As with many other soccer websites, it’s retrospective time here at FourFiveTwo. The 2012-13 EPL season is over. Some, like SB Nation’s Kevin McCauley, are saying “Smell ya later” to the season. (Note: McCauley’s a Spurs fan). It wasn’t even unicorns and chocolate fountains for United fans, who got to celebrate a title victory, but then Sir Alex decided to quit while he was ahead, and the last few weeks of the United season turned into a wistful SAF retrospective where all United fans found the room a bit dusty.
There wasn’t the frenzied last day of action and suspense that there was last year, that’s for sure. At the top of the table, it played out the way many figured it would — those shirts celebrating Championship #20 for United that were prematurely printed last year are now marketable and relevant. Arsenal’s won fourth place yet again (and finished ahead of Spurs for 18 straight years). Chelsea ended up third, after a confusing season in which fans thought they’d win the league with Di Matteo as manager, saw him sacked, saw Benitez and Torres combining forces and assumed the worst, and yet, for all the 16th minute salutes and the Spanish waiter jokes and the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing, it turns out that Chelsea has Champions League talent on-board. Meanwhile, City proved the bitter sports adage that “second place is the first loser” — especially given City’s exalted new expectations — in both the Prem League race and the FA Cup. (And, now with Balotelli and Mancini both out, how are we possibly supposed to enjoy watching City?)
The bottom of the table wasn’t that much fun either. QPR and Reading had clear paths to relegation by the time the January transfer window rolled around — QPR tried to spend their way out of disaster, while Reading just tried to rely on grit, determination, and Pavel Pogrebnyak. Neither approach worked. Arguably, aside from the Arsenal vs. Spurs scrap for fourth, the league’s last bit of fun came the week before the season ended, when Wigan won the FA Cup and was then relegated within three days. Villa and Newcastle did their best to make relegation drama happen, but in the end, five teams avoided the drop zone by landing in the 39-42 point range, compared to Wigan’s 36.
Along the way, Swansea and Bradford reaching the Capital One Cup made for two delightful surprises in one, comically-coiffed players like Fellaini and David Luiz had breakout seasons, Berbatov became the one compelling reason to watch Fulham matches, Gareth Bale celebrated 21 league goals by making a heart with his hands, and Eden Hazard kicked a ball boy.
But none of those players made the FourFiveTwo Starting XI — which, for our purposes, consists of a goalie, four defenders, a midfielder, a false nine, and four forwards. (Forwards are more fun to talk about this year.) When it comes to entertainment value, and encompassing some of the glorious lowlights of the 12-13 EPL season, these are this year’s top, top lads.