michael Oliver. I don’t have a particularly strong view on this category but will go for Oliver because of his age. Not original, I know, but it remains some achievement to be one of the leading and most consistent officials in the Premier League at 30.

James Riach Mark Clattenburg. The others weren’t great.

Barney Ronay None. Talking about referees is to be discouraged. May as well ask for best corner flag or best goalpost.

Jacob Steinberg A season of baffling refereeing decisions approached peak satire with Mark Clattenburg’s Ed Sheeran fiasco.

Daniel Taylor Mark Clattenburg. Michael Oliver and Mike Dean have been reasonable, too. Let’s not go overboard, though, it hasn’t been a season of distinction for the Premier League referees.

Louise Taylor Mark Clattenburg. At least the north-east had one Premier League success story this season.

Paul Wilson I honestly haven’t a clue. I don’t go to football matches to watch referees, I’m not an assessor. I can never even remember which ones have made mistakes or sent the wrong person off; they are all interchangeable to me. Generally I think officials do an excellent job in difficult circumstances but otherwise I find the subject boring, so I’m guessing Mark Clattenburg would be a safe choice.

Best signing
Alexis Sánchez has proved well worth the £30m Arsenal paid to buy him from Barcelona. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Alexis Sánchez has proved well worth the £30m Arsenal paid to buy him from Barcelona. Photograph: Matt West/BPI/REX Shutterstock
Paul Doyle Sadio Mané. All the pre-season talk was of the players who left Southampton but the Senegalese helped shift the focus back on to the arrivals and got better as the season progressed. Honourable mention to Esteban Cambiasso.

Dominic Fifield For the sheer impact they have had on the champions and particularly over their blistering start to the campaign, Cesc Fàbregas and Diego Costa at Chelsea.

Owen Gibson Diego Costa. Mourinho knew exactly who he wanted last summer and Costa’s bullying, battering-ram approach – allied to no little skill – set the tone for Chelsea’s dominance. He was the focal point Chelsea had been lacking since Didier Drogba was in his pomp and, if the latter part of his season was disrupted by injury and suspension, he had done more than enough to justify a £32m fee that already looks a snip.

Barry Glendenning Diego Costa to Chelsea. Twenty league goals and 12 yellow cards was an excellent return from a snarling menace who never looked entirely at peace with his own notoriously taut hamstrings.

Andy Hunter Diego Costa. Paying a shed-load for a leading striker in European football has not guaranteed Chelsea success in the past, beyond Didier Drogba, obviously, but Costa’s seamless transition into the Premier League, his goals, work-rate and aggression announced José Mourinho’s team as champions-in-waiting from the start. Special mention too for Esteban Cambiasso.

David Hytner Alexis Sánchez. Has faded a little over the second-half of the season but his pulse-quickening performances over the first half of it set a high benchmark and were a joy to watch. South Americans are not supposed to settle this quickly. His style is tailor-made for English football.

Jamie Jackson Cesc Fàbregas. Creates goals, scores goals, runs the midfield and games.

Stuart James Struggled with this category at the start of the season and it’s some form of consolation that it’s still difficult now. Cesc Fàbregas, Alexis Sánchez and Diego Costa have claims, as does Lukasz Fabianski, who joined Swansea on a free. Taking value for money into the equation as well, Fabianski, who virtually swept the board at Swansea’s end-of-season awards, gets the nod.

Amy Lawrence Esteban Cambiasso. Just came out of left field, a veteran with River Plate, Real Madrid and Internazionale on his CV rocking up to play with Wes Morgan and Jamie Vardy. Totally inspired free transfer. Even the injured Leicester players came out to train on the day he arrived just to see him. A wonderful contribution for Leicester this season.

Scott Murray Diego Costa. With Luis Suárez gone, the Premier League desperately needed another brilliant cartoon villain. One strongly suspects Sky fingering Costa for “crimes” gave José Mourinho a warm glow in the tummy.

Sachin Nakrani Esteban Cambiasso. When Leicester announced they had signed the former Argentina midfielder on a free transfer the immediate suspicion was that he was moving to the club purely for a final, easy-does-it pay day. Instead, the Champions League-winning 34-year-old has proved an inspiring and important influence on a side who have just completed one of the most incredible survival acts in Premier League history. Not surprisingly, he was voted Leicester’s player of the season.

James Riach Alexis Sánchez. Forget needing a season to settle in England. Sánchez hit the ground running at Arsenal and has been worth every penny of his £30m fee. Twenty-four goals in all competitions and eight league assists in a debut campaign full of buzz and brilliance – without him Arsenal would have struggled.

Barney Ronay Cesc Fàbregas slotted right in and made all the goals Chelsea asked for. Although faded as always and at times poses as many structural questions as he answers.

Jacob Steinberg Chelsea needed a top striker. Diego Costa is a top striker. Chelsea bought Diego Costa. Chelsea won the league. Arsenal could learn from their proactivity in the transfer market this summer.

Daniel Taylor Diego Costa. The player Chelsea were missing last season. He and Cesc Fàbregas have taken José Mourinho’s team to the next level.

Louise Taylor Esteban Cambiasso, even if Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole did eclipse him last week. Proof there really can be top-class value in the free-transfer market.

Paul Wilson Not Ángel Di María, obviously. Diego Costa was a much better fit with Premier League requirements, even if his season tailed off through injury and suspension. Marouane Fellaini did well, too. Strictly speaking he was signed last season but this time a year ago he was everybody’s flop, so that is quite a turnaround.

Worst flop
Radamel Falcao failed to live up to expectations at Manchester United after joining on loan from Monaco. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Radamel Falcao failed to live up to expectations at Manchester United after joining on loan from Monaco. Photograph: Jon Super/AP
Paul Doyle Vincent Kompany. The statesmanlike demeanour does not wash when City’s defence is so anarchic. Dishonourable mention to Harry Redknapp.

Dominic Fifield Close-run thing between Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United and Manchester City’s recruitment department.

Owen Gibson Tight contest between Manchester United’s big-money South Americans Radamel Falcao and Ángel Di María. The Colombian just edges it, his time at Old Trafford fizzling out in a flurry of niggles and frustrating missed opportunities as it became clear that injury had vastly diminished a striker who once struck fear into the heart of opponents. At least Di María may get the chance to redeem himself next season.

Barry Glendenning Juan Cuadrado’s move from Fiorentina to Chelsea hasn’t worked out too well but it’s early days. If only they could have got their hands on Kevin de Bruyne, André Schürrle or Mohamed Salah instead, eh?

Andy Hunter John Carver. Put into an invidious position in keeping with Mike Ashley’s running of Newcastle but even that, and his brief time in the job, does not excuse the car crash that has followed on Tyneside. Mario Balotelli does not qualify in this category as no one expected him to succeed at Liverpool. Not even Brendan Rodgers, a few weeks before spending £16m on him.

David Hytner Radamel Falcao. Arrived with a towering reputation but has frequently looked lost. When he has pressed on the accelerator, there has been nothing there. The real frustration for Manchester United fans will surely come when he rediscovers his explosive game elsewhere.

Jamie Jackson Radamel Falcao. The galáctico’s galáctico had a season in hell and though it would be heartening to see a return to his former brilliance at United next term he has been told he can leave.

Stuart James Got to be a few Manchester United and Liverpool players in this category. Mario Balotelli has been a waste of space but then many suspected that would be the case. Ángel Di María would go down as a big disappointment at the moment and that was not the Radamel Falcao I had pictured playing here and terrorising central defenders.

Amy Lawrence Ahmed Elmohamady’s comedy dive against Arsenal was a flop and a half.

Scott Murray Adam Lallana. That rare thing: a two-footed English player. And very little end product from either set of expensive twinkletoes. Technical ability is not the be all and end all.

Sachin Nakrani Liverpool’s transfer committee. We won’t do a Tottenham, they insisted, after Luis Suárez was sold to Barcelona for £75m, yet ultimately that is what has come to pass: a world-class, game-changing talent departs and in his place arrives a group of players who have come nowhere near filling the quality void. Emre Can looks a decent buy and Rickie Lambert at £4m can be written off easily enough, but spending £20m on Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic, £25m on Adam Lallana and £16m on Mario Balotelli has proved a disastrous use of funds at a stage when Liverpool had the opportunity to attract Champions League-quality players. The committee, which includes the manager, Brendan Rodgers, have questions to answer, as does the entire hierarchy at the club.

James Riach Mario Balotelli. A dreadful signing for Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers took a £16m punt and it backfired.

Barney Ronay Radamel Falcao. Oh dear. Come here. Come on. Let’s have a hug.

Jacob Steinberg It is a good job that Liverpool put all that effort into signing Dejan Lovren.

Daniel Taylor Mario Balotelli. The most predictable one, too. You know he will let you down, and you just have to try to get something out of him in the better times. In Liverpool’s case they have not got near.

Louise Taylor It hast to be John Carver but he has been hung out to dry. Mike Ashley is the man to blame. Player-wise: Mario Balotelli.

Paul Wilson The north-east as a seething, passionate hotbed of football. Another dire season all round in the Premier League, Middlesbrough’s solid Championship campaign amounting to the only reason to be cheerful. Even Hull, merely through being adjacent on the east Yorkshire coast, seem to have caught the malaise from Newcastle and Sunderland. I blame the owners, Steve Gibson obviously excepted.

Best pundit
Gary Neville continues to impress in his role as a pundit with Sky Sports. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Gary Neville continues to impress in his role as a pundit with Sky Sports. Photograph: Andy Hall /for the Guardian
Paul Doyle Stan Collymore – never boring, often shouting, usually insightful.

Dominic Fifield Gary Neville, pushed now by Danny Murphy.

Owen Gibson Although Gary Neville has been consistently excellent, Jermaine Jenas has emerged as a thoughtful and enlightening presence on the BBC sofa who demonstrated the benefit of having someone fresh out of the dressing room.

Barry Glendenning Gary Neville continues to lead the field and is the best of an increasingly impressive and likable bunch of talking heads across many different TV and radio stations.

Andy Hunter Gary Neville. Provides insight that so many others do not and remains engaging even when he is clearly talking nonsense.

David Hytner Graeme Souness. Forget the younger, tactically aware pretenders. Souness is still the boss. At this best when struggling to contain the seething anger.

Jamie Jackson Gary Neville. Continues to be worth a listen whenever he speaks.

Stuart James Not something I feel strongly about. Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher. Oh, and Danny Murphy is OK. Alan Shearer would not be near the top of my list by any stretch (just want to be clear on that) but he has improved.

Amy Lawrence Shared between Sky’s excellent double act of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher. They can debate over who gets to keep it first.

Scott Murray Robbie Savage. Back in the day, summarisers interjected once every 15 to 30 minutes with a nugget of measured analysis. The pendulum can swing no further in the opposite direction than Savage’s abject, content-free, Commodore-64-on-Novaload screech when Arsenal visited Brighton in the Cup. The laws of physics state the pendulum must now start swinging back. Savage has, therefore, served a crucial purpose, and for that we should all be thankful.

Sachin Nakrani Jamie Carragher. The former Liverpool centre-back has grown into his role with Sky and formed a very watchable, insightful partnership with Gary Neville on Monday Night Football. A mention, too, for Terry Gibson, who is a brilliantly informed and articulate member of Sky’s Spanish football team.

James Riach Gary Neville and Sky’s Monday Night Football remains the best place for analysis and debate. The arrival of Jermaine Jenas on the BBC has also been refreshing.

Barney Ronay Jermaine Jenas, who does not really talk like a pundit, or even seem to realise he is on television at all, but just sounds like someone talking vaguely about football while waiting for a lift to arrive or queueing up for a sandwich.

Jacob Steinberg Jermaine Jenas has been excellent on Match of the Day, Alan Shearer has improved massively, Graeme Souness’s rancour is great on Sky on Champions League nights, Thierry Henry has shown he is not afraid to criticise Arsenal and Jamie Carragher is intelligent and passionate. But let’s face it, it is not really a contest. Gary Neville.

Daniel Taylor Gary Neville. Firmly established now as the doyen of the industry. Sky’s team – most notably Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness – are so much stronger than their counterparts elsewhere.

Louise Taylor David Pleat. Car journeys are always so much more enjoyable and informative when he is on the radio.

Paul Wilson Graeme Souness is pretty good, all the better for not having to worry any more about criticising individuals he may later find himself having to manage. I like the sound of Kevin Kilbane and Jermaine Jenas, both articulate and engaging, and I will sort of miss Andy Townsend, who may only have pointed out the bleedin’ obvious but managed to do so without being irritating, which is not a skill many commentators possess.

Biggest gripe
Arsenal fans are among those who have protested against high ticket prices. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Arsenal fans are among those who have protested against high ticket prices. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
Paul Doyle The ubiquity of bookies.

Dominic Fifield Back to Mike Ashley and the despair he is spreading around Tyneside. Where is the hope? Where is the ambition? What is the point?

Owen Gibson Ticket prices. Still. To point to full stadiums is no longer enough in light of the looming £8bn megabucks TV deal. The leagues and clubs must do more to address the make-up of that crowd, make things easier for away fans, encourage the next generation and prevent football becoming a luxury product.

Barry Glendenning While often amusing, the sight and sound of tinfoil hat-wearing managers, players or supporters working themselves into a self-righteous, mouth-foaming funk over some minor or imaginary slight against their team is getting increasingly tedious.

Andy Hunter Attending press conferences where the positive words emanating from the manager’s mouth bear no relation to the mediocre football everyone else has just witnessed.

David Hytner The shameless and relentless way that bookmakers offer odds on non-issues in the quest for promotion. How do I get off the mailing lists?

Jamie Jackson The ease with which yellow cards can be shown.

Stuart James I really wish this category wasn’t confined to work/football. Anyway, the usual things annoy me: diving and play-acting. Beyond that, people banging on about the importance of stability and citing what Fergie achieved at United in the same breath, as if every manager would turn into the Scot and have the same level of success if he was in a job long enough. Yes, clubs can be too quick at times to ditch a manager but, if Villa had stayed loyal to Paul Lambert, they would probably be playing in the Championship next season. Ditto Crystal Palace with Neil Warnock.

Amy Lawrence Premier League ticket prices. Twenty’s plenty for all away fans is overdue.

Scott Murray People keep griping about things.

Sachin Nakrani Half-and-half scarves. Yes, they’re mainly for tourists looking to mark their first time at a Premier League game but I don’t care where people are from or how harmless their intentions, everyone should know that certain clubs do not belong together on neck-warming pieces of fabric. Quite frankly, anyone caught at Old Trafford with a Man Utd-Man City scarf, at Anfield with a Liverpool-Chelsea scarf or at the Emirates with an Arsenal-Tottenham scarf should be banned from attending a football match ever again.

James Riach Bad decisions and their fall-out. Some of the refereeing decisions this season have beggared belief. Statistics produced by Professional Game Match Officials Limited state that more decisions are correct now than ever before, yet referees have got a number of the big calls wrong. Things need to improve but the regular recriminations and fall-out on Monday mornings after a controversial weekend have been tedious. Former referees throwing their weight around have not helped.

Barney Ronay Everybody having so many gripes.

Jacob Steinberg Mike Ashley’s unique charm.

Daniel Taylor José Mourinho’s conspiracy theories. Such a brilliant and charismatic manager but also so tiresome with his insistence on seeing an agenda through the prism of – well, whaddya know – his own agenda. Mourinho says everyone has it in for Chelsea. We don’t, José, and you probably know that deep down.

Louise Taylor The appalling lack of access to players at Newcastle United and Sunderland.

Paul Wilson Same as last season: stupid kick-off times and inconsiderate scheduling of matches. Especially when the price of tickets is so high.

Change for next season
Mike Ashley’s running of Newcastle United has earned him significant criticism. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Mike Ashley’s running of Newcastle United has earned him significant criticism. Photograph: Scott Heppell/AP
Paul Doyle Ban pimping. This business of buying players just to rent them out must be stopped. If a player does not start at least, say, five matches for his club, he should be allowed leave for free at the end of the season (if he wants to).

Dominic Fifield That daft rule that sees players needing minor treatment having to leave the field, often while their team defend a set piece – remember Michael Dawson against Burnley – needs to change.

Owen Gibson More in hope than expectation but it is to be hoped that the new sports minister, Tracey Crouch, makes reform of football’s outmoded structures a priority and works with the FA and the Premier League to address the crisis facing grassroots facilities.

Barry Glendenning A maximum price of £20 for away tickets, as championed tirelessly by the Football Supporters’ Federation. Clubs can easily afford the hit and it would be a nice gesture of goodwill towards the extras who often help make their productions so compelling. The enforcement of stricter rules and regulations to protect the welfare of players suffering from bangs to the head and possible concussions would also be nice.

Andy Hunter The Football Supporters’ Federation’s “Twenty is Plenty” campaign for tickets to away matches being adopted by every Premier League club. Meanwhile, in another world …

David Hytner Introduce no-fly zones over stadiums to prevent whodunnit banner warfare.

Jamie Jackson Can managers stop moaning about international call-ups/the busy festive period? It is the same for you all.

Stuart James First, if you’re going to MLS, you must clear off within a week of making the decision, so as to avoid general confusion and protracted farewells (a couple of players in mind there, in case you were wondering). Second, I’m not a Newcastle fan but please sell up, Mike Ashley. You are draining the life out of that football club. Third, the top four positions at the end of the season are not filled with the four clubs with the highest turnover (dreamland on that one).

Amy Lawrence Accelerated trials to see how the Premier League can offer more video assistance to referees. Let’s help them to get more key decisions right.

Scott Murray A wage cap, a ban on shirt sponsors, the implementation of safe standing, transfer windows to be replaced by an old-school, late-season deadline, clubs restricted to two loan deals (in and out) all season, free entry to under-16s, pints by the pitch, and free pies. This asking too much?

Sachin Nakrani More affordable ticket prices. Far too many people are being priced out of watching the club they love, which is particularly galling when billions upon billions are pouring into the Premier League through television and commercial deals. An increasing number of supporters are taking a stand – seen starkly when a large group of Liverpool fans boycotted their team’s match at Hull in April because of the cost of the away tickets – and it is about time the relevant authorities took more notice of them.

James Riach Chelsea to start on -10 points to make it interesting.

Barney Ronay Four teams to be relegated, with the last Premier League space decided by a six-team, inter-divisional play-off featuring the Championship and the Scottish title winners.

Jacob Steinberg How about experimenting with extra officials behind the goals? As long as everyone agrees not to ask what they do.

Daniel Taylor OK, it is more of a 2016 issue but the idea of Friday night matches is another poke in the eye to the dwindling numbers of us who value football’s traditions (and while we’re at it, a 3pm kick-off for the FA Cup final may be welcome, too.)

Louise Taylor For all Premier League clubs to develop and fund their own women’s team and offer them the sort of facilities Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal provide for their excellent female sides.

Paul Wilson I would like to see Thursday night football abolished. David Cameron ought to use his new majority to make it illegal in this country. So then Uefa could either move the day of their Europa League games or go ahead without English involvement. No one would really mind. Most English clubs would love an official sicknote.

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

The Premier League season came to a close at the weekend, with all eyes on the relegation battle as Newcastle beat the drop – eventually finishing 15th – courtesy of a 2-0 win over West Ham that rendered Hull City’s result against Manchester United, a respectable 0-0 draw, redundant. Chelsea were finally presented with the Premier League trophy, while Sergio Agüero reaffirmed his position as the top-flight’s leading goalscorer with a late tap-in against Southampton to take his tally to 26 for the season. Agüero was overlooked in the PFA’s player of the season nominations last month, with Eden Hazard deservedly scooping the top award. Here we look at WhoScored’s team of the season using their statistically calculated player ratings, featuring players who made at least 25 league appearances.

Costel Pantilimon, Sunderland, 7.12

No David de Gea is the headline here. The Manchester United keeper may have stole the column inches but, were it not for the heroics of Costel Pantilimon at the opposite end of the table, Sunderland may have lost their top-flight status. The giant Romanian was at his best as they secured their survival against Arsenal last week but that was just one of many heroic displays from the former Manchester City man. Pantilimon produced 109 saves over his 28 league appearances, with a save success rate of 78.4% by far the strongest in the Premier League. While De Gea undoubtedly pulled off some of the finest saves and goalkeeping displays of the season, his comparative figure of just 69.4% is evidence enough that the Sunderland stopper was the most consistent over the course of the campaign.

Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea, 7.25
The burly Serbian’s performances were hardly surprising given his consistency in recent years. He again had a significant impact going forward, scoring four goals and registering five assists, with an average of 2.3 tackles per game helping the 31-year-old towards a rating of 7.25.

Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal, 7.39
In at centre-back after another impressive campaign with Arsenal, Laurent Koscielny has become one of his team’s most important players over the past two years. Arsenal conceded almost half as many goals in the 26 matches he started this season (0.73) as they did in the 12 matches that he didn’t (1.42).

Chris Smalling, Manchester United, 7.35
There’s no doubt that Chris Smalling has made significant strides since the turn of the year under Louis van Gaal but he is perhaps the most controversial inclusion in the XI. The England international’s recent form has been mightily impressive in particular – in his 15 league starts in 2015 the centre-half has picked up just one match rating lower than a 7 – boasting impressive seasonal averages of 2.4 interceptions and 2.8 aerial duels won per game.

Nacho Monreal, Arsenal, 7.33
Nacho Monreal is another defender who has come on leaps and bounds this season, firmly cementing his status as Arsenal’s first choice left-back in front of Kieran Gibbs. The Spaniard has enjoyed by far and away his best season since a move to North London, with averages of 2.3 tackles and 3.1 interceptions per game seeing his rating jump from 6.67 last season to 7.33 this year.

Alexis Sánchez, Arsenal, 7.33
In a sensational debut season at the Emirates, Alexis Sánchez scored 16 league goals and recorded eight assists, ranking among the top five players in the league for key passes (2.3) and dribbles (3.3) per game. He also showed tremendous work rate to finish the season with two tackles per game.

Santi Cazorla,Arsenal, 7.60
The fourth and final Arsenal player to make the best XI is Santi Cazorla, who pulled the strings in a deeper role than we have seen him since he moved to the Premier League. Cazorla scored seven goals and finished second in the league when it came to assists, with 11, while seeing his figures for both shots (2.5) and dribbles (2.4) per game rise from last season.

Cesc Fàbregas, Chelsea, 7.62
His season may have ended in ridiculous fashion with a red at West Brom but Fàbregas’ creative exploits helped him to secure his first ever Premier League winners’ medal in his debut season at Chelsea. He was the only player to register more assists than his aforementioned Spanish compatriot, Cazorla, with a huge 18, and while his form dipped following the turn of the year, a rating of 7.62 was thoroughly deserved for a player who had a huge bearing on the title race.

Eden Hazard, Chelsea, 7.96
Eden Hazard completes the midfield, having earned a league-high rating of 7.96. The Belgian scored 14 goals and registered nine assists but his dribbling figures truly set him apart. The winger completed 181 in total, a full 66 more than any other player in the top flight.

Sergio Agüero, Manchester City, 7.67
It’s only right that the league’s top scorer should appear in the team of the season, and Agüero does so here courtesy of a rating of 7.67. His 26-goal tally was accompanied by eight assists, with a direct hand in more goals (34) than any other Premier League player by a distance. He had the most shots per game (4.5) and completed 2.6 dribbles per game.

Diego Costa, Chelsea, 7.43
If Agüero’s goals meant little in the grand scheme of things, Diego Costa’s were absolutely vital. The former Atlético Madrid striker settled into life in England in some style. Despite injuries and suspensions limiting him to a 26-game season, the Spain international notched his 20th league goal on the final day as Chelsea ran away with the title. With just 2.9 shots per game, Costa’s conversion rate of 26.3% was nothing short of exceptional.


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