Friday, May 13, 2011

The Time to Look Forward

Two rounds left of the Premier League season, UCL final and FA Cup Final only days away... this is the bittersweet time for fans of the beautiful game. One may look back on moments of brilliance, of calamity, of conspiracy, and wonder what could have been. But as I've learned more and more with each passing season, the best thing is to revel in the reality and look forward to the future.

And the reality is that this was a strangely beautiful year for the English game. Kicked off immediately following a massively disappointing World Cup campaign, and by late summer it looked as if this would be a forgettable season, with Chelsea running away with the title after a flying start.

But that flight soon hit major turbulence, as the champions crashed to their worst run of form in decades around the holiday period. United surged on, as they do, and would not be caught. Arsenal continued their tradition of springtime capitulation.

So, maybe things at the very top were relatively ordinary. Elsewhere in the table, though, drama flourished.

Aston Villa fell from grace. Liverpool, with the help of a Merseyside legend, clawed their way back to near where they should be. Spurs played some of the most exciting--and attractive--football on the continent. Mancini's cautious ways nearly halted the best squad money can buy, but City dug out that Champions League place they need and will surely win some silverware tomorrow. And as always in the relegation battle, it's been riveting: a Blackpool side who play through midfield and West Ham proving they are certainly not too big to go down.

We're not crowning any champions yet, at least not until tomorrow, but all clubs, managers, supporters and players deserve accolades for making this the most exciting season in years, and the one where the so-called "Big Four" was finally dismantled.

It's time to hand out some awards:

PLAYER OF THE SEASON: Ryan Giggs. No, he won't win any individual awards this season. And no, he wasn't the one to rip Maicon to shreds at the San Siro. But the evergreen Giggs has been absolutely priceless in United's big games of the season. He, not Rooney, Hernandez, or Nani has been their most important player in what will go down as an historic United season. Some may argue that he simply did not play enough matches to be Player of the Season-- but he couldn't. He's 37 years old. And again, when United needed to win, he propelled them on.

(HONORABLE MENTION: Samir Nasri, Raul Meireles, Leon Osman)

MANAGER OF THE SEASON: Sir Alex Ferguson. I know-- it kills me to give both of these to MUFC. But credit where credit is due: Fergie did a great job with a very ordinary squad this year. United lacked the spark that has been so pivotal to their previous title winning sides, but still managed to grind out first place through determination, a holistic team effort, and big moments from big players.


YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON: Jack Wilshere. The obvious choice. In a season where Fabregas went missing, Wilshere has been class. He can play a number of roles in midfield, and his emotion for the game and for his club has been refreshing. The boy has a very, very bright future.

(HONORABLE MENTION: Danny Sturridge, Phil Jones, Javier Hernandez)

SIGNING OF THE SEASON: Javier Hernandez. It's simple: the number of goals he has scored for his club, considering how little money they paid for him. A source of boundless energy, and a surprisingly fitting foil to Rooney, he has deposed Berbatov, the club and league's leading scorer.

(HONORABLE MENTION: Rafa Van der Vaart, Luiz Suarez, Peter Odemwingie)

WORST SIGNING OF THE SEASON: Fernando Torres. A brilliant player, a good person, and one horrible, cringe-worthy season. Cursed by his price tag, but the seasons to come will redeem him.

There you have it. It's quite possible that by the end of this weekend, the title and the FA Cup will be decided. Come back to WSOTA for reaction and recap. Also, I will be covering the Champions League final at Wembley, live. Pictures and reactions to follow.

Feel free to post your comments, discussions, and pictures of Michael Ballack stuffing Patrice Evra.