Premier League’s longest ever season was finally brought to its fruition last Sunday. In spite of Liverpool winning the league at a canter and a hapless Norwich City side already relegated, there was still a lot in store on the final day.
There were a total of six sides – three towards the top and three towards the bottom of the Premier League table that had different sets of issues to address on the day that mattered.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City fought to fill the two vacant Champions League places, while for Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth it was a battle of survival.
In the end, Manchester United and Chelsea’s success at the top was matched by the Villans towards the bottom, with Watford and Bournemouth being pushed out of the top flight.
It wasn’t an all gloomy 2019-20 season for the relegated teams though, as they showed sparks of brilliance in between and several of their players featured in the Premier League Teams of the Week chosen by pundits on a regular basis.
In this article, we are going to take a look at two players from each of the three relegated teams and discuss their performances over the course of the recently-concluded Premier League season.
French midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure impressed everyone so much with his performances this season that he has been linked with a move to several Premier League clubs in the summer.
Everton, Aston Villa, West Ham and Manchester United have all been linked with the player, who can operate as a number ten as well. Even some Liverpool fans have spoken about their keenness to have the 27-year-old in their ranks next season.
Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a special preference towards players who can operate in multiple roles on the pitch and Abdoulaye Doucoure fits the bill nicely.
The former Rennes man has made 29 direct goal contributions in 129 Premier League games, a stat which will likely interest the Norwegian tactician.
Solskjaer can, therefore, use Doucoure as a back-up to January signing, Bruno Fernandes or deploy him in a completely different role if needed.
The 17 Premier League goals Abdoulaye Doucoure has scored for the Hornets so far also gives his suitors an idea about what to expect from him.
Senegal international, Ismaila Sarr arrived amidst much glitz and glamour at Vicarage Road last summer. Watford spent a club-record £30 m to sign him from Rennes, despite interest from Arsenal and Leicester City.
And the youngster proved to be worth every penny as he ended the season by featuring in 28 Premier League games, scoring five goals and setting up six more for his team-mates.
Watford fans know very well that it will be difficult to keep hold of their star man as they prepare for life in the Championship next season, and Arsenal might come back with an offer. The possibility of getting a cut-price deal will keep others interested in the player as well.
Watford skipper, Troy Deeney deserves a special mention as well after netting 10 times in the Premier League.
Joshua King has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for Bournemouth.
The 28-year-old managed to score six goals for Eddie Howe’s side over the course of the Premier League season, setting up four more, but could be on his way out of Dean Court for a bargain price.
Manchester United did make a move for the Norwegian in January but Howe refused to sell so late into the transfer window. King’s prior stint at the Old Trafford-based outfit could prove to be crucial if a deal actually materialises this summer.
His national team assistant coach, Per Joar Hansen in a recent interview with Norwegian daily, Dagbladet said that he was very much optimistic about the possibility of Joshua King moving to Manchester United.
“The link to United is strong. King has played there as an academy player. His former coach in the reserve team is now the head coach of the club. He’s also got himself a new agent in Jim Solbakken, who is also Solskjaer’s agent.
“You should never say never. Ole Gunnar knows Josh well from the reserve team, and he has contributed to his development. In addition, Josh knows well what United stands for. But we’re not going to get bogged down in it, it’s just speculation.”
Defensive contributions often get ignored in relegation-threatened teams, and something similar happened with Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake.
Since his move to Bournemouth from Chelsea back in 2017, the Dutch defender has gone on to establish himself as one of the most dependable defenders in the Premier League.
He featured in 29 of his side’s 38 league games this season and is most certainly too good to play in the Championship.
Both Manchester United and Manchester City have been credited with showing interest in the 25-year-old, with Pep Guardiola’s side believed to have already made contact with the Cherries over a possible move.
Manchester United legend, Rio Ferdinand said in a recent interview with BT Sports that the Red Devils “need a center-back with pace.”
And Nathan Ake certainly fits the bill.
Teemu Pukki was one of the few players in Daniel Farke’s side who made an impression in the top flight, in spite of Norwich City having a dismal campaign overall.
The Finnish international featured in as many as 36 of his side’s 38 Premier League games, scoring 11 goals, and the Norwich manager’s desperation to keep hold of the player shows the quality of the 30-year-old.
“He is a key player for us. He started 32 Premier League games. That says a lot about my trust and belief in him. He finished as the top scorer again. The second part of the season was difficult for him because we struggled as a team.”
Teemu Pukki also played a key role in Finland qualifying for the Euros – the nation’s first-ever appearance in a major international tournament.
The striker has been linked with a move to Turkish outfit Besiktas.
In his first season at the top level, Norwich City academy graduate, Todd Cantwell impressed one and all with his performances in the middle of the pitch.
He featured in 37 Premier League games for the Canaries, scoring six goals and setting up two more. At 22, he still has his best years ahead of him.
Newcastle United and Leicester City have been linked with a move for the player, and even Manchester City are believed to be keeping tabs on the young midfielder.
However, Norwich manager, Daniel Farke has insisted that his side would only sell their talented youngsters if they get a “stupid offer”.
22-year-old Ben Godfrey is yet another player who has been keeping big clubs interested. The Canaries consider him an important part of their future plans and have slapped a £50m price tag on Godfrey, with German giants Bayern Munich showing keen interest.
Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig have also been linked with a move for the youngster.
Also Read: Premier League 2019-20: Season Review and Key Stats