Last summer saw plenty of big-money transfers. While some succeeded at the new clubs, many didn’t prove value for money. With the best and worst transfers in the Premier League covered earlier this week, here are five who flopped and five who starred elsewhere in Europe in 2012-13. FLOPS Alex Song, Barcelona There was some logic behind Barcelona’s purchase of Song last summer. They required a midfielder capable of providing the physicality lost following Seydou Keita's departure and someone who could fill in at centre-back too.
The league titles were decided long ago, and relegation battles have received significant attention in recent weeks -- but how about the clubs punching above their weight, close to the Champions League places? Here we look at five surprise packages in European football this season. Freiburg: Fifth in Bundesliga Freiburg's 34th and final game was essentially a playoff for the fourth Champions League place. Had they beaten Schalke, they would have participated in the competition for the first time in their history.
Richard Jolly rates and slates the five worst signings in the Premier League this season. 5. Alou Diarra (West Ham, GBP;2 million) At the time, it seemed a coup. The former captain of France, still near his peak, joined a newly-promoted club, signed by a manager with a long track record of working with inspirational imports. Six months later, Alou Diarra had joined Mario Jardel and Yildiray Basturk among Sam Allardyce’s least successful buys. He departed on loan after complaining West Ham promised him “the moon”.
Richard Jolly picks out the five best signings of the Premier League season. 5. Matija Nastasic (Manchester City, GBP;12 million) Deadline day seemed to double up as desperation day for Manchester City, whose frantic attempts to bolster their squad resulted in the signings of Richard Wright, Javi Garcia, Maicon and Scott Sinclair. Roberto Mancini spent much of the season lamenting City's summer business and implying it is the reason they did not retain their title. Yet there is one anomaly amid the mediocrity: Matija Nastasic has proved a superb addition, a centre-back whose composure belies his 20 years and who quickly established himself as Vincent Kompany's regular partner.
The 2012-13 Premier League campaign will likely be remembered for Manchester United's 20th title and Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. Tactically, however, it was notable for the enduring reliance on a back four, the decline of the second striker and the widespread adoption of 4-2-3-1. These were the themes of the season: The triumph of 4-2-3-1 Once, the default formation for English sides was 4-4-2. There was a time, too, when 4-2-3-1 seemed more of a Spanish system. Not now. While the two Manchester clubs' shape can be called 4-4-2 and Tottenham had a spell when Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor were paired in attack, the reality is that each of the top 10 teams in the table regularly play 4-2-3-1, as do the majority of the sides beneath them.
The climax to the Premier League season, if entertaining, was somewhat predictable. Arsenal kept their end of the bargain, although not in an entirely convincing manner, while Spurs were again left frustrated despite another late wonder strike from Gareth Bale. The fact goals would more likely be found outside of the matches involving the two North London rivals was also inevitable, though no one would have guessed the events that would unfold in Sir Alex Ferguson's final game in charge of United at the Hawthorns.
It was far from inevitable that Chelsea would triumph in the Europa League final against Benfica on Wednesday night -- but it felt inevitable that if they triumphed, it would be in a dramatic manner. From a Chelsea perspective, Branislav Ivanovic's superb late header brought back memories of Didier Drogba's last-gasp equaliser against Bayern last May. But from a Premier League point of view, there were other comparisons, for English clubs have made a habit of winning European competitions in unlikely fashion since the introduction of the Premier League.
Wednesday night saw Chelsea become the first team to win the Champions League and Europa League in succession since the change in format of Europe's elite club competition. In doing so they had their much maligned front man to thank, with Fernando Torres opening the scoring, replicating the composure he had shown just over a year previous to kill off the Blues' semi-final tie with Barcelona. The Spaniard showed strength and determination to hold off the challenge of Luisao before rounding keeper Artur to stroke the ball home into an empty net.
The Europa League has plenty of critics, but a decent way of defending Europe's secondary competition is to take a glance at the list of recent winners. After all, the entire point of the tournament is to provide a cup competition for sides that don't qualify for the Champions League. While many yearn for the days of three strong cup competitions -- the European Cup, the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup -- things have changed significantly in the past 15 years. The Champions League is now an entirely different beast and boasts much greater strength in depth.
After a weekend of speculation, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was sacked Monday night. A disappointing season was confirmed as trophyless at Wembley on Saturday with Ben Watson's late winner for Wigan in the FA Cup final (disregarding last August's largely unimportant triumph in the Community Shield). Cup glory might not have been sufficient to keep the Italian in the job, however, with their performances in the Premier League distinctly worse than last term. As WhoScored.com's statistics show, the team has regressed significantly, and Mancini paid the price.
Manchester City and Wigan Athletic may be red-hot favourites and complete outsiders respectively, but the FA Cup finalists have something in common. Both managerial Roberto's are keen tactical tinkerers, so there are several factors that could come into play: Last meeting It is scarcely a scoreline that stands out. City's 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on April 17, however, could have a considerable bearing on Saturday's game. The reason? Wigan unsettled the former champions with their approach.
Andre Villas-Boas was always likely to have a dig at his former employers before Wednesday night's 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Tottenham, his first return to Stamford Bridge since his sacking last year. Before the game, he was half-heartedly booed by Chelsea's supporters, in a "we don't like your comments, but we won the European Cup without you, so we don't care that much" manner, and received the world's least welcoming 'welcome' from captain John Terry. "We welcome back Andre Villas-Boas and his coaching team," Terry said in his programme notes before swiftly moving on.