1. Arsenal’s incredible winning run
It now seems a very, very long time ago. Unai Emery was burned in his baptism of fire, losing his first two competitive matches to Manchester City and Chelsea, only to rise like a phoenix from the flames by masterminding a sequence of 11 consecutive victories in all competitions.
The run of fixtures was admittedly gentle in the extreme (Fulham, Brentford, Vorskla Poltava…) but then Arsenal went on to win or draw matches against four of the eventual top seven. Their unbeaten run finally came to an end against Southampton in mid-December – four months and 23 games after their previous defeat.
2. West Brom’s boiler mascot
It was a human-sized combi boiler with legs and cartoon gloves. There’s not a tremendous amount we can add to that statement.
3. Alvaro Morata scoring nine goals for Chelsea
Across 24 appearances. In 2018/19.
4. Denmark’s amateur night
Remember when Denmark’s players went on strike because of a pay dispute, forcing the Danish FA to reduce tickets to €1 and pick a bunch of futsal players, lower-league cloggers and students? The amateurs went down fighting, losing only 3-0 to Slovakia, but it was a truly surreal moment.
5. Kieran Trippier being God
Tripps returned from Russia with love, his bond with England’s fanbase tight after a stunning individual World Cup in which he created the most chances in the tournament and scored an excellent free-kick in the semi-final. Then he scored another, against Fulham in Tottenham’s first game, seemingly cementing his status as an unstoppable rising force in the world of full-backery.
Seemingly. In fact, Trippier’s carriage immediately resumed pumpkin status and then stayed that way for most of the 2018/19 season. His fall from grace, Sime Vrsaljko’s year-long injury lay-off and Benjamin Pavard’s relegation with Stuttgart mean it’s not been a good year for Russia 2018’s best right-backs.
Wild to think Trippier was ahead of Alexander-Arnold for England less than a year ago and that wasn’t even a contentious issue— Tom Victor (@tomvictor) May 8, 2019
6. Someone throwing a cabbage at Steve Bruce
Aston Villa lost their manager as Bruce lost his way, a supporter lost his patience and the world lost a coleslaw. Bruce is now back in employment, trying to right the good ship Sheffield Wednesday, but can the same be said of the security officer who patted down an arriving fan without noticing his head-shaped brassica?
7. The Ballon d’Or Féminin’s real piece of twerk
Women’s football took a small step forward and a giant leap back when its inaugural Ballon d’Or winner, Ada Hegerberg, was asked to twerk by an odious, smirking tosspot of a male host. Unbelievably, this was only six months ago (as opposed to 60 years ago).
8. Wayne Rooney playing for England
We’ve just checked and, yes, this was in 2018/19. All right, we’ll check again.
9. Benik Afobe being a Wolves player again
Even Afobe may have forgotten his third stint with Wolves, seeing as it lasted all of a week-and-a-half.
The Molineux outfit bought Afobe from Bournemouth for £10m and loaned him to Stoke 11 days later – and while he was hardly the first player to be sent out on loan immediately after arriving at a club, this deal included an obligation for the Potters to buy him in January… for £12m. Throw in the loan fee and Wolves made £3m within a fortnight on a striker they didn’t use. Best business of the season.
10. Burnley playing in Europe
File under ‘Forgotten the moment it was over’. That’s no criticism of Burnley – they may have endured a relegation battle since, which is partly why their Europa League adventure seems so long ago, but Sean Dyche’s men beat the second-best team in Scotland and the third-best team in Turkey before succumbing to Olympiakos.
However, their games not being televised, and it all being over before the end of August anyway meant Burnley’s efforts went largely unnoticed even at the time – which is a shame. It’s almost as if Premier League broadcasters see the neatly-spun race for seventh as a means and not an end.
11. Jose Mourinho’s non-stop summer moan-fest
12. The transfer window apocalypse
Premier League clubs – well, 15 of them, anyway – voting to bring the transfer deadline forward several weeks prompted a cacophony of voices either praising the idea, criticising it, or predicting a hellscape in which unwanted players forlornly wandered a set from The Walking Dead in search of employment.
In fact, it was all quite orderly, although the window shutting just one day before the season started meant there was still a flurry of late activity, most of it at record spenders Fulham. That went well.
13. Macclesfield not winning a game until mid-October
For quite some time, the Silkmen – surprise promotees – were truly awful. There were whispers of a winless season. Then, naturally, they avoided relegation to non-league by appointing managerial mastermind Sol Campbell. Stranger than fiction.
14. Charlie Austin’s Parklife
After a refereeing mistake cost relegation-battling Southampton two points against Watford, Saints striker Charlie Austin channelled Phil Daniels in an energetic, high-pitched rant about Premier League officials needing help from VAR. Austin was incredibly sure of himself but had every right to be incensed and, well, confidence is a preference for the habitual poacher.
15. Kenny Miller, player-manager
Though it sounds like a joke, we promise it really happened: Livingston sacked Kenny Miller as their player-manager because he kept picking himself. The striker took charge of just two league games in his first managerial role before leaving Livi, livid at the club’s insistence that he retire as a player to manage full-time.
That’s usually what subsequently happens but Miller, then 38, wasn’t ready to hang up his boots. He moved to Dundee, signed a two-year contract, scored a hat-trick and finished bottom while Livingston survived. Now for Vincent Kompany to do the same with Anderlecht.
16. Spurs stinking out the Champions League
Group B as-it-stands table at 9.30pm on November 6, 2018:
17. Lights out at Charlton
Such was their dire financial situation, the Addicks’ 2018/19 League One season began with staff working in the dark and being told not to eat at their desks because the cleaners weren’t being paid. Relegation was seen as a distinct possibility. Now here we are, with Charlton back in the Championship.
18. Wolves naming unchanged XI for first nine Premier League games
And 10 of those 11 players started the three games after that as well. Even the seven-man subs’ bench saw only nine different players in those opening nine matches. Extraordinary stuff in this day and age.
19. A race to the bottom
Deep into autumn, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Cardiff were still competing to be the worst side in Premier League history. The trio had played eight matches apiece and won not one, as nine teams – almost half of the league – went into the October international break averaging a point per game or worse. Pundits and opposition fans genuinely thought one of the terrible trio might be the first team in English top-flight history to go a whole season without recording a single victory.
Fortunately for their fans, and sadly for stattos, Cardiff broke their duck on October 20 by scoring as many goals against an equally hapless Fulham as they had in their previous eight matches (four). Newcastle and Huddersfield both had to wait until Matchday 11, Fulham – again – even being so helpful as to score the only goal in their defeat to Huddersfield. Newcastle subsequently stayed up with ease.
20. Kenedy’s nightmare
Speaking of Newcastle and Cardiff, the pair met in August for a match that a certain on-loan Magpies winger will never forget (hard as he’ll try). Kenedy had a worse day at the office than his namesake did on November 22, 1963 – and, like JFK, the Brazilian’s brain just went missing.
He should have been sent off in the 34th minute for kicking Victor Camarasa; failed to complete a single pass in the first half, from two attempts; then missed a stoppage-time penalty that would have won the game for 10-man Newcastle. Thanks for coming, Ken.
21. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting joining PSG
… and Nacer Chadli going to Monaco, as French football’s giants (as the latter then were) scrambled to snap up the most middling talent from relegated Premier League clubs.
Chadli cost Monaco £10m, while freebie Choupo-Moting single-footedly delayed PSG’s title celebrations by denying them a win against Strasbourg with what the normally hyperbole-free BBC described in their match report as “one of the worst misses in the history of football”. They weren’t wrong, either.
22. Claude Puel
It’s easy to straight up forget he exists, but supposedly Puel was managing Leicester as recently as February 23. That can’t be right.
23. Wigan replacing full-back Reece James with full-back Reece James
While the 1993-born James would endure a frustrating season with Sunderland after leaving Wigan, the 1999-born Chelsea loanee emerged as one of the best players in the Championship – so good, he was moved into midfield because he was being wasted at right-back. And Wigan didn’t even have to print any new nametags.
24. Marcus Bettinelli being called up by England
Also in September, the Fulham goalkeeper proclaimed: “If our only aim is to stay in the league then we won’t do ourselves justice.” He was right about the second part. Bettinelli played seven Premier League matches and conceded 20 goals before being dropped and then having knee surgery while Fulham suffered relegation. That may be his last England call-up for a while.
25. Michael Owen still being Newcastle’s record signing
Right up to January 31, when Miguel Almiron ended a 14-year tradition by inheriting his title from the BT Sport pundit and canine carnal congress enthusiast.
26. Outfield player in goal klaxon!
What’s more, Blackburn midfielder Richie Smallwood kept a 20-minute clean sheet to secure a point for his side against high-flying, high-scoring West Brom. Some emergency goalkeepers shy away from the spotlight. Smallwood compared himself to Gordon Banks and, when Rovers team-mate Elliott Bennett offered to take the gloves because he’s a pretty useful goalkeeper himself, Smallwood replied: “No, I’ve got this.” Which, to be fair, he had.
27. Julen Lopetegui managing Real Madrid
See also: overseeing an eight-hour goal drought and 5-1 Clasico defeat before he was sacked, Santiago Solaril losing to Ajax and joining him on the scrapheap, and Real Madrid finishing a record 19 points behind Barcelona. Did these things really happen? Or was it all a dream? Zinedine Zidane re-emerging from the shower suggests the latter.
28. Thierry Henry managing Monaco in a relegation battle
OK, now we’re just making stuff up.
29. A goal being given as a throw-in
If that sounds ridiculous, trust us: the full story is even more absurd. In the Scottish Championship, Partick Thistle’s Kris Doolan found the net with a pretty sublime strike, causing an annoyed Greenock Morton defender to punt the ball away in time-honoured “And another!” fashion. The ball very clearly crossed the line – it even rustled the inside netting.
Yet somehow, a conflab between referee and linesman ended with the conclusion that… well, your guess is as good as ours. But with the ball having been ‘cleared’ into touch, play duly restarted with a throw-in. Baffling, absolutely baffling.
30. Martin from Wakefield
With Huddersfield’s search for a new manager closing in on the little-known Jan Siewert, Sky’s cameras were quick to seize the initiative when they spotted him in the crowd for a match. Unfortunately it was a case of mistaken identity, although the mix-up did give Martin from Wakefield the opportunity to appear in Town’s own official unveiling of Siewert, who, bless him, is about as good at acting as Huddersfield are at Premier League football.
31. Santi Cazorla, glamorous assistant
Cazorla’s spectacular unveiling at Villarreal last summer, which crossed This Is Spinal Tap with an amateur magic show, turned out to be very fitting.
Last month, following a season in which he’d played like a true magician, there was a surprise recall to Spanish international duty for the man whose extensive surgeries have left him with part of his arm on his ankle, his thigh on his arm and his tattoos spread across his body like an unopened jigsaw. Now there’s a happy ending.
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