John Aldridge rates the Premier League top six after a 'flat' Premier League season
ANOTHER season of Premier League football has come to an end and if we are being honest, it is not a campaign that will live too long in the memory.
I’m sure you will disagree with that verdict if you are a Manchester City fan, as Pep Guardiola’s side have been outstanding champions and fully deserve the plaudits coming their way.
The trouble is, the teams chasing them were so far behind that there was never any real title race to get excited about and the final day of the season last Sunday – when very little was at stake at the top and bottom of the table - summed up how flat the whole Premier League story has been this year.
Here is my verdict on the teams in the top six of the Premier League, with more than a few of the top players on huge wages at England’s top clubs needing to ask if they have given their all this season.
Pep Guardiola’s side were far too good for everyone else this season.
They basically won the title in the first half of the season, when they either won games by a wide margin or managed to dig out last gasp goals to turn one point into three and while I don’t want to dilute their achievement, this is what you should expect from a team that has spent more than £1billion singing players over the last few years. City’s cash reserves give them a massive advantage over most of their domestic rivals and now that they have a top manager in place, they have built the kind of dream team you can only build with unlimited supplies of cash offered up by the oil-rich state that owns the club.
Jose Mourinho has claimed that this season has been a success for Manchester United, but I wonder how many of their fans agree with him?
A second-place finish will look decent if the FA Cup is added in next Saturday’s final against Chelsea, but you can already sense that the United fans have had enough of Mourinho’s antics on and off the pitch.
He is very good at setting teams to ensure they don’t lose, but he does that at the expense of entertaining the fans and that won’t sit well with United fans for much longer.
When you look at the wage bill and the transfer kitty Mauricio Pochettino is working with, you have to say he has done a great job at Tottenham.
He has his team playing good football and has done it all for a fraction of the investment that has been on display from the two Manchester clubs, who both have a net transfer spend of more than £400m over the last four years. It will be interesting to see where Tottenham go from here because they are moving to a new stadium and need to sign a few big players to try and go to the next level. If the club don’t back Pochettino, you wonder whether he will look to find a club that meets those requirements.
A top four finish was the first priority for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and he has now ticked that box, but he will have overseen a ridiculously good season if he now adds Champions League glory to his list of achievements.
Liverpool fans have been spoilt by the delights served up to them. The European nights at Anfield have been some of the best in the club’s history and 134 goals they have scored in all competitions have ensured they have provided wonderful entertainment all season. Now one final game will define this season and the careers of Klopp and his players.
Part of me feels like Chelsea are heading back to their natural position in the English game.
They are not a big club and have been made 'big' by a sugar-daddy benefactor who has put them on a pedestal for the last few years that has been unnatural given their modest fan base and lack of history.
Now that owner Roman Abramovich appears to have pulled his cash out of Chelsea and is no longer investing in new players as he has done for most of the last 15 years, they have slipped back down the table and I have some sympathy for boss Antonio Conte, who has not been given the backing he expected when he went to the club.
The tributes flowing for Arsene Wenger as he ended his reign as Arsenal boss have been good to see, as this is a great manager whose only crime was staying too long in the job.
Arsenal have been going backwards in recent years and some of their players have had their foot off the gas for far too long, so you would expect to see a more improved Gunners side emerging with a new manager at the helm.
I feel it will take the new man at least two seasons to get Arsenal back on track, but he will be starting from a pretty low base and that might help him as expectations will be diluted a little.