2018-2019: Citizens create more history
|Champions||Manchester City||Biggest Win||Manchester City 6-0 Chelsea|
|Runners-Up||Liverpool FC||Highest Scoring Game||Everton 2-6 Tottenham Hotspur|
|Third Place||Chelsea||Top Goalscorer||Sadio Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mohamed Salah (22)|
|Relegated||Cardiff City, Fulham, Huddersfield Town||Goals Scored||1072|
The 2018-2019 Premier League season saw the most perfect title race run-in in history. Manchester City and Liverpool FC sprinted away from the opposition, finishing 25 points clear of the chasing pack. Neither side dropped any points from early March and they were covered by just a single point in City’s favour by the end of the season.
Following their record-breaking campaign in 2017-2018, Pep Guardiola didn’t feel any need to drastically improve his squad, although long-time target Riyad Mahrez was acquired from Leicester City. Other big pre-season transfers saw Liverpool FC solve their goalkeeping woes with the signing of Alisson. Days later, Chelsea broke the world transfer record for a goalkeeper by signing Kepa Arrizabalaga to replace Real Madrid-bound Thibaut Courtois. Tottenham Hotspur became the first team in Premier League history not to spend any money or sign any players since the summer transfer window came into force.
From an early stage, Manchester City and Liverpool FC set a fearsome pace. Liverpool won their first six matches and stayed unbeaten throughout the first half of the campaign. City dropped just four points before a difficult December that shocked the champions. First, they lost 2-0 to Chelsea before suffering back-to-back defeats over the festive period at home to Crystal Palace and away at Leicester City.
In early January, the top two came head-to-head at The Etihad. Having played out a stale goalless encounter in October at Anfield, this game was pulsating. The champions defeated the league leaders 2-1 with Leroy Sane scoring the decisive goal. It turned out to be Liverpool’s only league defeat of the season. At the end of January, Guardiola’s side tripped up on Tyneside, losing 2-1 at Newcastle. After that, they went on a stunning run, winning 13 successive matches.
That was enough for them to catch and overtake Liverpool, who had topped the table from 8th December until early March. The Reds were held 1-1 at home by Leicester City and drew away at West Ham United, Manchester United and Everton. The goalless draw at Goodison was the last dropped points by either of the top two. With every passing week, both teams kept responding to the challenge set by the other. It went to the final day with City leading by a point after skipper Vincent Kompany’s extraordinary goal to beat Leicester in their last home match of the season.
Liverpool did what they needed to do. Sadio Mane’s brace sank Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0. That was enough for the Senegalese player to share the Golden Boot honour with 22 goals alongside teammate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Although they fell behind at Brighton on the final day, Guardiola’s side stormed back to win 4-1 and earn a second successive Premier League title with 98 points, one ahead of Liverpool. 97 points for Jurgen Klopp’s side was the best-ever total recorded by a runner-up in English top-flight history.
Liverpool did find decent consolation in winning the UEFA Champions League final and it was a European double with Chelsea taking the UEFA Europa League prize. It was the silver lining in a tricky season for the Blues. Unbeaten in their first 11 games, Maurizio Sarri’s side struggled especially in away matches against the top teams, losing meekly at Tottenham, Arsenal and then, being thrashed 6-0 at Manchester City in February. Chelsea finished the campaign fairly strongly though, ending up third with Eden Hazard excelling throughout. The Belgian though departed in June for Real Madrid and Sarri left too, returning to Italy after just one season on these shores to manage Juventus.
Tottenham Hotspur finished in the top four for the fourth successive season, despite losing the most games by any side that finished in these positions since Chelsea back in 1998. A Champions League final place showed how far Mauricio Pochettino’s side have come. In April, they finally made their long-awaited return home to their brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Harry Kane chipped in with another 17 goals but an ankle injury in mid-January effectively ended his chances of a third Premier League Golden Boot.
Ex-Sevilla and PSG boss Unai Emery was the new man at the helm at Arsenal. It was always going to be tricky to follow on from Arsene Wenger’s 22-year spell but Emery’s side showed well at times. They won 4-2 in a thrilling home north London Derby over Tottenham and also beat Chelsea and Manchester United. They finished fifth and made the Europa League final. Too many disappointing away displays cost them the opportunity of returning to the Champions League.
Manchester United’s campaign was desperately disappointing. It began with Jose Mourinho raising big concerns he didn’t have the defensive cover to mount a title challenge. United’s performances were sub-standard for much of the first half of the campaign and Mourinho was put of his misery in mid-December. 11 points off the top four; he was sacked two days after a 3-1 defeat at Anfield. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made an emotional return to Old Trafford in an interim manager capacity and initially, started well. By mid-March, United were right back in the race to finish in the top four but a 2-0 loss at The Emirates to Arsenal started another poor run. By the end of the season, even relegated Cardiff City were cruising to a 2-0 final day victory at Old Trafford. The Red Devils were a very distant sixth but Solskjaer did enough to earn himself a permanent contract as first-team manager.
It was a season tinged with tragedy. On Saturday 27th October, five people were killed in a helicopter crash outside The King Power Stadium just over an hour after Leicester City’s 1-1 draw with West Ham United. Among those on-board was Leicester’s likeable owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Leicester and the footballing world were plunged into shock and sadness. The Foxes continued to play on though and look set to build on Kung Vichai’s legacy with his son succeeding him as owner and Brendan Rodgers succeeding the unpopular Claude Puel as manager in February.
Three months later, it was Cardiff City who had to deal with a devastating loss. In the January transfer window, they broke their transfer club-record to sign Emiliano Sala from Nantes. Three days after signing and returning to Nantes to say goodbye to his old teammates, Sala’s plane disappeared over the English Channel. The wreckage was eventually found and Sala was one of two victims. Cardiff showed great courage throughout and won 10 matches but they were relegated on the penultimate weekend of the season. Neil Warnock though elected to carry on as manager. Fulham spent over £100 million but flopped and went down with a whimper whilst Huddersfield Town experienced second season syndrome and went down with the third lowest points total in Premier League history.
It was another record-breaking season for Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side. They became the first team to win a domestic treble, winning the League Cup and FA Cup alongside their Premier League success. This is their time, their era, their period of dominance and the next goal surely for everyone at the club will be to break the jinx in the Champions League and dominate that competition too.