Jurgen Klopp, Marcus Rashford and Leicester will all look back fondly on the Premier League season. Aston Villa and Jose Mourinho rather less so…
5. The Normal One arrives
Football journalists rejoiced almost as greatly as Liverpool fans when it was announced on October 8 that Jurgen Norbert Klopp would become the club’s new manager. We all knew that the German is box office, and so it proved the following day when he was unveiled at Anfield.
Klopp introduced himself as ‘the normal one’ but the entire Premier League knew better than that. Even Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he was “worried” about Liverpool now, whereas before he would have been sitting very comfortably while Brendan Rodgers squirmed in the Reds hot seat.
Liverpool are undoubtedly a work in progress but the signs are there that Klopp is dragging his side in the right direction. He has united the club behind him and promises to make the Reds essential viewing over the coming years.
4. Villa’s Valentine’s Day massacre
We would prefer to be celebrating the positives of the past season but Aston Villa’s ineptitude cannot be ignored.
The Villans’ campaign was best summed up by the 6-0 battering they received on their own patch from Liverpool. It had to be seen to be believed, and it led one witness, Jamie Carragher, to declare that Villa were possibly “the worst team in the history of the Premier League.”
There was no love coming from the stands on Valentine’s Day as the Villa faithful gave their hopeless stars both barrels. Whatever faith the fans clung to after the previous week’s win over Norwich evaporated as Villa simply caved in, with Jurgen Klopp’s men strolling through to score four goals in 13 second-half minutes.
The defeat sparked the protests seen for the remainder of the season as the Holte End understandably gave up on their team and focused their attention on removing those responsible. It also preceded Joleon Lescott’s infamous trouser tweet.
— Joleon Lescott (@JoleonLescott) February 14, 2016
3. The end of Jose
The axe finally swung on Thursday December 17 but Mourinho appeared to be a dead man walking for sometime prior to that as Chelsea made a shambolic hash of their title defence.
The most abiding image of the fall of Mourinho came just shy of two months prior to his dismissal, as the Blues boss stood forlornly among West Ham fans and directors as they rejoiced Andy Carroll’s winning goal at Upton Park.
Mourinho was sent there after being excluded from the touchline following a half-time exchange with referee Jon Moss, who had sent off Nemanja Matic moments before. Coming only two games on from a home defeat to Southampton and an extraordinary post-match rant, it was becoming clear that something was seriously wrong at Stamford Bridge.
This picture of Jose Mourinho in the West Ham director's box sums up his season perfectly… pic.twitter.com/YYUYNQ6QpN
— BreatheSport (@BreatheSport) October 24, 2015
2. Rashford explodes on the scene as Arsenal implode
This was the day Marcus Rashford emerged and Arsenal’s title hopes effectively disappeared as they were brushed aside on a rare good day for Louis van Gaal.
The full-strength Gunners travelled to face a desperately depleted United side that had two midfielders as centre-backs, a rookie right-back and debutant centre-forward. The hosts were there for the taking, but typically of Arsenal, they completely flunked the test of their title credentials character, leaving themselves five points off the top and written off by almost everyone.
As bad as Arsenal were, they still couldn’t take the headlines from Rashford. Fresh from being called in at the last moment for his goalscoring debut in the previous Thursday’s Europa League clash, the 18-year-old retained the faith of Van Gaal, who watched his young striker score twice and set up United’s third.
Rashford was one of three Premier League debutants fielded by Van Gaal, who still managed to take a fair chunk of the limelight with his comedy fall on the touchline. For two years Van Gaal had not moved from his dug out, clutching his notes like a toddler clings on to a comfort blanket, and here, finally, was a smidgen of personality on the touchline. Of course, Van Gaal then ruined it all by apologising straight after the game.
Historical moment from Louis van Gaal. pic.twitter.com/zVaqliJzMh
— The Antique Football (@AntiqueFootball) February 28, 2016
1. When Leicester made everyone take notice
The shortlist could quite easily have been entirely dominated by Leicester. Jamie Vardy’s record-breaking goal against Manchester United; most of Claudio Ranieri’s press conferences; the scenes at Vardy’s house when the Leicester players realised they were champions; the few seconds Wes Morgan paused to soak it all in before thrusting the Premier League trophy into the east Midlands sky – all moments that will live long in the memory.
We’re picking out one of the champions’ victories from February: the 3-1 triumph over Manchester City at the Etihad. It was only after this triumph that people began to take the Leicester charge seriously as they moved five points clear at the top of the table. City will deny underestimating their opponents for their lunchtime meeting on February 6 but they were outfought and out-thought on their own patch by Ranieri’s band of brothers.
Taking time off from shackling Sergio Aguero at the other end, Robert Huth bagged a brace, either side of Riyad Mahrez’s sublime goal that made the Algerian the first player in the league to reach double figures for both goals and assists.
Aguero snatched a late consolation but the Foxes had long since made their point and begun their procession to the unlikeliest title the game has seen.