As the first whistles sounded off on Matchday 1, all the previous seasons’ form books were thrown out of the backseat window, with all 20 teams beginning the season on level terms. The three month summer break was a welcoming sight for the players, but always one which the fans anxiously wait to end, whilst wondering how their respective teams will fare in the new season.
The general consensus was that the title will once again be fiercely competed between champions Manchester City, neighbors Manchester United and Chelsea. For City and Chelsea, they both head into the season confidently with high optimism as champions of England and Europe respectively. United meanwhile look to hit the ground running fast after a trophyless 2011/12 season. While these three giants were expected to battle to be crowned champions, the lucrative fourth Champions League spot will once again be contested by London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, with Merseyside teams Liverpool and Everton joining in the fray.
The first few weeks of matches portrayed to the BPL table the top three teams as how everyone predicted, with Manchester City leading from United and Chelsea. City was showing good champions form, as though not putting teams away convincingly, their 1-0 wins against their oppositions put them on good stead in terms of points. Chelsea, under manager Roberto Di Matteo, were impressing as well with the midfield trio of Hazard, Oscar and Mata running the show beautifully for the Blues. United however, were struggling defensively but new signing Robin van Persie was proving his worth by scoring goals and bailing the Reds out on many occasions, most notably his first hat trick against Southampton as the Reds came back for a 3-2 away win.
Every Manchester United fan, myself included, will always remember his first goal for the Reds. The Dutchman met a looping Patrice Evra cross from the left wing and connected it first time on the volley, scoring an incredible goal to announce himself to the Old Trafford faithful.
Belgium playmaker Hazard settled into English football brilliantly, and along with Mata were the catalyst of Chelsea’s great early season form. He coupled his goals scored with consistent number of assists for his teammates, and as a football fan I enjoyed watching the football Chelsea was playing under their 4-3-3 formation.
Arsenal struggled for some matches and eventually dropped behind the top three, and the London team was even behind the surprise package of the early season, in the form of fast starting West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies, under the guidance of former Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clark, were up as high as third when the league headed into the Christmas period.
Tottenham Hotspur were still finding their feet during the early weeks, after their offseason manager change. Harry Redknapp was replaced by Andre Villas Boas and the Portugese struggled early on. Their form gradually picked up after the first 10 matches or so, and their catalogue of great results included a historical 3-2 win for Spurs away at Old Trafford.
One emerging star of the 2012/13 season was Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. The Welsh winger was instrumental in most of Spurs’ wins and was their top scorer with 21 league goals. So impressive was his play that he was named both the PFA Young Player of the Year and PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
Over at Liverpool, the Merseyside team was enduring a lackluster season under new manager Brendan Rodgers. Still under a transition period after the departure of ex manager Kenny Dalglish, they lingered around mid table for most of the season before breaking into the top 7 towards the end of the season. One bright spot though was the exceptional form of striker Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan was enjoying his best season as a Liverpool striker and was right up there in the Golden Boot running along with van Persie and Bale.
For the top teams, it usually boils down to their respective performances against their fellow title rivals. If one top team could take points off another top team, it often proves crucial as a win means a massive six-point swing. Once again it was the case this season as two massive games eventually turned the tide in the title race.
Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3
The first Manchester derby since City was crowned champions of 2011/12, this encounter at the Etihad Stadium was a seesaw affair. A brilliant first half performance by United saw them lead 2-0 at the break, courtesy of two goals from Wayne Rooney. However City fought back in the second half to level the match at 2-2, before a dramatic late freekick by Robin van Persie settled the match in United’s favor. A top two clash prior to the match, the winner was going to take over at the submit. United duly went to the top of the league with this victory.
Chelsea 2 Manchester United 3
Once again this was a topsy turvy affair. United took a 2-0 lead via a Robin van Persie double before Juan Mata bent a wonderful freekick past David de Gea to halve the deficit prior to the break. The second half saw Chelsea dominate and level the match at 2-2. However, controversy struck when Fernando Torres was incorrectly sent off for a second bookable offence (diving), and Javier Hernandez struck an offside winner for United. A brilliant match that was wrongly decided in United’s favor, this result pushed the Blues further away from the top two and eventually out of the title race. For once, as a Manchester United fan, I was not pleased with a victory. I thought the game was robbed by bad refereeing decisions on the night.
After about 25 matches into the season, Manchester United held a commanding lead at the top of the table, one that was never relinquished. Needless to say I was extremely ecstatic at the return of the title to the red side of Manchester.
The final table of the 2012/13 season read:
1. Manchester United 89pts ; 2. Manchester City 78pts ; 3. Chelsea 75pts ; 4. Arsenal 73pts ; 5. Tottenham Hotspur 72pts
18. Wigan Athletic 36pts ; 19. Reading 28pts ; 20. Queens Park Rangers 25pts
Hence what it meant was that United were the new champions, and along with City, Chelsea, and Arsenal, qualifieed for next season’s Champions League. It was a heartbreaking ending for Tottenham as they ended 1 point short of the coveted fourth place. At the other end of the table, Wigan, Reading and QPR were relegated after a poor season in the top flight. Wigan Athletic however, even though relegated, dramatically upset Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley to lift the FA Cup.
Manchester United striker Robin van Persie won the Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer while Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart took home the Golden Glove with the most number of clean sheets kept.
As mentioned previously, towards the end of the season there was a major news unfolding at Manchester United. After more than two incredible decades, the unthinkable has happened. The great Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement as Manchester United manager. I for one never envisaged that day would actually arrive, such was the Scot’s longevity at the helm. One that has broken record after record during his tenure as manager, he fittingly broke another one during his final match incharge. The pulsating 5-5 draw at West Bromwhich Albion was the first time in Premier League history (since its debut in 1992) that two teams each scored five goals or more in a same match.
In my opinion this would be a huge impact to the league in years to come. Never in Premier League history that there was a season whereby Sir Alex Ferguson will be absent from the action. His enthusiasm, hunger for success, along with the famous hairdryer treatment and Fergie time, will be sorely missed.
This ends the review for Barclays Premier League’s 2012/13 season. One filled with quality football and the utmost drama, once again the best league of the world did not disappoint. With numerous player movements during this offseason’s transfer window, the upcoming season will be very interesting indeed.
The new Barclays Premier League season of 2013/14 officially kicks off in about a week’s time, when all 20 teams take to the field on the 17th of August 2013.
Let the battle commence.