Premier League 2018-19: An overview of what has been decided and what is at stake
Written by: Neil Talnikar
The race for pole position is still being hotly contested, while few teams are stuck in relegation and promotion battles.
It would be an understatement to say that it was an eventful 2018-19 Premier League season, which is about to come to an exhilarating conclusion. The course of 38 games unleashed a couple of ‘superpowers’ of England, in Manchester City and Liverpool, whose level of football was absolutely unmatched by their other league counterparts.
However, that wasn’t all, a team like Wolverhampton Wanderers, in particular, took everyone by surprise as they displayed an outstanding quality of football in their first season after promotion.
Let’s have an overlook of this marvelous year in English football which will definitely be one to live down the memories:
The defending champions had started the season well but had a shaky Christmas period which saw them slump to unexpected defeats at Crystal Palace and Leicester City. And when their hopes of defending the title had started diminishing, the Cityzens bounced back as strongly as they could, nullifying the 7-point gap between them and the then league leaders Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola’s men went on to defeat the likes of everyone including the Merseysiders, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham as well as Manchester United. Having exited from the Champions League, they are now forced by Liverpool, to win each of their remaining three games as they look to achieve a historic title retention.
This season can be regarded as Liverpool’s most successful season in decades and it is a shame that they still face a danger of going trophyless yet again. Unbeaten in the first 20 games, the Reds established themselves as frontrunners in the title race.
However, a few disappointing results and a subsequent comeback by City saw them drop down to second place. Constantly shuffling between the first two positions, Jurgen Klopp’s army are still hopeful of a miracle that will help them clinch their first league title after almost three decades.
Race for top-four and Champions League qualification
Inconsistency could hurt Spurs and hinder their hopes for a top-four finish
The season has been a roller coaster ride for the Spurs so far, dropping out of the title race after a superb start. Following consecutive dropped points during mid-season, the Spurs settled in the third spot but are still remained to cement the position in order to ensure themselves a Champions League qualification next season.
However, their inconsistency in the domestic league has always disappointed them, with their latest loss at home to West Ham United justifying it.
Like Spurs, Chelsea too made a great start to the season going unbeaten in the first 12 games. However, what followed was just unbelievable to the fans as they drastically dropped out of the top four while losing 0-6 at the hands of City in the process.
On a positive note, Chelsea did not lose the grit and somehow managed to get back into the top four but are wary of the minute difference between them and their competitors for the spot. With just three games remaining, the Blues head on to a crucial fixture with Manchester United, which may probably decide who will keep the fourth spot at the end.
It is surprising how after a largely disappointing season, Arsenal managed to remain in the top six. Their shambolic defence is the prime reason why the Gunners always look unsettled even after taking lead in a game.
Nevertheless, its star-studded attack didn’t cease to disappoint with Alexandre Lacazette becoming the new cult hero and Aaron Ramsey continuing with his legacy at the club as he plays his final season with them before moving to Juventus.
Reaching Europa League semi-finals is one of the biggest positives for the Londoners this season as they desperately look to qualify for the Champions League next season.
It was more or less a season to forget for the Red Devils. A journey that saw Jose Mourinho getting sacked and a former fan favourite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking over the reigns in probably the best possible way. United went unbeaten in the Norwegian’s first nine games in charge and bounced back to fight for a top-four spot, covering a huge point difference.
However, the latter part of the season saw them drop points at lowly teams which made them settle at the sixth position. Playing Chelsea in their next, United are desperate for a Champions League spot next season, which is the only way they could save their season from being called as a failure.
Race for Europa League qualification
Wolves have developed a penchant of beating Premier League heavyweights
Who would have thought that this newly-promoted side would go on to fight for a place in European competition? The Wolves, back by its Portuguese-dominated squad, produced a brilliant quality of football and surprised even the big guns in the league.
Defeating each of the top six teams at some point, the Wolves became one of the most feared underdogs of the season. With only a couple of games remaining, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side look to attain historic qualification to Europa League although they face a stern test at Liverpool in their final fixture of the season.
Three seasons after promoting to the top tier, Watford have a good chance of finishing in the top half of the table. Moreover, if things work out well, they might even clinch a qualification spot in the Europa League which will be their biggest success story in recent years.
However, the Hornets are required to win both of their remaining fixtures and simultaneously hope for Everton and Wolves to lose their games, if they are to qualify for the Europa League. However, they will face a huge challenge in their next fixture as they visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The Merseysiders had a decent season overall as they pulled off a couple of great victories against Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Burnley. Everton have a good chance of finishing the season on a positive note provided they manage to shock Tottenham in their final fixture of the season.
The Foxes didn’t have a very successful season overall but managing to win against City was one of their biggest achievements this year. Although the hopes for a Europa League qualification spot are very little, Leicester can’t be ruled out just yet.
Their final three fixtures in the league, however, are the most toughest ones as they play Arsenal, City and Chelsea respectively.
Fulham have managed to take just 21 points in 36 games and have already been relegated back to Championship
The newly promoted side was no match to its counterparts in the top tier and the difference could be easily made out. Having managed to get only 14 points so far, it was a huge failure of a season for the Terriers and would go on once again to ply their trade in the Championship next season.
However, their performances showed no signs of improvement and the Italian was sacked in a very short period of time, following which Scott Parker took charge. Nevertheless, the Cottagers managed to take just 21 points in 36 games and have already been relegated back to Championship.
‘Unfortunate’ is the perfect word to describe Cardiff’s season as they very nearly lost a few fixtures, which wouldn’t have otherwise saw them languish in the relegation zone. With a five point-gap between them and 17th placed Brighton and Hove Albion, the Welsh club is still hoping for a miracle that will keep them in the top tier beyond this season.
Brighton and Hove Albion
The Seagulls face a tough task of surviving relegation this season, even though they require just one win, as their final two fixtures are against Arsenal and Manchester City respectively. Their recent draw against Newcastle United made them face the heat of relegation as otherwise, a win would have ensured their survival.
The job is still to be done for Leeds United as they are required to win both of their final fixtures against Aston Villa and Ipswich Town
Standing on top of the Championship table, with just one game left to play, Norwich have already secured promotion to Premier League after getting relegated twice in the last five years.
Seeing off Blackburn Rovers at home in the last fixture, the Canaries confirmed their place in the top tier next season.
Like Norwich, Sheffield too have practically secured promotion to the English top tier following their ecstatic 2-0 win against Ipswich Town at the weekend. Standing six points adrift of third-placed Leeds United, it is only a matter whether the Blades stand second or third at the end. This will be their first promotion to the Premier League since 2007.
Under the tutelage of Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds have had a very successful season in the Championship and are on the verge of securing promotion to the top tier after a period of a decade and a half. However, the job is still to be done for the Peacocks as they are required to win both of their final fixtures against Aston Villa and Ipswich Town.
West Bromwich Albion
Constantly putting pressure on Leeds, West Brom still hope for the Peacocks to drop points, while winning their final game of the season. After a year in the Championship, the Baggies are still in contention to promote back to the Premier League as they play Derby County in their last game and hope for Leeds to lose at the same time.
Published: Mon Apr 29, 2019 02:20 PM IST