Van Persie & Di Matteo shine, McLeish right to go & Kean must follow:'s club-by-club Premier League season review

By Jay Jaffa

Robin van Persie's heroics helped keep Arsenal ahead of north London rivals Tottenham whilst Roberto Di Matteo rescued Chelsea from a terrible start under the not-so-special Andre Villas-Boas.

At the other end of the table, forgettable campaigns for Aston Villa, Blackburn and Bolton will lead to a summer of change.

With the Premier League season wrapped up, runs the rule over the 20 teams that made 2011-12 an unforgettable year, starting with the first five alphabetically...


Season Overview: It's been one of the most rollercoaster years in Arsene Wenger's 16 seasons as manager and, despite their worst Premier League start of all time, the Gunners pulled through, finishing one position and two points better off than last season. There were humbling moments - the humiliating 8-2 loss at Old Trafford - but they will be tempered by the turning point in the campaign – the 5-2 win over north London rivals Tottenham. A small minority may still call for a managerial change, and seven years without a trophy is too long for Arsenal, but, given the drastic summer changes that saw captain Cesc Fabregas and talisman Samir Nasri depart, some perspective would be welcome. 7/10

Flop of the Year: Gervinho – a promising double against Koln in pre-season was swiftly followed by a red card at Newcastle on his Premier League debut. He showed flashes of promise but, as the season wore on, Wenger lost faith in the Ivorian, condemning him to the bench in the second half of the campaign.

Star of the Year: Robin van Persie. Who else? The Dutchman ook on the captaincy and banged in a league-high 30 goals. His stunning volley against Everton was one of the strikes of the season. Where would Arsenal have finished without him? It doesn't bear thinking about. Honourable mentions go to Laurent Koscielny, who eclipsed Thomas Vermaelen at the back, and Alex Song, an unexpected creative service for Van Persie.

Potential Signings: Yann M'Vila, Olivier Giroud


Season Overview: Villa survived almost by default, winning just two of their final 19 games of the season and unsurprisingly Alex McLeish was relieved of his duties by chairman Randy Lerner. Big 'Eck was unlucky in the sense that he lost Darren Bent to injury for half of the season as well as captain Stiliyan Petrov to serious illness. Ashley Young and Stewart Downing were sold for sizeable fees but that money was not ploughed back into the team and subsequently Villa ended in 16th – a far cry from their 9th-placed finish last year. A dire season. 3/10

Flop of the Year: Charles N'Zogbia – one of just three summer signings and the marquee replacement for Young at £9.5 million, the Frenchman grossly underwhelmed. A paltry return of just two goals from his 25 starts highlights a poor year for such a capable attacker.

Star of the Year: Shay Given – another new arrival justified his reputation with a solid campaign between the sticks. The Irishman stepped into Brad Friedel's shoes and provided a rare dose of calm in the Aston Villa penalty area. An honourable mention must go to Petrov, who had been enjoying another impressive year at Villa Park before leukaemia ended his season.

Potential Signings: Pavel Pogrebnyak, Karl Henry


Season Overview: This was a year in which a chicken draped in a Rovers flag best summed up the demise of one of the Premier League's few past champions. An amalgamation of blame has been directed at beleaguered manager Steve Kean and owners Venky's in a year that begin with just one win in 13 games. Though results did pick up towards the end of the season, Blackburn made their dash for the line too soon. Numerous fan protests against the Scot's leadership failed to alert the Indian-based poultry tycoons of the impending danger and it ultimately led to relegation to the Championship. 2/10

Flop of the Year: Paul Robinson – for a goalkeeper with 41 England caps and over 250 Premier League appearances to his name, Blackburn may feel a little short-changed by their No.1's season. The stopper (and I use that term lightly) finished with the worst save-to-shot ratio in the divison.

Star of the Year: Yakubu – signed from Everton in the summer, the powerful Nigerian striker returned an impressive haul of 15 goals. It wasn't enough to save Blackburn from the drop but he proved to be Kean's best bit of business, also pioneering the first-ever double-foot overhead kick. Honourable mention should go to Junior Hoilett, Yakubu's partner in crime, who had a stellar campaign.

Potential Signings: Ignacio Fideleff


Season Overview: Bolton's 10-year run in the Premier League came to an end as they were relegated on the final day of the season. Despite the overriding sadness that fans will feel, Owen Coyle's side deserve credit for battling their way through a tremendous amount of adversity. First, Lee Chung-Yong suffered a serious knee injury restricting him to just two appearances, whilst Stuart Holden was sidelined with a recurrence of a cruciate ligament injury, ruling him out for the entire campaign. As if that wasn't enough misfortune for one year, Fabrice Muamba's cardiac arrest brought football into perspective. As the midfielder made a gradual recovery, it looked as though Bolton would too, but cruelly, their fate was sealed at Stoke City. 3/10

Flop of the Year: Zat Knight – as Gary Cahill departed, attention turned to the giant centre-back. However, when leadership was required, Knight often hid and was a key reason why Bolton shipped a whopping 77 goals.

Star of the Year: Mark Davies – played almost all of Bolton's fixtures and netted four times in an impressive year in the centre of midfield. His close control and incisive dribbling became one of the all-too-rare creative outlets for Coyle. Honourable mention for Adam Bogdan who overcame a disastrous debut against Chelsea to string together a number of point-winning performances for the Trotters.

Potential Signings: Nobody linked yet


Season Overview: A real mixed bag for the Stamford Bridge outfit as Roman Abramovich's initial plan of revolutionising Chelsea under Jose Mourinho prototype Andre Villas-Boas backfired, leading to Roberto Di Matteo's instalment as caretaker manager. The ex-Blues midfielder drew a fractious squad together, pushing the side back into top-four contention, winning the FA Cup and taking them all the way to the Champions League final. It seems madness that Di Matteo may not be offered the permanent job, but, regardless, he will be lauded for the work he did to amend Villas-Boas' naivety. 7/10

Flop of the Year: Florent Malouda – started just nine league games in a year that saw him take a back seat in proceedings at Stamford Bridge as his Chelsea career wound down. A solitary goal shouldn't be enough to convince the club to keep him but, oddly, it was deemed sufficient to see him make the France squad for Euro 2012.

Star of the Year: Juan Mata – they say that most foreign signings require a bedding-in period of six months but Mata took to the pace of the Premier League as well as any recent import. Even in the darker Villas-Boas days, the Spaniard displayed the ingenuity that saw him notch 23 assists and 12 goals in all competitions. Honourable mention must go to Ramires for his dynamic and often-telling contribution in midfield. For THAT goal against Barcelona, take a bow.

Potential Signings: Fernando Llorente, Edinson Cavani

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