2018-19 Premier League rewind: A look back at the 5 of the biggest upsets
There was hardly any shortage of drama, excitement and hype in the 2018-19 season of the Premier League, with some mesmerizing individual performances, sheer moments of magic, edge-of-the-seat thrillers and a see-saw title race producing yet another enthralling season of football.
As a matter of fact, it was goals galore all throughout the campaign, as the grand total of 1072 goals made the 2018-19 season the most prolific ever in the history of the Premier League.
In the end, Man City successfully managed to defend their Premier League title, as Pep Guardiola’s side broke Liverpool’s hearts and ensured that the Reds’ pursuit of a first domestic title since 1990 ultimately ended in failure.
The final day of the campaign ended in ecstasy for the fans at Etihad, while those at Anfield would have felt the pain of falling short by a solitary point despite a valiant effort from their team.
We all know that the Premier League is famous for producing plenty of thrills and spills, which is probably the reason why it is widely acclaimed as the most competitive league in the world.
When we speak about competition, it is expected that the league would also have a touch of unpredictability to it.
The 2018/19 season, indeed, produced some massive upsets, where the lesser teams defied the odds and took everybody by surprise to shock the heavyweights operating in the upper reaches of the competition.
Surprisingly, winners Man City were also at the receiving end of three such upsets; one each at the hands of Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.
It is true that we have a definitive top-six in the Premier League these days but we witnessed last season that the mid-table teams and even the relegation-threatened sides are more than capable of pulling off surprises on their day. With that in mind, let us revisit those instances when teams defied belief to register the unlikeliest of victories.
1. Leicester City vs Man City- Boxing Day
Leicester City were enduring a rather inconsistent campaign under Claude Puel but the Foxes came into the game high on confidence following a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their previous outing.
Man City, on the other hand, arrived at the King Power Stadium on the back of a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace at home, although Pep Guardiola’s side were the outright favourites to claim all three points against Leicester.
Unsurprisingly, Leicester defended in numbers and got bodies behind the ball as Man City stamped their authority in the opening quarter of the game.
It didn’t take long for them to open the scoring though, as Sergio Aguero played Bernardo Silva behind the Foxes’ backline to set up the Portuguese for an easy finish.
However, Leicester responded within just four minutes, as Jamie Vardy’s cross found the run of Marcus Albrighton, who outsmarted Fabian Delph with his clever movement and beat Ederson to score the equaliser. Well, you cannot keep Jamie Vardy out of the action, can you?
Aguero lost his footing numerous times in the final third quite uncharacteristically and Man City failed to score the winner despite enjoying a lot of possession. James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury called Ederson into action a few times but the scores stayed level until the very end.
Some late drama saw Ricardo Pereira fire home a pile driver from just inside the edge of the box to hand Leicester a 2-1 advantage before Man City’s Fabian Delph received the marching orders from the referee.
The game was an eye-opener to all the fans who would have thought that Man City’s loss against Palace was a mere bad day at the office.
2. Man City vs Crystal Palace – 22nd December
Man City had only lost a single game in the Premier League season, which was against Chelsea, when they played host to Crystal Palace at the Etihad on 22nd December and with Roy Hodgson’s side struggling in the lower reaches of the table, the Citizens were the clear favourites.
Pep Guardiola’s side kept Palace under the cosh in the opening stages of the game and Fabian Delph’s cross was headed in by Ilkay Gundogan, who gave City the lead in the 27th minute.
Palace, however, found an instant reply as Wilfried Zaha’s dazzling run followed by McArthur’s clever pass allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to equalise with a clinical finish.
The match turned out to be closer than expected and a moment of sheer brilliance from Andros Townsend turned the game in Palace’s favour. The former Spurs man put his magical left foot through the ball from a long way outside the box but his thunderous effort evaded the fingertips of Ederson, thus putting Palace 2-1 up before half-time.
Townsend hit the post early in the second half and Max Meyer, in an attempt to score from the rebound, was brought down inside the box by a reckless challenge from Kyle Walker, prompting referee Andre Marriner to point to the penalty spot. Luka Milivojevic buried the penalty kick to give Palace an unlikely 3-1 lead.
De Bruyne made it 3-2 with a cross that luckily sailed over the head of Guaita and Leroy Sane hit the post later on but the Eagles did enough to hold on to their lead for a famous win.
3. Wolves vs Chelsea – 6th December
Premier League newcomers Wolves impressed one and all with their character and resilience but as a matter of fact, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were going through a patchy period when they played host to Chelsea on 6th December.
Wolves came into the game on the back of miserable defeats at the hands of Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, and the Black Country outfit were under pressure to justify that their flying start to the campaign wasn’t a mere flash in the pan.
Things didn’t go according to plan for Wolves though, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful effort from 25 yards was headed into his own net by home captain Conor Coady just 18 minutes into the game.
Both teams failed to produce anything spectacular in the first half but Chelsea went into the interval with a 1-0 lead.
However, Wolves staged a remarkable comeback following the restart, as two quick goals from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez in the space of just four minutes proved to be the turning point in the clash.
Wolves ultimately won the game 2-1 and Nuno Santo’s lion-hearted warriors went on to register impressive victories over the likes of Man United, Spurs and Liverpool thereafter.
4. Newcastle United vs Man City – 31st January
Pep Guardiola sat in the dugout for his 100th Premier League game, as Newcastle United played host to defending champions Man City towards the end of January.
With Man City and Liverpool going hammer and tongs at each other in a bid to get the upper hand in the title race, this was always going to be a must-win game for the Citizens and they were the definitely the strong favourites against Rafael Benitez’s unit.
And it looked like the travelling fans were in for an absolute feast when Sergio Aguero put the visitors 1-0 ahead just 24 seconds into the game. City dictated the play in the first half and they could have had the second goal just at the stroke of the interval, only for David Silva’s attempt to be blocked by Florian Lejeune.
Man City upped the ante after the restart and Martin Dubravka was called into action numerous times early in the second half, as Sterling, Sane and David Silva all had attempts on goal.
However, in a twist of fate, Newcastle made City pay for their missed chances and equalised in the 66th minute. Salomon Rondon got in front of John Stones and volleyed it straight into the net after a bit of a scramble in the final third.
City went all out in pursuit of the winner but it was Newcastle who had the last laugh and pulled off a massive upset.
Fernandinho’s challenge on Sean Longstaff was deemed worthy of a penalty and Matt Ritchie stepped up to send Ederson the wrong way, thus making it 2-1 with just 10 minutes left to play. The 2-1 victory meant that Newcastle registered their first victory over Man City in the Premier League since 2005.
5. Man United vs Cardiff City – 12th May
Man United thrashed Cardiff City 5-1 in December in what was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge as the caretaker manager of the Red Devils. However, the tides turned dramatically when an already-relegated Cardiff City travelled to Old Trafford to take on United in the final game of the campaign.
Marcus Rashford missed a couple of promising chances and Neil Warnock’s side drew first blood. Diogo Dalot’s rather tame looking challenge on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was deemed worthy of a penalty by referee Jonathan Moss for some unknown reason and Mendez-Laing stepped up to make it 1-0 from the spot.
United continued to miss chances and Mason Greenwood saw his shot get tipped on to the post by Neil Etheridge.
Things turned from bad to worse in the second half for United when Josh Murphy picked out Mendez-Laing’s run at the far post with an accurate cross following a dazzling run, and Cardiff took a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t turn out to be a happy outing for Solskjer against his old club, although the Bluebirds ended their campaign on a high. Cardiff City registered their first victory over Man United since 1960 and first at Old Trafford since 1954.
5 Instances when Premier League teams swapped players between themselves
5 Instances when Premier League teams swapped players between themselves
Swap deals between clubs playing in the same league are rare occurrences in football, especially in the Premier League, where the clubs are rather reluctant to sell their star players to their rivals. Even if they do agree to do business, outright cash is what most of the clubs look for in the market.
In the summer of 2009, Inter Milan and Barcelona shook up the footballing world with one of the most audacious swap deals ever in the history of the game, exchanging two of the continent’s most prolific strikers, Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
One of the earlier instances of a swap deal in the La Liga since the turn of the century came way back in 2004 when Deco made his way to Barcelona, with his compatriot Ricardo Quaresma heading back to Porto following a lean spell at the Catalan club.
When it comes to Serie A, we have even seen bitter rivals Inter Milan and AC Milan exchange players in the past, with the swap deal involving strikers Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini in 2012 being one of the prime examples in recent times.
Coming back to the Premier League, one would really have to take a long and hard walk down the memory lane to recall the instances when English clubs gave their seal of approval to swap deals.
Well, instances of Premier League clubs interchanging players between themselves are very rare and with that in mind, let us take a look at a few occasions when players in England have actually switched boats to join their rivals.
1. Alexis Sanchez / Henrikh Mkhitaryan
One of the most high-profile swap deals ever in Europe, the swap deal between Arsenal and Man United involving Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez just has to be at the top of this list.
Both Arsenal and United valued their prized assets at £35million, meaning that there was no exchange of cash when the two attackers switched clubs in January 2018.
Sanchez, who was supposed to be out of contract at the Emirates in the summer of 2018, had racked up 80 goals and 45 assists in 166 appearances for the Gunners and helped Arsene Wenger’s side to two FA Cup crowns prior to his move to Man United.
Mkhitaryan, on the other hand, had played a key role in United’s Europa League triumph in the previous campaign but his sudden loss of form prompted the Red Devils to get him off their books.
The swap deal dominated the headlines in the British tabloids for quite a long time but Man United came out as the obvious losers in the deal, as Sanchez struggled to settle down at his new club. He scored only 5 goals in 45 appearances until the end of the 2018-19 season, earning a staggering £500,000-a-week in the process.
On the contrary, Mkhitaryan hasn’t been a raging success at Arsenal, not anywhere close to being the playmaker that he was at Borussia Dortmund in his earlier days, but he has bettered Sanchez’s exploits at Old Trafford, nevertheless.
2. Gylfi Sigurdsson/Ben Davies and Michel Vorm
Turning back the pages to the summer of 2014, Tottenham Hotspur and then Premier League outfit Swansea City completed an impressive swap deal, with Welsh left-back Ben Davies and Dutch goalkeeper Michel Vorm heading to North London in a part-exchange deal which saw playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson return to the Liberty Stadium for a second spell.
Sigurdsson had spent time on loan at Swansea City from German club Hoffenheim in the 2012 season prior to his permanent move to the Welsh club in 2014.
The Icelandic international had largely underachieved during his three-year stint at Tottenham and a move to Swansea was supposed to offer him an escape route.
Ben Davies and Michel Vorm were both amongst the first-team regulars at Swansea in the 2013-14 season and while the left-back was brought in as a long-term prospect, the latter arrived at Tottenham to play second-fiddle to Hugo Lloris and simply make up the numbers.
Sigurdsson plundered 30 goals in 112 Premier League appearances for the Swans over the following three seasons before earning a big-money move to Everton in 2017. Ben Davies continues to battle Danny Rose for a spot in Tottenham’s first-team.
Vorm went on to make only 47 appearances over five seasons at Tottenham before departing upon the expiry of his contract in 2019.
3. Kenwyne Jones/ Peter Odemwingie
Well, this is not one of those swap deals involving high-profile names or big clubs but Cardiff City and Stoke City did grab the headlines in January 2014 when they completed a player-exchange deal involving Kenwyne Jones and Peter Odemwingie.
Odemwingie had only arrived at Cardiff City in the summer of 2013 after a prolific spell at West Brom and the Nigerian was forced to join Stoke just six months later, having fallen out of favour with then Bluebirds manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Jones, on the other hand, had netted 28 goals in 117 appearances for the Potters over the course of four-and-a-half seasons prior to his move to South Wales.
The ploy to bring in the Trinidadian didn’t pay any dividends though, as the towering forward only found the net just once in 11 appearances and failed to prevent Cardiff from going back down to the Championship.
Odemwingie’s tally of 5 goals in 15 appearances for the Potters in the latter half of the 2013-14 season earned him a place in Nigeria’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad but he struggled with injuries thereafter and was eventually released at the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
4. Ashley Cole/William Gallas
The part-exchange deal between Premier League heavyweights Arsenal and Chelsea involving centre-back William Gallas and left-back Ashley Cole in the summer of 2006 sparked a massive debate in the British media over who had got the better deal.
Cole, of course, was an integral part of Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ in the 2003-04 season and had won the Premier League twice during his time at North London, whilst Gallas had also won back-to-back Premier League titles with Chelsea prior to his move to North London.
Cole went on to win most of his England caps during his time at Stamford Bridge and bagged 9 major honours, including the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and four Premier League titles.
Gallas, on the other hand, did score for Arsenal against his old club but the Frenchman didn’t reach the same heights in North London and spent four mediocre seasons before going on to join bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 2010.
5. Kevin Davies/James Beattie
One of the earliest instances of a swap deal in English football before the turn of the century came when James Beattie arrived at Southampton as a makeweight in a deal that took Kevin Davies to Blackburn Rovers.
Davies struggled to settle down at Ewood Park and found the net only once in 21 appearances, as Blackburn Rovers suffered relegation to the Championship.
Coincidentally, Davies returned to Southampton just a year later in an exchange deal for Norwegian striker Egil Ostenstad before moving on to Bolton Wanderers for a career-defining spell.
Beattie initially struggled to find the net at Southampton due to injuries but he settled down after a couple of seasons and spent the most fruitful years of his career on the English south coast, with 23 goals in the 2002-03 campaign being the highlight.
Beattie netted 76 goals for the Saints in 235 appearances and earned 5 England caps.
Cardiff City beating Derby County to sign this 25-year-old Welsh dynamo would be a massive statement of intent
Cardiff City Opinion: Bluebirds should go all out in their pursuit of Will Vaulks this summer
According to Wales Online, Cardiff City are interested in signing Welsh international midfielder Will Vaulks from recently-relegated club Rotherham United, with reports claiming that playoff finalists Derby County are also in the race to sign the 25-year-old.
Wales Online understands that the Bluebirds have monitored the central midfielder for quite some time now and the 25-year-old is believed to be one of Neil Warnock’s top targets for the summer.
There were speculations earlier in the week that Cardiff were set to announce the signing of Vaulks by Tuesday but sources close to the club have revealed that no such agreement has been reached just yet. (h/t Wales online)
Vaulks was one of the few shining lights of Rotherham’s otherwise disappointing campaign in the Championship this past season, as the Millers finished third-last and suffered relegation back to League One after just a single season in the second-tier.
The 25-year-old earned rave reviews for his consistently impressive performances this past season and it is no surprise to see that the likes of Cardiff City and Derby County are prepared to offer him an escape route to stay in the Championship.
Vaulks accumulated an impressive 7 goals and 7 assists in 41 Championship outings for Rotherham United last term, with his scintillating run of form catching the eye of Wales boss Ryan Giggs, who handed the 25-year-old his first senior international cap back in March.
A youth product of Tranmere Rovers, Vaulks rose to prominence north of the border at Falkirk in the Scottish Championship. The Welshman registered 142 appearances for Falkirk in all competitions over the course of four seasons before moving back to England to join Rotherham in the Championship back in 2016.
His first season at New York Stadium ended in relegation to League One but Vaulks was one of the architects of his club’s promotion-winning campaign in the third-tier in the following campaign. The Millers might have suffered the drop once again but the 25-year-old looks likely to play in the Championship next season.
Essentially a central midfielder by trade, Will Vaulks has the versatility to switch between defensive and box-to-box roles in the middle of the park. A strong, tenacious and hard-working midfielder noted for his drive, determination and tough-tackling nature, the 25-year-old has the ability to shoulder both defensive and attacking responsibilities.
Adept at breaking up the play and winning possession back for his team with crucial interventions, the Welshman’s awareness to make late attacking runs into the box coupled with his eye for key passes and set-piece ability make him a good all-around player in the middle.
Vaulks averaged 4 aerial duels, 2.2 tackles, 1.7 interceptions, 2.3 clearances, 4.3 successful long balls and 1.5 key passes per game in the Championship this past season.
To put things into perspective, Cardiff City have every reason to make Will Vaulks a top priority this summer, given that the Bluebirds have lost quite a few of their key players in the middle of the park in recent times.
Long-standing Icelandic international Aron Gunnarsson departed the club to join Qatari side Al-Arabi, while loanees Victor Camarasa and Harry Arter and back at their parent clubs Real Betis and Bournemouth respectively.
The departures of last season’s mainstays Gunnarsson, Arter and Camarasa have left Warnock short of cover in central midfield, although the manager still has the likes of Leandro Bacuna, Jazz Richards and Joe Ralls to call upon.
However, one can get the feeling that bringing in Will Vaulks, who was quite brilliant playing for a bottom-table outfit in the Championship last season, could possibly add another dimension to Cardiff’s midfield.
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Indeed, the arrival of Vaulks would provide Warnock with much-needed cover and competition in a key area of the pitch, and given that the 25-year-old isn’t likely to cost the Bluebirds a fortune, they should complete this deal at the earliest before the other teams begin to firm up their interest.
Cardiff City signing this 26-year-old centre-back for free would be a shrewd move to add some much-needed solidity
Cardiff City Opinion: Curtis Nelson could add a little bit more depth to the Bluebirds’ backline
According to Wales Online, Cardiff City are closing in on a deal for Oxford United centre-back Curtis Nelson, with reports claiming that Sunderland are also keen on securing the services of the 26-year-old central defender.
Nelson, who is out of contract at the Kassam Stadium this summer, has refused to sign a new deal with his current club and Oxford manager Karl Robinson has admitted that the 26-year-old is about to depart Home Park on a free transfer (h/t Wales Online).
Jack Ross’ Sunderland are also in the market for Nelson but it is understood that the 26-year-old is keen to test his credentials in the Championship next term after spending three seasons in League One. (h/t Wales Online)
The Black Cats missed out on promotion to the second tier following their defeat at the hands of Charlton Athletic in the playoff finals, and Cardiff City, who recently got relegated from the Premier League, is believed to be the front runners in the race to sign the centre-back.
Nelson made a total of 55 appearances and scored 4 goals for Oxford United in all competitions this past season, as Karl Robinson’s side finished mid-table in the third-tier.
A youth product of Stoke City, Nelson plied his trade with Plymouth Argyle for six seasons in League One and League Two before making a move to Home Park back in 2016.
The 26-year-old has been one of the mainstays of Oxford’s backline in League One over the course of the past three campaigns, scoring 8 goals and registering a total of 121 appearances in all competitions. Nelson has shown strong signs of promise in the third-tier for a mid-table outfit, and at 26, the time might just be right for him to take the next big step in his career.
To put things into perspective, Cardiff City are set for a long and hard slog in the Championship next term and the Bluebirds are likely to bring in a few fresh faces this summer, whilst anticipating the departure of some high-profile players following their relegation from the top-tier.
To be honest, Cardiff didn’t spend too much in the Premier League last season. Neil Warnock already has quite a lot of Championship experience in all areas of his squad, but bringing in some standout performers from League One could prove to be a gamble worth taking for the club.
Curtis Nelson hasn’t played in the Championship before his exploits for Oxford should prompt the Bluebirds to make a move for him.
Bruno Manga is out of contract towards the end of the month and it is still unclear whether he will be at the Cardiff City Stadium next season, whilst Sol Bamba is already 34.
Sean Morrison and Matthew Connolly are both experienced centre-backs at the Championship level but someone like Nelson could add a little bit more depth in a key area of the pitch for Warnock.
Long-standing midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and Real Betis loanee Victor Camarasa have already departed the club, and while Nelson’s links hardly has anything to do with those departures, it is a no-brainer that Cardiff do need to bring in some reinforcements.
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Cardiff will be looking to secure promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking and the acquisition of Curtis Nelson as a free transfer could just be the perfect start to the summer for the Bluebirds.
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