This was meant to be the season where Manchester was football’s epicentre. Instead it was Chelsea who succeeded Leicester as champions.
Leicester’s title success was an unlikely underdog story that became reality last term. The 2016-17 campaign was a response of the established super powers – but not in the way many anticipated.
With Jose Mourinho at Manchester United and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and both spending freely, many thought the Premier League title would be decided in one metropolitan area.
At the beginning of this EPL season, all the talk had been about the Manchester clubs. Guardiola vs Mourinho. No Conte— Oke Umurhohwo (@stalyf) May 12, 2017
Spain was not big enough for the both of them, let alone Manchester.
And in the wider Premier League there were other managerial heavyweights seeking to join the slugfest: Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham, Antonio Conte at Chelsea and of course Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger.
It was Conte, however, who outshone them all. Only Tottenham applied pressure as the others fell short of their own expectations.
With N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard, David Luiz and others thriving, Chelsea delivered. Kante swept up individual awards after playing a crucial role in his second title in as many seasons.
Another Italian is the Premier League champion, but Conte’s next task is balancing Europe with domestic duty and avoiding the sack.
"It's an amazing moment for us to celebrate this win, for me and the players. Come on Chelsea, come on!" - Antonio Conte pic.twitter.com/xp1GeBpGGy— Premier League (@premierleague) May 21, 2017
Leicester’s Claudio Ranieri joined Mourinho, Chelsea’s 2014-15 title-winning boss, in being dismissed just a few months after lifting the trophy. The fairytale was over as the Foxes slipped back into mid-table.
The six-way battle meant two would miss out on Champions League qualification.
Mourinho conceded defeat early in United’s bid, insisting his focus was on winning the Europa League, turning his ire on those who compile the domestic fixture list.
If United missed out on a return to Europe’s elite competition, he would not be solely culpable for prioritising actual silverware.
Wenger, who has likened a top four spot to a trophy, was clinging on to his hopes entering the final day.
Arsenal’s 13-year wait for the title goes on, as does clarity regarding the future of the Frenchman, who is in his 21st year in charge.
Klopp’s Liverpool were seeking to beat the Gunners to it, building on the progress made under the German.
Guardiola, meanwhile, acknowledged his performance as City boss might have seen him sacked at Barcelona or Bayern Munich as his side looked to sneak into the top four before an anticipated summer overhaul after his first trophyless season as a manager.
Wenger could yet finish the season with the FA Cup for the third time in four years.
Chelsea stand in the way on May 27, when Conte will be targeting the first double since compatriot and friend Carlo Ancelotti achieved that feat in 2009-10.
Chelsea captain John Terry will hope to lift a 16th major trophy of his career then, before leaving Stamford Bridge after 22 years.
Conte has handled the talisman’s departure respectfully, while Wenger appears to be in danger of damaging his legacy by hanging on too long.
Wenger: "My situation will be sorted out soon so let's focus on the cup final."— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) May 21, 2017
The growing supporter sentiment is that it is time for Wenger to go. An update will follow the Wembley date.
Alexis Sanchez and other members of the Gunners’ squad whose contracts expire in 2018 are waiting with interest. Sanchez has been linked with Chelsea and City.
Expect United to keep spending as well. The £89million on Paul Pogba and the ‘free’ capture of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (apart from his astronomical wages) papered over some cracks.
Mourinho also appears to have phased out Wayne Rooney, United’s record goalscorer, and a busy summer is expected at Old Trafford.
First season at Man United:— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) May 21, 2017
Mourinho - 6th & 1 or 2 trophies
Van Gaal - 4th
Moyes - 7th
Alex Ferguson - 11th (arrived Nov)
Atkinson - 3rd
The managerial axe was wielded frequently at the bottom of the division.
Swansea survived despite having three permanent managers, rallying with wins over Stoke, Everton – the best of the rest in seventh – and Sunderland as Paul Clement secured safety.
Aitor Karanka was sacked by Middlesbrough, who returned to the Championship with a whimper.
Marco Silva has attracted admirers despite Hull’s demotion, but Sunderland manager David Moyes’ detractors have grown in number and he may yet leave.
David Moyes is on the brink of quitting Sunderland after losing the dressing room. (Source: Sunday Mirror) pic.twitter.com/o0IdA4q3Q7— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) May 21, 2017
Moyes admitted the Black Cats were up against it in August.
The Scot arrived at the Stadium of Light seeking to build on the work done by Sam Allardyce, who left for England, and restore a reputation damaged at Manchester United after a brief sojourn at Real Sociedad.
Now the profile hard earned at Everton needs further attention, not least after he threatened to ‘slap’ a female reporter. He later apologised, but faced Football Association disciplinary action.
Allardyce’s England spell lasted one match after under-cover journalists reported some ill-advised comments, but he returned to work when Alan Pardew left Crystal Palace.
Things looked bleak as Palace were booed off at half-time when trailing 4-0 to, of all teams, Sunderland.
The Eagles soared again though as wins over Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Hull confirmed safety.
Sam Allardyce has still never been relegated from the Premier League.— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 14, 2017
Who you gonna call? pic.twitter.com/cPigoXkD5o
That loss at Selhurst Park relegated Hull.
The Tigers suffered one of the most traumatic injuries this season, as Ryan Mason fractured his skull following an aerial collision with Gary Cahill. He continues to recover.
For all the doom and gloom around Sunderland, one of the few positives was the way the club and wider game rallied behind Bradley Lowery.
Striker Jermain Defoe embraced the terminally ill six-year-old boy whose smile lit up grounds where he was mascot.
Lowery, more than anyone else, left an indelible mark on the 2016-17 season.
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