The 2016/2017 Premier League season kicked off with several dreams renewed and aspirations revealed. We the fans had silently hoped for another fairy-tale (well, some, not all of us) after Leicester did the impossible.
However, the events that occured during the next nine months that followed August 2016, would leave us with even more cherished memories than the previous one did.
A certain Italian and manager of the eventual league champions, Antonio Conte, was just as animated as you could get, with jumping on the dugout (we saw this coming from a mile away), running around in circles and hugging the fans some of the acrobatics dispayed by the former Juventus and Italy gaffer.
Add that to the spectacle of Jurgen Klopp losing his glasses or Alan Pardew’s fist pump when his side led 4-3 against Swansea with 6minutes to go, and you get some of the highlights of the just-concluded 2015/2016 PL season.
At least it was a season that was exciting enough to make us forget the manager who tried to illustrate a tackle by falling to ground (hello Louis) and Liverpool’s wild celebrations against Norwich in that 5-4 thriller where Klopp’s glasses got broken (that man eh?).
This PL season served up spectacles and moments etched in the football purists mind as well as the fans.And, going further, we take a look at some of those unforgettable moments.
1. Pep, Look-Man! Welcome to England
The legend’s arrival on British shores was greeted with fanfare. This was a man who had won every title possible in his career and had help build two FIFA World Cup winning teams (wait, you think Del Bosque and Jaochim Loew did all the hardwork?).
But, things change quickly in football. And like the proverbial wheels, if the game against Chelsea was when the Man. City screws were loosed, they came off in horrible fashion at the Goodison Park.
Nobody was meant to survive the crash, but then, its Pep. City were abject. A shadow of themselves, yet Everton contrived to make them look less than that. Koeman had shown on the day that he was a better utilizer of Cruyff’s principles. His team were everything City weren’t.
Youthful? Check. Fluid? Check. Disciplined? Check. Cruyff-like? Double Check. Pep realized the size of the work on his hands when his goalkeeper failed to make a save in the game and, add salt to injury, two academy graduates scored their debut goals in the game: Tom Davies’ glorious lob and Ademola Lookman’s goal after being introduced in the last few minutes of the game.
The title? Pep never mentioned it again.
2. Bob Bradley’s 84 days in charge.
Swansea were promoted in 2012 and immediately became the model for which bottom half clubs were to be like: Low budget, financially secure, stable and well run.
However, this is football. Five years later, and they had hired three managers in one season. The highlight? Their hiring of an American with zero Premier League experience. Bob Bradley had no idea of Premier League football upon arrival and it was clear from the get go he was a wrong choice.
He called football ‘soccer’ in front of British journalists and then went on raving about how he was trying to adapt when his team were clearly not getting his message. They had leaked too many goals and lacked any sort of tactical discipline.
By the time he left the club, they were in the lurch, cut adrift in the relegation battle and condemned to Championship football. His P45 arrived at the right time and spared the club what was left.
Bob’s short reign in charge was the highlight of how much things can backfire when you deviate from your ideals. Take that Swans chiefs…
3. Dmitri Payet, Slaven Bilic and the Law of karma
The 2015/16 season was probably West Ham’s best. They swept all comers and finished even above Liverpool, clinching a Europa League place. Key to that was Slaven Bilic and his reborn playmaker Dmitri Payet; a player who had big clubs casting an eye after he lit up the Euros.
Payet stayed albeit shockingly, and continued to turn in top notch performances for the Hammers. That only helped things until December came along when they were in a bad place, and looked a shadow of what they were the previous season. Worse still, they were mired in a relegation battle.
What kind of shark would survive in that kind of pond? Payet spotted a sinking ship and became homesick. The desire to play for West Ham disappeared. If he was forced to play, it would come at the detriment of the team.
Slaven Bilic was broken, like a man whose treasured lady had been taken from him. He lamented at how football had become a disloyal sport and how Payet was an ingrate. The metronome was sold to Marseille for 30million (good business, yeah?) It just did happen Bilic had done same just before the turn of the century.
Karma is real, isn’t it?
4. I made them 4-0 This is the dream job
Jose Mourinho is a drama queen. It’s the Portuguese’s forte. There is nothing he does better — except maybe to park the bus? It is good sometimes to just humble thyself and accept what has been. Que sera sera, innit? Not Jose.
After his expensively assembled dream team (Manchester United) were humiliated and obliterated at Stamford Bridge, the Blues fans took to the chants of Judas towards a man they once revered. The reason for the vitriol? He had laid a scathing attack on Chelsea’s defensive game. A huge surprise yeah?
Come full time, Jose was full of words for the fans; ‘’Chelsea? I made them. Until another manager wins three Premier League titles for them, Judas is their greatest manager.’’ He sure had a point, but the manner in which he said it? All wrong.
Add to the fact that he instigated the attack himself. Something his team needed to do more often, rather than retreat into their shells like snails at the slightest touch.
5. Liverpool 4-3 Arsenal
The masterclass opening day performance. Both sides served up a thriller. Penalty? Tick. Penalty saved? Tick. Low shot into bottom corner at near post? Tick. Masterclass Free kick? Tick. Mazing run? Tick. Individual brilliance? Tick. Naïve defending? Tick!! Sheer force of will? Tick tock Tick.
The game had given insight to the kind of season both sides would have; a season that would serve us special and classic encounters, but will not consistently do so. In fact, Liverpool slipped up as early as the second week at Burnley. But, this game had created memories.
Coutinho’s goal, Mane’s torment of the Gunner’s defence, Arsenal’s late charge, — reminiscent of how they traditionally end the season. Arsene Wenger only need look back and realize they failed to make the Top 4 that day.
6. Chelsea and the mirage that is Dele
Dele Alli admitted that Steven Gerrard was his idol and, just like the Liverpool legend, he has taken to scoring against Chelsea like duck to water.
The Blues were on a 13-game winning streak. It was a new year and the 3-4-3 was gradually becoming a legend that seemed unbeatable… until all turned to myth in 90-minutes, no thanks to one man, Bamidele Alli. The 21-year old managed to not once, but twice, evade Chelsea’s all-seeing defence and snap their invincibility.
He reminded all that they were humans after all and could be defeated. The second goal still plays in my head like a recorded tape with the commentator screaming, “Dele Alliiiiiii…..”
7. Storekeeper Herrera
It is no surprise Ander Herrera was Manchester United’s player of the season. It takes a lot to best N’golo Kante in a midfield battle. Not so many can claim that honour. But, Ander Herrera stands tall in that category.
Not only did he best the PFA Player of the Year, he kept Chelsea’s most dangerous player in check for 90+minutes like a storekeeper would keep his goods. Add a goal to boots and you would not have had another match live longer in memory. It was Jose Mourinh’s “Defensive Game 101” executed to perfection.
After the game, many wondered where Hazard had been. He was given next to no space to operate. It was sure retribution for the FA Cup no-show.
8. Jamie Carragher on MNF after Leicester’s win over Liverpool
In a season where morals were the order of the day, many fans had a lot to discuss about the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. It was quite sad that the man who had delivered a fairy tale to all — and was FIFA Best Men’s Coach — had been a victim of his own success. Whatever had happened in the corridors of power at the King Power had seen him exit unceremoniously.
Maybe in tribute or a sigh of relief he was finally gone, the Foxes were unleashed against Liverpool and turned in a masterclass they had hidden under Ranieri. Jamie Vardy, Riyadh Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater looked like the players that won the league again as they tormented the Reds again and again.
It was dumbfounding and did raise questions about the players. One Jamie Carragher gave his own comments too; “…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game of football where two teams should come off the pitch and hang their heads in shame – Liverpool for how bad they were and Leicester for how good they were on the back of how poor they’ve been, just through effort and commitment.”
It was a cold and gentle swipe at both teams: at Leicester players for inadvertently ‘sacking’ their coach and at Liverpool’s for not turning up despite have two full weeks more than the Foxes to prepare.
9. Moyes’s doom
Never in the history of the Premier League, has a coach been so unpopular among his own. Such is David Moyes’ fate, that he sealed it without his team having to kick a ball.
His claim that they were set for a relegation battle did little to give the players a kick up the backside. Instead, it plunged them deeper into oblivion. They spent 92.6% of their time this season in last place. They rendered all of Jermain Defoe’s goal-scoring efforts useless while seeming utterly surprised at besting Crystal Palace 4-0 at Selhurst Park.
It was a dream they never woke from. One that ended in Moyes resigning after another trademark 5-1 loss.
10. The fixtures schedule
If there is any topic that divided opinion in the Premier League this just-concluded season, it’s the fixtures. Every elite manager except Pep Guardiola complained about it.
Klopp accused the December-January schedule of killing the flames of their title charge. Conte said they had less time to prepare for their crunch clash with Spurs while Big Sam said the fixture schedule was skewed to favour the big sides.
The most intriguing complaints goes to Jose Mourinho who never stopped complaining about how unfavourable the fixtures were. The man literarily became a cry baby for that reason, moaning and whining at every opportunity available. He even called the Europa League the missing piece and claimed United needed to complete a cycle by winning it.
What should the FA have done? Help them complete the cycle? They should have thought of the hectic schedule when they receiving the TV money for the season.
What were your unforgettable moments from this just-concluded Premier League season? Share with the world in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!
Photo credits: TheSportBible
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.