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Premier League 2014/15 season in review - what did we learn?

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Preparation for the 2015/16 campaign is very much underway with all sides now having reported back for pre-season, while West Ham have already been in competitive action.

With the new season fast approaching we have decided to look back on the 14/15 Premier League vintage, which saw Chelsea ascend to the position of champions once more.

It perhaps was not the season we all hoped it would be, but it still featured some thrills and spills, unexpected results, dramatic changes in form and some world class signings...

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1. Mourinho is back (if he was ever gone)

A trophy-less three years for a top manager would usually raise some doubts, but not for Jose Mourinho. He knew what he had to do, Abramovich knew what he had to do, and we knew what he would do: win his third Premier League title as Chelsea manager.

The addition of the 2015 Capital One Cup to his long list of honours was very important as well, as it set up his new Chelsea team for the league title, as it did 10 years before during his first stint at Stamford Bridge.

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Apart from an early, inconsistent challenge from Manchester City, no team was of any match for Mourinho's magnificent Chelsea. Labelled as the 'small horse' the season before, last season they were most definitely the only horse in 'race' for the title.

All the fans who branded them as boring towards the end of the season should first make sure that their team don't lose one game against the top four, then put up a decent fight for the Premier League title, and only then can they brand Chelsea as 'boring'; which I personally find ludicrous.

The manager, far superior to any others tactically, was one of the key reasons if not the main reason why they won the league, even though he constantly put all the success down to the players.

The way he set up his team for the big games; his sales and acquisitions within the limits of Financial Fair Play and his man-to-man skills, were things that simply couldn't be matched last season. An improvement in the Champions League next season must be on the agenda, but to lift their first title in five years shows real progress and improvement.

2. Road to recovery for Manchester United

At the start of the 2012/13 season, if you said to a Man Utd fan that they would finish fourth behind rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, he would tell you that you're 'havin' a laugh' (in a really Mancunian accent of course.)

But two years down the line, if you asked the same question, he would bite your hand off. After the forgettable season of 2013/14 for the red side of Manchester, qualifying for the Champions League the following season was an absolute certainty.

After the 1-0 loss away at the Etihad Stadium, Man Utd went on an unstoppable run going unbeaten in their next 10 games and winning seven of them. It looked like third was almost certainly theirs as there was seemingly no stopping the top two, and no fear of falling outside the top four.

But the key man of that successful sequence of results, Michael Carrick, picked up another injury and then from January until it was almost certainly secured in April, it was more of a struggle than many had expected in December.

Carrick did return in mid-March however, and what followed that good news was back-to-back wins against Tottenham and Liverpool, which pretty much ended their hopes of a top four finish. A 4-2 win against Manchester City showed that progress had been made, but a slippery end to the season and many less-than-convincing performances, demonstrated that a lot must still be done if Manchester United are going to return to being the force they once were.

3. You are never down and out (until it's mathematical)

Bottom at Christmas. 10 games to go. Nine points from safety. Won only four games all season. The odds were stacked against Leicester City, but they managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat and survive comfortably in the end finishing in 14th position, with 41 points and six points above the relegation zone. What a remarkable comeback.

One man who deserves tremendous credit is the now-former Leicester manager Nigel Pearson. Being the manager of a team that had been bottom for the majority of the season with only four wins from 29 games must be extremely difficult. It was his duty to remain positive and continually lift and reassure the players.

Having been in every game and always having a chance to get all three points, all they needed was a few better finishes and they would start climbing up the league. So then Nugent started scoring a few, then Vardy started scoring and it was not long before the goals started flooding around the team.

In their last nine games they won seven, drew one and lost only one (against the champions elect, Chelsea). In the process they scored 19 and conceded only seven. This truly demonstrated the unpredictability of the Premier League, something you will rarely see anywhere else. It was no coincidence either, as we saw Sunderland pull off an almost identical escape the previous season.

4. The Premier League can still attract the world's best players

Many doubted whether the top teams in England were able to persuade Europe's best players to join them with teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich constantly signing the players everyone dreams of having. The summer of 2014 completely shut those people up.

Angel di Maria to Manchester United highlighted the fact that, even with all the money that Paris Saint-Germain can offer, the heritage of Manchester United will always win over a footballer. People would argue and say that he only joined Man Utd for the money, but I'm sure PSG have the financial capabilities to offer him at least £280,000-per-week.

Even though this signing may not have paid off yet, with one season in England's top flight under his belt, I'm certain he will kick on next season and light up the Premier League.

Another signing that caught the eye of many was Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona. Maybe he was surplus to requirements at the Catalan giants with a front line of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, but out of Europe's top clubs that were interested in him, Arsenal won the race for the Chilean international. And he was potentially the signing of the season with 25 goals in his first campaign, only one off what the legendary Thierry Henry achieved in his first season.

The signings of Radamel Falcao (who was perceived as one of Europe's most clinical strikers at the time), Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa further demonstrated that the Premier League continued to be able to attract Europe's most sought-after players.

5. The level of defenders has decreased significantly

Six years ago:

Manchester United's back four: Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra                                                           Arsenal's back four: Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy                                                                               Liverpool's central defence: Carragher, Agger or Hyppia                                                                   And even Tottenham's central defence: King, Dawson or Woodgate

And compared with last season...

Manchester United's back four: Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Shaw                                                       Arsenal's back four: Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal                                                           Liverpool's central defence: Can, Skrtel and/or Sakho                                                                         Tottenham's central defence: Vertonghen, Fazio or Dier

To begin with, the most deteriorated back four must be must be Man Utd's. Individually, Man Utd's back four of 2009 who reached the final of the Champions League were, arguably, the best in the world (except for Neville who was just past his prime). Compare that with now, you have 3/4 who struggle to get into the England team, and a right winger playing right full-back. 

Arsenal, even though their back four now isn't too bad, is still a massive drop in quality. Their back four of 2009 (apart from Clichy who had to get into the French national team ahead of Evra) were all regulars internationally. With two full-backs bombing down the wings and two solid, feared centre-halves, they were one of the most terrifying back fours to face in Europe.

Tottenham and Liverpool, also, had a few of the best centre backs in the league including legendary one-club men such as King and Carragher, as well as top quality defenders in their prime such as Woodgate and Agger.

Compare that with now you have Fazio who was an alternative for Musacchio, Sakho who can hardly kick a ball, and Can who, although went on a good run in the middle part of the season, is a make-do centre back who quite evidently belongs in midfield.

But the most significant thing that we did learn was that Tottenham, after some hope against Chelsea and Arsenal, are still Tottenham.

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Topics:
Jonathan Woodgate
Manchester City
Luke Shaw
Michael Dawson
Martin Skrtel
Manchester United
Liverpool
Arsenal
Phil Jones
Antonio Valencia
Premier League
David Nugent
Daniel Agger
Tottenham Hotspur
Jose Mourinho
Sunderland
Francesc Fabregas
Jan Vertonghen
Chelsea
Rio Ferdinand
Angel di Maria
Alexis Sanchez
Nemanja Vidic
Emre Can
Gary Neville
Jamie Carragher
Chris Smalling
Patrice Evra
David Nugent
Football
Diego Costa

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