As the 2018/19 Premier League season draws to a close, Press Association Sport details some weird and wonderful facts from what has occurred over the last nine months.
1 Liverpool could finish the season on 97 points and still finish empty-handed. If Manchester City win at Brighton on the final day of the season, it will be of scant consolation to Liverpool to know they are, by some distance, the best second-placed team in the history of the competition.
It seems illogical that a team who have only lost once all season could finish runners-up but that is the situation Jurgen Klopp’s men are faced with as their destiny lies out of their hands.
2 Barring Sergio Aguero running riot at the Amex Stadium on Sunday, Mohamed Salah will retain the Golden Boot after finding the net 22 times. Unless the Egyptian scores a hat-trick against Wolves, it will be lowest tally since Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov collected the award in 2011 after scoring 20 goals.
3 Aguero moved level with Alan Shearer’s record of 11 hat-tricks. The Argentinian bagged a treble on three occasions this season, putting Huddersfield, Arsenal and Chelsea to the sword in virtuoso displays.
4 Tottenham became the first club to go the whole season without signing a player in a campaign where they belatedly moved into their new stadium.
It has largely been all-or-nothing for Spurs this season, who have only drawn once and been beaten on 13 occasions, as they juggle the demands of domestic and European fixtures, but the Champions League finalists remain poised to finish in the top-four.
5 Manchester United have already set a new benchmark for the most goals they have ever conceded in a Premier League season, with their defence breached on 52 occasions already. Not since the 1978/79 campaign (63 goals) have the Red Devils shipped more goals.
6 David Silva’s six assists this season moved him on to 81 in total and into the all-time top 10 list. The Spanish playmaker is often at the heart of City’s moves going forward so it is perhaps no surprise to see him up to eighth.
Liverpool’s James Milner, with 82 assists, is the only active player ahead of him.
7 Peter Crouch made a surprising return to the top-flight after swapping Championship Stoke for Burnley in the January transfer window. The former Southampton, Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Tottenham and Liverpool target man has now represented seven Premier League clubs.
Marcus Bent holds the record with eight clubs, having represented Crystal Palace, Blackburn, Ipswich, Leicester, Everton, Charlton, Wigan and Wolves.
8 Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson overtook Sir Bobby Robson’s record as the oldest Premier League manager when, aged 71 years and 199 days, he was at the helm for his side’s game against Leicester on February 23.
Hodgson and Robson are among the four managers to take charge of a Premier League game in their 70s – Sir Alex Ferguson and Cardiff’s Neil Warnock are the others.
9 Huddersfield equalled Derby’s record for the earliest relegation in terms of fixtures remaining when their return to the Championship was confirmed after a 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace with six matches of the season left.
Derby, however, were relegated a day earlier in the calendar on March 29, 2008, while their record low of 11 points still stands, with the Terriers on 15 ahead of the final game of the season.
A relentless title race between Manchester City and Liverpool went right to the wire and will live long in the memory for fans of both clubs and neutrals alike.
But this season has also seen plenty of moments some players would rather forget.
Penalty points for Mahrez
Perhaps we should be grateful to Riyad Mahrez because without his horrible penalty miss in October, the title race might have been very different.
Manchester City went to Anfield looking for their first league win away to Liverpool in 15 years, and were handed a glorious chance to take it when Virgil Van Dijk fouled Leroy Sane in the 85th minute. But Mahrez, having waved Gabriel Jesus away, hit a wild penalty kick way over the bar.
De Gea’s debacles
Having been Manchester United’s rock for so long, a string of mistakes from David De Gea contributed to the collapse of their top-four hopes in the final weeks of the season.
Although it was a draw at Huddersfield which finally ruled them out of contention, the key result was a 1-1 draw with rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford, when Marcos Alonso capitalised on a mistake from De Gea to cancel out Juan Mata’s opener.
De Gea failed to hold what should have been a routine save from Antonio Rudiger, allowing Alonso to fire in the rebound.
Several England players seemed to carry a World Cup hangover into the Premier League season, but Jordan Pickford’s lasted the longest. There was his meltdown against Newcastle, rivals of his boyhood club Sunderland, and unsavoury scenes on a night out back home, but the biggest howler came in the Merseyside derby.
Everton were on course for a valuable point at Anfield until his inexplicable mis-handling of Virgil Van Dijk’s soft, looping header in stoppage time gifted Divock Origi a stunning winner.
There is not much Fulham will want to remember about a wretched season which saw them get through three managers on their way straight back to the Championship despite huge investment last summer.
But the worst moment of all came in December when they were awarded a late penalty against Huddersfield. Aboubakar Kamara wrestled with team-mate Aleksandar Mitrovic – the team’s designated penalty taker – for the ball but, having won the right to take it, saw a tame effort saved by Jonas Lossl.
Kamara earned the scorn of manager Claudio Ranieri and, following a training ground incident a few weeks later which led to his arrest, was farmed out on loan to Yeni Malatyaspor for the rest of the campaign.
Miss of the season?
There are a few candidates for this crown. Southampton’s Shane Long hitting the post of an open goal against rivals Bournemouth; City’s Sergio Aguero firing wide from point-blank range against Chelsea (mitigated by the fact he went on to score a hat-trick).
But the winner is surely Matt Ritchie, who missed the target from less than a yard against Burnley in November. His only saving grace is that Newcastle won 2-1 despite it.
While the relegation battle is over and the top-four race is more or less so – Arsenal have to win, hope Tottenham lose, and then need an eight-goal swing in their favour to steal fourth place – this is set to be an exciting finish to a thrilling campaign.
Here’s a look at what’s at stake in the title race and elsewhere in England.
TITLE RACE GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE
When City won with 100 points last season, who would have expected that they could come close to repeating the feat – and that doing so may not be enough to repeat as champions?
Yet that’s the position they’re in, because Liverpool are lurking just behind. One point separates the two sides, City on 95, Liverpool on 94. Brighton having secured Premier League status for a third straight season might make City’s job easier this weekend, though Liverpool are at home against a formidable Wolves side – albeit one that has nothing to play for, having wrapped up seventh place last week.
As long as City win, there’s no complication in the title race. But if they don’t, myriad possibilities open up. A City draw or loss coupled with a Liverpool win hands the title to the Reds.
Liverpool can’t afford to lose. And there’s even the distant possibility of a first-ever play-off for the title – if Liverpool draw 4-4, and City lose 4-0, they’ll be tied on points, goals difference, and goals scored. It’s unlikely, but in a crazy season, does anyone really want to bet against it?
🗣Brighton midfielder Pascal Gross: "Klopp deserves the title because Liverpool have played at the highest level. We will try everything to take a point against Manchester City." pic.twitter.com/Q6sSTpU4jd— LFCVine (@LFCVine) May 10, 2019
CITY AND LIVERPOOL DESERVE CREDIT FOR STELLAR CAMPAIGNS
The second-place team will finish with either 95, 96, or 97 points this season. If it’s Liverpool, they will finish the season with at most two losses and yet no league title, while City, if they slip up, will have gone from a 100-point season in which they won the league by 19 points to one where even a five-point drop-off, at most, cost them the crown.
A win for City would see them tie the record they set last season for most wins in a season, 32, while Liverpool could set the record for most wins and points without winning the title.
There is definite recency bias in proclaiming this the best title race ever, and such comparisons are rather pointless anyway, but those numbers show without doubt that these have been two remarkable campaigns for both clubs, even if one is destined to end in heartbreak. Both of these teams deserve immense credit.
Manchester City are a sensational side. The fact that Liverpool are only one point adrift of them is a huge achievement. Liverpool are an outstanding side. The fact that Manchester City are one point ahead of them is an enormous achievement. What a season.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 24, 2019
CHANCE FOR ENGLAND’S BEST TO STRUT THEIR STUFF
Another first this season – all four finalists in Europe’s two premier competitions are from the same country. And though there are technically still two live races in the league, with Arsenal’s small chance of fourth place, this is also a chance for England’s best to strut their stuff.
City racking up the goals while under the pressure of needing a title-clinching win would be some statement, reminiscent of Chelsea’s 8-0 win over Wigan on the final day of the 2009/10 season, with Manchester United just a point behind.
Liverpool could underpin their claim as the best-ever runners-up – or worthy champions in their own right – by doing something similar against Burnley.
Tottenham play their final home game of the season in their new stadium. Chelsea and Arsenal are both warming up for their Europa League final. United have an outside shot of finishing in fifth, and will want to end a disappointing season on a high. All six will be looking to make a statement.
🏆 @ChampionsLeague Final:— SPORF (@Sporf) May 9, 2019
🏴 @LFC vs @SpursOfficial 🏴
🏆 @EuropaLeague Final:
🏴 @Arsenal vs @ChelseaFC 🏴
😳 The FIRST time in history that both European finals will consist of four English teams. pic.twitter.com/5rxhzTtzHv