The Most Memorable Premier League Moments of 2018
December 28, 2018
2019 is on the horizon and with it, we close the curtains on an unforgettable year of Premier League football. The English division possesses an acclaimed reputation in being the ‘greatest league in the world’, and it’s not hard to see why.
We are never far from drama and celebrations in English football and 2018 proved to be no different. Here are our top ten moments to look back on throughout the calendar year.
10. Daniel Levy Keeps His Wallet Shut Tight
In the modern day, transfer windows are one of the most exciting periods of the footballing season. Given the vast wealth of finances in the game, clubs have grown a habit of throwing money about for fun, with world record deals occurring nearly every year.
Inevitably, these deals and transfer fees are plastered over the back pages of papers and create news stories for outlets across the globe. Tottenham certainly made the news for their transfer activity in the summer of 2018, but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of multi-million-pound deals, like their fellow rivals, Spurs became the first Premier League team to not make a summer signing in the division’s 26-year history.
Daniel Levy has gathered a reputation for his shrewdness in business down the years, but even by his standards, this was quite special. A lot of the club’s budget is being spent on their new stadium (their delay almost made this list too!), but there is clearly a conflict between performances on the field and the backing of a special manager in the windows. This is a factor that could potentially push Mauricio Pochettino to one day leave the club and with a certain job opportunity becoming available in Manchester, Levy may live to regret this decision. Let’s hope he gifted his children a little more generously this Christmas.
9. No More Tuesday Nights Away at Stoke
There are some famous sayings within English football, with ‘can he do it on a Tuesday night away at Stoke’ being one of the most popular phrases amongst fans and pundits. In the past, the Britannia Stadium has been associated with being one of the toughest away trips in the country. During the Tony Pulis era, Stoke accumulated a reputation for being an aggressive side, specialising in their rigid defending and finding their goals through set-pieces. No matter the ground or level of football, if a long throw-in occurs in English football, the name Rory Delap will be sparked up in conversation.
The Pulis era was a successful period for the club, but this came to an end in 2013. Mark Hughes stepped in and despite three consecutive ninth placed finishes, he would leave the club on the brink of relegation in 2018. Paul Lambert was tasked with the job of survival, but the Potters’ ten-year reign in the Premier League would come to an end.
Comically, a large selection of the division’s supporters would celebrate Stoke’s fate. Now mid-table in the Championship, who knows when we will see the Staffordshire club back amongst the top-flight division. For now though, we won’t be harshly judging any new, big money Premier League signings at the Britannia anytime soon.
8. United Deny City a Perfect Homecoming
The red side of Manchester enjoyed no footballing success over the calendar year. There were no trophies or entertaining football on the field to compensate watching their noisy neighbours run away with the title. Although it was inevitable that the Premier League trophy would end up at the Etihad, the Red Devils can boast about delaying their rival’s celebrations.
By the 7th of April, City were in touching distance of claiming their third ever Premier League trophy. They needed just three points to cement their status of champions and their next fixture was United at home. The setting was perfect. Bragging rights were on the line. History could have been made. But Jose Mourinho’s men spoiled the day.
Leading the game 2-0 at half-time, City virtually had on hand on the trophy, to which they dominated the opening 45 minutes with ease and two goals simply flattered United. However, the Red Devils were not to go down easy. A quick-fire double from Paul Pogba silenced his critics and drew United back level. Then, on the 69th minute, Chris Smalling of all players grabbed the winner and it was red faces and red flares that were seen on the field, not the sky-blue ribbons that so many City fans had turned out for.
7. Huddersfield Survive
It isn’t only the top end of the league table that makes so many sports fans become perplexed with English football. It’s the relegation survival stories too. Down the years, various clubs have embarked upon fairy-tale esque stories of avoiding the ‘dreaded drop’. The latest team to add their name to this historic list was David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town, who defied all the odds with survival last season.
Despite being tipped to go straight back down to the Championship, Wagner’s Huddersfield finished the season in 16th place, surviving relegation with just 37 points. At the heart of their success was Christopher Schindler and Aaron Mooy, who were frequent figures in their side’s historic year. It was the club’s first ever Premier League campaign and to stay in the division with such a limited amount of financial resources is a testament to their players and Wagner’s ability.
Regardless of what the future holds for the Terriers, last year was a season that will remain in the West Yorkshire club’s history books forever.
6. Wayne Rooney Departs For D.C.
Every year, a Premier League legend seems to depart from the division. In 2018, Wayne Rooney left England for D.C. United, after sixteen combined years at Everton and United. Moving to the MLS has become a popular destination for players, particularly those who have slightly declined in their game.
Having come through the ranks of Everton as a teenager, Rooney first made his PL debut at the age of just sixteen. His ability was clear for all to see and in 2004, he swapped Merseyside for Manchester in a £25.6m deal. Arriving as a promising star, there were high expectations for the young prodigy, but not many would have predicted the legacy that Rooney was set to create at Old Trafford. Five titles, three European honours and 253 goals later, the Englishman became the club’s record goal-scorer and one of the most decorated players in United’s history.
Before leaving the division for good, there was still time for the striker to grace the turf of Goodison Park once more. Rooney re-joined Everton in 2017 and experienced a successful season under Sam Allardyce, frequently captaining the side and scoring ten league goals in the process. His departure to America was a loss to the league, who waved goodbye to one of the most gifted players to ever play in the division.
5. Burnley’s Europa League Dream
Burnley competing in the Europa League is a proposition that some fans would have only envisioned on a gaming console. Just five years ago, they were being tipped to fall to the depths of League One. And yet, Sean Dyche has managed to guide the Lancashire club through the ranks and in the summer of 2018, onto the European stage.
Their 7th place finish in the Premier League was, perhaps, overshadowed by City’s dominant success during the 17/18 season, but it was a year that will live long in the memory of every single Claret. They entered the Europa League qualifiers for the first time in 51 years. After eliminating Aberdeen and Instanbul Basaksehir, it was just Olympiacos who stood in the way of Burnley’s unlikely dream. However, their 3-1 defeat in the first leg was too large of a deficit to recover from and Dyche’s hard-working side fell at the final hurdle.
Despite the failure to qualify for the competition, the journey itself is worthy enough of making any list that celebrates this year’s footballing achievements. We are sure that many Clarets’ fans have taken their club to the realms of Europe on FIFA or PES, but Dyche almost made it a reality. Somehow, he didn’t even get manager of the year.
4. Jose Mourinho Sacked
The sacking of managers has become an expected part of the Premier League season. Take this into consideration – Pochettino is currently the league’s 3rd longest serving manager and he hasn’t even been at Tottenham for five years. Longevity seems to be a thing of the past in the modern day and no manager is guaranteed safety, particularly when considering the power that players currently possess at clubs.
One of the latest casualties of the latter was Jose Mourinho, who was sacked by United in December after a poor start to the season. The Red Devils became the first major club that the Portuguese manager had never won a title with and his style of football was not welcomed by the Old Trafford faithful. After failing to implant an attacking system into a squad that is blessed with so much ability, Ed Woodward finally cut ties with the veteran coach.
Although he is no stranger to dismissals, Mourinho will look back on his time in Manchester full of regret. Many tipped the legend to be the club’s saviour and take them back to the glory days, but this script had no happy endings. Except for a large selection of the United fan-base, who celebrated his sacking with joy.
3. Arsene Wenger Leaving Arsenal
On the note of managerial departures, what bigger moment to lead onto than Arsene Wenger leaving Arsenal after 22 years at the club. The Frenchman arrived in North London back in 1996 and created a legacy of long-term stability with the Gunners, winning three titles along the way. At the top of his achievements is certainly the ‘Invincibles’ season, where his 03/04 side made history in remaining undefeated throughout the entirety of the Premier League campaign.
The early 21st century is an iconic era for the red side of North London, where the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Sol Campbell were all prominent figures during Wenger’s most successful period with the club. Admittedly, his tenure became a little tarnished during the latter stages of his career, as Arsenal struggled to match the financial powers of the likes of Chelsea and the two Manchester sides.
After failing to reach the Champions League from 2016-2018, it was announced that the French legend would leave the club ahead of the 18/19 season. His longevity and success will not be forgotten. And neither will his long coats or the Arsenal Fan TV rants.
2. City Centurions
Every year, the league witnesses a certain champion. Some win it on the final day of the season. Some win it early. And some create a legacy for the history books. Pep Guardiola’s 17/18 side are certainly part of the latter.
Now recognised as the ‘centurions’, the Sky Blues experienced incredible success in the league that is almost unprecedented in the competition’s history. Guardiola established a free-flowing system, with the likes of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne at the forefront of City’s success. Their attacking prowess and movement was simply too much for opponents to handle, with Guardiola tasting just two league defeats all season.
After a record 32 wins, City cemented their ‘centurions’ status on the final day of the season with a 1-0 victory away at Southampton. It was a period of domination that had never been seen in a singular season before, with their gap over 2nd placed United being an all-time record (19 points).
1. Football Comes Together Over Helicopter Crash at Leicester
There are rivalries and oppositions in football, but every so often, fans unify together for events bigger than the game itself. On the 27th of October, the world was shook following the reporting of the Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s death, after his helicopter crashed when leaving the King Power Stadium.
The news spread and the condolences from the footballing community poured in from across the globe. Clubs participated in one-minute silences up and down the country in honour of a humble man, who had been part of Leicester City’s history for seven years. During this time, the Foxes quickly welcomed the Thai man into their pack, as he set out an optimistic vision and was an integral figure behind guiding the club to their first ever Premier League trophy. Srivaddhanaprabha witnessed his beloved club defy all the odds and claim the title in 2016.
Such a tragedy, the owner’s death hit the club hard, with fans and players paying credit to his leadership during his time in charge. It did, however, highlight the power and collectively that football brings to the world, with fans from all shirt colours offering their help and support in what was such a difficult time.
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As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.