2015/16 Premier League – Season in Review

16 May 2016

Dilly Ding Dilly Dong!’

The season of the underdog. The world watched on as surely the greatest fairy tale in modern football took shape over the course of nine months. Week after week, win after win Leicester City defied the odds, pundits, fans and even their own beliefs. Everyone waited for a slump in form, for the wheels to come off, but it never happened. Claudio Ranieri’s foxes trotted to the title in style, wrapping it up with two games to spare, in another unforgettable season of the English Premier League.

As the first round of matches commenced in August, the League welcomed back championship runners-up Watford and play-off winners Norwich City, as well as championship winners and Premier League new boys Bournemouth. The opening week saw big wins for Manchester City and Leicester, but Arsenal slumped to a 2-0 defeat at home to West Ham. In the coming week, City thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at home to emerge as early title favourites, the result at the Etihad a sign of things to come for the Champions. The Sky Blues ended the month with a four point lead at the top, without conceding a goal. Crystal Palace’s positive start saw them in 2nd. Chelsea were 13th.


England’s financial power was on display again this year, and as the summer transfer window shut at the end of August, the clubs broke the bank to lure some of Europe’s finest. Manchester City were hardly resting on their laurels after their early lead, and grabbed headlines with the £54 million deal for Bundesliga player of the year and Chelsea reject Kevin de Bruyne, as well as the hugely controversial £49 million acquisition of rival Liverpool FC’s Raheem Sterling. Neighbours United similarly splashed the cash on young wingers Memphis Depay (£25 million) and Anthony Martial (£36 million). All in all, the shopping frenzy of the clubs set them back close to £870 million.


The season resumed mid-September after the first international break. Manchester United hosted nemesis Liverpool, and made light work of them with a 3-1 win, Martial coming off the bench to score a debut goal. Everton piled more misery on Chelsea with a 3-1 win at Goodison. Jose Mourinho was under immense pressure as he looked for answers with his team’s title defence in tatters. As the month ended, City’s charge at the top came to an abrupt halt with successive defeats against West Ham and Tottenham, the former recording another impressive away win and in 3rd place. United led the table thanks to more vital goals from Player of the Month Martial.

City regained steam at the start of October, recording big wins courtesy of hat-tricks from Sergio Agüero (five goals against Newcastle) and Sterling. United were battered 3-0 away to Arsenal. The same weekend saw the first managerial casualties of the season, Dick Adovcaat’s resignation and Brendan Rodgers’ sacking heading into another international break. Aston Villa’s Tim Sherwood followed suit soon after. The English Premier League welcomed Jürgen Klopp, who signed a 3-year contract at Anfield. Later that month, he recorded his first Premier League win at Stamford Bridge as Liverpool came from behind to beat Chelsea 3-1. The Blues were in serious trouble, and by the end of November lay in 14th in the standings. Leicester City racked up impressive wins, and heading into December trailed leaders Manchester City only on goal difference.

While the festive period in other European leagues means a break for players, there is no such hiatus in England, with each club featuring in six games before the New Year. City slumped to defeat away to Stoke, and Leicester seized the chance with a clinical 3-0 win over Swansea. Riyad Mahrez, one of the main men behind the Foxes’ surprise title tilt, bagging a hat-trick. The following week, Mahrez was on target once again, this time against struggling Chelsea. It was a case of a staggering role-reversal, as Leicester, two points clear at the top and twenty points adrift of Chelsea, proved to be the final straw for Jose Mourinho. He was sacked for a second time by Chelsea soon after full-time, leaving the Champions in 16th, one point above the relegation places. Arsenal beat City 2-1 at home, and despite being thrashed by Southampton in the next game, capitalised on Leicester’s 1-0 defeat against Liverpool to end 2015 on top of the table. Tottenham, who suffered just two defeats in the whole first half of the season, were in 4th. Aston Villa were in deep trouble and sat rock bottom with just one win.

Heading into 2016, no one could really explain how and when Leicester got where they were. Claudio Ranieri encouraged cautious optimism, but refused to indulge in talk of a title challenge, maintaining that he was satisfied that the midlands club achieved their objective of safety. Midway through the month, Liverpool met Arsenal at Anfield, and played out a high octane 3-3 draw, the home side rescuing a point thanks to Joe Allen’s stoppage-time goal. That wasn’t the only six-goal thriller of the week. Manchester United played out the same scoreline against struggling Newcastle in 19th place. The week after, the Red Devils did the double on Liverpool for the second season running despite a sub-par performance. Arsenal were held at Stoke and beaten at home by Chelsea as the lead changed hands at the end of the month. They were leapfrogged by City in the process.


A 2-0 win over Liverpool thanks to a stunning Jamie Vardy volley and a 3-1 success at Manchester City made it harder and harder for Ranieri to evade talk of the title race. Tottenham were on a run of six straight wins, including a win at Manchester City. With Manchester United’s 3-2 win against Arsenal at Old Trafford, Spurs leapfrogged both City and Arsenal into 2nd place at the end of February. Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino was awarded Manager of the Month. West Ham, led by the prolific Dimitri Payet were in 5th, ahead of Manchester United. At the start of March, they ended Spurs’ run with a 1-0 home win. Newcastle meanwhile, finally parted ways with ex-England boss Steve McClaren. A sorry return of 24 points from 28 games was enough for Magpies to show him the door. Remi Garde followed suit five days later, after barely five months in charge. The Villans looked dead and buried come April.


They were all but doomed when they were soundly beaten 4-0 by Chelsea at home. Pato came off the bench to score on his debut as the Blues continued a 15-game unbeaten run. Two weeks on, their fate was sealed, as the Premier league ever-presents slid to defeat at Old Trafford. At the other end of the table, Leicester were relentless, grinding out win after win. They had four wins and clean sheets on the bounce when they faced West Ham looking to sustain a push for European places. Arsenal and City blew hot and cold, which meant that Tottenham remained the only challengers to Leicester, trailing by seven points with five games left. Leicester rescued a point in a dramatic clash at the King Power, in which Jamie Vardy was sent off after scoring, and West Ham thought they had all three points with two goals in the last ten minutes. A controversial penalty was awarded to the champions-elect in the 95th minute, and coolly converted by Leo Ulloa. Spurs later beat Stoke to trim the gap at the top to five points.


Many wondered how Leicester would react in the light of top scorer Jamie Vardy’s absence and their reduced lead. The answer was, simply emphatic. The foxes got into top gear and dispatched Swansea 4-0 at home to prove their mettle. It was Tottenham who failed to cope, slipping up at home to West Brom despite taking the lead. The writing was on the wall, and Leicester simply had to equal or better Tottenham’s result in the coming week to be crowned champions. Heading to 13-time Premier League champions Manchester United’s home, Leicester’s celebrations had to be put on hold as they drew 1-1. Spurs later played at Chelsea, and in a fiery clash with many scuffles, Tottenham blew a 2-0 halftime lead as Eden Hazard’s brilliant late equaliser meant Leicester were champions at last. Fairy tale no more, their dream was now a reality.




As praise poured in from the sports fraternity all over the world, the focus of the fans now shifted from the title race to the battles for survival and Top 4 places. With a month to go, the relegation dogfight came down to Sunderland, Norwich and Newcastle, all separated by six points. Norwich hosted Sunderland with six games to go, and Sam Allardyce’s Black Cats rose to the occasion, winning handsomely. It ended 3-0 that afternoon for both Tyneside clubs, neighbours Newcastle winning by the same score against Swansea. Norwich didn’t play again till the end of the month, a time in which Newcastle and Sunderland picked up vital points, while they lost successive games to Arsenal and Manchester United. Sunderland meanwhile beat Chelsea 3-2 from a goal down in a great show of character. Newcastle dropped points at Villla, and with Sunderland one point clear and with one game in hand, were all but destined for the drop. On the penultimate weekend, their fate was sealed along with Norwich’s as Sunderland won 3-0 against Everton. It was also the end for Everton boss Roberto Martinez after three seasons, two of which ended in 11th place finishes.


As for the race for Champions League football, it was another season of title disappointment for Arsenal and Arsène Wenger. With a month to go, they and City were favourites to grab the two remaining spots, United being the only realistic challenger. City had meanwhile progressed to their first Champions League semi-final, and their minds were clearly on the tie as they slumped to defeat against Southampton. United won later to cut the gap on 4th to four points, with a game in hand. On the penultimate weekend, City played Arsenal and drew, meaning United would qualify if they managed to win their two games. They headed to West Ham in the last game at 112-year-old Boleyn Ground. On an emotional night, United conceded twice in the last ten minutes to give up the game, as well as their best chance for qualification. On the last day of the season, City drew 1-1 at Swansea to secure the final Champions League spot, as Manchester United’s game against Bournemouth was called off due to a bomb scare. Tottenham failed to win any of their last four games as they capitulated to a 5-1 drubbing against relegated Newcastle who ended the game with ten men. Arsenal won 4-0 on the last day to overtake their neighbours, and despite trailing to them for most of the season finished higher yet again.

Leicester swept up the end of season awards. They had four players in the PFA team of the year, including Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez (17 goals and 11 assists) and Golden Boot runner-up Jamie Vardy (24 goals). Ranieri was deservedly named LMA Manager of the Year for leading the 5000/1 outsiders to title glory. As the celebrations rolled on in Leicester, the season will forever live in the memory of football fans in England and around the world.