Season Review 2020/21
10 years after last winning the UEFA Champions League, Pep Guardiola missed out on club football's most prestigious prize as his Manchester City side were triumphed by Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, in a tantalising all-English Final in Portugal.
For the second year running the UCL Final was relocated from Turkey to Portugal due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the two competing teams were each allocated 6,000 travelling supporters for this year's showpiece event.
Even after a season in which they have seemed a cut above the rest, the Citizens' pursuit of a highly sought-after European Cup will continue beyond 2021 as they lost out to the Blues, 0-1, at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto. Chelsea
After dumping out both of Barcelona and defending champions Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain crashed out to Man City in the semi-finals as Guardiola’s troops marched into their first European Final under the club's current guise.
City beat Mauricio Pochettino's PSG, 4-1 on aggregate, as young Phil Foden shone under the spotlight while Ruben Dias put in a prodigious shift in defence. City also overcame German teams Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach in the prior knockout rounds.
In the other semi Chelsea took the fight to 13-time winners Real Madrid and came out on top, 3-1 agg.
Tuchel's men eliminated both Madrid clubs – Atlético & Real – and also got the better of FC Porto to confirm their spot in the UCL Final for the first time since 2012.
Tuchel‘s dismissal as PSG coach at the back end of last year may have come as a surprise albeit he has gone on to have a sublime start to life in West London, reinvigorating Chelsea to the point that they seem certain title contenders going into next season.
After four months behind the manager's desk at Stamford Bridge, the 47-year-old German has already seen the Blues to the Finals of both the FA Cup and Champions League while also finishing 4th in the Premier League. Tuchel is the first manager to reach the UCL Final in successive years with different clubs.
Unai Emery’s Villarreal lifted the club's first-ever major European trophy as they beat Man United 11-10 on penalties in Gdańsk, Poland. Emery's 4th Europa League success makes him the most decorated manager in UEFA Cup/UEL history.
The Yellow Submarine reached its first European Final in club history by disposing of Arsenal – head coach Emery’s former employers – 2-1 over two legs, preventing the Gunners from delivering a prospective double European all-English Finals.
United thumped AS Roma, 8-5 agg, in the semi-finals for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to become the first-ever figure to represent the Red Devils in a European Final as both a player and manager.
Villarreal will meet Chelsea in Istanbul – original venue for the UCL Final – to contest the UEFA Super Cup on August, 11.
Chelsea fell short to Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City, 0-1, in the FA Cup Final at Wembley with an audience of 20,000 spectators. The Foxes are the 44th different team to win the famous trophy, 5 years on from their Premier League fairytale under Claudio Ranieri. This was Leicester’s fifth Final appearance in the competition, a first since 1969.
The Foxes will face Premier League champions Man City in next season's traditional curtain-raiser, the FA Community Shield, on August, 7.
Guardiola picked up a 3rd PL winner's medal in 4 years – City's 5th since 2012 – following another phenomenal campaign in which his Sky Blues netted 83 league goals and ended the season with 86 points, twelve above runners-up Man Utd.
The ex-Barca and Bayern head coach has won 10 trophies during his five seasons in the blue half of Manchester including a fourth successive EFL Cup, following City's 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley with roughly 7,500 supporters in attendance.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy sacked José Mourinho less than a week before their cup final loss to Guardiola's City and up until this year's UCL Final, Mourinho remained the only manager to defeat Guardiola in a final; the Spaniard's record now stands at 16 finals played, 14 won.
City bid farewell to their club record goal-scorer Sergio Agüero who bows out of English football after 10 years, 15 trophies and 260 goals.
The Argentine forward has scored the 4th-most goals in PL history with his tally of 184 being the highest of any non-English player and he also holds the records for most hat-tricks (12) in the competition as well as the most goals for a single club. His 26 league goals in 2014/15 won him the Golden Boot and he was one goal shy of retaining the accolade the following year.
Agüero, 33, is set to join international teammate Leo Messi at Barcelona on a free transfer on July, 1.
Man Utd, Liverpool & Chelsea rounded off the coveted top four spots to all seal their entry into next season's Champions League group stage. Despite occupying a top four position for 242 days Leicester missed out on Europe's best, on the final day of the season for a second year running. Both the Foxes and West Ham have qualified for the Europa League group stage, meanwhile 7th-placed Spurs are due to take part in the inaugural season of the Europa Conference League. Places 7-10 in the PL were separated by 4 points, meaning Arsenal, Leeds & Everton all narrowly missed out on continental football for next year.
Leeds United proved to be a pertinent dark horse in the Premier League this past season, not necessarily in the title race but rather as a newly-promoted team – a fresh face on the block. Following a 16-year hiatus away from the top-flight, the Whites' first game back in the premier division was away to defending champions Liverpool: a 7-goal thriller which ended in favour of the Reds.
Leeds' counter-attacking unit and their resilient defensive work ethic has most certainly made for pleasant viewing amongst neutrals. Not to mention Marcelo Bielsa barking down the touchline and pushing his cavalry for the entire 90+ minutes.
Leeds did not lose at home to any of the traditional ‘Big Six’ PL clubs and most significantly Bielsa’s charges collected 4 points from 6 against champions Man City – drawing 1-1 at Elland Road before snatching a last-gasp winner at the Etihad Stadium.
Leeds finished the season in 9th place with 59 points, ahead of Everton on goal difference and just 3 points adrift of Tottenham. I expect Bielsa to continue strengthening the side in order to reaffirm themselves as a true Premier League club.
Sheffield United suffered a severe case of second-season syndrome as they tasted defeat in 29 games out of 38. The pressure of reverberating their sumptuous campaign last time out ultimately saw the Blades hitting a dour reality check in 20/21 by finishing rock bottom of the table, collecting 7 wins with a total 23 points.
Sam Allardyce was demoted from the Premier League for the first time in his 30-year-long managerial career as West Brom failed to beat the drop; the Baggies are the joint-most relegated team in PL history (5) together with Norwich City.
They will be joined in the Championship by Fulham who, with Scott Parker at the helm, survived only one season at the summit of the English football pyramid.
The relegated Blades, Baggies, and Cottagers are to be replaced by the buzzing trio of the Canaries, the Hornets, and the Bees: Norwich finished Championship winners, earning automatic promotion alongside runners-up Watford.
Brentford won the play-off final, 2-0, against Swansea City to end the wait for a long-awaited Premier League debut in 2021/22. Brentford are set to take their place in the English top-flight for the first time since 1947.
Harry Kane walked away with his 3rd Golden Boot award for bagging 23 goals this season. The England skipper now has 166 league goals to his name and sits 21 shy of breaking into the top 3 in PL history. Spurs striker Kane, 27, also claimed the PL Playmaker award for his league-high 14 assists, and is reportedly looking to move away from the North London club in order to compete for major trophies.
Golden Boot runner-up Mo Salah netted 22 goals for Liverpool.
Ederson’s 19 clean sheets won the Man City 'keeper his second straight Golden Glove.
Final standings, Premier League 2020/21
P W PTS GD
C. Man City 38 27 86 +51
2. Man Utd 38 21 74 +29
3. Liverpool 38 20 69 +26
4. Chelsea 38 19 67 +22
5. Leicester 38 20 66 +18
6. West Ham 38 19 65 +15
7. Tottenham 38 18 62 +23
R. Fulham 38 5 28 -26
R. West Brom 38 5 26 -41
R. Sheff Utd 38 7 23 -43
The standards of officiating in the Premier League have been exponentially declining for several years and the implementation of VAR in English football has been harnessed to exonerate the abysmal decisions made by referees in-game. There have been aplenty of farcical decisions made by officials at the VAR Hub in Stockley Park, ruling out countless goals for alleged handballs or offsides.
125 penalties were awarded in the 20/21 PL – compared to 92, 103, & 80 in the previous three seasons. There were also 48 sending offs this season, three more than in 2019/20.
The short-lived prospect of the European Super League shook the wider football community to its core however the immediate backlash to the preposterous proposals by its 12 founding members saw the ESL campaign hanging by a thread within 48 hours after launching.
Players, pundits, supporters, and federations alike stood firm against the penny-pinching mavericks who orchestrated the ill-fated ESL, to ensure that no such revenue-generating tournament goes forth.
The likes of Florentino Pérez, Joel Glazer, Stan Kroenke & co. blatantly disrespected everybody involved in football in their attempts to modernise and monetise the sport. There have been ongoing protests and petitions within the UK aiming to put in place an 'Independent Football Regulator' in efforts to establish fan representation on voted club matters.
Over in Scotland, Steven Gerrard's Glasgow Rangers went unbeaten to see the Premiership return to the Ibrox for the first time in 10 years. Gerrard's men finished above Celtic by a seismic 25 points to be crowned Scottish champions for a record 55th time to end their arch rivals' 9-year dominion.
Elsewhere in Europe, Inter Milan stormed to their 19th Scudetto to bring an end to Juventus’ decade-long spell of domination in Serie A.
Antonio Conte got the ball rolling in 2011, winning Juve their 1st of 9 consecutive league titles and he fittingly was also the man to spoil the party for La Vecchia Signora ten years later.
This was a first league success for Inter since they completed an historic treble under José Mourinho in 2010. Conte's rampant Nerazzurri ran riot as they finished the 20/21 season with a mammoth 91 points, however the Italian manager has parted company with Inter due to the club’s abominable financial situation.
Romelu Lukaku notched more goal contributions (24 goals & 10 assists) than any other player throughout Serie A this term.
Runners-up AC Milan trailed local foes Inter by 12 points and the Rossoneri were separated from 5th-placed Napoli by a mere from 2 points, in what was a gruelling battle for Champions League football. Atalanta took 3rd spot and Juventus pipped Napoli to 4th as Gennaro Gattuso's team could only muster a draw on the final day of the season.
Napoli and Lazio qualify for Europa League, while Roma and their incoming manager Mourinho will partake in the Europa Conference League.
Cristiano Ronaldo finished the season as top scorer with 29 goals, averaging a goal every 96 minutes.
Andrea Pirlo's Juventus captured a record 14th Coppa Italia when they edged Atalanta, 2-1.
There have been a flurry of managerial changes since the season drew to a close. Pirlo was sacked by the Juve board and immediately replaced by Max Allegri, the man behind the club’s five consecutive Serie A titles from 2014-19.
Simone Inzaghi departs from Lazio after 5 years at the Rome-based club to succeed Conte at Inter.
Gattuso left his job at Napoli to take over at Fiorentina; Luciano Spalletti fills the vacated post at Napoli.
Despite the Spanish league title going right down to the wire, Atlético Madrid held their nerve on the closing day of the season to win LaLiga for a second time under Diego Simeone. Atlético managed to fend off their noisy neighbours Real Madrid in addition to Barcelona, to conquer Spain for an 11th time in club history.
Simeone's side conceded 25 league goals with goalie Jan Oblak keeping 18 clean sheets.
Sevilla rounded off the UCL spots, ahead of Real Sociedad and Real Betis who both earned Europa football; UEL winners Villarreal gain entry into next season's Champions League.
Just days after the 20/21 season ended, Zinedine Zidane stepped down as Real Madrid manager for a second time since 2018.
Lionel Messi scored 30 league goals to become the first player to win the Trofeo Pichichi (top scorer) in five straight seasons, and is now a 7-time winner of this award – more than anybody in LaLiga history. The 6-time Ballon d'Or winner also gave 11 assists this season to average a goal contribution every 74 minutes.
Barcelona wrapped up an unprecedented 31st Copa del Rey when they thrashed Athletic Bilbao, 4-0, in Seville.
In an astonishing end to the title race in France, Lille emerged as champions over PSG who were seeking an 8th Ligue 1 success in 9 years. Lille finished above the Parisians by a single point to claim a 6th league championship, their first since 2011.
The champions and runners-up enter the UCL at the group stage whereas 3rd-placed Monaco must advance from the qualifying round; Lyon and Marseille qualify for the Europa league group phase.
PSG forward Kylian Mbappé topped the Ligue 1 scoring charts with his 27 goals. Mbappé stole the show for Paris against his former club Monaco in the Final of the Coupe de France, where PSG won 2-0 and celebrated a record 14th French Cup.
Bayern Munich completed a 9th Bundesliga coup on the bounce, starring their prolific Polish poacher Robert Lewandowski. The 32-year-old striker scored 41 goals in 29 league outings at an incredible rate of a goal every 60 minutes.
Lewandowski's impeccable tally set a new record for most goals in a Bundesliga season, formerly held by ex-Bayern man Gerd Müller (40 goals in 1971/72).
Bayern boss Hansi Flick requested for his contract to be terminated with the 56-year-old set to succeed Joachim Löw as German national team coach following the European Championships. Flick was assistant manager to Löw from 2006 until the country's World Cup success in Brazil, 2014.
Flick's successor in the Bayern hotseat is to be Julian Nagelsmann who cost the Bavarians a world-record €25M fee for a manager. In guiding RB Leipzig to the UCL semi-finals in 2019/20, Nagelsmann became the youngest coach in history to both win a knockout tie and reach the last 4 of the competition.
Nagelsmann is due to take over the reigns in Munich three weeks prior to his 34th birthday and is younger than Bayern captain Manuel Neuer by 16 months.
Under the youthful German coach, RB Leipzig finished 2nd in the Bundesliga – 13 points adrift of champions Bayern, with the remaining Champions League spots being snapped up by Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg.
Eintracht Frankfurt will play Europa League football next season, as will Bayer Leverkusen.
Dortmund slashed Leipzig, 4-1,in the Final of the DfB Pokal.
Jadon Sancho, 21, became the youngest player to score a brace in such a final, before his teammate Erling Haaland engulfed the record from him in the same encounter for Dortmund to win their nth German Cup.
Super-striker Lewandowski found the net 48 times across all competitions of which his 41 league goals won him the 2020/21 European Golden Shoe.
Player Goals Appearances Club
🇵🇱R. Lewandowski 48 40 🇩🇪Bayern
🇫🇷K. Mbappé 42 47 🇫🇷PSG
🇳🇴E. Haaland 41 41 🇩🇪Dortmund
🇦🇷L. Messi 38 47 🇪🇸Barcelona
🇵🇹C. Ronaldo 36 44 🇮🇹Juventus
🏴H. Kane 33 49 🏴Tottenham
🇪🇬M. Salah 31 51 🏴Liverpool
🇧🇪R. Lukaku 30 44 🇮🇹Inter
🇫🇷K. Benzema 30 46 🇪🇸R. Madrid
🇵🇹A. Silva 29 34 🇩🇪E. Frankfurt