The Premier League season provided plenty of drama again and a number of stunning goals.
Here, we rank 10 of the best scored during the 2016-17 campaign.
10. JESSE LINGARD – Middlesbrough v MANCHESTER UNITED, 19/03/17
Lingard was handed his first start in seven matches by Jose Mourinho and took full advantage of his chance to stand out. The 24-year-old picked the ball up just past the halfway line and as the Boro defence backed off, he fired off a shot from 30 yards into the top right-hand corner.
9. EDEN HAZARD – CHELSEA v Arsenal, 04/02/17
Hazard was in his own half when he latched on to a loose header in midfield but a combination of strength, twinkling feet and searing pace left Arsenal’s defence for dead. He jinked away from Laurent Koscielny and shook off Francis Coquelin before finishing off a brilliant run with a close-range shot past Petr Cech.
8. ANDY CARROLL – WEST HAM v Crystal Palace , 14/01/17
Carroll has endured another season blighted by injury but he can be dynamite when he plays, as proven by his superb bicycle kick against Palace. Michail Antonio’s cross was slightly behind the striker but he quickly adjusted, flinging himself into the air and slamming an acrobatic volley into the net.
7. SADIO MANE – Arsenal v LIVERPOOL, 14/08/16
Arsenal did not look in any danger when Mane collected possession on the right flank but in a blink of an eye Cech was picking the ball out of his goal. Mane tore past Calum Chambers, cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable left-foot finish into the far top corner.
6. JORDAN HENDERSON – Chelsea v LIVERPOOL, 16/09/16
For a straight-forward piledriver, few come better than Henderson’s at Stamford Bridge. Gary Cahill’s clearance landed right at the feet of the midfielder, who took one touch to control and then with his second sent a dipping drive flying past Thibaut Courtois.
5. GASTON RAMIREZ – MIDDLESBROUGH v Bournemouth, 29/10/16
Boro have not scored many goals this season and certainly none better this one by Gaston Ramirez. The ball spilled out from a Bournemouth corner and Ramirez, starting midway in his own half, sprinted the best part of 60 yards before cutting inside Andrew Surman and slotting into the net.
4. ALEXIS SANCHEZ – West Ham v ARSENAL, 03/12/16
This was a potentially simple finish made delightful by Sanchez, who was sent one-on-one with West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph but instead of shooting, sold his opponent with an elaborate dummy-shot and then tapped home all in one fabulous movement.
3. EMRE CAN – Watford v LIVERPOOL, 01/05/2017
Can’s overhead kick was technically superb but also instinctive as the German darted in behind, sized up the chipped through ball and threw himself into the air. Watford’s defence could only watch as Can caught it perfectly with his back to goal, leaving Heurelho Gomes stranded.
2. OLIVIER GIROUD – ARSENAL v Crystal Palace, 02/01/2017
Arsenal’s speedy six-pass counter-attack was impressive enough but the Frenchman’s ‘scorpion kick’ – an improvised flick with the back of his foot – added a stunning final flourish. Giroud would still be celebrating the goal a week later by imitating his own piece of genius.
1. HENRIKH MKHITARYAN – MANCHESTER UNITED v Sunderland, 26/12/16
Giroud’s inventive effort was good but it was Mkhitaryan who did it first, the Manchester United midfielder flicking in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s cross with the back of his foot. It was a fantastic piece of skill and even Ibrahimovic looked shocked at what he had just witnessed as the Armenian was mauled by his team-mates.
One point at Watford on Sunday will make certain of Manchester City’s place in next season’s Champions League, while a victory will take them into the group stages without the need for a play-off.
Securing qualification would ensure finishing the an upbeat end to a season that has been littered with frustrations for Pep Guardiola.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager arrived in Manchester last July with a record of 21 trophies in seven years as a coach, and was widely expected to continue that record of success in England.
Instead, he has ended the campaign with no trophies, and even if his team win at Vicarage Road to secure third place, it will still represent the lowest league finish of his managerial career.
One player under contract beyond the summer whose future still appears to be in doubt is Sergio Aguero, whose chances appear likely to be limited whenever Gabriel Jesus is fit.
Guardiola has suggested the only way the two can play together is with Aguero in the central striking role and Jesus out wide, which was how they lined up against West Brom.
An attempt to play them together as strikers at Middlesbrough last month failed, but Guardiola is willing to use both when he can accommodate them.
“The way we played against Middlesbrough was completely different to the way we played against West Brom,” said Guardiola.
“Jesus was not an out-and-out winger, he was a little bit more inside, but just a little bit. Against Middlesbrough we played with two strikers.
“Gabriel in Brazil, when he was young, he always played down the sides. I said from the beginning that both can play together.”
Walter Mazzarri, the Watford manager, will take charge of the club for a final time after being told by the club’s board this week he would be leaving the club this summer.
The future of the Italian, who was one year into a three-year contract, had been subject to speculation for some time but Mazzarri insists he achieved his main objective for the season by avoiding relegation and says he will be disappointed to go.
“When you leave an era like this, it’s normal to feel sad,” said the 55-year-old former Napoli and Inter Milan handler.
“I want to say that I always gave everything I had at Watford. “I worked 15 hours a day, every day and I’m tired. I’m also happy as I reached another objective in my career which was to avoid relegation here.
“I’m a bit disappointed as I was embraced by the Watford family, so it’s normal to be emotional as it’s been my home since the first day I was here. I’m very tired now and need to relax.
“The fact is we managed to get to this magic 40-point mark which was the main objective of the season when there were six games left.”
Three years ago Ross Barkley was on the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year award. Of those 2014 nominees, only the subsequent winner Eden Hazard has raised his game to the high level predicted – and is now growing to be a great.
Much, much more was expected of Barkley, Luke Shaw, Daniel Sturridge, Aaron Ramsey and Raheem Sterling. They have somewhat regressed rather than progressed, burdened by massive price tags, injuries and the demands placed, particularly, on young English or British players.
As Barkley drove forward fearlessly with finesse and flamboyance in assured midfield displays, former Everton manager Roberto Martinez claimed he was a mix of Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack, while Frank Lampard lauded him as a young Wayne Rooney. There was a buzz about Barkley for club and country.
Fast forward three years and the 23-year-old’s future is uncertain. Given a deadline of Sunday’s final Premier League game to commit to a new contract – as his current one ends next summer – or be sold, Barkley has not signed. Nor does he look he will, barring a late change of heart or more financial incentive.
With striker Romelu Lukaku also rejecting a new deal amid interest from several suitors, boss Ronald Koeman is already looking at replacements.
The signs are that Barkley will end his 12-year association at his hometown club and it looks best for a career that has stagnated rather than soared as he has endured difficulties on and off the pitch.
The Champions League is seemingly the target of his ambitions and understandably so, but right now it is difficult to see him being a starter for any of the English qualifiers, or prospective, in next season’s competition.
Criticised for his inconsistency and being too individualistic, some frustrated Everton followers feel he shouldn’t even be a first-choice for them and he won’t be missed.
Tottenham have been linked more than most, but is he on a par with Dele Alli? A resounding no. And with Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele, it is a midfield where Barkley could struggle to command regular action – apart from off the bench.
Over at champions Chelsea, Willian and Cesc Fabregas can’t even get into their first XI and Antonio Conte’s system may not be suited to his style, while rivals Liverpool will be a no-go.
He is not better than David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne who play in similar attacking midfield roles for Manchester City, nor Paul Pogba at United.
If he is looking at the best place to get starts and come up against Europe’s elite in the future then Arsenal – Everton’s opponents on the final day of the season – appear the best option.
Increasingly convinced Ronald Koeman would not bat an eyelid or lose a single second of sleep if he had to sell Ross Barkley.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) May 11, 2017
Even more so if Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez depart the Emirates as Barkley may be afforded the forward roaming role that allows him to be creative rather then constrained.
What seems clear is that he needs a fresh start and a show of faith from his managers as he is in danger of becoming another youngster who was over-hyped and ended up disappointingly ordinary. Take Francis Jeffers and Theo Walcott, both Gunners, as prime examples of under-achievement.
Even Jake Livermore, James Ward-Prowse and the injury-hit Jack Wilshere have played ahead of Barkley for England recently and he faces a fight to make the squad for the 2018 World Cup finals.
Rather than accept being a reserve, maybe Barkley needs to reinvent himself to rise again.
Fans love the schoolyard mentality of trying to dribble past everyone, showing off tricks or shooting from outrageous distances, but few are actually able to pull it off.
If Barkley can become more disciplined, intelligent, in his play, he could well thrive as a deep-lying playmaker, possessing a good range of passing and energy to orchestrate attacks – a type the top clubs always want in the modern game.
He is not worth the £40-50 million that Everton reportedly want, but if he addresses areas where he can improve – just like Sterling has done at City under Pep Guardiola – then there is still time for him to flourish rather than flounder.