Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Premier League season was the longest ever as it lasted 352 days, only 13 days before it lasted a whole calendar year.
Liverpool won their first league title in 30 years and their first in the modern Premier League era established in 1992. Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea clinched the other three Champions League spots with Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City heading to the Europa League. Wolverhampton will head to the Europa League if Chelsea defeats Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, otherwise, Arsenal will clinch the final spot with a victory.
Also, Norwich City, Watford and Bournemouth are relegated and will be replaced by Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion and the winner of the playoff in the championship. With the 2019-20 season in the books, here are my final takeaways from the season.
- The Premier League excelled in a pandemic-stricken world
Before I discuss clubs specifically, I must give a shout-out to the Premier League for the successful “Project Restart.” Amid the pandemic, restarting the season was not an easy feat. They had to make sure matches were as safe as possible and the players were as healthy as possible. Those two factors had to be nearly flawless to make the finish of the season possible. This statement sums up how successful it was: The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday, July 13, and Sunday, July 19, 2,208 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.
Everyone did their best to stay safe and the league implemented effective rules to keep the players safe during matches with social distancing after matches, a water break in each half and allowing five substitutions instead of the usual three. Not only were the matches safe but the quality was barely affected. Yes, not having fans made an impact but for the most part, matches were what fans are accustomed to seeing. There was plenty of insane drama and intense matches (Chelsea vs Manchester City case in point). It was fun watching “Project Restart” as it didn’t feel much different than the action before play was suspended. Well done, Premier League.
- Chelsea needs to fix their defense
Chelsea was third in goals scored this season with 69 but are tied with Brighton & Hove Albion for 11th place in goals conceded with 54. Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham were the leaders of a prolific attacking squad this season. Despite this, Chelsea needed the final Sunday of the season to qualify for the UCL and since they finished fourth, they will have to go through the qualifying round.
Chelsea has added striker Timo Werner and winger Hakim Ziyech to their squad for next season. However, these players aren’t going to fix their leaky defense. While they are looking to sign Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder Kai Havertz, they need to go after defenders, or they will have a similar result next season. I emphatically recommend adding Leicester City left back Ben Chilwell to the squad.
- Mikel Arteta is the right man to lead Arsenal going forward
Arsenal started the season with manager Unai Emery and the club was in shambles between Oct. 6 and Dec. 9, 2019, as they did not win a single league match during that stretch. Emery was fired in late November, which led to former Arsenal midfielder and Man City assistant coach Mikel Arteta was hired a couple of weeks later to fix the club’s misfortunes. Arsenal started improving immediately, going unbeaten in league play from Jan. 1 to the first day of “Project Restart.”
Arteta has instilled passion and urgency into a club stricken by complacency and apathy for the last few years. Despite dealing with a multitude of injuries and a lesser talent pool than Arsenal has had in year’s past, he managed to get the most out of his players and develop some of the younger players. Left winger Bukayo Saka had a breakout season under Arteta’s tutelage and looks to be a part of Arsenal’s future core as he earned the No. 7 with his performance during the restart. I hope Arsenal will provide Arteta with decent transfer funds so he can continue to improve the squad going forward. The future is looking bright at Arsenal.
- Leicester City needs a new philosophy after shocking collapse
Leicester City has failed to qualify for the UCL, a shocking statement. If you would have told me this at any point before last month, I would have strongly doubted you. They were battling Liverpool for the top at the start of the season and as the months progressed, Leicester was a club firmly in the top three of the table. They were 14 points clear of Manchester United in January and eight points clear heading into the restart.
Leicester would end up finishing fifth and four points behind Manchester United after losing to them 2-0 on Sunday. The collapse was highlighted in the fact that in October, they defeated Southampton 9-0 only to lose to them 2-1 two months later. In the nine matches during the restart, Leicester won only twice, drew three times and lost four matches. The biggest reason: their tactical strategy to focus on defense and midfield while letting Golden Boot winner Jamie Vardy score all the goals was not ideal. They only scored nine goals in their nine matches, not a recipe for success at all. They did deal with some injuries but if Leicester wants to attempt another run at UCL qualification, they need to invest in players who create chances other than Vardy. This collapse is simply unacceptable.
- Gino Pozzo, what have you done?
This is the question Watford’s owner must ask himself after the club has been relegated after five years in the Premier League. Watford, this season, went through THREE different managers along with two other caretakers. I don’t care how talented the club is; that is not an acceptable way to run a club and expect success. Players had to deal with five different leaders in the same season which clearly drained them. I understand a change needing to be made when the club is struggling but to make that many changes shows that there is a problem at the top.
Watford had injuries to key players such as winger Gerard Deulofeu but overcoming this constant change was by far the most challenging aspect of the season. Watford, last season, finished 11th in the table and reached the FA Cup Final where they lost to Man City. They also ended Liverpool’s unbeaten season this February. Despite all of that, they are sent back down to the Championship and it is quite obvious who is to blame for this: Gino Pozzo.