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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho best among bosses; Man United’s Radamel Falcao worst among wastes: EPL superlatives

Paul Radley names his highs and lows of the Premier League season, with Jose Mourinho topping out among managers and Radamel Falcao bottoming out among disappointments.
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare in 2014/15. Tony O'Brien / Action Images / Reuters / May 24, 2015
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare in 2014/15. Tony O'Brien / Action Images / Reuters / May 24, 2015

With the Premier League season in the books, Paul Radley offers what he thought was the best and worst of the year in the English top flight.

Worst animal metaphor: Ostrich

Given the amount of time Leicester City spent at the foot of the table, Nigel Pearson was probably happy for distractions from the actual football. Maybe that explains the manager’s idiosyncrasies.

“You can like me or lump me,” Pearson said when Premier League safety was secured. Quite. A variety of people associated with the game would not have minded lumping him this season.

Even when form picked up and Leicester pulled off a great escape from relegation, he was still being accidentally diversionary.

The ostrich assault on a journalist during the relegation run-in was ill-conceived on so many levels, not least because it is a fallacy that ostriches actually bury their heads in the sand for any great length of time.

Still, at least Pearson is flexible enough to get his head in the sand – and to proffer an apology.

Best coach: Jose Mourinho

Alan Pardew probably thinks he is. And the most handsome, too.

John Carver openly said he is, while in caretaker charge of Newcastle United. But four points from a possible 36 during the run-in suggests he is more Mike Bassett than Pep Guardiola.

Ronald Koeman cut a dash at the start of his first season in charge of Southampton, but his side tailed away.

Sean Dyche won many new friends, even though his Burnley side were relegated with games to spare.

The truth is, Jose Mourinho is without peer in the Premier League. He suggested last season he would be out of a job if he went any length of time without a trophy.

So his Chelsea went and won the league in the second season of his second term in charge.

Worst party-poopers: Crystal Palace

Steven Gerrard’s Anfield farewell was more schmaltzy than Love Actually. Not long after it started, though, Liverpool’s guests swapped the romcom for a horror show.

And not for the first time, either. Crystal Palace have been making a habit of ruining Liverpool’s happy endings in recent times.

Last season, Palace punctured their title challenge with a dramatic comeback at Selhurst Park. This time around, they rained on the United States-bound Gerrard’s saccharine, choreographed parade.

The trouble was, Gerrard’s curtain call came before the show started, and Liverpool fluffed their lines thereafter.

Best finale: Jonas Gutierrez

Gerrard’s Liverpool departure was, in fact, entirely miserable. Humbled at home by Palace, then smashed for a Premier League worst at Stoke City in successive weeks.

Frank Lampard, who was for so long Gerrard’s England synonym, did a better turn in his last game before they both depart for Major League Soccer.

Ghosting into the penalty box, his goal in the final day win against Southampton was trademark Lampard. It was for Manchester City, though, a club that in no way defines him.

Newcastle have already starred in a major motion picture. In Goal!, the humble hero crosses the Atlantic to chase his dream and scores a dramatic late winner against all the odds at St James’ Park.

Art had nothing on real life this weekend, though, as Jonas Gutierrez saved Newcastle, in his last game for the club and after recovering from serious ill-health.

“It was like a movie,” Gutierrez said of his Hollywood ending against West Ham United.

Worst season: Queens Park Rangers

Chris Ramsey, the coach whose caretaker stewardship of QPR was made permanent at the end of the season, has an interesting way of coping with match-day nerves. In the time between giving his team talk and the start of the game, Ramsey catches up on episodes of EastEnders on his iPad.

The London-based soap opera is famed for being bleak and depressing. “Come and join the misery” is the current catchline on trailers for it on BBC Entertainment. You might have thought he got enough of his fill of that sort of thing every Saturday afternoon at Loftus Road.

According to the team’s captain, Joey Barton, there are plenty of “rotten eggs” at QPR. Ramsey agreed. They were relegated, with a hefty debt still to pay off. All very bleak.

Best match: Tottenham Hotspur 5-3 Chelsea

Eden Hazard was extraordinary this season. His excellence on the wing propelled Chelsea to the title. The same went for his claims to the player-of-the-season gongs.

Against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, he was sublime, or “amazing,” which was the term his manager Mourinho used to describe his display.

And yet Nacer Chadli, the fitful Spurs forward who usually treads a thin line between effortless and making no effort, was even better. Peculiar how football works. It was a match for the ages.

Tellingly, Mourinho was forthright in praising his players, even though his side had shipped five goals.

Worst waste: Radamel Falcao

Louis van Gaal may have made a better fist of being Manchester United coach than his immediate predecessor, David Moyes, managed last term. Still, though, his moderate success in bringing Uefa Champions League football back to Old Trafford next season did not come cheaply.

In terms of net spend, calculated on buys, sales and wages, Van Gaal reportedly shelled out around £3.5 million (Dh20m) per point, making him the most financially profligate coach in the league.

Who was the worst waste? Judged over the entirety of the season, Angel Di Maria was unbecoming of the biggest-ever financial outlay in English football. But Radamel Falcao, with eye-watering wages and a hefty fee for a mere loan stay, might have been expected to provide more than just four goals.

Best 2 mins, 56 secs: Sadio Mane

In quicker than the time it takes to boil an egg, Southampton’s Mane scored treble the amount of goals Mario Balotelli managed in the whole Premier League campaign for Liverpool.

The Senegalese striker notched a hat-trick in just less than three minutes as Southampton stunned a shell-shocked Aston Villa.

The 23-year-old forward was only two when Robbie Fowler scored the previous fastest Premier League treble, for Liverpool against Arsenal in 1994.

Worst 1 min 30 sec: Hull City

Hull had 38 games to save themselves. With less than one to go, and an improbable run of events required for salvation, they still had that most painful of sensations: hope.

With 17 minutes, 50 seconds on the clock against Manchester United, they had the ball in the net, only for Paul McShane to be ruled offside.

Then Victor Valdes produced a Gordon Banks-esque save to thwart Ahmed Elmohamady.

From the ensuing corner, Dame N’Doye back-heeled the ball in to United’s net, only for that also to be chalked off, 90 seconds after the first offside effort. It was a miserable season in microcosm for Steve Bruce’s relegated side.

pradley@thenational.ae

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