Four of these sides found mid-table mediocrity, while one of them found the trap door. The first two clubs disappointed their fans, while the last two over-performed. The choice for best player was obvious for three of them, while the other two offered up some choice. Finally, only two of the clubs still have the manager they started the season with… for now.
Wayne Rooney (ENG) – We knew it would be a year of transition for Manchester United, and it is dishonest for people to blame David Moyes for all of the Red Devils’ transgressions this season. Yes, Moyes showed remarkable naiveté in the transfer market and yes, his predictable tactics earned no plaudits. But Sir Alex Ferguson left his fellow Scot with a mediocre squad that only performed for the outgoing manager. It is the irony of ironies then, that the one player that wanted away from the club would be its most consistent player. Robin Van Persie fans point to the Dutchman’s goals per game ratio… but Rooney put the ball in the net more and more importantly, far surpassed his team mates as a playmaker. England’s only true world-class player… and United are lucky to have him.
Loïc Remy (FRA) – Is there a big club in more disarray than Newcastle United? A disinterested owner and a volatile manager always seem to be the stories on Tyneside. But now the Magpies are left to rue the departure of the team’s two best players. Yohan Cabaye’s impact was such that he was still Newcastle’s second-best scorer, even though he left in January. Now his compatriot, Loïc Remy, has finished his loan spell. The signing of the Lyonnais was a coup for Pardew, and paid dividends, linking up well with Cabaye. But then the midfielder left, Remy spent long stretches on the bench, and Newcastle’s second-half slide undid all of the successes of the season’s first half. Pity.
Robert Snodgrass (SCO) Dutch Dreams turned into a relegation nightmare for the East Anglian side. Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer quickly found out the Premier League is, well, leagues above the Portuguese and Dutch games. The two — along with Celtic striker Gary Hooper — were supposed to stop Norwich’s goal slide, after the wonderful rampant play from their promotion season in 2011-12. Instead, they flopped and the Canaries had the worst goal production in the top seven tiers of English football, and tied with relegated Bologna across Europe’s top five leagues. The only Norwich player worth his mettle was ambi-winger Robert Snodgrass. Look for him to end up at Upton Park next season with West Ham.
Adam Lallana (ENG) – At the other end of the spectrum is Southampton. Looking at their line-up is like staring into a football shop window. Who to pick? The “other” super-striker tandem of Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez? Young left back Luke Shaw? Emerging playmaker Steven Davis? How about Nathaniel Clyne? The Saints’ player of the year has to be a member of the ever-elusive species, Acieslevus Anglicus: left winger Adam Lallana. You only have to watch his masterclass against Newcastle on March 29th, when he crossed, passed and scored his club through to a 4-0 romp at St. Mary’s. He and several of his team mates will likely not be on the south coast come next season… and Southampton will be the victim of its own success.
PETER CROUCH (ENG) – Sometimes a player will start at his small hometown club, but will quickly outgrow the team and then get swooped up by a bigger club. But sometimes, that player should have just stayed as the big fish in the small pond. Witness Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch, two players who did well in a wee outfit (Blackpool and QPR/Portsmouth/Villa/Norwich/S’ton) but kind of fizzled when they hit the big time (Liverpool). However, since their arrival at Stoke City, the pair have thrived. Adam fits in well with Mark Hughes’ rough-and-tumble philosophy, and Crouchie is the perfect target man for the tried-and-trued, oh-so-British, 4-4-2, kick-and-run style at Stoke. Crouch gets the nod here because of his goals and assists…
Up Next: Sunderland to West Ham