Aldo's heroes and villain: Terry was brill, Mario was muck
There were more misses than hits in a Premier league season that failed to catch fire for too many teams, with Chelsea’s runaway title triumph confirming their rivals all came up a long way short of their targets.
As we all look ahead to a few weeks without the game that fills most of our spare time for ten months of the year, here are my heroes and villains of a season that will not live for too long in the memory – unless you are Jose Mourinho and Chelsea of course.
FLOP OF THE YEAR – MARIO BALOTELLI
I do not intend to focus this week’s column on Liverpool, but there is only one man who can fill this category – Mario was anything but Super in his first season at Anfield.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers knew he was taking a big gamble when he paid £16m to sign Balotelli and it was always going to be a deal that saw his value soar or shrink in double quick time. He scored one Premier League goal all season. Say no more.
HERO OF THE YEAR – JOHN TERRY
Chelsea’s skipper may be hard to love, but you have to admire his abilities as a fantastic defender and a wonderful leader.
Regular readers of my Sunday World column will know that I don’t offer Chelsea too many compliments, but Terry was just fantastic this season. Without him, I really do wonder if Jose Mourinho’s men would have won the Premier League, that’s how good he has been.
SIGNING OF THE SEASON – ALEXIS SANCHEZ
Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were superb additions to the Chelsea team that won the title with ease, but Sanchez was the best signing of the lot for me and, as we all know, Liverpool came pretty close to getting him last summer.
Sanchez’s decision to pick Arsenal over Liverpool was a massive game-changer before a ball had even been kicked. If he had gone the other way, I reckon my old club would have finished ahead of the Gunners and been back in the Champions League, but Arsenal pulled off a masterstroke by getting this world class forward.
BIGGEST FRUSTRATION – LIVERPOOL’S LACK OF SCORING POWER
I must have sat through 20 Liverpool games last season and came away thinking – if only they had a decent centre-forward that could score a bloody goal or two.
As a former striker, seeing a team that didn’t have a cutting edge from the moment Daniel Sturridge got injured was horrible to watch. Fabio Borini and Balotelli are flop signings and Rickie Lambert wasn’t given enough chances to play – this lack of finishing power cost Liverpool badly. With a couple of decent strikers, a poor season could have been so very different.
RISING STAR OF THE SEASON – GARRY MONK
Let’s be honest, most of us didn’t know a whole lot about this young manager when the season started, but we ended up being very impressed by the way he has gone about his job as Swansea manager.
The Welsh club have done well in picking the right managers over the last few years with Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup all doing well there and now Monk has shown that you don’t have to be a famous name to succeed in a Premier League job.
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMER – HARRY KANE
This lad caught everyone’s eye and as a former striker who liked to get into the box and score poacher’s goals, I appreciated the manner in which Kane went about his work this season.
He seems to have a great attitude and to finish the campaign with more than 30 goals in a Tottenham side that came up short too often in other areas was a fantastic effort. He now needs to back up his breakthrough season with more of the same next time around. That might not be so easy.
IDIOT OF THE SEASON – MIKE ASHLEY
I don’t blame managers Alan Pardew or John Carver for the mess that was Newcastle for most of this season because the way that club is being run by their owner Mike Ashley was the sole reason why they so nearly ended up getting relegated.
Ashley’s mismanagement of a club that has a massive fanbase has been disgraceful. In many ways, he deserved to be relegated into the Championship, but he lives to fight another day in the Premier League by the skin of his teeth.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR – JOSE MOURINHO
I’m not his biggest fan, but you have to take your hat off to him this season for the fantastic job he did at Chelsea.
There are so many aspects of Mourinho’s personality and demeanor that are ugly, but the way he has managed a Chelsea side that played great football in the first half of the season and then got the results he needed when they had injuries to key men like Costa at the end was a fantastic feat.
Aldo’s end of term mark
1. CHELSEA: A
The best in their class, simple as that.
2. MAN CITY: B
The former champions under-achieved and they did well to finish second in the end.
3. ARSENAL: B+
Arsene Wenger has to look at it as a good season to finish third and win the FA Cup. His critics were silenced once again.
4. MAN UTD: C+
They got into the top four and that was their target, but they didn’t overly impress after spending £150m last summer. Fourth was their bare minimum target.
5. TOTTENHAM: C
Spurs have probably been getting a C mark for as long as any of us can remember. They didn’t do enough to deserve any more than a fifth-place finish.
6. LIVERPOOL: C-
The big disappointments in the top six were Liverpool and manager Brendan Rodgers will be under big pressure to get off to a flying start next season.
7. SOUTHAMPTON: A-
Ronald Koeman and Southampton were so impressive this season. What a fantastic recovery from a summer when they lost so many of their star players.