2019-20 Premier League Season Review
Sporting Index’s Premier League End of Season Review
There were scenes of heartbreak and jubilation across the country as an extraordinary Premier League season concluded on Sunday evening. Aston Villa’s weary players celebrated a great escape after battling to a 1-1 draw with West Ham, while Watford and Bournemouth fans were plunged into despair. Man Utd clinched a 2-0 victory over Leicester to sew up third place, and Chelsea clinched the final Champions League berth by beating Wolves. Now it is time to reflect upon the highs, the lows, the laughs and the tears that defined the longest Premier League season in history.
Liverpool pulled off an extraordinary feat to win the Premier League title with seven games to spare. Jurgen Klopp’s men came flying out of the blocks with a 4-1 victory over Norwich, and they ended up embarking upon an eight-game winning streak before drawing 1-1 at Man Utd. The Reds then won their subsequent 18 league matches to open up an unassailable lead at the top of the table by late February.
Their dreams of an unbeaten season ended when they suffered a shock 3-0 defeat to Watford, but they still coasted to the title. Liverpool may have lost their air of invincibility since the restart, but a 3-1 victory over Newcastle on the final day ensured they finished 18 points clear of second placed Man City. The Reds end a 30-year title drought in style and they can feel tremendous pride when they reflect upon their dominance this season.
Captain Jordan Henderson was named the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year, but this was very much a team effort. Alisson was superb throughout the season and Adrian deputised well when called upon. Virgil Van Dijk was a rock at the back, and the full-backs were magnificent as always. The front three were dangerous, dynamic and incisive over the course of the campaign, with Sadio Mané standing out by grabbing several match-winning goals, and the personnel that came into the team always maintained their high standards. Now they must try to defend their title and build a new dynasty at Anfield.
Our traders made pre-season predictions on the number of points each team would secure. We had Sheff Utd picking up just 32.5-34 points and finishing bottom of the table after an underwhelming summer in the transfer market for the newly promoted club. However, the Blades were phenomenal under the expert tutelage of Chris Wilder this season, and they were still in the hunt for a Champions League place as we approached the final month of the campaign. They ultimately finished ninth after losing their final three games, but overall they enjoyed a tremendous season. Sheff Utd are arguably amongst the greatest overachievers in Premier League history, and they proved that you do not have to spend a fortune to thrive in this cutthroat division.
We also predicted that Brighton would go down after sacking established manager Chris Hughton and bringing in the untested Graham Potter to replace him. That proved to be an inspired decision from owner Tony Bloom and his board, as the Seagulls picked up 41 points and finished 15th, ensuring their Premier League adventure continues. They did not win a game in January, February or March, and their chances of survival were teetering on a knife-edge when the season resumed, but victories over Arsenal and Norwich, plus impressive draws with Wolves, Leicester, Southampton and Newcastle, saw them beat the drop with ease.
We expected Burnley to be mired in the relegation battle and pitched their Premier League Points Index at 38-39.5 before a ball was kicked. That left them just 1.5 points clear of the drop zone in our predicted table, but the Clarets also displayed remarkable form since the restart and they ended up easing to a 10th placed finish, with 54 points. They were unbeaten in seven games before their final day defeat to Brighton, and Sean Dyche is another Manager of the Season contender.
Leicester were assigned a pre-season Points Index of 52-53.5 in the Premier League spreads, which would have left them eighth in the table. However, the Foxes enjoyed a remarkable start to the season, with Jamie Vardy banging in goals for fun, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans pulling the strings with aplomb and the defence looking rock solid. By December, they were the closest challengers to league leaders Liverpool, and some fans began discussing Brendan Rodgers’ chances of denying his former employers their first title in 30 years. Leicester were 14 points clear of Man Utd in January, but they fell apart after the restart. Injuries to Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira hit the team badly, and they will be devastated to finish fifth after that final day defeat to Man Utd. However, they still wound up with 62 points, and it was certainly a season of overachievement for the Foxes.
In a wildly unpredictable campaign, the only teams that lived up to our predictions were Crystal Palace and Chelsea. We expected Palace to earn 43-44.5 points, and Chelsea to pick up 66-67.5, and they ended up with 43 and 66 respectively. However, we thought that would leave them 11th and 6th, whereas they actually ended up 14th and 4th in a polarised table. Chelsea did well to clinch a top four spot after being hit with a transfer ban and selling star man Eden Hazard last summer, so that does represent an overachievement despite the Blues living up to our predictions.
The other clubs that earned more points than we anticipated were Newcastle, Southampton and Wolves. The Magpies secured a comfortable 13th placed finish, with 44 points, which is higher than the 37-38.5 we predicted. We pitched the Saints at 43-44.5 and that looked overly ambitious after a 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Leicester left them deep in relegation trouble, but they responded with great courage and ended up with 52 points. Wolves were pitched at 50-51.5, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s men ended up with 59 points and a seventh placed finish.
It was a season of drastic underachievement for a host of Premier League clubs. We expected Man City to secure a third consecutive title with 90.5-92 points, which would have left them five clear of Liverpool in our predicted table. However, Pep Guardiola’s side failed to live up to their high expectations and suffered an astonishing nine defeats over the course of the campaign. They banged in 102 goals, which is 17 more than Liverpool managed, and conceded just two more than Klopp’s men, but they ultimately they just simply lost too often.
Before the season began, we expected North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal to finish third and fourth respectively and clinch Champions League places. However, Spurs were 14th by the time they sacked manager Mauricio Pochettino. Jose Mourinho’s arrival revived their fortunes and they finished sixth, but they finished with just 59 points as opposed to the 73-74.5 we predicted. Arsenal ended up eighth, their worst finish since the 1995-96 campaign with just 56 points.
We had Everton finishing seventh with 53-54.5 points after another big spending summer for the Toffees. However, they ended up 12th in the standings, with just 49 points, after another underwhelming season. We thought West Ham would secure a top-half finish, with 49-50.5 points, but they were still in the relegation battle with a couple of games to go, and they ended up with 39 points, largely due to their chaotic defending.
Yet ultimately the three greatest underachievers would have to be the relegated clubs: Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich. We did expect the Canaries to go down, but we thought they would secure 35.5-37 points, whereas they could only muster 21. The goals dried up for Teemu Pukki, and Norwich suffered 10 consecutive defeats after the restart. We expected Watford and Bournemouth to finish 13th and 14th respectively, with around 44 points apiece, but they both ended up with 34 points and went down. Aston Villa picked up just 35 points over the course of the campaign, but their hard-fought 1-0 victory over Arsenal and 1-1 draw with West Ham saw them beat the drop by the skin of their teeth.
All three relegated teams can actually count themselves extremely unfortunate as they prepare for life in the Championship. Norwich had an expected goals (xG) tally of 37.23, but they actually managed to score just 26 times. They also conceded 3.39 more goals than expected (xGA), and finished with 21 points, whereas their expected points (xPTS tally) was 33.12. That would still have sent them down, but they would have been in with a fighting chance in the final weeks of the season.
Watford had an astonishing xPTS tally of 47.87, which would have seen them secure a comfortable mid-table finish. However, they will rue their wayward finishing, as they scored 12.56 goals fewer than their xG. Bournemouth also ended up with 5.2 points fewer than their xPTS. In the xPTS table, Newcastle would have finished bottom of the league, and Aston Villa would also have been relegated. Bournemouth can also count themselves exceptionally unfortunate, as Aston Villa should have lost 1-0 to Sheff Utd on the first game after the restart, but Hawkeye was not working and a perfectly good goal was ruled out for the Blades.
The top half of the table also looks radically different based on xPTS. Man City would have cruised to a third consecutive Premier League title, with 86.76 points, and Liverpool would have finished a distant second on 74.28. However, the Reds scored 9.81 more than their xG and conceded 6.57 less, showing how clinical they were in front of goal, and how they perhaps rode their luck at times defensively.
The xPTS table has Chelsea finishing just behind Liverpool in third, with Man Utd fourth, followed by Wolves, Leicester, Southampton, Everton, Arsenal and Burnley. Spurs would have finished 12th instead of sixth, just a point clear of Brighton. Chelsea were among the most unfortunate, as their actual goals tally was 7.23 worse than their xG, and they conceded 12.91 more goals than expected. Newcastle, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham were the most fortunate.
Sporting Index Awards
Team of the Season
It would be tempting to simply name the Liverpool starting 11 as the Team of the Season thanks to their remarkable dominance this term. However, a number of players at rival clubs have also starred over the course of the campaign. We have to single out Kevin De Bruyne, who has been utterly sensational in an underwhelming Man City side this season. Our Team of the Season would be: Nick Pope, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil Van Dijk, Jonny Evans, Andy Robertson; Jordan Henderson, Kevin De Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes; Sadio Mané, Jamie Vardy, Mohamed Salah.
Burnley stopper Pope gets the nod ahead of Alisson, who missed a large chunk of the season through injury. It fell apart for Leicester towards the end of the campaign, but they were brilliant for much of the season and Evans was the lynchpin that held it all together. Bruno Fernandes gets into the team despite playing half the season in Portugal. He transformed Man Utd’s fortunes after joining in January and proved himself to be one of the world’s finest midfielders. Vardy won the Golden Boot, so he earns a place in the starting 11 ahead of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Danny Ings and Roberto Firmino.
There are dozens of honourable mentions: Raheem Sterling, Ings, Aubameyang, Jack Grealish, Adama Traore, David Silva, Chris Basham, Caglar Soyuncu, Chilwell, Lewis Dunk, Conor Coady, Raul Jimenez, James Maddison, Emiliano Buendia, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Tarkowski and Tyrone Mings, to name but a few. The level of quality in the Premier League is exceptionally high and we are lucky to witness so many brilliant individuals light up games on a weekly basis.
Manger of the Season
Chris Wilder sneaks in ahead of Jurgen Klopp and Sean Dyche to clinch our Manager of the Season award. Klopp will forever be remembered as a hero to Liverpool fans for finally delivering the Premier League title, and he is arguably the best manager in the world right now. Dyche continues to overachieve while operating on a shoestring budget at Burnley. However, Wilder’s success with an unheralded Sheff Utd squad has been nothing short of remarkable this season. He is clearly a great man manager, and his frank press conferences have endeared him to millions, but the tactical nous he has displayed over the course of the season took everyone by surprise.
Player of the Season
Jordan Henderson took home the FWA Footballer of the Year award, but you could argue that he was not even the best player in Liverpool. Sadio Mané has been criminally overlooked for individual glory in recent years, while Van Dijk is an absolute colossus and Trent Alexander-Arnold has redefined the role of the marauding full-back in exhilarating ways. However, it is hard to look past Kevin De Bruyne, who has provided a record-equalling 20 assists this season, while scoring 13 goals and operating on a different plane to the mere mortals around him. We would like Mané and De Bruyne to share the award, but that would be a cop out, so it goes to De Bruyne.
Signing of the Season
This award has to go to Bruno Fernandes, who has been an absolute revelation since joining Man Utd for £47 million in January. He scored eight times and provided seven assists in 14 games, and he dragged the Red Devils up to third in the table through his individual brilliance. Man Utd look like genuine contenders for silverware next season, with Fernandes as opposed to Paul Pogba leading the charge. An honourable mention goes to Christian Pulisic, who has been phenomenal in the second half of the season. Danny Ings, Youri Tielemans and Raul Jimenez also excelled after their loans were made permanent last summer.
Flop of the Season
There are many contenders for this unwanted award. Tanguy Ndombele has underwhelmed after his £54 million move to Spurs, while Nicolas Pepe has not delivered much to justify his £72 million arrival at Arsenal. David Luiz has also struggled for the Gunners. Everton spent big on Alex Iwobi and Moise Kean, which now looks like poor business. We did not see much from Pablo Fornals or Sebastien Haller at West Ham, while Craig Dawson did not help to tighten Watford’s defence, and the likes of Che Adams, Danny Drinkwater and Albian Ajeti were not up to much. However, Flop of the Season has to go to Joelinton, the £31.5 million Newcastle striker who managed just two goals in 38 games.
Goal of the Season
Son Heung Min’s outrageous solo effort against Burnley in December is the clear winner in our Goal of the Season award. The South Korean forward picked the ball up at the edge of his own box and charged up the pitch, evading six tackles before coolly slotting the ball into the corner of the net. His composure was remarkable after such a lung-bursting charge up the pitch.
Game of the Season
Liverpool lifted the title after beating Chelsea in a 5-3 thriller at Anfield on July 22. Naby Keita banged in a screamer from 25 yards to open up the scoring, and Trent Alexander-Arnold added a second with a superb free-kick. Georginio Wijnaldum thumped in a third, but Olivier Giroud gave the Blues hope with a neat finish before the break. Roberto Firmino restored Liverpool’s three-goal lead, but then substitute Christian Pulisic sparked a fightback. He scored with a fine volley on the turn, then weaved his way through several defenders before putting it on a plate for Tammy fellow substitute Tammy Abraham to make it 4-3. Chelsea poured forward in search of an equaliser, but Liverpool hit them on the break and made it 5-3 through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The 2019/20 campaign proved perilous for Premier League managers. Watford led the charge by sacking three managers over the course of a single campaign. They axed Javi Gracia after the Hornets failed to secure a win in their first eight games of the season. Former manager Quique Sanchez Flores was brought in to replace him, but he lasted less than three months. Nigel Pearson dragged Watford off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation zone, but they sacked him with two games remaining and caretaker boss Hayden Mullins could not help them avoid the drop.
The biggest managerial casualties came in North London. First Tottenham sacked Mauricio Pochettino, just months after he led them to the Champions League final. Then Arsenal removed Unai Emery, just months after he led them to the Europa League final. Everton sacked Marco Silva and appointed Carlo Ancelotti as his replacement, while West Ham wielded the axe upon Manuel Pellegrini in December, but the remaining 15 clubs stuck with their managers for the course of the campaign.
Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (23)
Most Assists: Kevin De Bruyne (20)
Most Passes: Virgil Van Dijk (3,257)
Most Clean Sheets: Ederson (16)
Most Tackles: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (129)
Most Blocks: Tyrone Mings (48)
Most Yellow Cards: Luka Milivojevic (12)
Most Fouls: Jordan Ayew (59)
Most Offsides: Chris Wood (35)
Most Goals: Man City (102)
Fewest Conceded: Liverpool (33)
Most Wins: Liverpool (32)
Most Draws: Arsenal and Wolves (14)
Most Losses: Norwich (27)
The Stats in Numbers
99 – Liverpool secured the second highest Premier League points tally in history, and they equalled the win record with 32.
14 – Man Utd were awarded a record-breaking 14 penalties this season.
5 – David Luiz gave away more penalties this season than any other player in Premier League history.
0 – No English player scored for Wolves this season, making them the fourth Premier League team to go an entire campaign without a homegrown scorer.
46 – Chelsea conceded 46% of the shots they faced this season, the highest of any team in the league
44 – Southampton picked up 44 points after their 9-0 defeat to Leicester, which is two more than the Foxes managed in that time.
33 – Kevin De Bruyne was involved in 33 goals, the most for a central midfielder since Frank Lampard a decade ago.
4 – Frank Lampard led Chelsea to a fourth placed finish, the best debut by an English manager since Nottingham Forest boss Frank Clark in 1994-95.
3,420 – West Ham midfielder Declan Rice became just the fourth player aged 21 or under in Premier League history to play every minute of the season.
33 – Jamie Vardy became the oldest Golden Boot winner in Premier League history.
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