Photo / Roll The Dice
It's not an argument much in favour now. For the first time in the Premier League's 18-year history, three of the top four teams are London clubs. New champions Chelsea finished a remarkable campaign on Sunday by clobbering a supine Wigan side 8-0, rounding off a season in which success has been achieved with brio and swaggering brinkmanship. A revelation under Carlo Ancelotti, the champions are a far cry from the brooding, tightly wound and often boring side that Jose Mourinho piloted to a pair of league trophies earlier this decade. Where that team's minimalist style drew criticism from rival fans that they weren't worthy champions, there's no doubt that the Blues earned their third Premier League crown in style, setting a goalscoring record in the process.
The north London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham sit third and fourth, yet supporter satisfaction differs wildly. Another season for the Gunners that began with much promise and panache has ended with nothing, the sole saving grace being that they once again managed to finish above Spurs — though, perhaps most galling of all, St Totteringham's Day fell on only the last day of the season. Up the other end of Seven Sisters Road, it's a different tale: having been robbed of a Champion's League birth four years ago by a dodgy lasagne, Spurs clinched the precious fourth Champion's League spot for the first time in their history, with a game to spare. Fans will hope the weekend's capitulation against Burnley isn't a bad omen.
A forgettable season on-field for West Ham, who began the year by scrapping with rivals Millwall in the cup and later battled the drop while being bought out and punting for a piece of Olympic history. They'll want to improve next season, and under a new manager, they may just do that — Gianfranco Zola, held responsible for the woeful form, has been sacked.
Fulham, however, offered a fairy tale for the ages, waltzing to a Europa Cup final place and slaying dragons the size of Juventus along the way. However they fare on Wednesday night, the real challenge may be next year, when they'll hope that European success doesn't precipitate league meltdown as it has in recent years for Ipswich and Middlesborough. Under Roy Hodgson, just voted manager of the season by the League Managers' Association, they should avoid that fate.
Outside the Premier League there was precious few moments of glory for London's teams. In the Championship, QPR shuffled through five managers and shlepped to mid-table mediocrity. Crystal Palace (who swapped managers with Rangers earlier in the year) began the season well yet administration and a ten-point deduction led to a relegation battle and a dramatic last-day escape from the drop. The club's financial situation remains precarious.
Near neighbours Millwall and Charlton find themselves in the League One playoffs, but the Lions could've and should've secured automatic promotion; psychologically, they might not be up for the tough fight for the final promotion place. Brentford trundled through a season of "mid table obscurity", in the words of one fan: they finished 9th, but in the unequal distribution curve of the League's final positions, they were some 18 points off the play-offs. Still, it's a good finish for a newly-promoted team. Leyton Orient flirted with a stadium move and also sacked their manager, but could finish no better than 17th, just a point above the relegation trapdoor. London's two representatives in League Two found different fortunes: Dagenham & Redbridge smuggled themselves into the play-offs at the last beat, while Barnet were close to dropping out of the Football League altogether.
London team of the season:
GK — Heureulho Gomes (Tottenham)
DF — Michael Dawson (Tottenham)
DF — Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
DF — Sol Campbell (Arsenal)
DF — Christian Dailly (Charlton)
MF — Darren Ambrose (Crystal Palace)
MF — Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
MF — Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
MF — Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
ST — Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
ST — Bobby Zamora (Fulham)
MANAGER: Roy Hodgson