A flood of arrivals guided by the godly hand of Daniel Levy (at last in his own mind, I’m sure) caused virtual devastation to North London last year, and put paid to the leadership of Andre Villas-Boas and then Tim Sherwood. A lowly sixth place finish saw Mr Levy looking jealously up at Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City’s new messiahs with envious glances. Life was always going to be hard off the back of the loss of former saviour Gareth Bale – to Real Madrid, lest you forget – but £100 million is a lot to waste, which is what Spurs did last season, and disappointment wept from the stands at White Hart Lane.
Swansea City are finishing their preparation for their fourth Premier League season in a row, a remarkable achievement if we take into account where they came from. It was only ten years ago that their current manager, Garry Monk, made his debut for the club against Northampton in League Two.
Since then the Swans climbed the divisions, won the League Cup, and defeated Valencia at the Mestalla. On the other hand, they were very close to the relegation spots for the large part of last season. This season will determine if they can take their project to the next level, stall, or even worse, slump back to the Championship.
Liverpool’s best season in quite a long while probably ended up feeling like one of the worst to the club's rabid and success-starved fans. So much good football and so many goals ultimately lead to an egregious two-week choke that saw a seemingly pre-destined title win disintegrate into tatters. If it had just been the loss to Chelsea that had cost them, they might have maintained neutral support that they were the best team in 2014, but the 3-3 draw vs Crystal Palace was so hideous; such an unyielding presentation of the ugly that the good had conspired to keep hidden all year, the poor defence, Rodgers' inexperience, and this young side's lack of big-game bottle.
Sunderland’s escape from relegation last season was very much top of the undercard as one of the most gripping Premier League seasons came to a close. This time around, you’d forgive them if they’re looking for minimal drama and attention. After Paolo Di Canio’s demise and Kevin Ball’s short stint in charge, Gus Poyet took over the reins, as Sunderland recorded famous victories away to Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, taking the Black Cats to a 14th placed finish.
It seems somewhat strange to think that Leicester City had been away from the dizzy heights of the Premier League for ten years before their return this season, and even stranger that they were in League One just five years ago. Certainly, promotion back to the Premier League didn't really look on the cards at the start of last year's campaign, but Nigel Pearson defied the doubters and built a solid, hard working team that eased their way back to the big time, and if they play their cards right, they could be set for another few years there.
Mark Hughes can look back at last season and reflect on his capture of 9th spot as something of an achievement, considering his disastrous experience with previous club QPR. Coming in to replace Stoke legend Tony Pulis was always going to be tough, considering the slow and steady years of progress it took him to turn them into a stable Premier League outfit.
It makes for a change to see that Hull City are in Europe (well, at least for a little more time anyway). The Tigers qualified for the UEFA Europa League courtesy of their FA Cup final trip last season, and their recent history makes for quite the romantic story. A decade-long journey has seen Hull go from the Football League’s bottom tier to the Premier League, an FA Cup final, and their first European adventure.
It was surprising to me that QPR ended up back in the Premier League, just one season after being relegated. It's not that their form in the Championship was bad, it was that they barely showed up at all during the Play-Off Final; had Derby County energised themselves at Wembley last May and produced something like the potential they had shown throughout 13/14, they'd be the ones I'd be writing about. Alas, if I have to say one good thing about QPR in this article, it's this: they seriously have some balls. They may play unappealing, unexciting football, but they have a weird sort of stout determination, meaning they can play like utter s**t and still find themselves back in the country's top division.
Everton. The Toffees. To me, they'll always be the team that had Arsenal at their feet after they had been broken; that could have capitalised on their capitulation, that should've applied the cherry on the top of their delicious disgrace. But they weren't able to snatch fourth place from Arsene Wenger's trembling fingers; they let Champions League football pull away from them on a bus they were running for; they ruined my schadenfreude.
I'll never forgive them for that.
You can practically see the tumbleweeds flying around St. Mary’s as Southampton prepare to count the costs of what I shall refer to as The Great Sale of 2014. The aforementioned sale has seen the departure of the manager arguably responsible for Southampton’s impressive rise, Mauricio Pochettino, as well as five key players (and one not-so-key one), and incoming manager Ronald Koeman is left with the unenviable task of repairing a side that have pretty much had their spine ripped out.
Last season, relegation seemed to be beckoning for the Crystal Palace. After 11 games had passed, the Eagles were sitting at the very bottom of the table with just four points to their name. A 3-1 win early in the season against fellow relegation candidates Sunderland breathed a little life into a club that was deemed certain to get relegated by pundits and fans alike before last season had already started, but they then fell to seven losses in a row after that, and it seemed like it was a sure thing.
In truth, Newcastle’s 2013/14 season ended when their creative midfield talisman, Yohan Cabaye, was sold to French giants Paris Saint-Germain, a move that signalled the start of a dreadful run of form for the Toon Army. They were to win just four of their final 16 games, ten of which they failed to find the net in, on their way to a still-respectable 10th-place finish in the Barclays Premier League.
Last year marked the return of the Special One, Jose Mourinho, who came back to Chelsea after six years away. Mourinho had enjoyed a highly successful time at Inter Milan, and a rockier period at Real Madrid. Chelsea had success too, but they also suffered from instability as they went through seven managers before finally re-appointing the fans' favourite Mourinho.
The wait is almost over. With just two weeks to go until the Bundesliga gets back under way, there's a lot to look forward to. Can the mighty Bayern be toppled? Can Augsburg repeat last season's heroics? Can Paderborn defy all the odds to stave off the drop? All eyes will be on Germany for what promises to be a drama-filled season.
In these heady days of domestic football, with the English game drowning in superstars, tycoon owners and petrodollars, the fate of teams who dare to climb up from the Championship and duel with the Premier League big boys often seems written before a whistle is blown. Hardly anyone gives newly promoted teams a cat in hell's chance of survival in England's top league anymore, let alone a chance of actually enjoying success.
Christ – where do you start? Last season, Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement gift to Manchester United was to remind everyone that he was the best (and also leaving David Moyes a physical gift called Zaha). It was always discussed that the job to have was to be the one after the one after Fergie, but I very much doubt David Moyes could've said no to the opportunity. What it looks like now is that he was a patsy who was on a hiding to nothing. He didn't exactly make a good start at it; getting rid of most of the backroom staff was one thing, but the bigger issue was the utter atrocity that was last summer's transfer dealings.
From excellent, to borderline disastrous, and then back to good again. The Gunners' 2013/14 campaign featured more highs and lows than Thorpe Park; it really was a turbulent season for Arsène Wenger and his side. Kicking off the campaign in meaningful style, they climbed their way up and perched themselves on the top of the league table by Christmas day – albeit achieving this feat having played more minnows than monsters. However, they were in a favorable position, and the possibility of lifting the Premier League trophy come May time was looking more and more like a realistic target.
In lifting the Premier League crown last season, Manuel Pellegrini ensured that for once, the strongest squad on paper actually went on to fulfil their potential. City’s second title in three years signifies that they are becoming stronger, and although their actions will be limited within the transfer market due to breaching Financial Fair Play rules, City fans can rest assured that the squad will rightfully be one of the favourites for the title again.