Best of the best: review of the season

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

With a remarkable season all but done, our football writers sit back, draw breath and sift through the multitude of outstanding moments to select their most memorable

BEST MATCH OF THE SEASON: MANCHESTER CITY 3-2 QPR

By Sam Wallace, Football Correspondent

It has been a vintage season and picking out the best game of the last 10 months is more tricky than usual. Watching Manchester United put eight past a chaotic Arsenal in August, it would have been hard to imagine Arsène Wenger's team finishing third. So too, watching United concede six at home to Manchester City, one would not have thought they would finish the season level on points.

I was at St James' Park in January to see Newcastle beat Manchester United with a bright young team that dominated the game. I was not at Old Trafford for Blackburn Rovers' 3-2 win on New Year's Day or Arsenal's 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge but both those games are worth consideration.

Chelsea's Champions League performances against Valencia at home, in their final group game, against Napoli at home in the first knock-out round and against Barcelona home and away in the semi-finals were all memorable. Against Barcelona, their approach was similar to that of England against Spain in November, Fabio Capello's penultimate game. Some say those games of attack against defence, where huge areas of the pitch are conceded to opponents, are dull. I find them absorbing.

I was at the DW Stadium to see Wigan beat United in April and at Old Trafford for Everton's comeback to 4-4 – two games that undid United's title comeback. But nothing beats City's injury-time win over Queen's Park Rangers this month. Throughout the season there had been exhilaration and excitement but the sheer joyous disbelief at the Etihad topped it all.

 

Next best: 2 Chelsea 2-2 Barcelona 3 Manchester United 4-4 Everton 4 Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City 5 Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea

BEST GOAL: NEWCASTLE'S HATEM BEN ARFA v BOLTON

By Martin Hardy, Football Writer

It says much for the quality of goals scored this season that there has been a need to categorise them. Depending on your bag there have been the volleys, the chips, the dribbles and the team goals.

For those who still remember Diego Maradona's second against England, the sight of a player moving poetically as one with the ball, with defenders unable to break the bond between them, the mazy run will always rule. Yes, Peter Crouch's goal was spectacular, yes, Papiss Cissé's strike at Chelsea was breathtaking, and certainly the control of the ball Luis Suarez showed at Norwich was something else.

But nothing this season could beat the sight of Hatem Ben Arfa, in an awful match as well, taking a game and making it his, with artistry that revolved around touch, vision, balance, skill and subtlety.

There was only, realistically, Ben Arfa himself who saw the possibility of scoring when he took a pass inside his own half and set in motion a 70-yard run that took him past four defenders before he subtly poked a shot past Adam Bogdan in the Bolton goal. At moments like that the beautiful game tag sits perfectly with football.

Next best: 2 Luis Suarez, Liverpool v Norwich, 3 Papiss Cissé, Newcastle v Chelsea, 4 Peter Crouch, Stoke City v Manchester City, 5 Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle v Blackburn.

BEST TEAM EFFORT: WIGAN'S WIN AT ARSENAL

By Jack Pitt-Brooke, Football Writer

What is bravery in football? Crashing tackles? Desperate headers? Bodyguard blocks? Maybe, but it is also the courage to stick to your principles and play your game under intense pressure. There was no more stirring football story last season than Wigan's. Bottom in March, they refused to slide into grim percentage football, hoping to kill games and steal goals.

Roberto Martinez, one of the great progressives, re-arranged his team in a novel 3-4-3 formation. Playing the ball out from the back, trusting each other with possession and attacking with pace and variety, Wigan went on one of the season's best runs of form and surged to safety.

Days after beating Manchester United 1-0, Wigan won 2-1 at the Emirates. They tore into Arsenal with early goals from Franco Di Santo and Jordi Gomez, before defending with assurance. Arsenal pulled one back, but only because Victor Moses slipped.

There was no collapse. Wigan were just as good in the second half as they were in the first, and Moses could have scored twice on the counter-attack. It was a perfectly conceived and executed plan, well worth the three points.

Next best: 2 Tottenham 1-2 Norwich 3 Swansea 1-0 Manchester City 4 West Ham 2-4 Reading 5 Newcastle 3-0 Man United

BEST PLAYER: DIDIER DROGBA

By James Lawton, Chief Sports Writer

Infuriatingly self-indulgent at times but then also Chelsea's lion of Africa on the field and a lauded peace worker among his embattled Ivorian compatriots. It is impossible not to give it to Didier Drogba.

As a footballer and a man he met all his responsibilities and was the most significant reason why his club, after all the years of vast investment and administrative misadventure, finally laid their hands on the greatest prize in club football. Chelsea, of course, rode their luck, but it couldn't have happened if Drogba, at the age of 34, hadn't refused so magnificently to accept that his best days were over. In the process he became, as much as a great footballer producing the finest of his talent and his competitive character, a force of nature.

Before his superb crowning eruption in Munich, his leading challengers were Yaya Touré, the driving strength of Manchester City; Sergio Aguero, who gave the new champions not only his superb talent but all the generosity of his spirit; Robin van Persie, for his mastery of the scoring art; and Wayne Rooney's brilliant response to a disciplinary crisis, which kept United so improbably in the title race until the last seconds of the last day of the season.

 

Next best: 2 Sergio Aguero, 3 Yaya Touré, 4 Robin van Persie, 5 Wayne Rooney

BEST MANAGER: PAUL STURROCK

By Ian Herbert, Northern Football Correspondent

He won't welcome the attention and will point to the medication he has found to contend with the effects of Parkinson's Disease – such as the distinct limp in his left foot and the trembling of his left hand – which has afflicted him for 18 years. But the impediments which Paul Sturrock has encountered with next-to-no-money Southend United put football's gilded cage into a little perspective.

It was no surprise that he almost took Southend up from League Two because he was chasing the sixth promotion of his career. Only Neil Warnock has more. A recent study of English football managers by academic Stefan Szymanski, co-author with Simon Kuper of Soccernomics, ranked Sturrock 14th in the all-time list of managers – based on their league finishing positions relative to wages. Some stuttering home form in March didn't help but Sturrock rues the February night Aldershot's floodlights failed when his own side were 1-0 up. The game was abandoned and two weeks later Southend lost the rematch 2-0. Three points would have brought automatic promotion rather than the play-offs, which delivered a narrow semi-final defeat by Crewe. Richer managers, with their frequent cries of injustice, cannot hold a candle to Paul Sturrock.

 

Next best: 2 Brendan Rodgers (Swansea), 3 Roberto Mancini (Manchester City), 4 Ian Holloway (Blackpool), 5 David Moyes (Everton).

AND...WORST VILLAIN: JOEY BARTON

By Glenn Moore, Football Editor

It was such a vintage year for villains those Stoke City fans who booed Aaron Ramsey for having the temerity to have his leg broken at their ground don't even make the top five.

Venky's provided an object lesson in how to alienate a football club from its support, hanging Steve Kean out to dry in the process. Carlos Tevez epitomised all that is wrong about the mercenary modern footballer. Luis Suarez and his club turned what may have been a cultural misunderstanding into an ugly, myopic defence of racist language. The self-serving John Terry became embroiled in another racism row, then made a fool of himself by jeopardising Chelsea's Champions League chances.

But Joey Barton fought off all challengers with a final-day implosion that, had Bolton won at Stoke, would have cost QPR their Premier League status.

That capped an ignominious season in which Barton was sent off twice, agitated for the sacking of Neil Warnock, who had signed him for QPR and made him captain, and created a toxic atmosphere in the Rangers dressing room.

It should at least serve to open the eyes of those who had fallen for Barton's reinvention of himself as a civilised man because he quoted Nietzsche and occasionally attended art galleries.

 

Next worst: 2 John Terry, 3 Luis Suarez, 4 Carlos Tevez, 5 Venky's

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice