Wenger looks pre-historic, post-Fergie; Moyes – leave Everton players alone; Newcastle need leader in Kevin Nolan mould
The last-straw loss of our best player in the summer left us with the most mediocre outfit during Arsène Wenger’s long tenure but, having been 10th in December, with mid-table obscurity looking far more likely than a top-four finish, we somehow managed a minor resurrection. (Albeit somewhat deceptive, with ponderous and impotent performances briefly lit up by all too rare cameo moments of genuine quality.)
Star man Jack Wilshere remains the great white hope and we appear far too dependent on Santi Cazorla as the one class act blessed with sufficient guile to slice doughty defences. But, for his consistent displays of commitment, Laurent Koscielny gets my vote.
The flops Bacary Sagna’s dip in form has only been so blatant because he’s previously been Mr Reliable; I can’t fathom why Wenger didn’t stick with a far hungrier Carl Jenkinson. Unable to maintain concentration levels, Thomas Vermaelen hasn’t proved to be the leader we longed for. Up front, Lucas Podolski lacks the drive and determination of a genuine goal poacher.
The gaffer 5/10 (or 7/10 if Sunday goes well) Looks slightly pre-historic in his post-Fergie role as elder statesman. A 16th successive Champions League qualification would be a miraculous feat in the circumstances. But, if there’s no trophy next season, I won’t be surprised to see Le Prof ride into the sunset.
Who should he sign? “Who” is not nearly so significant as “if”. With the club’s coffers soon to be full to bursting, there are no more excuses.
Best visiting fans Bayern Munich. Worst Wigan.
Bernard Azulay, GoonersDiary.blogpspot.com
Aston Villa 7.5/10
What a rollercoaster. I’ve spent most of the journey barely able to look, feeling sick and praying for survival. Now it’s over, all I’m remembering is how exciting it was. Our form in the last three months has been very good, beating the rubbish and troubling the monied sides. We’re now playing some skilful, high-tempo stuff, vindicating Paul Lambert’s decision to ditch the old sweats. Our January form was so bad that the crowd could have lost the faith (mine definitely wavered). Not a bit of it: Villa Park has been noisier of late than for many, many years.
Star man Christian Benteke richly deserves all the headlines and a pay rise, and Brad Guzan has barely made a mistake all year. Gabby Agbonlahor stepped up just when we needed him most. The less high‑profile Ashley Westwood, Andreas Weimann and Matthew Lowton are terrific prospects.
The flops Darren Bent and Barry Bannan must never wear the claret and blue again.
The gaffer 8/10 A lot of credit for sticking with young guns under pressure. His “must do better” area is second-half tactics/substitutions: we’ve leaked loads of points after the break this season.
Who should he sign? Getting Benteke and Weimann on new contracts is as crucial as bringing anyone in. A solid centre-half or two would be nice, though: we’ll go a calendar year without a clean sheet if we don’t strengthen here.
Best visiting fans Everton. Worst Wigan (no, actually, you won’t be missed).
Jonathan Pritchard, Observer reader
An odd season even by our own eccentric standards. Considering the number of games and the managerial upheaval it turned out better than anticipated when Roberto Di Matteo left. Rafael Benítez may be unpopular with fans but the players seem to respect him. But we blew too many competitions because of the timing of manager change. Being “in transition” is not a good enough excuse. Grudgingly, I’d say Benítez held the squad together and unified it.
Star man Eden Hazard. We saw the continuation of Juan Mata’s brilliance, but add in Eden Hazard, Oscar and David Luiz and things look exciting for the future. Honourable mention to the legend that is Frank Lampard. 203 goals is phenomenal for any player – let alone a midfielder.
The flops Marko Marin seemed rather lightweight for the league we’re in.
The gaffer Rafa Benítez is not my favourite coach simply because he’s too cautious and negative. However I’ll give him 6/10 for keeping us in contention.
Who should he sign? A striker like Edinson Cavani or Robert Lewandowski. Or maybe bring Romelu Lukaku back from loan. He shows real promise in the Drogba mould.
Best visiting fans Stoke: always loud and fun. Worst QPR: too many reasons to list here.
Tony Glover, ChelseaFCblog.com
I’ve seen some of the best football ever played by Everton this season. In games such as the ones away to Villa and Swansea and at home to Spurs and Man Utd we have turned it on big time. These matches were all in 2012. With no big signings in the January transfer window, the small squad couldn’t maintain that level of performance. To finish 6th was OK, but we’re disappointed not to finish in a European spot.
Star man Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Steven Pienaar have all been outstanding. Whereas Seamus Coleman has improved no end, while Kevin Mirallas has become a crowd favourite with his goals.
The flops No flops, but we have been lacking up front. Nikica Jelavic has not continued with his goals from last season and although Victor Anichebe has had a few great games, he still doesn’t look like a 20-goals-a-season striker.
The gaffer 7/10 David Moyes has done well this season, but didn’t bring in the players we needed in January. He’s been a class act at Everton over the 11 seasons and goes with the good wishes of the fans. Just don’t come back for any of our players.
Who should we sign? A manager, who can sign a 20-goal-a-season striker.
Best visiting fans Oldham in the FA Cup. Worst Fulham. The half-a-coach load of them.
Steve Jones, @bluekipper.com
Can’t imagine this season’s highlights package will be overlong. But we stayed up.
Star man Loanee Sascha Riether was consistently good at right-back – sign him up! Mark Schwarzer, a few dips (and his kicking) apart, had several astonishing games; his penalty saves were vital. Dimitar Berbatov’s skill is incredible but he shows his frustrations readily. In his defence he came from a setup famed for giving it all right to the end. We could do with a bit of that.
The flops A long list of players falling below their high standards. John Arne Riise was average, as was Mladen Petric. Bryan Ruiz too often flattered to deceive and even Brede Hangeland had a “dip”.
The gaffer 6/10 Martin Jol gave some exceptional interviews to club publications but they did not translate into great performances. Mitigating circumstances were the quality of the players to depart last autumn, injuries and the apparent lack of funding, but win, lose or draw there should be a semblance of determination out on the pitch.
Who should he sign? A proper shakeup is required, to fashion a squad capable of winning a few more matches (and put a smile on Berba’s face). It seems we’re already in the hunt for Stekelenburg, Boateng, Amorebieta, Sako …
Best visiting fans Blackpool (Cup) and Sunderland. Worst Liverpool fans setting off flares on the 38th anniversary of the Bradford fire was as insensitive as it was dangerous.
David Lloyd, There’s Only One F In Fulham
Another frustrating one. Some great displays, good football and wins, but we can’t shake off the inconsistency – an obvious result of lack of quality. I keep reading the signs of progress are here, but we’re no better off than we were last time around. We don’t even have a cup for our efforts and have missed out on Europe.
Star man Luis Suárez has been phenomenal, from dribbles to wonder goals to swinging on the crossbar. Daniel Sturridge has looked good with some stunning goals (now lose the celebration dance). Philippe Coutinho has been brilliant since he arrived. Must mention Carra on his last day, who got himself back in the team and stayed there.
The flops No one abysmal, just inconsistent. The underperfomers know who they are.
The gaffer 6/10 I like the way we’re playing, when we do it well, and that’s down to Brendan Rodgers. Not all of his signings have worked out yet (Borini and Allen) and he blundered big in the FA Cup, but he bought well in January. Sometimes wish he wouldn’t talk so much.
Who should he sign? Ashley Williams, Neven Subotic, Raúl Albiol, Callum McManaman, Romelu Lukaku (if Chelsea are mad enough to let him go), Demba Ba, Gonzalo Higuaín and Michu.
Best visiting fans Bayer Leverkusen in the friendly. Worst Usual suspects, with their witless chants.
Steph Jones, Observer reader
Manchester City 6/10
A strange season has come to a bizarre anticlimax. Second place has been secured, however the loss to Wigan in the Cup final was demoralising – we were totally outplayed. Our expectations and targets set at the beginning of the season have not been met.
Star man Pablo Zabaleta was a revelation, his commitment and desire is remarkable. Matija Nastasic has proved one of the best young defenders in world football.
The flops All of last season’s core players have underperformed.
The gaffer 6/10 Roberto Mancini did a fantastic job and achieved things many City fans have never had the privilege to experience. However, his failure to get on with many of the players and his trouble with tackling European football cost him. The players’ silence after his sacking is poignant, and while it may be necessary the manner in which we’ve treated Mancini is embarrassing. We will always adore him, and rightly so.
Who should we sign? Manuel Pellegrini will hopefully be followed by his Málaga protege Isco. I’d imagine we’ll target a clinical striker like Edinson Cavani, a winger, a Champions League-quality central midfielder and a centre-half.
Best visiting fans Dortmund. Worst Fulham.
Lloyd Scragg, @lloyd_scragg
Manchester United 9/10
A great season. The gung-ho attitude early on, gifting teams leads only to claw back victory, and latterly the consistency of the team to grind result after result, showing City a blank chequebook isn’t everything.
Star man Robin van Persie endeared himself with goals, assists, attitude, work-rate, last-minute winners and team ethos. He seems to have it all.
The flops No one flopped but Rooney put in his second transfer request in three years after RVP has spent the season reminding Reds what a world-class striker looks like. Ta-ra Rooney.
The gaffer 10/10 We all knew it was coming but I was quite choked by news of his retirement. Fergie is the greatest manager of our lifetime. He knocked Liverpool off their perch and saw off challenges from Chelsea, Arsenal and most recently City. His legacy won’t be just the great teams he produced but for making United a world force again.
Who should he sign? With Paul Scholes retiring and Darren Fletcher recovering we are threadbare in midfield. I would like David Moyes to go for PSV’s Kevin Strootman, he is young, combative and free-moving. I expect to see Anderson, Nani, Rooney to go pre-season. Luka Modric, Cesc Fábregas and Robert Lewandowski would be good.
Best visiting fans It pains me to say it but both Mersey teams create a great atmosphere, with good numbers of “working-class” fans rather than identikit modern fans. Worst QPR, who glorified how they lost to City in the last game of the season.
Shaun O’Donnell, Observer reader
Newcastle United 4/10
To go from fifth last year to a relegation battle was desperately disappointing. Failure to strengthen in the summer meant that the Europa League and a succession of injuries stretched a thin squad to breaking point. We were ill-equipped to fight on four fronts, and home defeats to Sunderland and Liverpool, plus our timid showing against Brighton in the FA Cup, were simply embarrassing. The January influx of French players was a welcome boost, but they needed time to adjust to the Premier League – time we didn’t have.
Star man Papiss Cissé scored some crucial goals and worked his socks off, often with little support, while Fabricio Coloccini brought a calmness to the defence (when he actually played). Sylvain Marveaux started to show what he was capable of too.
The flops Nile Ranger blew his last chance – he’ll never get a better opportunity to make it – and Gabriel Obertan again failed to make an impression.
The gaffer 5/10 Alan Pardew must be feeling as battered and bruised as some of his players: he was dealt a poor hand last summer. He showed tactical nous to guide us to the Europe League quarter-final, but must shoulder some blame for our poor run-in.
Who should he sign? Andy Carroll would be a great start, plus another quality centre-half or two. Crucially, we need a leader in the Kevin Nolan mould who’ll drag us back into games and prevent the kind of home capitulations we’ve seen this season.
Best visiting fans Sunderland (but they only sing when they’re winning!). Worst Man United (arrogant).
Richard and David Holmes, Observer reader
Norwich City 8/10
Despite a poor second half of the season City achieved what they set out to do – preserve their Premier League status. While the road to getting there may have been rockier than hoped – expected even – it was achieved with a game to spare.
Star man The mainstay of the side has been the back four, at the heart of which has been Sébastien Bassong. Since his summer arrival he has solidified a leaky defence and inspired those alongside him. Robert Snodgrass has also been excellent.
The flops Through little fault of his own – injuries, loan moves etc – Jacob Butterfield has been a disappointment. His much heralded arrival from Barnsley turned into something of a damp squib; his first-team appearances virtually nonexistent.
The gaffer 7/10 Despite being on the receiving end of brickbats aplenty as the season neared its finale, Chris Hughton remained calm and dignified. Even when some fans started to doubt his philosophy he trusted his judgment and was rewarded. A minor criticism could be his natural tendency for caution, but it served as a means to a successful end.
Who should he sign? We’ve already signed Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon, which goes at least part of the way to addressing the lack of goals. Hopefully a creative midfielder will be Hughton’s shopping list; someone who’ll add a little extra invention to a squad of honest grafters.
Best visiting fans Luton in their shock FA Cup win. Worst Arsenal hardly made a murmur.
Gary Gowers, NorwichCity.myfootballwriter.com
Read the full article here.
This news item has been reproduced from today’s media. It does not necessarily represent the opinion of Kop That.