The Premier League delivered on its reputation as the world’s most exciting competition by serving up all manner of thrilling twists and turns in 2018/19.
Manchester City prevailed in the most gripping title race imaginable after Jurgen Klopp’s brilliant Liverpool side battled them tooth and nail throughout the campaign.
There was heartbreak for fans of Huddersfield Town, Fulham and Cardiff City at the other end of the table, as all three were relegated.
Along the way, we witnessed feats of dazzling individual brilliance, last-gasp winners, controversial moments and screamers aplenty, and it also yielded several extremely surprising stats.
Wrong era for Reds
Liverpool racked up a magnificent haul of 97 points this season and that would have been enough to win the Premier League title in any campaign apart from the last two.
Manchester City broke the record by securing 100 points last term, and they needed to win their final 14 games on the bounce to achieve 98 this time around and pip Liverpool to the post by a single point.
Klopp’s men have secured more points this season than the best Manchester Utd teams ever managed.
Their tally is better than the all-conquering Chelsea team of Jose Mourinho’s first era, and they earned seven more points than Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincibles side.
They only lost once all season, they finished with a +67 goal difference and Virgil Van Dijk was named PFA Player of the Year.
They are a great team, but they had the misfortune of competing in the same era as Manchester City, surely the best team in Premier League history.
The stage is now set for another epic title battle in 2019/20 between two sides rated extremely highly by bookmakers like Marathonbet, and it will be fascinating to see if the Reds can achieve a similar points haulage next season.
Wheels falling off
Popular Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer returned the feel-good factor to Old Trafford when he was parachuted into the club this season.
He lifted the dark cloud that had defined the latter stages of the Mourinho era and led Manchester Utd to six wins in his first six league games.
It is the first time that has ever happened in the club’s history and a renewed sense of optimism gripped Red Devils fans.
“Ole’s at the wheel,” they chanted, anticipating a glorious end to the campaign.
However, the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion for Manchester United, who took just two points from their final five league games and ended the game with an embarrassing 2-0 defeat against already relegated Cardiff.
They ended the season with 66 points, 32 behind Manchester City, and conceded their highest amount of goals in a Premier League campaign (54).
That is their worst defensive record since the 1978-79 season, when they shipped 63.
Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea proved that he is human after all by making four errors that led directly to goals.
In the previous season, he did not commit a single such error.
Only Asmir Begovic and Bernd Leno were at fault more times than De Gea in 2018/19.
So Long, Shane
Southampton forward Shane Long is not exactly the division’s most prolific striker.
In total, he has managed just 25 goals in 146 games for Southampton, while he hit four for Hull in 2014 and 19 in 81 games for West Bromwich Albion before that.
Yet he is often selected for his work rate, endeavour and determination, and he displayed all those qualities in abundance when he scored the fastest goal in Premier League history this season.
His strike came straight from a Watford kick-off at Vicarage Road, as he charged down Hornets defender Craig Cathcart, blocked his clearance, raced through on goal and dinked the ball over Ben Foster.
There were just 7.69 seconds on the clock when it hit the back of the net.
It broke a 19-year record held by Tottenham defender Ledley King, who scored after 9.82 seconds against Bradford back in 2000.
“The manager said to make a quick start and put them under pressure,” said Long, who previously played with Foster at West Brom.
“It’s a nice record to have.”
The new SAS
The overriding memory of the 1994/95 campaign is that of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton combining to deadly effect to lead Blackburn Rovers to the title.
They became known as SAS and they linked up for 13 goals during that season.
In total, Shearer hit 34 to seize the Golden Boot, while Sutton chipped in with 15, but Blackburn fans will always remember the goals in which they directly combined.
It looks like we could have a new SAS on our hands, from the unlikeliest of sources.
This season, Bournemouth duo Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson combined for 12 Premier League goals, the highest figure since SAS all those years ago.
However, that deadly duo could be broken up, as Arsenal are rumoured to be desperate to prise Scotland international Fraser away from the south coast following his breakout season.
Linos cannot see wood for trees
Burnley embodied the topsy-turvy nature of the Premier League by flirting with relegation for most of the campaign and then soaring up the table courtesy of a strong run of form.
They became a lot more solid in the second half of the season, but they also have strikers Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes to thank for their survival.
Barnes managed 12 goals this season and Wood hit 11, while no other Clarets player scored more than three.
Yet fans had to grow accustomed to seeing the assistant referee’s flag go up, as Burnley were caught offside 106 times this season.
That was eight more than the second highest team, Manchester City, and Wood was the chief culprit.
He was flagged offside 53 times throughout the campaign, evoking memories of Sir Alex Ferguson referring to Filippo Inzaghi as being “born offside”.
Barnes was also offside 22 times.
Aubameyang joins the club
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shared the Golden Boot with Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané after firing in 22 goals this season.
He managed a goal every 124 minutes, compared to 140 for Mané and 148 for Salah, showing what a deadly finisher he is.
Only Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero had a better goals per minutes ratio throughout the campaign.
It made Aubameyang the sixth Arsenal player to score 20-plus goals in a Premier League season, following in the footsteps of Ian Wright, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie.
No other team can beat that, although Liverpool and Manchester United have also seen six players break the 20-goal barrier.
Yet it turned into a disappointing campaign for the Gunners, who have now failed to finish in the top in three consecutive seasons, their longest drought since a run of four campaigns between 1982/83 and 1985/86.
Arch-rivals Tottenham have finished in the top four for the fourth consecutive season, their best run since the 1960s.
Roy soldiers on
Former England boss Roy Hodgson eclipsed Sir Bobby Robson as the oldest manager in Premier League history this season.
He broke the record when he sat in the dugout during Crystal Palace’s game against Leicester on February 23, aged 71 years and 199 days, and he has since extended it.
The only other managers to manage in the division while in their 70s are Ferguson and Cardiff boss Neil Warnock.
Palace had a mixed season, but finished strong and nailed down a mid-table place, showing that Hodgson can still weave plenty of magic in this competitive division.
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