Premier League Winners And Losers...

No question about who tops the winners while Liverpool are included despite, frankly, cocking it up. Arsenal are in the losers list as they face another summer of 'what if'...

Last Updated: 12/05/14 at 12:15 Post Comment

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Defeat Would Have Been Shattering For Arsenal


And for that reason they are included on Matthew Stanger's Winners list. Now they have to build momentum. Plus, Rodgers must accept blame in growing Balotelli debacle...

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Arsenal are predictably in the losers after dropping valuable points at home to Hull as Chelsea and Man City continue to make it a two-horse race at the top of the table...

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Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini
Champions for the second time in three years after recovering from slip-ups against Liverpool and Sunderland to record five consecutive victories that secured the title. It was the eight-game winning run either side of Christmas that cemented City's challenge, however, and required Liverpool to take 40 points from their last 14 games to capture a first league crown in 24 years.

City have always been the team to beat this season owing to a brilliant squad that Adam Bate listed as one of the leading factors in their success. Considering the increased expectations that follow Sheikh Mansour's enormous investment, there won't be many people crowing about predicting City's victory, but that shouldn't diminish Manuel Pellegrini's superb achievement in his first year in England.

There are two main elements to Pellegrini marking a first title triumph in Europe - and the second of his five-trophy target - which underline why it was the right decision to install him as Roberto Mancini's replacement last summer. There may be questions over City's results in the biggest matches, but no-one was able to match their consistency over the course of a 38-game campaign.

Firstly, City have been incredibly resilient. When they lost at Cardiff and Aston Villa in the first six weeks, Pellegrini wasn't worried, insisting that his team's quality would eventually shine through. Two more away defeats soon followed - to Chelsea and Sunderland - but that problem was then rectified from December onwards as City marched to nine wins in 13 on the road, including a 5-1 thrashing of Spurs, a 3-0 win at Old Trafford, a 2-0 success at Crystal Palace - who beat Chelsea and threw a spanner into Liverpool's challenge - and a 3-2 victory over Everton to put one hand on the trophy.

When City lost to Chelsea at the Etihad, they made sure they beat the Blues in the FA Cup two weeks later to gain an important psychological boost. Cup exits to Wigan and Barcelona had the potential to derail a Premier League charge, but they recovered to beat Hull away from home with only ten men and win four of their next five matches, with the fifth result a 1-1 draw at Arsenal.

And crucially, when it seemed they might have blown their chances with a late loss at Anfield and 2-2 draw with Sunderland, City bounced back to win their last five matches with the minimum amount of fuss. Although four of those opponents were in the bottom half of the table, one need only look to Liverpool's collapse at Palace or the recent results for La Liga's top three to see how difficult it is to maintain a winning run when the pressure is really on.

The second aspect of Pellegrini's achievement is that he has transformed City into free-scoring entertainers, something that always seemed beyond Roberto Mancini. It has not been to the detriment of a solid defence, either, which was the main reason Liverpool eventually crumbled. To illustrate just how impressive City have been in attack (and perhaps how poorly Manchester United have performed), the champions' goal difference of +65 is greater than United's 'goals for' column. Seven of those strikes came against their rivals, who were one of many teams City destroyed in thrilling fashion on their way to the title.

The challenge now, as Vincent Kompany said, is to keep winning and combine domestic success with further adventures in Europe. City are bound to spend again in the summer and if they can address certain issues in the same problem-solving manner that saw Fernandinho arrive to form a brilliant midfield partnership with Yaya Toure, then they will no doubt kick on again next year.

Samir Nasri
A crucial goal on the last day, but his 88th-minute equaliser against Sunderland was even more important in keeping the pressure on Liverpool. Without that goal, the Reds could have afforded to lose to Chelsea and still won the league with wins over Palace and Newcastle.

Following a disappointing campaign last year, Nasri has played a pivotal role in City's title win and, despite previous indiscretions, it's incredible that he is set to be overlooked by France for the World Cup. As Pellegrini said after the win over West Ham: "I can't believe Samir Nasri will not be going to World Cup. It will be an important mistake."

Victors in vain on the final day as Liverpool paid the price for losing to Chelsea when, at that stage, only a point was required to keep the title in their hands. Better teams than this have bottled it in the run-in, but the sense of regret will live long in the memories of Steven Gerrard and company. No matter how much Liverpool have achieved, no matter how brilliantly they performed in an 11-game winning run, this will always be remembered as the year they blew it.

It seems mean to dwell on that defeat to Chelsea, despite the Blues making eight changes to the XI that beat City 1-0 at the Etihad and still cruising to a 2-0 win. Liverpool's failure was to be themselves and play their own game when they needed to mirror the opposition. On that occasion, two negatives would surely have equalled a positive for the Reds.

But this has been a season of enormous encouragement at Anfield. The goals of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have led Liverpool's title challenge, but the club's success is founded in so much more. Brendan Rodgers has once again demonstrated his tactical flexibility to find the best roles for Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson has progressed to the stage where his absence in the run-in proved to be a telling factor, while Philippe Coutinho's omission from the Brazil World Cup squad is as puzzling as Nasri's exclusion for France.

There are doubts as to how Liverpool will perform next year with the added pressure of the Champions League, but there is a great deal for Rodgers to build on. And build he must, as Daniel Storey wrote here. The time to strengthen is when you are ahead and returning to Europe's elite competition should mean that Rodgers can spend on players above the quality of Iago Aspas and Fabio Borini. It is a venture into the unknown for the manager, but one in which he must succeed if Liverpool are to remain in the top four and resist what we can expect will be stronger challenges from Manchester United and Tottenham.

Three places below Liverpool, but very much in the same boat. Were it not for disastrous failures at Tottenham and Manchester United this season, Everton's route to fifth would have been a lot more difficult.

That isn't to belittle Roberto Martinez's fantastic achievements, but rather to focus on what happens next. Romelu Lukaku is unlikely to return on a permanent basis and so will need to be replaced while Everton will require a stronger squad to compete in the Europa League. From next season, the winners of that competition will be awarded a place in the Champions League, which might offer Martinez his best opportunity to fulfil his promise to Bill Kenwright.

Luke Shaw
Tipped to be in England's World Cup squad and the subject of reports that Manchester United have made a £27m offer for his services. Shaw is still only 18, but his reputation has risen exponentially over two impressive seasons in the Premier League.

Wilfried Bony
Five goals in the last four games to underline his talent to potential suitors; 25 in 48 matches in his first season for Swansea to prove that it wasn't merely a final flourish. Whatever happens regarding Bony's future this summer, it's clear that the Swans' £12m investment was money well spent.

Dwight Gayle
Four goals in 115 minutes. If he can maintain that ratio over a full campaign next season, Gayle will finish on 118 goals.

That should probably see him claim the European Golden Shoe.

Manchester United
Winners because a nightmare season is finally over. An absence of European football was a key factor in Liverpool's title challenge and should prove to be influential in United returning to the top four next season. With talk of Louis van Gaal soon being confirmed as the club's new manager with a £100m budget, there is plenty to get United fans excited. The David Moyes mini-era was a disaster for the club, but there is every chance it will turn out just to be a hiccup.


Plane banners
United fans gloating to Steven Gerrard after the campaign they've just endured? Last season's champions have made more headlines for pathetic plane banners in the last two months than they have by delivering impressive performances. That supporters were desperately hoping for a City title win to spoil Liverpool's dream reinforces that this really isn't the time to rub it in over Gerrard's slip. It's amusing that United fans enjoy ridiculing Liverpool supporters for dwelling on the club's history when a group of their own decided to fly a banner that read 'United 20 - Gerrard 0' over Anfield on Sunday. Still, I suppose that does sound better than 'United 7th - Liverpool 2nd'.

It's supposed to be Liverpool fans who claim that next year will be their year, but that has been Jose Mourinho's view of Chelsea's challenge all season. Despite his persistent and tedious claims, the Blues finish only four points behind City, who they defeated both home and away. Had they beaten Sunderland and Norwich in the final four matches, then Chelsea would now be champions. It was a collapse more protracted than Gerrard's costly slip at Anfield, but no less embarrassing.

Only three points behind Chelsea in fourth, and as close to City as they are to Everton. Aaron Ramsey's stunning volley against Norwich leaves Arsenal fans pondering what might have been had Arsene Wenger signed a new striker and strengthened his squad sufficiently last summer. They will also ponder whether the manager has learned from his mistakes to rectify those issues before the start of the new campaign.

Tim Sherwood
I'm still not convinced that Sherwood is as clueless as everyone seems to think, but he certainly won't be given a chance to prove that at Tottenham. It is incredibly difficult to take over an underperforming team halfway through the season - especially when it's your first managerial role - but behind the bravado Sherwood's record stands up to scrutiny. Spurs are fifth in the form table since his appointment - just two points behind Arsenal and three ahead of Manchester United - and have scored more goals than every team other than City and Liverpool over that period. Sherwood is a loser because his reputation for being a buffoon is now certain to precede him, but in terms of results he has done a better job than his potential replacement, Mauricio Pochettino, over the last five months.

Newcastle annd the bottom half
Please can someone explain to me how Newcastle lost 14 of their last 20 matches and still remained in the top half?

Eight defeats and only two wins in their last 11 Premier League matches is hardly perfect preparation for a cup final. Hull have picked up the same number of points as Norwich and two fewer than Fulham in 2014, which rather takes some of the shine off their achievement of qualifying for Europe for the first time. No-one should be rewarded for potentially coming second in a cup competition.

Matthew Stanger - follow him on Twitter

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Rodgers: No defence coach


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Rodgers: No defence coach

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