The 2019-20 Premier League season finally reached its conclusion on Sunday night as fans were treated to some thrills and spills on the final day of the campaign.
It wasn’t necessarily a feature of the final day though, as the mini-season starting in the middle of June had everything in it needed to term it a potboiler.
When the season was suspended in early March, Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City were showing every sign of returning to the Champions League next term.
They were placed third with 50 points, leading fourth-placed Chelsea by five and seventh-placed Manchester United by eight.
However, when it all ended, Manchester United had replaced them in the top four, thus earning approximately €15m in prize money, which could have gone a long way in helping Leicester become more competitive next season.
Towards the bottom, it was Aston Villa, who were able to sneak out of the relegation zone at the very last minute, thus knocking Bournemouth and Watford out of the Premier League. Daniel Farke’s Norwich City will join the Cherries and the Hornets in the Championship next seson.
So, here we are going to review the recently-concluded season and pick out some of the key highlights.
After getting their hands on the Champions League trophy last season, the Reds followed it up by winning their maiden Premier League title.
The Reds gave it their all in 2018-19, but fell just a point short of champions, Manchester City.
However, Liverpool gave Pep Guardiola’s side no chance this season. The Merseysiders finished with 99 points, just one short of three figures and one more than what their title rivals had managed to accumulate last season.
At one point, it felt that the Reds would manage to challenge the 2003-04 Arsenal’s “Invincibles” tag.
Former Arsenal player and a member of the famous squad, Martin Keown said in an interview with Daily Mail that he felt that the feat was very much achievable.
“It won’t be easy. But as someone who was part of an Invincibles group 16 years ago, do I think Liverpool will stay unbeaten this season? Yes, I do. They have all the right ingredients.”
That dream failed to materialize eventually, but just three defeats and three draws in as many as 38 games is still an unbelievable achievement.
Liverpool also couldn’t break the Premier League record for most points collected in a single season, falling just one short of Manchester City’s tally of 100 in 2017-18.
But all in all, it was a season to remember for Liverpool and everyone associated with the club.
European places: Who achieved what?
Apart from Liverpool and Manchester City, who had confirmed their places in next season’s Champions League before the COVID-19-enforced break, Manchester United and Chelsea managed to get their noses ahead of their nearest competitor, Leicester City.
On the final day, Manchester United beat Brendan Rodgers’ side 2-0 at the King Power Stadium, meaning the Foxes will be playing in the Europa League next season.
They will be joined in the second-tier continental competition by Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers, although Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will have some hurdles on their path to overcome (taking part in the tournament’s second qualifying round) in order to ensure their participation.
However, if Arsenal beat Chelsea in the final of the FA Cup on 1st August, the Gunners will directly qualify to the group stages of the Europa League.
In that case, Wolves will be denied entry into the tournament and Arsenal’s rivals, Tottenham will be forced into playing in the second qualifying round.
Who got relegated to the Championship?
After West Ham United ensured their Premier League safety with a 1-1 draw against Manchester United on 22nd July, it boiled down to Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Watford fighting to get out of the two remaining relegation spots, with Norwich City failing to save their top-flight status earlier.
On the final day of the campaign, Aston Villa managed to draw 1-1 with West Ham, thus avoiding relegation with a whisker as they finished with 35 points, just one more than Bournemouth and Watford, who will be joining Norwich City in the Championship next season.
While Watford lost 3-2 to Arsenal, Bournemouth failed to avoid the drop, despite beating Everton 3-1.
Surprise package of the season: Sheffield United
Chris Wilder’s side were obviously the surprise package of the season. They Premier League new boys finished ninth but gave the bigger teams a run for their money in the race for European places.
Had they managed a better start following the unscheduled break, the Blades could have very well qualified for the Europa League.
Sheffield United had been playing in the third division of English football even three seasons back.
They won the League One title in 2016-17, and over the course of the next three seasons, they have come a long way in establishing themselves among the powers that be in the Premier League.
When the season was suspended in early March, Wilder’s team were sixth on the Premier League table, leading Manchester United by one point, Tottenham by two and Arsenal by three.
Although they eventually finished behind the three more established clubs, it was still a huge achievement, given it was their first season back in the top flight.
Leicester City and Wolves also deserve a special mention, and while the Foxes will be gutted to miss out on Champions League football, the Molineux outfit will be waiting with bated breathe to find out if Arsenal will be able to gatecrash their Europa League qualification by lifting the FA Cup.
Key stats from the 2019-20 Premier League season
· Liverpool came close to breaking Manchester City’s record of amassing the most number of points in a season, ending with 99 – one short of the 100 the Citizens managed at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
· Liverpool also finished second best in terms of the title-winning margin, with the difference between them and the Sky Blues being 18, compared to 19 between Manchester City and Manchester United at the end of the 2017-18 season.
· The Reds, however, matched Manchester City in terms of the total number of wins over the course of a Premier League season. Their tally of 32 wins is equal with Manchester City’s record during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
· Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne equalled Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry’s long-standing assist record in a single season. His 20th assist of the season in the match against Norwich City on the final day drew him level with the Frenchman’s record, which was set during the famous 2003-04 season.
· At 33, Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy became the oldest player to win the Premier League Golden Boot by scoring 23 goals. It was the first time he finished as the Premier League’s top goalscorer. Vardy’s nearest competitors, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Southampton’s Danny Ings both finished with 22 goals each.
· Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson won the Golden Glove award, keeping 16 clean sheets in 35 appearances. Closest to him was Burnley’s Nick Pope, who managed 15 shoutouts.
· Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk ended the season with a record 3,259 passes, almost 1,000 more than Manchester City midfielder Rodrigo, who finished with 2,579.
· Manchester United full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka finished with the most number of tackles to his name.
· Everton full-back Leighton Baines, who announced his retirement at the end of the season, became the only defender in the history of the Premier League to record over 50 assists over the course of his career. He ended with 53 assists to his name.
· West Ham academy graduate Declan Rice became the fourth midfielder within the age of 21 to play every minute of a Premier League season. His predecessors are – Gary Kelly (1993-94), Frank Lampard (1998-99) and Wayne Bridge (2001-01 and 2001-02).
· It was also Premier League’s longest ever season at the end of which some top players such as Jan Vertonghen, Adam Lallana and David Silva bid goodbye to their respective clubs.
Also Read: Premier League 2019-20: Team of the Season