Premier League 2014 Team Review
Aston Villa had another difficult year with Paul Lambert working under financial restrictions and a chairman who put the club up for sale before allegedly falling back in love. Villa’s supporters have turned against Lambert dramatically in recent months but the appointment of Tom Fox as chief executive finally suggests some forward planning. The best player was Fabian Delph whose consistent performance over the past 18 months was rewarded with a deserved call-up to the England senior squad. The worst player would have to be Nathan Baker. Nobody can question his commitment but there were too many defensive errors, particularly during the difficult final months of last season. Where will they be a year from now? Treading water, picking up the odd result against a top four club, looking doomed to a relegation battle, in other words, the same position as the last three years unless something drastically changes.
Arsenal won their first trophy since 2005 with the FA Cup win in May. All the happiness and relief, though, has been undermined by generally poor Premier League form after the improvement in 2013 and a horrendous injury record. Their best player was Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean only arrived during the summer but his impact has been enormous and just his presence provides hope of a better 2015. Their worst player would have to the decline of the Germans (Mertesacker, Ozil and Podolski). This is perhaps a little harsh for the latter, given his goals-to-games ratio but his reluctance to track back is on ongoing issue and his performance in the 6-0 drubbing at Chelsea were lamentable Where will they be a year from now? Probably still about fourth, at least 10 points behind Chelsea, but safely qualified for a tie against Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Burnley are living in dreamland simply by being in the Premier League. Their promotion campaign last season was a surprise to all outside, and some within, Turf Moor and the club’s battling start in the top flight suggests they might just pull off an even bigger shock by staying up. Their best player has been Danny Ings. The England U-21 forward’s goals were crucial in Burnley’s promotion and, after a slow start in the Premier League, he has once again shown the ability to deliver when it matters most. Their worst player, well none as Burnley won promotion against the odds and are now showing signs of life in the Premier League. Where will they be a year from now? Impossible to say, but that in itself is one of Burnley’s biggest achievements. Many expected them to be down by Christmas, so the uncertainty is a positive outcome.
Chelsea and Jose Mourinho may well have finished the first season back since the Portuguese manager returned to Chelsea without a trophy, but it seems 2014 will be an important year towards his more long-term goals. Mourinho has managed to reshape his squad into one that looks capable of becoming a dominant force. Their best player has been Edin Hazard, who looked unhappy when asked to defend, but has since overcome these issues and continues to provide brilliant and vital performances. Their worst player has been Mohamed Salah, who looked an odd signing when he arrived for £11 million from FC Basel in January and has since made almost no impact during his first year at Stamford Bridge. Where will they be a year from now: It’s hard to see anything but Chelsea going from strength to strength. It remains to be seen whether Didier Drogba and John Terry can keep proving age is just a number, but I’m sure their will be many World Class Tipsters nominating them EPL champions 2014/2015.
Crystal Palace with Tony Pulis achieved history by remaining in the Premier League for the first time ever with the club’s third highest finish (11th). Pulis departed in August because of disagreements over the transfer policy and it has been stop-start under Neil Warnock and now he too has been sacked. Their best player has been captain Mile Jedinak who has made the most interceptions of any Premier League midfielder last season and has taken that brilliant form into the new campaign. Their worst player, Tom Ince who Joined in January on loan from Blackpool amid much fanfare, scored on his debut, but could only manage cameos thereafter and Crystal Palace dropped their interest in signing him permanently. Where will they be a year from now? The club could be under new owners, and treading water in the Premier League or pushing for promotion from the Championship. Can Pardew inspire them to new levels?
Everton earned applause for evolving their style of play last season and managed to return into Europe, where they have excelled, but Premier League from has dipped as the year progressed. Manager Roberto Martinez has the foundations of an exciting young squad to develop further, however, and their best player, James McCarthy is the most underrated central midfielder in the Premier League. He dictates the tempo of Everton’s play and they look less solid and dynamic without him. It is no surprise both Manchester United and Arsenal have been linked with a future bid. Their worst player the fact he has barely been seen, but Arouna Kone has to be ranked the most disappointing recruits of Martinez’s reign, but he’s spent more time in treatment than on the pitch so judging his quality has been impossible. Where will they be a year from now? Everton look a couple of signings from being a top four side. The base of the team is there, but smoothing the rough edges will elevate them further. The next couple of signings are crucial and if they buy well they can be serious top four contenders over the next 12 months.
Premier League 2014 Team Review – Part 2
Premier League 2014 Team Review – Part 3