It was quite a season, 2008/09, with possibly the tightest challenge for the title in many a year. Even the battle for relegation was tight for up to ten clubs until the last few weeks of the season, and few would have predicted that outcome at the beginning of August 2008. So, here is a quick premier league review of season 08-09.
The previous season, Manchester Utd had won the premiership title and scraped the European Champions League final. They were simply awesome, one of the best sides ever, and in their flying winger, Ronaldo, had a true match winner who smashed in over 40 goals in all competitions. To emulate that again, would take some doing.
However, it wasn’t a season where any one team looked the strongest. Manchester Utd started slowly, Liverpool were the early pace setters while Arsenal and Chelsea both looked shadows of their previous selves. The biggest surprise was seeing newly promoted Hull City in the top four!
Lower in the table, a mass of clubs were taking points off each other and barely 10 points separated bottom from sixth! It was going to be an interesting relegation battle for sure.
By the mid point of the season, the table was finally sorting itself out. The top two of Liverpool and Manchester Utd swapped positions, while Chelsea kept on their tails in third. Aston Villa were threatening to break the top four monopoly and even got as high as third at one point, which kept Arsenal down to fifth. Everton had made a little break of their own and looked pretty solid in sixth.
Lower down, surprise strugglers Newcastle and Spurs were looking to break out of the relegation zone, and the mid table clubs were still looking over their shoulders.
Manchester Utd managed to win the World Club Championship, and a little later added the League Cup to their trophy collection. Although they hadn’t been setting the premiership alight as they had the previous season, they were still picking up hard fought points. Talk on them winning an unprecedented five trophies in one season was beginning to heat up.
In the last part of the season, Spurs had broken away from the bottom of the table, but the horrendous Newcastle were in big trouble. This was amazing considering the amount of money they had spent on players – but buying mercenaries does not guarantee you success. Nor does employing four different managers in one season!
Back at the top and Liverpool had smashed Man Utd 4-1 at Old Trafford. The race was on for the title. Utd were through to the FA Cup semi final, but fielded a weakened side and they lost on penalties to Everton. The dream of five trophies in one season dashed.
Aston Villa embarked on a nightmare run that saw them slide down the table. Once very well placed to finish at least fourth, they were struggling to hang on to fifth, with cup finalists Everton hard on their shoulders.
As the month of May approached, the top four began taking their familiar placings, and it was to no real surprise to see Utd just pip Liverpool to the post. Champions for a third successive time. Chelsea finished a strong third, and who knows, had they had Guus Hiddink as manager all season (he replaced Brazilian Phillip Scolari mid season), it may well have been their year. Arsenal took fourth place after a largely disappointing season hampered by injuries to key players.
Another team hampered by an even worse injury list was Everton. Despite this, they managed to overhaul Aston Villa to finish fifth. Villa must be very disappointed with sixth despite their excellent run earlier. Fulham capped a great season for them, by finishing seventh, their highest ever placing.
For the bottom three clubs spelt relegation. West Brom, Middlesborough and Newcastle all ended up losing on the final day of the season, and their premiership status lost for at least a year.
Manchester Utd still had a fourth trophy to go for as they reached the Champions League final for the second year in succession. However, their hopes of being the first club to retain the trophy were ended as a superb Barcelona side made Manchester Utd look very ordinary. Utd would have to be content with just three trophies this season then.
The final match of the season was played out between Chelsea and Everton in the FA Cup final. Despite Everton scoring the fastest FA Cup final goal in over one hundred years of the competition after just 25 seconds, they ran out 2-1 losers. Chelsea’s £150 million team was just too strong.
In all, it was a more interesting season compared to previous seasons due to a tighter battle for the top, and a unique relegation tussle between ten clubs. Hopefully next season will be even better! And hopefully one or more of the top four, will not be part of the top four!