Ten biggest storylines of the Premier League season that was

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All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

[ FULL COVERAGE: Premier League season review ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, it’s time to take a look back at — in no particular order — 10 storylines that helped make the Premier League season a memorable one.

10. Pardiola — Newcastle United started very poorly this season, and the Magpies’ fan base was livid with high-talking manager Alan Pardew before a five-game win streak pushed the club from the bottom to the top half.

Pardew’s departure for Crystal Palace was met with good humor by the Toon Army. That changed to misery when Pardew led the Eagles from the bottom to a 10th place finish, while Newcastle absolutely fell apart over a string of miserable performances under former Toronto FC boss John Carver.

source: AP9. Saintly surprises — Perhaps its fitting that some Saints and a Monk featured in ‘miraculous’ seasons for Southampton and Swansea City. Though they faded down the stretch, Southampton was expected to fall apart after selling stars Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw. Instead, they contended for the Top Five all year under new boss Ronald Koeman (left).

And how about Swans under Garry Monk? The former player helmed the club to survival last season and then spearheaded one of the most fun sides in the league this season. Swansea finished eighth despite selling Wilfried Bony in January, as Monk coaxed career years out of Ki Sung-yeung, Jonjo Shelvey and Ashley Williams amongst others.

8. Catch for us the Foxes — Nigel Pearson was as good as fired, you know? And wasn’t Leicester City as good as in the Championship? Nope. Left for the managerial scrapheap after a “choking” incident with Crystal Palace’s James McArthur and a long string of poor results, Pearson orchestrated a big winning streak that allowed the Foxes to clinch safety before Championship Sunday.

7. Style vs. Title — As Chelsea’s forward corps dealt with injuries, the soccer world turned to debate whether their title should count, what with Arsenal flying up-and-down the pitch but not within sight of the first-place Blues. It was a horrible debate that pretended Chelsea was constantly hanging back in Tony Pulis-like banks of four, across the 18 and begging for a single mercy point.

6. Quitting QPR — Harry Redknapp and Queens Park Rangers’ return to the Premier League lasted less than a season, as the Loftus Road club saw its brash manager skip town at the end of the January transfer window on account of wonky knees. QPR could not rebound to safety, as Redknapp left another club in the lurch.

source: Getty Images5. Timmy Tactics — Tim Sherwood somehow got the Spurs job last season, then caused a fuss when he battered the club for not giving him a long-term deal. His name was bandied about for seemingly every potential opening in England, before landing at Aston Villa where he… actually got the club humming to safety. His longterm prospects are still a major question, but “Timmy Tactics” can put the first-half of 2015 in the win column, and he can still guide his club to an FA Cup title.

4. Struggles in (and for) Europe — Liverpool failed to make the Round of 16, while its three UEFA Champions League peers were gone by the end of the first knockout round.

The Reds were bounced from their group by Real Madrid and Basel, and nearly finished bottom of the group. Arsenal went down big to Monaco before “almost” climbing back. Manchester City fell to Barcelona over a yawn-worthy two legs of effort, while Chelsea fell to PSG on away goals.

Certainly more is expected in 2015 with Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.

As for Europa, all English contenders fell in the competition, and there was question as to whether anyone wanted in the competition moving forward. Down the stretch, and be honest, did you wonder whether Southampton and Tottenham were trying to qualify for the Europa League, or avoid the tournament altogether?

3. Don’t call it a comeback — Louis van Gaal is getting a lot of love for Manchester United’s resurgence to the UEFA Champions League after buying Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and others, but is his six points better finish that much more impressive than hard-luck David Moyes’ 2013-14 campaign? It’s worth discussing, as replacing Sir Alex Ferguson has now seen two seasons as the lesser-finishing side in Manchester.

source: Getty Images2. Wire-to-wire — While some were debating their “boring” nature, Jose Mourinho was masterminding Chelsea’s unquestioned dominance. The Blues went from start to finish as the Premier League’s top club, with debatably the best forward (Diego Costa), attacker (Eden Hazard), destroyer (Nemanja Matic), back (John Terry) and keeper (Thibaut Courtois). You don’t have to like those characterizations, or agree, but in terms of being in the debate, there is no doubt. Special One? Indeed.

1. Stevie G — Here’s another thing you don’t have to like, but there’s no doubt Steve Gerrard was a bit part of the season’s headlines from opening day (Could he come back from “The Slip”?) to mid-season European flopping (Are they better without him in the lineup?) and finally his exhaustively-covered departure from Anfield (Did Ryan Giggs or Frank Lampard get this sort of service last year?).

Still, Liverpool’s hero left Anfield with class, and will now begin his adventure in the United States.

Bonus storylines: Harry Kane; Frank Lampard’s no-celebration vs. Chelsea; the Blues’ swarming referees like bees; Burnley nearly punches above its weight; Sunderland survives thanks to Advocaat; West Ham surges forward, then falls flat; Jonas Gutierrez returns from cancer.

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

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ZURICH (AP) Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Socce r and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

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Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7 hours ]

Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Lewandowski’s Bayern keeps rolling, Leipzig stays top

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Week 5 of the Bundesliga season looked a lot like so many others since Robert Lewandowski arrived in the country from Lech Poznan in 2010.

He scored, and his team won.

[ MORE: Man City hangs 8 on Watford ]

It wasn’t enough to put Bayern Munich atop the league, as the Bavarian side also saw RB Leipzig get a win and could sit third once Lewandowski’s first German team, Borussia Dortmund, plays on Sunday.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Koln

Robert Lewandowski is humming along, scoring two more goals to give him nine in Bayern’s first five matches of the Bundesliga season. The 31-year-old Polish superstar scored at midweek in the Champions League, and has scored in all seven matches he’s played since being skunked in the DFL SuperCup loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic also scored for Bayern, who will finish the weekend no lower than third on the table. A 59th minute red card to Koln’s Kingsley Ehizibue came with Bayern already leading 2-0, so it was a bit snoozy in terms of drama at the Allianz Arena.

Werder Bremen 0-3 RB Leipzig

A 64th minute red card to Konrad Laimer couldn’t slow down the table leaders, as Leipzig added a goal after going down to 10-men in the win.

Willi Orban and Marcelo Saracchi scored for the visitors, and Marcel Sabitzer scored a terrific free kick in the win.

American teenager Josh Sargent started and played 80 minutes for the hosts, covering 9.63 kilometers and getting a lone shot on goal.

Elsewhere
Schalke 2-1 Mainz — Friday
Freiburg 1-1 Augsburg
Hertha Berlin 2-1 Paderborn
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Union Berlin
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Borussia Dortmund — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 5 4 1 0 13 3 10 1-1-0 3-0-0 13
 Bayern Munich 5 3 2 0 16 4 12 2-1-0 1-1-0 11
 SC Freiburg 5 3 1 1 11 4 7 1-1-1 2-0-0 10
 FC Schalke 04 5 3 1 1 10 5 5 2-0-1 1-1-0 10
 Bayer Leverkusen 5 3 1 1 8 7 1 2-1-0 1-0-1 10
 Borussia Dortmund 4 3 0 1 13 5 8 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 4 2 2 0 7 3 4 1-1-0 1-1-0 8
 Mönchengladbach 4 2 1 1 5 4 1 0-1-1 2-0-0 7
 Eintracht Frankfurt 4 2 0 2 5 5 0 2-0-0 0-0-2 6
 Werder Bremen 5 2 0 3 8 12 -4 1-0-2 1-0-1 6
 FC Augsburg 5 1 2 2 7 11 -4 1-1-0 0-1-2 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 4 1 1 2 6 7 -1 0-1-1 1-0-1 4
 1899 Hoffenheim 4 1 1 2 3 6 -3 1-0-1 0-1-1 4
 1. FC Union Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 10 -5 1-0-2 0-1-1 4
 Hertha BSC Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 11 -6 1-0-1 0-1-2 4
 1. FC Köln 5 1 0 4 4 11 -7 0-0-2 1-0-2 3
 FSV Mainz 05 5 1 0 4 5 15 -10 1-0-1 0-0-3 3
 SC Paderborn 5 0 1 4 6 14 -8 0-0-2 0-1-2 1

Nothing to separate Newcastle, Brighton at St. James’ Park

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A bright performance from the visitors produced nothing, as Newcastle United and Brighton played to a scoreless draw at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton had more than 70 percent of the ball and an advantage in shots, but couldn’t get a goal over the line. Newcastle only arrived late after the introduction of Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll, and would not truly challenge Mathew Ryan.

The Seagulls rise 15th with six points, two spots and one point ahead of the hosts.


Three things we learned

1. Relegation candidates for sure: Both Graham Potter and Steve Bruce are new managers of their sides, but neither looks much better than their predecessor. Maybe Brighton is on a slightly better trajectory than the Gulls side that survived by two points last season, but the Magpies looked very poor over two formations in the first half. Maybe that’s a symptom of the sick, but a winner of this game might’ve ended up pointing to the points as what kept it up come May.

2. Brighton cannot capitalize vs. awful Newcastle midfield: The match was screaming out for Glenn Murray as Brighton was the brighter side but oh-so-wasteful in the 18. The Seagulls press befuddled Newcastle’s midfield and kept the back line on edge, but every chance was wasted.

There was a gulf between the Magpies’ back line and center forward Joelinton, who himself struggled to assert himself on the game. It’s telling that Steve Bruce’s 73rd minute subs were Allan Saint-Maximin and Ki Sung-yeung for Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey, as the Magpies had little possession and less threat.

3. Carroll back in black (and white): Hometown hero Andy Carroll last played for the Magpies in a Premier League game on Dec. 29, 2010, against Spurs before being sold to Liverpool for a massive fee. The oft-injured but powerful striker came on for the final 10 minutes to a rousing “One of our own” chant from St. James’ Park, and cued Allan Saint-Maximin up for a chance during his cameo.

Man of the Match: Schar — It just has to be. Martin Dubravka was beaten by Neal Maupay, but his dink could not cross the goal line before Schar leapt to clobber the ball to safety with an overhead clearance. What a play, and indicative of how often the Swiss centerpiece has saved Newcastle at either end of the pitch over the last two years.


 [ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Martin Dubravka was tasked with making the match’s first save after Pascal Gross blazed down the right and toward the six-yard box.

Almiron came close to getting his first goal with a well-timed run and shot which was saved by Mat Ryan in the 22nd minute.

The Magpies’ season record of wobbly starts continued, and Dubravka and Jamaal Lascelles needed to make borderline heroic plays to keep it 0-0 by the half-hour mark.

Joelinton came very close to nodding a corner kick home as Lewis Dunk forgot to mark the Brazilian. His free header just missed the far post.

Steven Alzate had the ball in the back of the goal, as Newcastle was at sixes and sevens at the back, but was offside in the 34th.

The Magpies were booed off the pitch at halftime, and started brightly with a 46th minute shot punched wide by Christian Atsu.

Almiron made a delightful turn on the right side before dribbling into the 18 for a low shot saved by Ryan. Closer, but still not enough. The ex-Atlanta United man two more extremely bad giveaways on the day, and isn’t offering too much hope.