The final report card - how the Premier League was won and lost

As the dust settles on another gripping English Premier League season, Nick Pulford takes a look at the Big Six and the dynamics over the course of the months that helped shape the final standings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 9:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 9:31am


Five reasons why they won the title

1. Away form. Fixing this was crucial to regaining the title and, despite only four points from their first six away games, Manuel Pellegrini got it right, with 30 points from a possible 39 after that.

2. A strong spine. Joe Hart (who responded well to being dropped after his early mistakes), Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero have few peers in their respective positions and collectively they are the best. David Silva is not bad either.

3. The best balance. City scored a lot more goals than Chelsea (102 to 71) and conceded significantly fewer than Liverpool (37, against 50) - the goal-difference factor exerted extra pressure on their rivals on the run-in.

4. Man management. Pellegrini may have had the strongest squad but he showed great skill in getting the best out of previously under-used or under-performing players, notably Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri.

5. Temperament. City led the table for only 13 days in the entire campaign, mainly because they had played fewer matches until late in the season. Having games in hand brings its own pressure and the winning experience of City's players (compared with most of those at Liverpool and Arsenal) was crucial.


Commitment to attack can leave them vulnerable (the 3-2 defeat at Liverpool almost cost them the title); failure to translate domestic form to Champions League.

What they need to do now

The squad as it stands would be good enough for a strong title defence but new arrivals are certain, especially with the aim of doing better in the Champions League; a long-term central defensive partner for Kompany is the greatest need.


Five reasons why they lost the title

1. Leaky defence. Liverpool ranked only 12th for clean sheets and 25 of their 30 dropped points came when they conceded two or more goals, which happened 16 times (by contrast, City conceded more than once in 11 games). The 3-3 at Crystal Palace was an accident waiting to happen.

2. Individual mistakes, and not just from the defenders - Steven Gerrard's slip against Chelsea will haunt him for the rest of his life. Kolo Toure's giveaway against West Brom stands out too. In total Liverpool lost 14 points from winning positions (more than any other top-seven side).

3. Critical absences. When Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge started together, Liverpool's record was W15 D4 L1 and at that strike-rate they would have finished with 93 points if both had been available for every game. In particular, Liverpool lost four out of nine during Sturridge's mid-season absence for six weeks.

4. Bad luck. Liverpool were denied an onside goal, as many as three strong penalty claims and a sending-off in three of their biggest away games - the 2-1 defeats at Manchester City and Chelsea and the 3-3 draw at Everton. Those decisions ultimately proved crucial.

5. Did they choke? After 11 straight wins, Liverpool lost at home to Chelsea and threw away a three-goal lead at Palace. Lack of experience in that position let them down.


A brilliant front six, led by the outstanding Suarez; an astute young manager in Brendan Rodgers; Anfield is back to being a fortress; youth is on their side.

What they need to do now

Strengthen the defence, especially in the centre, and hold on to Suarez again. More cover is needed in most positions now that they will have to cope with the Champions League as well as domestic fixtures.


Five reasons why they lost the title

1. Lack of goals. Manchester City and Liverpool both had three scorers in double figures but Chelsea had only one: Eden Hazard with 14 (a total Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o barely managed between them).

2. Lack of goals (part two). Chelsea failed to score in eight matches (compared with three for Liverpool and four for Manchester City) and dropped 20 points from those games alone. On the run-in the 1-0 defeats at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace were particularly costly.

3. Lack of goals (part three). It is not as if the scoring problems came out of the blue; last summer's pursuit of Wayne Rooney came to nothing and the only back-up plan was to sign Eto'o.

4. Points dropped against bottom-half teams. Liverpool took 49 points in that category, Manchester City 47 but Chelsea only 43 and surprisingly the problem was most acute at Stamford Bridge (defeat by Sunderland and draws with West Brom, luckily, West Ham and Norwich).

5. Fixture build-up. It is hard to share Jose Mourinho's view that his team were treated unfairly by the fixture list but they lost nine points in the nine games when they were faced with a three-day turnaround.


Mourinho's tactical nous; strong defence (top for clean sheets with 18); big-match experience.

What they need to do now

Buy a top-class striker and plan for a future without John Terry and Frank Lampard. Though the former has signed a new one-year deal and the latter still might, they won't be around much longer; having formed his first Chelsea side around an English heart, it will be interesting to see if Mourinho tries to do the same again.


Five reasons why they lost the title

1. Big-match losses. Arsenal took only 13 points in games between the top seven, compared with 27 for Chelsea, 25 for Manchester City and 22 for Liverpool. Not only did they lose, they were hammered 6-3 at City, 5-1 at Liverpool and 6-0 at Chelsea.

2. Specialists in failure? Not for the first time, Arsenal faded from a promising position and, after nine trophy-less years, there is little winning experience in the squad to help them get over the line. FA Cup victory on Saturday could change the mentality.

3. Key injuries (especially to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott). Ramsey, one of the stars of the first half of the season, was out for three months and in that period Arsenal went from leading by a point to trailing by eight points.

4. Transfer policy (or lack of it). The ridiculous £40 million (HK$520 million)-and-a-pound offer for Luis Suarez summed it up; no striker arrived in the summer and, although Mesut Ozil shimmered briefly, lack of back-up for Olivier Giroud eventually proved costly.

5. Not enough goals at home. Only 36 were scored in 19 home games, leaving them vulnerable without a clean sheet (nine of their 13 dropped points at home came in that scenario).


Away form (11 wins was the best in the Premier League); record against bottom-half teams (53 points, again the best in the league); defence better than many admit (17 clean sheets was second only to Chelsea); high-class midfielders.

What they need to do now

Arsene Wenger has a solid platform but he has to buy. A top-quality striker is the priority; a real leader, either in midfield or defence, would help.



Five reasons why they lost the title

1. Chaotic transfer policy. The £86 million fee for Gareth Bale was poorly reinvested with a scattergun approach; Christian Eriksen and, more fitfully, Paulinho were the only newcomers to shine.

2. Lack of direction. Andre Villas-Boas was sacked and Tim Sherwood appointed (supposedly for 18 months) but got the chop soon after season's end.

3. Low return from big games. Only nine points out of 36 against the rest of the top seven.

4. Poor home form. Spurs took 16 points fewer than Manchester City in home games and finished a total of 17 behind overall (similarly they gave up 13 points to Liverpool and 12 to Chelsea on home form).

5. The Europa League. Even with their strong squad, the Thursday-night competition took its toll and six of their 11 defeats came after European games.


Away form against sides below them (10 wins out of 14); solid defence against non-elite opponents; Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Eriksen and Emmanuel Adebayor form a decent spine, but will they all stay?

What they need to do now

Stability is needed but looks unlikely; a new manager will arrive for another busy summer of transfers.


Five reasons why they lost the title

1. David Moyes. Ultimately the job was too big for him and United managed to take only one point more than Moyes' Everton did last season.

2. The hierarchy. Alex Ferguson and the Glazers must shoulder a large part of the blame for handing Moyes an ageing squad (even the signing of Robin van Persie, which brought them the title last season, smacked of short-termism).

3. Big-match negativity. Moyes' methods were summed up by only one win and just six goals scored in 12 matches against the rest of the top seven.

4. Poor home form. Old Trafford is a fortress no more; United had seven home defeats (the same as relegated Norwich).

5. Defensive weaknesses. United conceded first in 50 per cent of their matches (compared with 18 per cent for Manchester City), losing 12 out of 19. United's record when they didn't concede first was W15 D4 L0.


Residual solidity (United ranked second to Arsenal against bottom-half teams); top-class attackers; a brilliant goalkeeper; the fans (so used to winning, they handled the setbacks remarkably well).

What they need to do now

Buy well in key positions (central defence, creative midfield, holding midfield), although doubts remain about their true spending power under the Glazers. Even a coach as good as Louis van Gaal might have difficulty doing any better than restoring them to the Champions League.