The finale to this seasons Premier League may have lacked the drama and suspense of Manchester City’s previous title win back in 2011/12 but arguably this year’s competition must rank as one of the most exciting as the charge for the championship changed hands on 25 separate occasions. After a record of only 15 days at the top, Manuel Pellegrini crowned his maiden season with a winners medal; a perfect end to an almost perfect year. The 2013/14 campaign will be remembered as the season when the history books were rewritten on an almost weekly basis.
For the first time in the Premier League two clubs scored over 100 goals (Manchester City - 102 & Liverpool - 101) despite the divisional total slumping to a five year low; (1052 vs 942); Jose Mourinho lost his first EPL home game in 78 matches and that victory helped Sunderland to become only the second team ever to survive the drop having been bottom at Christmas. Crystal Palace maintained their top-flight status for the first time in five attempts and manager Tony Pulis won the Premier League managerial award after only six months in charge. Player of the Year Luis Suarez became only the second player ever to reach 30 goals without scoring a penalty, while strike partner Daniel Sturridge proved a worthy adversary as the duo become the second highest Premier League goal scoring partnership ever. Petr Cech kept his 150th clean sheet before a dislocated shoulder ended his season prematurely and Yaya Toure joined Frank Lampard as the only other midfielder to score 20+ goals in a single season.
Martin Skrtel broke the Premier League own goal record by scoring his fourth of the season on the final day while opponents Newcastle gain their own unwanted accolade by losing six consecutive games in April. David Moyes short tenure at Manchester United was one of ten managerial casualties - a new record – and Ryan Giggs became the first player manager to take the field since 2000; Stuart McCall having previously played for Bradford. Cardiff manage a measly 18 goals from open play and Fulham fall 4 short of Derby’s woeful record of conceding 89 goals in 38 games to cap a truly remarkable season.
The grand total spent on injured players - £194,352,438.36 - a 16 per cent increase
Arsenal top the Injury Table for the first time since 2009/10 with 1716 days lost to injury
Hamstring injuries were twice as common as calf & groin issues accounting for 44% of all muscular problems
August had the highest number of reported injuries – 70 – while in April this figure dropped to 42
There were five reported cases of concussion, the highest in over 10 years
Stoke have lost just 2728 days to injury over the past five years, by comparison Newcastle clear 3000 in the last two seasons alone
Spurs summer signing(s) missed over 500 days through injury
Manchester City No.16 Sergio Aguero suffered three separate muscular injures, on each occasion the Argentine striker was out for 32 days!
The average number of Premier League injuries per club increased to reach a record high; Spurs struggled with a well above average 45 while Stoke showed them how it’s done for the second year running with a hugely impressive 15.
Manchester City had more hamstring injuries than Chelsea, Southampton, Aston Villa and Sunderland combined costing the club almost £6 million.
Only one player managed to play every minute of every Premier League game this season – Cardiff City defender Steven Caulker. Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak missed out by just 31 minutes after suffering a groin injury on the final day.
West Brom suffered the highest number of muscular problems in the division, more than double the league average while neighbours Aston Villa lost the highest number of days (54) per muscular injury – a figure 55% above the norm.
Alou Diarra returned to action after just 102 days following an ACL rupture, typically recovery from this type of injury would take at least double that!
The number of reported ‘knocks’ - an unspecified injury problem - the longest of which was 49 days; Crystal Palace goalkeeper Lewis Price.
West Ham United
A season of two halves as Newcastle United enjoyed one of their best ever starts to a Premier League campaign; sitting in 6th place after 17 games the Geordies were dreaming of European football but few could’ve expected their season to dissipate like it did. Goals in 2014 were hard to come by and when Loic Remy didn’t play; United couldn’t score. The on-loan QPR striker spent over 60 days on the sidelines recuperating from two separate calf injuries missing a total of nine games; Newcastle lost all but one scoring a paltry three goals in his absence.
The physical and psychological demands of fighting on a number of fronts cannot be underestimated as Swansea and ultimately ex-manager Michael Laudrup found out to their cost. The Jacks played a total of 11 Europa League games throughout the season and only twice did they manage to take three points in the following Premier League fixture, losing five and drawing the remainder. Full-back Neil Taylor (hip) was ruled out for over a month after a game against Romanian side Petrolul Ploieşti while Jonathon de Guzman (groin) was another casualty at home to St. Gallen; Valencia in November ruled out three key figures - Leon Britton (ankle), Angel Rangel (calf) and Wilfried Bony (hamstring) for between 2 -3 weeks. Their absence triggered a slump in form which saw only one win in ten, the club dropped precariously close to the relegation zone; a run which ultimately cost Laudrup his job.
Worryingly by the end of January Fulham sat just one point and one place above Cardiff who occupied bottom place in the Premier League, the club reacted with a late flurry of deadline day transfer activity. Out went stalwarts Dimitar Berbatov and Philippe Senderos while they were replaced by Johnny Heitinga and Konstantinos Mitroglou; the latter for a fee rumoured to be in the region of £11 million on four-and-a-half year deal. The gamble failed to pay-off as the Greek international arrived carrying a knee problem which hampered his progress for the remainder of the campaign. Mitroglou managed only 151 minutes of game-time including one start and failed to hit the back of the net; a hugely disappointing acquisition which no doubt was factored into the decision to relieve René Meulensteen of his duties back in February.
And finally, who could forget that England travel to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals this summer and with weight of expectation bearing down will the injury Gods’ be smiling ahead of footballs largest stage?
Earlier this week Roy Hodgson announced his provisional 30 man squad for a warm weather training camp in Portugal, but a decision on the final 23 is far from clear-cut. The manager will need to run the rule over a number of concerns having already lost the likes of – Theo Walcott (ACL), Kyle Walker (pelvic) and Andros Townsend (ankle) to injury.
2014 has not been kind to England with key players suffering problems throughout this final stage of this season; question marks remain on a number of players.
Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been battling an ongoing groin problem for the past six weeks which has limited his time on the pitch to just 40 minutes; however Arsene Wenger did confirm that the player has returned to full training and maybe considered for this weekend’s FA Cup final. Jack Wilshere’s appearance at this summer’s World Cup looked to be in serious doubt back in March when the midfielder broke a bone in his foot during an England international friendly, but having spent the previous 67 days on the sidelines Wilshere returned as a second half substitute during Arsenals’ final game of the season and is expected to be fine.
Differing fortunes for Phil and Phil / Jones and Jagielka as they prepare for next week’s training camp with the versatile Manchester United player currently considered a big doubt. Phil Jones suffered a shoulder injury against Hull and although the initial prognosis was good, specialists did advise of significant ligament damage placing his participation at serious risk; the injury is likely to take up to a month to fully heal leaving John Stones to fill the void if required. Phil Jagielka on the other hand timed his recovery from a hamstring injury to perfection, after 67 days out the Everton defender played a part in his clubs remaining two fixtures; despite lacking a little sharpness there was had no reaction to his previous muscular problem.
Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney for whom the past few weeks have been hampered by a niggling groin problem. The player failed to play in any of his clubs last three league games but Rooney’s absence was nothing more than precautionary following a similar issue earlier in the year which ruled Wayne out for a month; the £300k per week hit man is currently holidaying with his fitness trainer and therapist to ensure his body is in tip-top condition for the start of the tournament.
Come on England!