The 2020-21 Premier League season was a special one. No fans in the stadiums and congested fixtures massively affected the game, so much so that the top spot was shared by nine different teams, a Premier League record. The season was packed with surprises both good and bad, be it Burnley axing Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten run at Anfield or West Ham United finishing just two points off a Champions League spot. Keeping all that in mind, here’s my list of the biggest Premier League surprises for this season.
Liverpool’s 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa
When predictions started pouring for the next Premier League champion, even the naysayers had only one name on their lips – Liverpool. The Reds had become a super-consistent team with a rock-solid mentality under Jürgen Klopp, breaking one record after another.
Then they met Aston Villa on October 4, 2020. What should have been a walk in the park ended up being one of Liverpool’s worst-ever defeats. Aston Villa handed them a 7-2 thrashing which, as some might say, was the beginning of their unexpected downfall in the 2020-21 season.
Jesse Lingard’s amazing form at West Ham United
Jesse Lingard had struggled to make it into the starting eleven of Manchester United for quite a while. With the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, Jessie’s role in the squad was limited furthermore to the sidelines. Poor performances and lack of game time meant he was going to be shown the door sooner rather than later, and so it happened when Manchester United decided to loan him out to West Ham in January 2021.
To everyone’s surprise, however, Jesse Lingard bossed the opportunity and outperformed every team he faced. He completely transformed the David Moyes side as they ended the season two points shy of a Champions League spot. Jesse scored 9 goals for the East London outfit in only 16 appearances as compared to 5 goals in 49 league appearances for Manchester United in the last two seasons.
Also Read – THE GLAZERS AND MANCHESTER UNITED – AN OVERVIEW
Rúben Dias, a surprise package for Manchester City
On September 29, 2020, Manchester City signed defender Rúben Dias for £61 million from Benfica after finishing 18 points behind Liverpool in the 2019-20 season. Centre-back Aymeric Laporte’s injury was one of the crucial reasons why City had lost the title race. While Kalidou Koulibaly had been a constant target for most top clubs, signing Dias almost felt like an unpredictable move. However, he quickly proved his worth and became an important element in the 2020-21 title-winning side. In 32 league games Dias played for City, 23 resulted in victory. He also significantly impacted goals conceded by the team, which dropped from 1.8 goals per game without him to 0.7 when he featured. To top it all, the 24 year old won the Premier League Player of the Season after being awarded the FWA Footballer of the Year in the month of May.
Spurs sack Mourinho
The sacking of José Mourinho was a very “out of the blue” move by Tottenham Hotspur. The 58-year-old, who had been in charge of Spurs for seventeen months since Mauricio Pochettino’s departure in November 2019, was suddenly relieved of his duties in April this year. Although his tenure at the club wasn’t as impressive (win rate of 51%) as his stints elsewhere, the surprising thing about the layoff was that it came exactly one week before Tottenham were supposed to face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup Final. As expected, Tottenham ended the day without a trophy, losing the cup final 1-0 to the eventual Premier League champions.
Timo Werner, a £45m disappointment
Timo Werner agreed a five-year deal with Chelsea in the summer of 2020. One of the most promising footballers, Werner was at the centre stage of Chelsea’s £292 million summer transfer window. Everyone was waiting to watch the former RB Leipzig man perform and decapitate Premier League defences, but Timo had different plans altogether. The 28-goals-per-season striker could only find the net 6 times in 35 league appearances for the Blues. Not only did Timo not perform, he made the Chelsea fans feel as if Alvaro Morata never left the club.
Sheffield United’s relegation after a promising run in 2019-20 season
The 2019-20 season was Sheffield United’s best-ever in the Premier League. The side finished 9th on the table, earning their then manager, Chris Wilder, a nomination for the best manager award alongside Jürgen Klopp, Frank Lampard and Brendan Rodgers. Nothing could have gone wrong for the Blades. They reached into their pockets and spent £53 million on transfers, including Rhian Brewster from Liverpool which many thought should’ve been enough to keep them in the fight for a European spot for this season. However, their Premier League journey came to an abrupt end and they were relegated with six games left to play. It was one of the earliest exits in Premier League history, with the South Yorkshire side losing 29 of their 38 league fixtures.
Manchester United ending the season unbeaten in away matches
Unlike other seasons, the 2020-21 one saw top teams suffer big losses. Manchester United were no exception after Tottenham defeated them 6-1 at Old Trafford at the beginning of October. With a result that poor, no one would’ve expected United to finish the season unbeaten away from home, but that’s exactly what they did. By doing so, they joined the ranks of Arsenal and Preston North End. With an impressive turnaround in form, United were able to grab 21 wins in 38 league games, finishing the season right behind champions Manchester City.