First Touch

Who Are The EPL Winners & Losers?

As the curtain falls on another EPL season, we need to sit back and take stock of all that went before us.

By Matty Lawrence

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There have been some amazing highs and lows (Jake Livermore, impressively, managing both at the same time), so it would be impossible to hit every moment of intrigue and notoriety, but let’s try and get close.

I hate this fact, but we have to start with Chelski and Jose Mourinho. Yes, they have a bottomless pit of money, but so do Man City and even Man Utd have a bottomless pit…but, I think that’s called of debt.

Regardless, Mourinho is a genius.

The man is aloof, arrogant, cock-sure and every other similar adjective under the sun, but, boy, does he know how to assemble a squad and win games of football. And, any of you naysayers that had the gall to call Chelsea “boring,” hang your head in shame.

From opening day of the season, the majority of us (I hope you did, too) had them down as title winners: I’m not sure that any of us could have foreseen the canter at which they proved victorious, though.

I love the fact that Chelsea  handled the pressure of front running. Man City got close as Chelsea slipped up slightly around mid-season, but Mourinho just pushed the clutch down and slipped his team into a higher gear.

Hazard and Mourinho ably abetted by Terry, Cahill, Courtois et al absolutely demolished the opposition. Enough about them: too good by far…well in England, anyway. But, that’s a story for another day.

Mr Rodgers

Can we now tiptoe down to sixth place and discuss the positives and negatives of a certain Brendan Rodgers? That’s the positives over and done with. My column is restricted to 1,000 words, so Monsieur Rodgers will get off lightly.

In summation: how the bloody hell is he still in a job? The guy has put his foot in his mouth more times than the contortionist I saw in the darkest depths of Amsterdam last summer. Ridiculing Spurs for the slack way they spent Bale’s transfer fee and then doing exactly the same with the Suarez money, before letting Spurs crash fifth place on the last day of the season. Get the steel toecaps out of his gob and call for Klopp.

Personally, I think it all went wrong for him when he started carnal relations with that LFC employee and I’m not even sure I need to add, allegedly. Sometimes it’s best not to believe your own hype. As we trickle a little further down the league we start hitting the real over achievers. The triple ‘S’ of Southampton, Swansea and Stoke are the real stories of the season. All three teams were magnificent.

Saints Alive

I have no qualms in admitting that I thought Southampton could be heading for the drop: what do I know? I dismissed them with a swish of my hand and not a second thought for the fact that Ronald Koeman may actually know what he is doing. So I bow down and acknowledge my misgivings.

Can we just remember that they lost Shaw, Lallana, Lovren, Chambers, Lambert and, also, Rodriguez was injured all season? Koeman, the shrewd cookie, brought in Tadic, Pelle, Forster and Mane and boy did they flourish. Seventh place they finished: only two points behind last season’s first team!! (Keep up at the back.)

And looking up at them was Swansea. I’d like it noted on record, your honour, that I have a maniacal dislike of Garry Monk. Never met the guy, not sure he ever elbowed me in Division Three back in the day, but I struggle to watch his interviews and not book into Dignitas at the same time. Look, it’s my problem, and I will find a solution.

Season Of The Monk

The football issue is, the guy is a winner. Monk (lower league clogger) took over from Laudrup (genius footballer of note) and didn’t bat an eyelid. Monk took it all in his stride and upped the ante and produced a wonderful Swansea side that was a privilege to watch.

They even lost Bony and Garry Monk didn’t miss a heartbeat. Without a shadow of a doubt, Monk was my manager of the year. Swansea’s wage bill was minimal and their transfer budget was a good couple of  noughts below the hierarchy above and a fair few below. I’ll pop a cork for Garry Monk. Fantastic season.

The third ‘S’ in the symmetry was Stoke City. Somehow, Mark Hughes hauled himself out of the cesspit that was QPR and achieved a formidable ninth place finish in the EPL. Hughes transformed Stoke from a team playing the ball in the air more than a beach volleyball team, to a crop of players who wanted to get on the ball and actually pass it with their feet…………..rather than hoof it 40 yards with their head. Sparky, hats off.

If he achieves the same again next year I will be bloody gob-smacked. Once is luck and twice is skill, as my dear old college coach used to say.

Up the Palace!

Let’s now highlight the team who secured the final place in the top 10 in the EPL. Crystal Palace somehow found themselves so far up the league that they suffered more nosebleeds than I ever did crossing the halfway line. Who can they thank? Step forward Alan Pardew.

Step off the edge of the precipice every Newcastle fan that held aloft the Pardew out signs earlier in the season. You utter, utter bell-ends!! Alan Pardew has systematically rescued Palace from the brink of relegation. An atom bomb couldn’t wipe the smile from his face…………and rightly so.

Nigel Pearson is the next manager who needs a million plaudits: that may well be an understatement. I had Leicester City relegated about Chrimbo time. I’m basically homeless now because of them. That squad of players, marshalled by Pearson, won seven of their last nine. How? Apart from Cambiasso none of them had played football before. Okay, the keeper’s Dad used to be a player, but that was about it.  Give me some artistic license!!

Wrong End

So, with time running out on my final column of the season, let’s focus on the relegation zone. Look, Burnley and QPR were goners from the get-go. Burnley’s wage bill is akin to my local McDonald’s and their transfer budget was slightly less than Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant bill.

QPR on the other hand spent the GDP of a large South American country on wages and transfers and still played like the staff at my local McDonald’s. And Chris Ramsay sure is the man to drag them back into the EPL. I’ve always hated sarcasm. So, the final place in the relegation hell-hole fell to Hull City/Hull Tigers. Let’s talk quietly, but we all wanted the trap door to fall on Newcastle: even half of the Geordies.

That didn’t quite materialize and I feel incredibly sorry for Steve Bruce. I always manage to forgive his nepotism and hope he succeeds. This season it wasn’t to be and they fell into the hell of the Championship and the rigours of a 46 game season and a bloody long way back. Of course, they get the parachute payments, but so did Fulham. Good luck, Steve.

See you next season!

matty lawrence epl article“I have no idea what it is”

Listen to Matty skillfully plug First Touch to Steve Lamacq on BBC 6 Music!

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