A Look Back At Football In 2019
2019 has been an interesting year in the world of football, so we’re looking back at the highs and lows as we look forward to a busy Christmas period of Premier League football.
2018/19 EFL Cup Review
The EFL Cup or Carabao Cup, or just League Cup as us oldies like to call it, was already down to just four semi-finalists by the time 2019 came. Manchester City had beaten Leicester in the quarterfinals and must have been laughing their shin-pads off when they got drawn against Burton Albion in the semifinals.
But Pep Guardiola isn’t a manager that likes to take chances, and City’s 9-0 first-leg humiliation of their lower-league opposition was a bit uncalled for. City were more generous in the return leg, only scoring one as they eased through to the final 10-0 on aggregate.
The other semi-final was a much closer affair, as Tottenham took on Chelsea. It was Tottenham that took a 1-0 lead into the second leg, but it was Chelsea that won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to level the tie. That meant a penalty shootout and it was Chelsea that progressed to the final after winning it 4-2.
The 2019 EFL Cup Final was billed as a thriller, with a goal-fest expected. But that proved not to be the case as the game ended 0-0. Man City emerged victorious from the penalty shootout as Raheem Sterling held his nerve to convert the final penalty for a 4-3 win.
2018/19 Premier League Season Review
The second half of the 2018/19 Premier League Title was a two-horse war between Manchester City and Liverpool. Liverpool started 2019 with a seven-point lead over Manchester City but, after a mammoth battle all the way to the final matches of the season, Manchester City clinched back-to-back Premier League titles on the final day of the season with a win against Brighton.
City won with the second-highest points total ever of 98, one that only they had beaten when winning the previous season’s title. Liverpool finished just one point behind on 97 points, the third-ever highest total recorded by any Premier League team.
Chelsea and Tottenham claimed the other two Champions League spots, with Arsenal and Manchester United entered in the Europa League after finishing fifth and sixth. Wolves also qualified for the Europa League qualifying rounds after finishing seventh. Cardiff, Fulham, and Huddersfield were relegated.
2018/19 FA Cup Review
The third round of the FA Cup traditionally kicks-off in January and Liverpool and Leicester took shock exits from the competition at the first hurdle. Manchester United were in the middle of a hot spell under new manager Ole Gunner Solskaer when they beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in the fourth round, and Crystal Palace got the better of Tottenham in an FA Cup London derby. Manchester United then took out another London team away from home when beating Chelsea 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
But those wins did United no good as they fell victim to a Wolves in the quarterfinals, though Wolves also fell to underdogs Watford in their semifinal. That set up an FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Watford, though Watford couldn’t find any of the fighting spirit they had against Wolves as City ran riot in a 6-0 victory to complete the Premier League, FA Cup, and EFL Cup treble.
2018/19 Champions League Review
The four English teams that qualified for the 2018/19 Champions League all made it to the Knockout stages. Manchester City won their group, but Manchester United, Liverpool, and Tottenham all finished second.
All four teams also made it to the quarterfinals, where Tottenham surprisingly beat quadruple-chasing Manchester City to progress to the semifinals. Manchester United also exited at this stage as they went out 4-0 on aggregate to Barcelona.
Liverpool beat Porto 6-1 on aggregate in the quarterfinals, but they also looked sure to go out to Barcelona after losing the first leg of their semifinal 3-0. But Jurgen Klopp was having none of it and he motivated his team to a historic 4-0 win over Barcelona at Anfield to book a place in the final.
Tottenham also looked likely to exit at the semifinal stage after losing their home leg 1-0 to Ajax. They looked certainties to go out after going 2-0 down in the return leg but, when Lucas Moura completed a hat-trick in the 96th minute, Tottenham booked their place in the final.
We could only hope that the final lived up to the drama of the semis, but that was never the case as Liverpool took the lead in the 2nd minute and completed their victory with a second goal in the 87th minute.
2019/20 Premier League Season Changes
There were many new things to contemplate before the start of the 2019/20 Premier League season including the Nike Merlin Ball, that Nike tells us has enhanced ACC (all conditions control technology) and a bigger sweet spot.
Yellow and red cards for team officials were also introduced. But the biggest change was the dreaded VAR (video assisted referee). The biggest argument for introducing VAR was that it would reduce the controversy surrounding poor refereeing decisions – but it seems to have added more controversy than ever.
2019 FA Community Shield
As Man City had won both the previous season’s Premier League and FA Cup, it was Premier League runners up Liverpool that had the pleasure of taking Man City on in the traditional Premier League curtain-raiser, the FA Community Shield.
In what was a cagier game than many thought it would be, the game ended 1-1. Gabriel Jesus then scored the winner, as City lifted their second trophy at Wembley in succession following a penalty shootout.
The 2019/20 Premier League Season So Far
The bookies made City the 8/13 favourites to make it a hat-trick of Premier League titles, but we hope you followed our Betting Gods blog tip to back Liverpool each-way at 3/1. Jurgen Klopp’s men have made a stunning start to the season and surely won’t blow a bigger lead than the one they blew at the beginning of 2019 to lose last year’s title.
It’s a season that’s been tarnished by the slowness of VAR, but the thing that’s even crazier than that is the Premier League manager’s merry-go-round. A total of 10 Premier League managers left their positions in the 2018/19 season, whether they were sacked, resigned, or left by mutual consent (which means they were sacked with their dignity almost intact).
We’ve not quite reached the halfway point of the 2019/20 season as I write this, and we’ve already lost eight managers. Brighton sacked Chris Hughton and replaced him with Graham Potter, and that looks a good move with the Seagulls flying higher than expected.
Maurizzio Sarri went amicably to Juventus to be replaced by Frank Lampard. His young Blues have played some great football to watch and have a Champions League spot in their sights. Rafa Benitez also didn’t take up the offer of a new contract at Newcastle, as the allure of big bucks in China proved too tempting. His defence-minded replacement Steve Bruce wasn’t a unanimous choice for all Newcastle fans, but they’re happier now after he’s lead them to mid-table safety including victories over Manchester United and Tottenham.
Javi Gracia can count himself unlucky to be sacked by Watford after a poor start, especially after leading the Hornets to the previous season’s FA Cup Final. But his replacement Quique Sanchez Flores was also sacked less than three months later – which is a joke. Nigel Pearson has made an immediate effect with a win against Manchester United, but Watford probably deserve to be relegated anyway.
The shock sacking of the season is Mauricio Pochettino from Tottenham, just months after leading Spurs to the Champions League Final. But the bigger shock was that Tottenham replaced him with Jose “The Chosen One” Mourinho. To be fair, his reign has started well, and Pochettino will get another big job soon.
Unai Emery had the world at his feet after some big summer signings, but now all he’s got is the shredded bits of his contact after failing to formulate a team that could win matches. Freddie Ljunberg didn’t make much of an impression as interim manager, and it will be interesting to see if Arsenal favourite Mikel Arteta can shoot the Gunners to glory when he starts the Christmas period as the new head coach.
Marco Silva’s reign at Everton also bit the dust after a poor start to the season, but what an impact Duncan Ferguson made as Interim manager with his motivational press releases, ball boy hugging, and general enthusiasm. Sadly, he didn’t want the job, so Carlo Ancelotti takes charge in time for Christmas.
The Premier League’s 2019 European Challenge
There have been a few unexpected defeats for English teams in the Champions League and the Europa League in 2019, but all seven teams have qualified for the knockout stages of their respective competitions.
Man City go into Christmas as the Champions League favourites, but lack the European pedigree of closest rivals Barcelona and Liverpool. They also face Real Madrid in the round-of-16, a team who thrive in the biggest club competition of all.
Manchester United are the 6/1 favourites to win the Europa League with Arsenal at 9/1 and Wolves as big as 14/1. But it’s Ajax that look overpriced at around 8/1 after their shock exit from the Champions League.
2019/20 EFL Cup
We already know the 2019/20 EFL Cup semifinalists. Manchester City are odds on to win the trophy despite having to face Manchester United in the semifinal. Leicester also have a great chance of making the final at Wembley as they face Aston Villa in the other semifinal. City are 8/11 to win the trophy, Leicester 7/2, Manchester United 5/1, and Villa 14/1, so perhaps Manchester United offer a bit of value after their recent win over neighbours City.
Sharp Shooters of the 2019/20 Season
Blog followers can only pray that Jamie Vardy keeps his run of hot form going, as we’re sat on a tasty 20/1 betting slip about him being the Premier League top goalscorer for the season. Admittedly, we also recommended backing Mo Salah at a quarter of those odds, but he’s still in with a sniff of collecting the each-way part. But it’s Vardy that heads into Christmas six goals clear of his nearest rival.
Interesting Odds Heading Into 2020
Liverpool are a best-priced 2/13 to win the Premier League, so is it time to have a saver on Man City on 6/1 or Leicester at 60/1. I might regret saying no to that come May, but Liverpool have 10 points and a game in hand heading into the Christmas period.
Norwich, Watford, and Aston Villa are all odds-on to go down, but it’s hard to argue that they shouldn’t be. But it only takes a run of two or three wins to climb the table. But they look the weakest three teams and probably will be playing Championship football next season.
Jamie Vardy is down to 11/10 to finish as the top Premier League scorer, but double-figure prices about Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang could be worth an each-way saver with three places up for grabs. Mikel Arteta could motivate him back into top-form and he’s still scored 11 when Arsenal have been playing poorly.
It will be interesting to see how many more managers get sacked before the end of the season, but surely Watford can’t sack another manager. Daniel Farke has never seemed under pressure at Norwich, whilst it would be cruel if Aston Villa sacked Dean Smith after he did so well for them last season. Ralph Hassenhutl has drifted to 9/1 from odds-on at one point, but Southampton are now out of the relegation zone.
Ole Gunner Solskajer has probably done enough after beating Manchester City, which leaves Manuel Pellegrini as the odds-on favourite to be the next manager to leave. However, who would West Ham replace him with. That makes the 33/1 for no manager to be sacked a tempting proposition, but it’s probably a pipedream in this crazy world.
The Premier League Title may be Liverpool’s to lose, but there is also the battle for Champions League Football. That requires a top-four finish. Liverpool and Manchester City are certainties to book their spots, whilst it would take a brave man to take on Leicester at 2/9, but Chelsea could yet be vulnerable at 1/2.
Tottenham are 2/1, Manchester United 7/1, and Arsenal and Wolves 20/1. But how about a crazy Christmas bet on Sheffield United at 100/1 to finish in the top-four. Come on The Blades!