What did we learn on Championship Sunday, the final day of the 2021-22 Premier League season?
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Here’s a look at 10 things which stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
1. 10 years on, 2012 heroics given a run for their money (Manchester City 3-2 Aston Villa): The drama was unreal. 2-0 down with 14 minutes to go, while Liverpool were drawing 1-1. That meant City would still win the title if Liverpool drew, but Liverpool scored a few late on to win easy. City knew they had to win and they scored three goals in five minutes to win the title in the most dramatic fashion. Well, that was almost the most dramatic title win they’ve had in their last decade. Amazing. (JPW)
2. When the story of this day is told… (Liverpool 3-1 Wolves): it will go down in history as one of the most remarkable stories to ever hit a Premier League season. Liverpool needed club legend Steven Gerrard and former hero Philippe Coutinho to deliver a surprising win over a historically great Manchester City team and looked en route to perhaps a multi-goal win. Who knows what might’ve happened if City knew Liverpool was ahead of Wolves, which they never were. Two of the best teams in the history of this league each tried to give each other the title, both eventually snaring what was required to have hope for a title but the team in the driver’s seat scooping up the spoils. (NM)
3. The difference a manager can make (Norwich 0-5 Tottenham): In seven short months, Antonio Conte appears to have revolutionized Tottenham and taken the club into an all new era, leaving behind not only the woeful times of Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo, but more importantly, the halcyon days of Mauricio Pochettino. A handful of key players (Kane, Son, Lloris and Dier) still remain from the Argentine’s tenure, but the mentality and belief of everyone at the club has changed under Conte’s leadership. He comes across as brash and demanding, but it’s hard to argue, based on the evidence (3rd-most points won in the Premier League since Conte arrived, behind only Manchester City and Liverpool), that he hasn’t improved Tottenham’s present and future by leaps and bounds. The players no longer hope to be in the UEFA Champions League; they expect to be there, like their manager. (AE)
#THFC – Eight wins and two draws from their final 11 games. So strong down the stretch.
— Charlie Eccleshare (@CDEccleshare) May 22, 2022
4. Top four bought and paid for in January (Norwich 0-5 Tottenham/Arsenal 5-1 Everton): Speaking of changing the unchangeable, Conte (and director of football Fabio Paratici) convinced chairman Daniel Levy to spend big during the January transfer window. Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur arrived and immediately transformed Spurs, particularly in attack. The Swede is the perfect complement to Kane and Son Heung-min, in every way that every Spurs manager wanted Lucas Moura to be (consistently) — he’s big and strong and always ready to do the defensive work, and he’s a brilliant dribbler, only something typically comes of the final ball after beating two defenders. Bentancur is as robust as he is smooth, a fantastic fourth attacker in the final third, never afraid to try something audacious. (Arsenal, at the same time Spurs made their two big signings, brought in no one and loaned Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona.) Now, imagine Conte having an entire preseason to drill this side tactically. Imagine, also, the caliber of players that will be hoping to sign for Tottenham with 1) Champions League football; 2) Conte to play for. (AE/NM)
5. Attack needs re-worked in the summer (Chelsea 2-1 Watford): Simply having a bunch of talented attacking players doesn’t mean you’re going to have a cohesive attacking unit that fits together nicely and operates at its best with any regularity. In hindsight, that’s where Chelsea struggled this season, with $135-million man Romelu Lukaku chief among the Blues’ strugglers. Hakim Ziyech appears an uncomfortable fit to Tuchel’s system as well, while Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner too often found themselves played out of position or injured. Havertz finished the season much better than he started it, so perhaps one Chelsea attacker will come away with positive feelings toward the 2021-22 season. (AE)
6. Where to begin with Man United (Crystal Palace 1-0 Manchester United): Does Cristiano Ronaldo return for another season at Old Trafford, to play in the Europa League, for a side that’s unlikely to make a giant leap forward in just one year? Will Jadon Sancho feature more prominently in Erik ten Haag’s plans next season, or will the $100-million youngster be an afterthought for yet another manager? Will it be another season of Scott McTominay and Fred manning the midfield together? How much say will Ten Haag be given over transfers (both incoming and outgoing) this summer, and for the long term? Those are just a few of the questions which must be answered over the next nine weeks. (AE)
7. Now, Marsch will build his own team (Brentford 1-2 Leeds): Marsch and Bielsa won’t have differed too terribly much on the players required to play their respective styles, but Marsch is certainly far more likely to bring a young USMNT star — Brenden Aaronson, perhaps? — to the Premier League for $30 million. And that’s precisely what he’s set to do, according to a report from Tom Bogert. The deal was obviously contingent upon Leeds avoiding relegation and remaining in the Premier League ahead of the 2022 World Cup in November. Unlike when Bob Bradley was at Swansea City, Marsch is likely to be financially backed to the end of the earth by an ambitious Leeds board as they will undoubtedly demand serious improvements in his first full season. (AE)
Sources: With their Premier League survival, Leeds United are finalizing a deal to acquire RB Salzburg's USMNT attacker Brenden Aaronson. Deal around $30 million was previously agreed to, pending relegation. Final steps now.
Aaronson, 21, spent 18 months at Salzburg. pic.twitter.com/Bpp85jQD5x
— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) May 22, 2022
8. Hammers’ fine season fades away (Brighton 3-1 West Ham): They will be disappointed they didn’t win on the final day to finish sixth but this was still a great season. West Ham have finished sixth and seventh in their last two seasons and David Moyes has done a fine job. However, the lack of squad depth really showed up late in the season as they lost in the Europa League semifinals and came up short with just two wins from their final nine games. West Ham will still be in the Europa Conference League next season but this was an opportunity missed as they’ve looked sluggish in the last month. (JPW)
9. Foxes finish season on a high (Leicester 4-1 Southampton): This was not the season Brendan Rodgers’ side wanted but they finished with three wins in their last four and eighth place is very respectable after all of their injury issues. Add that to reaching the Europa Conference League semifinal and Leicester had a very respectable finish in the end. Also, not having Europe next season may well get help them return to challenge for a top six finish. (JPW)
10. Mike Jackson stopped before he got enough (Burnley 1-2 Newcastle): Had to do it, sorry. The universe seemed to agree that Burnley was taking a huge and arguably unnecessary risk in firing Sean Dyche, but interim boss Mike Jackson nearly surged the Clarets to an unlikely stay in the Premier League. Unfortunately the last step is always the most memorable one, and fans may long remember his starting Ashley Barnes over Wout Weghorst with the season on the line. Barnes is best known for playing dirty and has scored 10 goals over the past three full seasons (one this year). Weghorst has two in 19 PL matches after scoring 20 last year for Wolfsburg. Barnes wasn’t awful Sunday but it just seemed a dicey call. (NM)