So, another Premier League campaign is in the books. Manchester City are the champions, while several teams are grateful to still be in the country's top flight after a very open and unpredictable battle for survival.
It's not the easiest thing in the world to try and gauge tangible success with the feeling of punching way, way above one's weight - but we're going to try.
In this week's slightly-belated Roundtable to fit in with the big final day of the season, we've asked the Eurosport team to put forth who they think achieved the most in 2013/14, considering what their expectations and capabilities were.
As always, add on your own suggestions and explanations in the comments section below the Roundtable Verdict.
It's tempting to overthink this. What about Everton's improvement under Roberto Martinez? What about Southampton and their clutch of England stars? What about Crystal Palace's remarkable feats under Tony Pulis? But let's settle down - the answer here is obvious. Think back to August, when Luis Suarez was trying to engineer a transfer to Arsenal, Daniel Sturridge was a selfish underachiever and Jordan Henderson was simply a punchline. Few imagined them in the top four; that they have come within Steven Gerrard's stud-length of winning the title is nothing short of extraordinary.
Tom Adams (Twitter: @tomEurosport) - Crystal Palace
Liverpool had a brilliant campaign under Brendan Rodgers – constructing a thrilling title bid which no one saw coming - but the real recovery of the season came at the club which put an end to the Reds’ Premier League aspirations. In fact, that crazy 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park was Palace’s season in microcosm: an awful start followed by a borderline unbelievable response. It is important to remember that having started the season under the control of the wacky and flawed Ian Holloway, Palace lost nine of their first 10 Premier League games and on November 2 had a paltry two points. But the appointment of Tony Pulis was a masterstroke as he extracted the best out of players such as Mile Jedinak and Joel Ward, as well as achieving the notable feat of making Marouane Chamakh look like a striker. A 1-0 home win over Chelsea in March was the highlight of their season and it sparked a run of five successive wins – something Manchester United failed to achieve. Finishing top of the bottom half of the table is simply extraordinary given the start they made.
Mark Hughes was tasked with the impossible: get Stoke playing attractive football without spending a fortune. The drop to the Championship beckoned. And yet, while tika-taka hasn’t exploded onto the scene at the Britannia, Hughes has added fluidity and creativity to their habitual hostility and time-wasting to secure a remarkable top-10 finish. Crucially, teams still fear the Potters – particularly when Charlie Adam is deployed as midfield general – but they now have the ability to score from open play. They boast wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, and were unfortunate in the thrilling 5-3 defeat to Liverpool, so the decision to sack Tony Pulis has – somewhat bizarrely – been vindicated.
Liam Happe (Twitter: @liamhappe) - Manchester City
Upon reading my pick in the header above, most will presume this will be some kind of pragmatic 'well they finished top so they're the biggest success' explanation. You'd be half-right. But what compels me to really push their second Premier League title in three years as THE big deal of the campaign is how Manuel Pellegrini played the 38-game campaign to perfection, unlike Arsene Wenger (peaked too soon), Jose Mourinho (put down his own team's chances in mind games attempt and only mugged himself off) or Brendan Rodgers (imagine if Liverpool hadn't performed to ordinarily just before their big surge to the top?). This bit of trivia will punctuate my point - the very first Eurosport Roundtable asked "Who would win the league: Liverpool or Chelsea?" - that was but a month ago. And remember all the criticism when this 'buying their success' side stumbled away from home early on? Unlike many other teams this season, there was nothing but a positive reaction. Having cash isn't the be-all and end-all. In fact, in the wrong hands a blank chequebook is a curse.
Marcus Foley (Twitter: @mmjfoley) - Crystal Palace
It is quite something to think that Steve Parish had reservations about even employing Tony Pulis as Crystal Palace manager. However, Parish did not have the luxury of hindsight when he elected to appoint Pulis on November 23 with the club looking relegation certainties and, to many observers, it looked a risky decision. Pulis’s tactical acumen, however, has seen Palace canter to safety – but not only that, they have done in style and admonished the tired cliché that Pulis is long ball merchant. Not only did Pulis completely rehabilitate Palace’s season, he has rehabilitated his own reputation. For that very reason, Palace are without doubt the team of the season.
Expected to go straight back down after a monumental overachievement in promotion, Hull ultimately stayed up fairly comfortably and have reached the FA Cup final, which will guarantee European football next season. They've been pretty entertaining too, in a quaint, old-school way, and have managed all this on a relatively small budget and under the shadow of open fan revolt regarding a proposed name change. The fundamental difference between Assam Allam and Cardiff owner Vincent Tan is that, while eccentric, Allam didn't meddle with matters on the pitch. Shades of the Al-Fayed about him...
Toby Keel (Transcends the entire concept of Twitter) - Crystal Palace
I'd agree with everything Tom says above about Palace's resurrection this season. But I'd argue that Tony Pulis and Palace's achievement is far greater than just turning things around this season alone. The Eagles have been one of English football's classic yo-yo clubs in the 20 years or so since the creation of the Premier League: they were one of the founder members, yet have never survived a full season in the top flight since it was rebranded from the old First Division. Pulis has not only broken that cycle, he's effectively done it with one hand behind his back – i.e. by taking over someone else's squad at a club already in dire straits at the bottom of the table. On top of that, he's also refreshed his own reputation for dull, pragmatic football by turning Palace into not just one of the gutsiest teams in the league, but a genuinely exciting counter-attacking unit. The fact that they have played Kingmakers this season - by losing only to City out of the three title-contending sides in the final few weeks of the season - is the icing on their red and blue cake.
Crystal Palace - 3 votes
Liverpool - 1
Manchester City - 1
Stoke City - 1
Hull City - 1
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