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2015/16 Season Review

25 May 2018

The 2015/16 Premier League season will go down as one of the most unpredictable in the competition’s history, with Leicester City going from 5,000-1 outsiders to top-flight champions for the first time.

Nobody expected such an underdog story in the summer when Claudio Ranieri replaced Nigel Pearson as manager of a Leicester City team who had been on the brink of relegation before an incredible end-of-season run in 2014/15.

Ranieri's arrival and the additions of N’Golo Kante and Christian Fuchs began to shape what was to follow as they opened with a 4-2 victory over Sunderland.

There was more expectation at reigning champions Chelsea, who had brought in Radamel Falcao and Pedro to bolster their attack, while goalkeeper Petr Cech left Stamford Bridge for Arsenal and Raheem Sterling joined Kevin De Bruyne at Manchester City.

The perfect start for Man City begins to falter

Man City got off to a blistering start, winning 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion in the first of five straight victories to start the campaign.

Chelsea's fortunes were a stark contrast, as defeats by Man City, Crystal Palace and Everton left Jose Mourinho’s side hovering above the relegation zone in September.

Summer signings made a big impact as Anthony Martial blew Liverpool away with a solo goal in a 3-1 win on his Manchester United debut at Old Trafford and Dimitri Payet helped West Ham United to an opening-day win at Arsenal and similarly impressive away triumphs at Liverpool and Man City.

Manuel Pellegrini's Man City began to falter and a 4-1 defeat at White Hart Lane put Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham Hotspur into top-four contention at the end of September. Arsenal ended Leicester’s unbeaten start with a 5-2 victory at King Power Stadium on the same day.

Anthony Martial solo goal v Liverpool.jpg
Leicester remain strong at the top

But Leicester recovered, inspired by the form of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Vardy set a record of scoring in 11 successive PL matches in a 1-1 draw against the Red Devils.

A 2-1 victory over Chelsea, sealed by a superb effort from Mahrez, put the Foxes top after 16 matches and left the Blues in 16th. That result and home defeats by Southampton and AFC Bournemouth, as well as a 3-1 reverse to Liverpool, meant Mourinho was relieved of his duties.

Guus Hiddink came in as interim manager until the end of the season, leading to a steady improvement, but Chelsea were out of the title race as Leicester, Arsenal, Man City and Spurs moved clear of the rest.

Victories over Man City and Man Utd helped Arsenal to top spot at the turn of the year, despite a shock 4-0 defeat to Southampton on 26 December. Leicester suffered a 1-0 loss to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool that day but galvanised their title challenge by winning at Spurs, and after the 1-1 draw at bottom club Aston Villa, under Remi Garde's management following Tim Sherwood's departure, Ranieri's men would not relinquish top spot for the rest of the season.

They strengthened their grip on first when Vardy scored a thunderous volley in their 2-0 win over Liverpool before Mahrez inspired a 3-1 triumph at Man City.

Jamie Vardy volley v Liverpool.jpg
Chasing pack unable to prevent the Foxes

A stoppage-time defeat by Arsenal on 14 February was the last time they were to taste defeat, while Spurs capitalised with victory at Man City on the same day.

The emergence of Dele Alli was key to Spurs' rise. Signed as a teenager from Milton Keynes Dons in 2015, Alli’s goal of the season at Crystal Palace was part of a six-match winning streak for Spurs, before a midweek loss to West Ham as well as a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, allowed Leicester to build a five-point lead with nine matches left.

Arsenal were soon out of the running. An 18-year-old Marcus Rashford scored two goals against them in his top-flight debut as Man Utd won 3-2 at Old Trafford. Then they lost at home to a resurgent Swansea City side under Francesco Guidolin, who had replaced Garry Monk as head coach.

Ranieri's men only grew stronger in the home straight, and so did their defence. Six wins without conceding in seven matches, combined with draws for Spurs against Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion, left Leicester needing to win at Man Utd to clinch the title. They drew 1-1 but the next day the title was sealed as Spurs let a 2-0 lead slip to draw 2-2 at Chelsea.

Leicester’s trophy moment was an occasion to savour. Opera singer Andrea Bocelli gave a rendition of Nessun Dorma before Leicester beat Everton 3-1 and captain Wes Morgan lifted the Trophy at King Power Stadium.

Spurs went winless in their final four matches as Arsenal pipped them to second, while Manchester City secured UEFA Champions League football in Manuel Pellegrini’s final season as manager, with Pep Guardiola having agreed to take over in the summer.

Southampton finished strong to beat Man City and Spurs and claim a club-record sixth place, behind Man Utd. West Ham stuttered at the end of their final season at the Boleyn Ground despite a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Red Devils in their last match at the stadium. Liverpool finished eighth but a run to the UEFA Europa League final, where they lost to Sevilla, showed promise ahead of Klopp’s first full campaign in 2016/17.

Premier League loses ever-present Villa

Promoted Watford and AFC Bournemouth earned safety with their highest PL finishes, while Aston Villa were cut adrift and relegated from the Premier League for the first time in April.

In the run-in, the battle to avoid the final two relegation spots was between three teams. Norwich City went straight back down after five losses in their last six matches.

Sunderland turned to Sam Allardyce to lead them out of the bottom three, while Rafael Benitez arrived at Newcastle United to galvanise the team.

But despite finishing with a six-match unbeaten run, Newcastle were relegated as Sunderland, spearheaded by 15-goal striker Jermain Defoe, lost just twice after 2 February. They confirmed their status in Matchweek 37 winning 3-0 against Everton, for whom it was Roberto Martinez’s last match as manager.

But the season belonged to Leicester, with manager Ranieri and his players given a guard of honour as they finished the season with a draw at Chelsea, the Italian's former club and the previous champions.

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