AN ANALYSIS OF THE 2011-2012 ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON
"Blue Moon, You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue Moon, You knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I could really care for"
The strains of this classic ballad reverberated around the Ettihad Stadium on the 13th of May 2012 as the world paid homage to a set of players who by a herculean performance had typified the true import of grit and determination.
Manchester City with a narrow 3-2 win over Queen Park Rangers in the last game of the season had just secured the 2011-2012 English premier League title.
But that is just half of the story. Not even Alfred Hitchcock at his best could have conjured a plot so gripping, so intense and so full of suspense as was the menu served in that final crucial game at the Ettihad.
Everyone expected Manchester City to easily roll over Queens Park Rangers and seal what was to be a historic accomplishment. Well they got the win but not in the circumstances the footballing world had anticipated.
Manchester City surprised few by scoring first. Upto then they had literally camped in QPRs half of the pitch watching agonizingly as chance after chance went begging. Finally to the delirium of the City fans Pablo Zabaleta managed to scuff in a goal on the stroke of half time. Everything was going according to plan.
In the second half the well scripted plot that the City fans had conjured went up in flames. First it was Djibril Cisse who capitalized on a rare Lescott blunder to equalize then Jamie Mackie scored in the 67th minute to silence the capacity crowd. Well, at least those in blue.
It was now battle stations and Mancini stepped up to the plate to take charge. Edin Dzeko came in for Gareth Barry and shortly thereafter Balloteli for Carlos Tevez. Attack after attack was directed at the QPR goal but still Man City came up short.
That is, until the 91st minute, when in the space of 120 breathtaking seconds Dzeko then Aguero scored to put Manchester City ahead and over the finish line to cap what was one of the most captivating games of soccer the world has seen for a long while.
The Ettihad erupted into raptures at the final whistle. 44 years and 94 minutes from their last title triumph Manchester City were crowned champions once again though the manner in which the title was won will stand out for eons to come.
The 2011-12 season was always set out to be a shootout between the light Blues and the Red Devils for the title. The scales had in the final weeks tilted in Manchester City's way after a vital and hard fought home victory over the Red Devils on April 30 2012.
It is apparent that Manchester City are destined to go places. With some of its players leaving and some new faces set to consolidate the current squad be prepared to be dazzled by its assemblage of world class players next season as well.
For Manchester United it has been a deflating season. It started with promise but ended up in disappointment. Knocked out of all the cup competitions and failing to defend their EPL title gave credence to the argument that there may be a tilt in the power base at the top end of the league. However there is no doubt that the Red Devils will be back with a vengeance.
The signing of highly rated 18 year old Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa as well as the reported interest in Luka Modric and Leighton Baines shows that Manchester United are determined to make a return to the summit of the English premier League next season.
So much for the Champions, and the runner-ups, the rest of the teams in the league floundered under the blistering pace set by the top two. Third place finishers Arsenal were a whopping 19 points behind the Manchester Clubs.
The traditional big four that for many years had consisted of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal was breached for the second season in a row with title winners City and Tottenham joining the elite of English football.
Arsenal surprised very few by failing to win a trophy for the seventh successive season. Few may remember, the event being blurred by the passage of time, but their last trophy was secured when Patrick Vieira's penalty saw them lift the 2005 FA Cup final.
Arsenal Coach Arsene Wenger had made a bold statement of intent early on in the season by making what were then considered to be astute bargain purchases: Gervinho, Santos, Metasacker, Benayoun and Arteta were all roped in but it was the chemistry between Song and Van Persie and the lung bursting runs of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain that stood out.
In the end the Gunners fell way short as has been the practice in the past few years. Montpellier's Olivier Giroud is expected to join the Gunners in the near future with his purchase seen to be a precaution in the event that Robin Van Persie leaves the Emirates.
Lukas Podolski is already a done deal. One however feels that Arsenal's problems far transcend the normal. A comprehensive analysis of the Gunners season can be found at:
Whatever the circumstance the mystery behind Arsenal's trophy-less run continues to confound many. Chelsea started the season with a ton of expectations. Chelsea were however far from convincing on the pitch for the better part of the season. That is until Andres Villa Boas was shown the door and Roberto Di Matteo was given the mantle.
Under the stewardship of Di Matteo the Blues beat Liverpool 2-1 to win the FA Cup in a largely dour contest. Di Matteo's Curriculum Vitae was further enhanced when the Blues went ahead to lift the Champions League at the Allianz Arena on May 19 2012.
Bayern Munchen the other finalists were out thought by a determined defensive display by Chelsea who had Didier Drogba to thank for a last gasp equalizer in normal time and the winning penalty that sent the Blue half of London to raptures.
The Bavarians had themselves to blame for losing chance after chance with Mari Gomez, Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery.
Chelsea thus ensured champions league football for next season at the expense of Tottenham. With Di Matteo at the helm, two trophies in the cabinet and on the back of some solid performances towards the tail end of the season there is room for optimism at the Bridge especially with the rumoured high profile additions of Hatem Ben Arfa, Hulk and Fellaini.
Liverpool had a disappointing season. Luis Suarez was one of the very few positives for the Anfield road Club. His performances all season long added the guile desperately needed in a Liverpool team lacking of invention. His innovative performances were however to some extent over shadowed by the racism saga involving Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
Downing, Carroll, Charlie Adam and Henderson failed to live up to their top billing. The Liverpudlians may argue that if they did not hit the post/crossbar over 30 times they may have been fighting for fourth spot but even that fact and a Carling Cup victory in February would do little to assuage the feeling of concern amongst the Kop. Liverpool's final placing of eighth is the club's worst finish since promotion in 1962.
Immediate action was taken by Fenway Sports Group, the consortium that owns Liverpool Football Club, to redress this disappointing performance when Kenny Dalglish the club manager and an Anfield legend was shown the door on May 16 2012. Liverpool has now settled for Brendan Rodgers as their coach for the coming season.
The early signs are positive with the Manager promising to bring back an exciting brand of football. It is clear that the there is a lot of work to be done beginning with shopping for a creative midfielder in the mold of Silva or Modric and a proven goal scorer to compete effectively next season. Liverpool has expressed interest in Milos Krasic, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Salomon Kalou and Christian Tello. Next season will be a defining moment for the Reds.
Tottenham Hotspurs were at one time, serious contenders for a shot at the title before Harry Redknapp's men suffered a mid-season collapse.
Their 2-0 win over Fulham on the final day was not sufficient to guarantee a Champions League spot. The departure of Harry Redknapp after failing to secure an extension to his contract marks the end of an era at White Hart lane.
Already it is rumoured that Luka Modric is on his way out. One can only wait to see whether Spurs will regroup and fight for a spot in the top four after a disappointing climax to the season. Newcastle was the surprise package of the season. Pappis Cisse and Demba Ba stood out as Newcastle under the stewardship of Alan Pardew gave the big boys a serious run for their money.
Their strong midfield bastion buttressed by determined wing play and a lethal attack made a visit to St. James Park to be an uncomfortable proposition. Their reward was a Europa League Spot.
The status quo was by and large maintained for the comfort zone of mid-table obscurity with Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Fulham all ensuring another season of top flight football.
The relegation trap door was an intriguing battle. The promoted clubs, Swansea, Norwich and QPR all survived. The fate of Wolves was sealed with a few games to spare and Blackburn joined them before the last day of the season.
Stoke hammered in the final nail in Bolton's coffin eking out a 2-2 draw at the Britania to ensure Bolton's return to the Championship after an 11 year hiatus.
It was a season to savour with many memorable moments:
The scenes of ecstasy by the Chelsea players on Bavarian ground, the wonder goal by Peter Crouch against Manchester City duplicated in finesse and application by the 55 yard strike by Luis Suarez in Liverpool's game versus Norwich, the 5-3 Arsenal victory at the Bridge and the amazing 6-1 victory by Manchester City at the theatre of dreams among others.
But above all, the twists and turns of the season were best captured by that one moment when Vincent Kompany lifted the EPL title 44 years after the last time City were English Champions.
Out of the 1, 066 goals that were scored in the course of the season no goal can arguably equal in importance the 94th minute strike by Sergio Aguero against QPR.
In the end the money, class and swagger of Manchester City carried the day. The noisy neighbours am sure will want to make it a habit. As Aristotle once said:
"We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit".