Reds make mockery of their rivals
PLENTY of clubs were trying to get the football season called off when the pandemic hit in March, so I’m happy to be dishing out my end-of-season awards for a completed campaign.
This one will never be forgotten for those of us with Liverpool allegiances, as Jurgen Klopp guided his team to a dominant Premier League title win. It saw them finish with an 18-point winning margin on Manchester City and an embarrassingly wide 33-point advantage on Man United and Chelsea.
Here are my awards to crown the highs and lows of a story that started in what now seems like a very different world.
There is not a lot to add about one of the best champions we have seen in English football, with their final points total of 99 and their vast winning margin at the top of the table confirming they made a mockery of their Premier League opposition.
Liverpool applied pressure to Manchester City last season and Pep Guardiola’s side managed to stand up to it, but that experience wore them down and they cracked when the same pressure was applied again.
Brilliant at the back with the incomparable Virgil van Dijk, powerful in midfield as they were led by captain Jordan Henderson and deadly in the final third, Liverpool head into their short summer break as the best team in the land. We wait to see if anyone is capable of stopping them next season.
I’m delighted to see Leeds back where they belong and it was fitting that they secured their return so soon after Jack Charlton’s passing.
Big Jack would have raised a pint of the black stuff to his old club finally securing promotion and they will add to the Premier League next season as they have tradition and a fanbase worthy of top-flight status.
In Marcelo Bielsa, they have a fantastic manager who has transformed the club over the last couple of seasons. It will be fascinating to see how they get on when the new season gets underway in September.
The Tottenham side that took so many strides forward under Mauricio Pochettino’s guidance have been running backwards in the last few months and I’m confused by their decline.
The team that got to last season’s Champions League final was floundering for much of this campaign and while they finished on something of a high by securing Europa League football on the final day of the season, a side led by Harry Kane and with so many top players should expect much more.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho has seen his best days as a manager. But I’d expect Tottenham to get back to challenging for the top four next season so long as they hang on to Kane and their star names.
Liverpool’s local rivals finished an astonishing FIFTY points behind them this season – let that sink in for a second.
I know Everton have had their problems in recent years. Yet they have been one of the biggest spenders in the Premier League for a while and they still find themselves finishing in the bottom half of the table and a million miles off the top positions.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti has a huge job on his hands. They are lacking in so many areas and even a man of his considerable talents will not find the answers any time soon.
Hands up, I admit I got it wrong when it came to Henderson. I have no problem admitting that.
For a good few years, I didn’t think he was good enough to play a leading role in a Liverpool midfield and was among those questioning why he had been handed the captain’s armband by Brendan Rodgers when Steven Gerrard left in the summer of 2015.
Well, Jordan should now be recognised as a world-class player as he is a wonderful talisman on the field and also deserves credit for assuming a leadership role as the players voiced their concerns over the restart of football amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A class act on and off the field, he is certainly a worthy winner of the Player of the Year award.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE
He may not have the leadership skills to be a captain for Manchester City, but he continues to produce moments of magic that light up games.
His goals and assists records are second to none and if City had a defensive line to back up their brilliance going forward, they would not have finished so far behind Liverpool.
This guy played for Sporting Lisbon against Liverpool last year and straight away I said Klopp should try to sign him.
Fernandes has ended up at Manchester United and it is no surprise to me that he has been a huge hit in his first few months in the Premier League. He looks so composed on the ball, can pick a pass and is clearly pretty good at taking penalties, which is handy because referees have always loved giving them to United!
Club owners that sack three managers in one season get what’s coming to them and none of us were surprised to see Watford relegated last Sunday.
Watford were one of the clubs desperately trying to get the Premier League season cancelled when the Covid-19 crisis flared up and you can see why – because they didn’t have a defence or, indeed, a squad that could cope in the Premier League.
THE NULL & VOID BRIGADE
West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady took precisely 24 hours to push for the Premier League season to be declared null and void when everything came to a halt in March – and she did not make those comments for the good of the game.
The clubs following that agenda were all down the bottom part of the table and they wanted the season ended to save their own Premier League lives. But they didn’t get away with it and I was a little disappointed that Brady and her club managed to stay up in the end.
We had put far too much into a season that had already seen 29 rounds of matches played to say it counted for nothing. So it was good for the game that Brady and a few others failed in their mission to stay up by default.
MANAGERS OF THE YEAR
Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)
Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds)
Chris Wilder (Sheffield United)
Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves)
Sean Dyche (Burnley)
TEAM OF THE YEAR
Alisson Becker (Liverpool)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
Virgil van Djik (Liverpool)
Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Mo Salah (Liverpool)
Danny Ings (Southampton)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
40 years on, the deal that made Liam Brady but also set Arsenal back by a decade
The news that Liam Brady had left Arsenal and signed for Juventus was a shock for many people. Especially the Arsenal manager who had just seen the Dubliner complete a pre-season training session in London minutes before he got the call to say the midfielder was no longer a Gunner.