David Moyes always faced an uphill battle as the replacement for the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. After being personally selected by Sir Alex, David Moyes entered the club accompanied by the afro’d Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini. A fantastic start against Swansea was quickly washed away after a scoreless draw to Chelsea and loss to Liverpool. After earning a victory against Crystal Palace, two consecutive losses put Moyes’ club behind the eight ball and despite their best efforts remained in the mid table for the remainder to the season.
Under the relentless eyes of the English media Moyes changed his approach to management, straying from his familiar position on the touchline shouting instructions. He soon became a fixture in the dugout, where pundits and players alike questioned his tactics and substitutions. Despite the emergence of young talents like Adnan Januzaj and the stalwart goalkeeping of David De Gea, Moyes could not inspire consistent performances from international superstars such as Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. Not even the January arrival of Chelsea Player of the Season, Juan Mata, lifted the squad from their malaise.
Ultimately the blame was assigned to Moyes, who was sacked in April for a season which saw Manchester United fall short in every competition. This was a squad that few believed were capable of winning the title as they had the previous year, even with the addition of Fellaini and Mata. Severe talent gaps in midfield and in defense ultimately failed a club that has three of the most dangerous attacking threats in the beautiful game. Aging defenders Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are showing signs of their age and new players must step up to fill this void.
There are still reasons to believe in the magic of Old Trafford, where last week James Wilson scored two goals in his Premier League debut. Adnan Januzaj will join the undeniably talented Belgium squad in Brazil after a spectacular Premier League season. David De Gea will remain one of the top young goalkeeping talents in the world. They still possess an attack that is the envy of FIFA Ultimate Team players around the globe. Whether or not they can transfer these elements into success remains to be seen.
When Shahid Khan removed the Michael Jackson statue from the front of Craven Cottage, few thought much of it. When the Premier League campaign ended with Fulham near the bottom of the table heading to the Championship, many viewed it as a signal of the end of an era. The era of Fulham in the Premier League has concluded and with them leaves one of the most intimate and welcoming grounds in all of world football.
Three different managers had their hand in guiding Fulham out of the league. Martin Jol was fired in December after seeing his club lose five consecutive matches. Rene Meulensteen was given two months of management and despite three wins, was unable to help the club find form. Felix Magath followed and the club showed signs of life in the spring, but not enough of a push to save them from relegation. Club record signing Konstantinos Mitroglou, never found favor with Magath and earned only a few appearances. For a club that spend over £20 million in transfers, they saw little return on their investment.
Next season will be crucial for the future of Fulham. With Championship clubs becoming limited in the amount of losses they may incur, it is imperative that clubs invest wisely in players that will help them bounce back to the top flight. Fulham has not spent wisely in recent memory, with notable transfer busts including Bryan Ruiz and Maarten Stekelenburg. Mitroglou remains an unknown quantity within the squad who could possess the qualities they need to make an immediate return to the Premier League.
When Malaysian billionaire businessman Vincent Tan bought Cardiff City in 2010, he sought to transform the club into a Premier League fixture. In order to follow through on this, Tan and his group promised an investment of over £25 million and the club subsequently rebranded themselves. Changing from the club’s traditional blue home shirts, the club turned to red and changed their crest to include a red dragon, a far cry from the club’s bluebird tradition. In total the club signed eight players during the summer transfer window and seven players during the winter transfer window. With squad turnover like that and the mid-season sacking of Malky Mackay, it is no wonder the club ultimately ended up being relegated.
Cardiff’s first season in the Premier League proved to be extremely difficult. The club failed to win consecutive Premier League matches at any point during the campaign. At their worst, the club managed only one win from thirteen matches. Their fate was sealed long before Championship Sunday, when a goal from Welsh legend Craig Bellamy was not enough to earn a point against Chelsea.
Fans protested throughout the season, against the rebranding, against the sacking of Mackay, and against the suddenly tight pocketed Tan who refused to spend big in the January transfer window. The lack of a positive atmosphere at the Cardiff City Stadium may have contributed to the club’s lack of success, but overall a lack of cohesive vision between ownership and management proved to be disastrous for the club. Cardiff City could serve as a cautionary tale for future Premier League entrants.
Norwich City rounds out the three relegated clubs in this year’s campaign. Unlike Fulham and Cardiff, Norwich enjoyed managerial stability for the majority of the season. Chris Houghton had guided the club to an 11th place finish in their previous campaign, but was sacked in April as the doomed status of the club became apparent. The arrival of striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel began with a goal on his first shot with the club. He was unable to score for the remainder of the campaign, and by doing so will forever remain a piece useless football trivia.
Unable to mount consecutive victories at any point in the season, Norwich rose as high as 12th in the league table. Their fate was not sealed until an untimely run of form where Norwich lost six of their final seven matches, falling into the relegation zone in the penultimate fixture. They struggled against top sides and managed only a single point against Fulham and Cardiff who they will be facing next season in the Championship.
Norwich could be candidates to bounce right back up to the Premier League thanks to a wealth of experience at their disposal. Unfortunately, their relegation means that some of their top players including Gary Hooper, Robert Snodgrass, and John Ruddy have requested transfers away from the club. Replacing these experienced footballers will be a challenge, but not an impossible task for the club. Carrow Road may not be filled to capacity every match next season, but the Canaries will be giving their all to return to the big money and spotlight of the Premier League.
Newcastle’s 2013-14 Premier League campaign began as a typical mid table season. They rose above the crowded bottom of the table thanks to an eight match streak that saw them drop only five points. Once separating themselves into the two team mid-table with Southampton, the controversy mounted for the Magpies. Alan Pardew found himself in trouble for a series of incidents, first verbally abusing Manuel Pellegrini and then headbutting Hull City’s David Meyer. The latter incident earned Moyes hefty fines from the FA and his club as well as a seven match ban.
Newcastle’s struggles did not end with their manager either. The club suffered tremendously following the departure of Hatem Ben Arfa, undoubtedly the club’s best player. Newcastle made no efforts to replace the French midfielder either, with only loan moves for Loic Remy and Luuk de Jong being completed during the season. Fans rebelled at the perceived lack of investment from the club and during the last home fixture of the season staged a walkout during the 69th minute.
In their final ten matches, Newcastle won two and lost eight. They suffered heavy defeats to Southampton, Manchester United, and Arsenal. The club also suffered embarrassing defeats in the two Tyne-Wear Derby clashes with Sunderland. Fans are rightfully upset about the upset about the antics of Pardew and the departure of Ben Arfa. With pressure mounting, another 10th place finish will not be enough to satisfy some of the most passionate fans in the Premier League. The coming months may end up being a very Krul, Krul summer for Pardew and Co.
Aston Villa spent the majority of the season safely in the mid table away from the relegation zone. Toward the end of the campaign, Villa fell closer and closer to the chasm finishing in 15th position, just five points away from the drop. Villa is a proud club, but a club that lacks the investment of billionaires looking to throw their money around. For the second consecutive season, Paul Lambert helped the club avoid the drop, however in this case he is not receiving the same praise as last year.
Villa suffered an incredible amount of injuries, including Christian Benteke’s ruptured Achilles tendon that meant the Belgian striker will miss the World Cup in Brazil. Charles N’Zogbia suffered the same injury in preseason training, which left him out for ten months. Gabriel Agbonlahor suffered numerous injuries which kept him out of competition for nearly two months. Injuries are a reality in soccer that all teams must deal with, but they are a reality Villa has struggled to cope with in recent times.
Paul Lambert is a manager renowned for his strict training and atmosphere in the training ground. He believes in team unity a concept he has taken to the extreme by banning laptops and phones from the training facility. Lambert has also refused to allow his players to conduct interviews within the 48 hours prior to a match. This atmosphere seems to have rubbed many Aston Villa fans the wrong way, leaving them calling for him to be fired. Lambert still claims to have made progress with the club, but two consecutive 15th place finishes say otherwise.