5. David Moyes brings in his own backroom staff
Perhaps daunted by the task ahead of him, you could forgive David Moyes for wanting to surround himself with familiar faces. The problem was Manchester United employed some of the best coaches in the world and who knew the squad. The second issue was that coaching and managing at a club like Everton is a totally different beast to the mammoth Man United.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s clear Moyes made more, and perhaps bigger mistakes than this. But it was this initial move which ruffled the feathers of the most important people at the club: the players. No matter what club you are managing or how good you are, it is essential the dressing room respect you.
Not much was made of this at the time, especially United fans who on large remained positive about Moyes throughout the summer. It does however, explain a lot of what followed. The lacklustre home performances, the negative tactics and the eventual loss of the dressing room all stemmed from David Moyes’ first mistake.
4. Ian Holloway resigns, Tony Pulis steps in
Crystal Palace were big favourites to go down long before a ball was even kicked this season. The Eagles have never survived a Premier League season and their current squad didn’t appear capable of stopping that trend. When Holloway resigned after gaining only three points from eight games, nobody expected them to survive.
When unfashionable ex-Stoke boss Tony Pulis arrived, the media silence was deafening. At the time, few thought he would be able to avoid the drop. Pulis, however, felt differently. As a manager who has never been relegated he was taking this job very seriously indeed. He quietly got on with his business and since taking charge he has gained an incredible 41 points from 29 games and his side boasts the second best defensive record in the league under his management.
Having won the most recent manager of the month, it’s now become hard to find a pundit or fan who doesn’t think he should be a contender for manager of the year. The work ethic and defensive awareness he has instilled into the side is perhaps one of the most dramatic turnarounds in recent history and Pulis deserves all the plaudits coming his way.
3. Connor Wickham recalled from Leeds
Gus Poyet was in desperate need of a miracle just a few short weeks ago and he found one in Connor Wickham. The Sunderland striker had previously played 34 Premier League games for the club with a return of one goal and he wasn’t particularly setting the Championship alight either.
However, Poyet lacked options and with Steven Fletcher injured and Jozy Altidore finding it impossible to score, the Uruguayan rolled the only dice he had left. Wickham returned to Wearside with a vengeance, scoring two quality goals at the Etihad to dent City’s title hopes. He scored again three days later against Chelsea, ending Jose Mourinho’s undefeated home streak. Wickham virtually relegated Cardiff with another two goals and then set up the winning goal at Old Trafford.
His recall was truly inspired. It not only had huge consequences at the bottom of the table, but also at the top. Wickham’s goals initially handed Liverpool the advantage, ended Chelsea’s hopes and eventually to the likely champions Manchester City.
2. Aaron Ramsey’s injury
Arsenal continued their yearly tradition of making everyone think they could finally challenge for the Premier League title again at Christmas. To date, Arsenal have spent the most days at the top of the league; 128 in total. It’s staggering when compared to likely winners Manchester City have spent only 11 days at the top.
Ramsey’s performances during that period were nothing short of spectacular. He was voted as The Gunners player of the month four months in a row from August to November and is still their second top goal scorer and assist leader despite missing a large chunk of the season. He has consistently outshone marquee signing Mesut Ozil and England’s boy wonder Jack Wilshere.
The Welshmen left the field with a suspected thigh strain on Boxing Day, but setback after setback delayed his return until early April. Even now he is not fully fit, which seems incredible given the innocuous nature of the injury. Perhaps he’s just been very unlucky. He, and Arsenal, both desperately need to get through a full pre-season to try to sort this problem out. It seems no coincidence that the Gunners loss of form occurred almost immediately after Ramsey’s absence.
1. Jordan Henderson’s red card
It was billed as the biggest game of the season, Manchester City travelled to Liverpool in what many thought was a title deciding game. It was a classic encounter with Liverpool dominating the first half before City’s spirited comeback in the second. Coutinho’s fine strike sealed the wins for The Reds, but there was more drama to come.
Jordan Henderson was red carded in the closing moments of the game after a panicky lunge on Samir Nasri. Few paid too much attention to this while Steven Gerrard gave his infamous rallying cry to his teammates at the end of the match.
Henderson was however, an integral part of the team. Both Lucas and Joe Allen have failed to replicate the form the ex-Sunderland player has shown in his best season yet. He’s had huge plaudits this year whilst playing an unglamorous role, which you don’t see unless the player in question in putting in truly exceptional performances. His work rate is also second to none and allowed Liverpool’s attacking players far more freedom to push forward.
They may not have been able to beat Chelsea, but the Palace game would surely have been a different story. His red card may very well have cost Liverpool their first Premier League title.