Yesterday saw the conclusion of the 2019/2020 Premier League campaign and what a year it was!
The hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic was unprecedented and the big headline was Liverpool finally delivering the EPL trophy after a 30-year wait.
However, there are quite a few other key aspects that marked the year and this is what I will concentrate on in this post.
We now know which teams will be competing in the Champions League next season and who failed to retain their Premier League status.
There is a lot to unpack, so let’s get the ball rolling here.
Who Will Play In the Champions League Next Season?
One of the biggest stories of the last matchweek was Manchester United’s 2:0 victory over Leicester City.
The loss effectively ended the hopes of Brendan Rodgers and his team of qualifying for next year’s edition of the Champions League which can be a big blow for the club.
The season started tremendously for them and the midfield trio of Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, and Wilfried Ndidi was simply shredding opposition teams apart and proved to be the perfect providing unit for Jamie Vardy, who once again clinched the top goalscorer prize.
Leicester’s loss was Manchester United’s gain as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team leapfrogged both the Foxes and Chelsea to finish 3rd in a season which was looking very gloomy at the start.
With the help of the returning Paul Pogba and an inspired Marcus Rashford, United managed to bring back the spark that won Solskjaer a permanent deal at the club.
Sure, David de Gea’s recent form has been troubling but young starlet Dean Henderson is waiting on the sidelines after a very successful season with Sheffield United and the team’s defense looks to have finally found the right balance.
Harry Maguire became the club’s first player in 25 years to appear in every EPL fixture and despite coming under a lot of criticism during the campaign, we should applaud the fact that he has been ever-present and his application has been brilliant.
With Luke Shaw and Wan-Bissaka on the sides, United have a great foundation to try and bring back the defensive solidity that resulted in so much success during the Sir Alex Ferguson days.
Chelsea also caught the train for the 2020/2021 Champions’ League edition but it was never a sure deal.
The team’s form has been a bit touch-and-go since the restart and I felt that Frank Lampard understood quite well that he needed to bring back a bit of experience to the side to push them through.
Olivier Giroud has been in great form since the league restarted and veterans Marcos Alonso and Cezar Azpilicueta have also led by example.
It was a realization that will serve Lampard well for the rest of his career as he will now understand that youthful enthusiasm is not enough if you want to make it to the top of the Premier League.
Players like Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, and Tammy Abraham made huge strides this season but if it wasn’t for the efforts of the seasoned professionals, Chelsea would have never finished 4th.
Liverpool and Manchester City were certain to occupy the two spots and now that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has lifted City’s Champions League ban, we’ll be seeing both sides play at the tournament next year.
Who Failed to Beat the Drop?
Norwich City, Bournemouth, and Watford will be the teams going down to the Championship.
Norwich started the campaign well and with Finnish goalscorer Teemu Pukki’s outrageous form, it looked like that the Canaries had a chance of defying the odds.
However, their defensive efforts couldn’t quite match their energetic offensive approach and this sealed the team’s fate early.
I’m sad to see Bournemouth go down as the club has been a great example of how long-term planning can lift you to the next level.
Unfortunately, competing in the top tier took a lot out of manager Eddie Howe and his players, and they simply couldn’t outmuscle their opponents this year.
I sincerely hope that the club will retain the services of the young English manager as I feel he hasn’t had his last say in the Premier League.
Watford’s approach has been diametrically opposed compared to what Bournemouth did in the league for years.
The club changed a lot of managers in the past few years and there was no clear plan as to how they want to play their football and what their future plans are.
A lot of quality players joined the team but their relegation once again proves that you can’t just buy your way into staying in the top flight.
I expect a lot of these players will now leave the club and if they continue with their chaotic and short-sighted approach, I can’t really see them coming back anytime soon.
What Can We Expect from Next Season?
I hope that the campaign that will start in September will not be marred by the same catastrophic pandemic that shook up the Premier League this year.
A few teams including Leicester City, and Sheffield United really paid the price for the hiatus, which was unfortunate as both were doing extremely well until then.
On the flip side, teams like West Ham United will be very pleased with their form since the restart and I believe David Moyes made a huge statement by steering them to safety.
It will be interesting to see whether he can take them to the next level now but given his track record with Everton, I wouldn’t bet against it.
Arsenal’s case is really interesting to me as Mikel Arteta has definitely managed to breathe new life in the club. The vibe suddenly changed and there seems to be a clear plan of how he wants to make this team perform better.
Additions will be needed of course but there seems to be a solid foundation and if the Arsenal executives give the Spaniard ample time to implement his ideas, the club may finally go back on the right path after years of waddling around near the top of the Premier League.
And finally, I think Manchester United may be the big winners with the way this season wrapped up.
It may sound strange to say this after Liverpool romped to the title and City finished 15 points above them, but the fact that they managed to secure Champions League qualification can be absolutely vital. Players like Pogba, Rashford, Martial, and Maguire have been brilliant since the restart and if Solskjaer can keep this vibe going, we may be looking at a serious contender next year, especially if the club can boost their ranks with a couple of quality additions.