21 May 2021

In pictures: The story of a Premier League campaign like no other

21 May 2021

Manchester City reclaimed the title from Liverpool, while Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham were relegated in a Premier League season played almost entirely behind closed doors.

Here, the PA news agency picks out some of the standout images from an unprecedented top-flight campaign ahead of its conclusion on Sunday.

Back with a bang

Promoted Leeds enjoyed a fine first season back in the Premier League following 16 years away, securing a top-half finish. Marcelo Bielsa’s men began the campaign with an entertaining 4-3 defeat at defending champions Liverpool. The top-flight season kicked off on September 12 following the extension of the previous campaign, with games initially continuing behind closed doors due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions (PA Archive)

Fox in the box

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy is all smiles as he clutches the match ball after hitting a hat-trick at Manchester City. The Foxes recorded a statement 5-2 victory at the Etihad Stadium in late September. Vardy, last season's Premier League golden boot winner, was far less prolific this term, particularly post Christmas. However, the 34-year-old former Stocksbridge Park Steels player remained a key man for Brendan Rodgers' side and ended the campaign with an FA Cup winner's medal (PA Archive)

Kane is able

Harry Kane celebrates one of two goals in Tottenham's stunning 6-1 win at Manchester United in early October. The England captain enjoyed another stellar season in front of goal and goes into the final weekend of the campaign in contention for the golden boot. However, Sunday's visit to Leicester could be his final appearance in a Spurs shirt. The 27-year-old's future in north London is under the spotlight, with reports suggesting he wishes to leave the club (PA Archive)

Ollie, Ollie, Ollie

Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins celebrates completing his hat-trick during a remarkable 7-2 demolition of defending champions Liverpool in October. The astonishing scoreline was the initial dent in a title defence which failed to materialise and was the first time the stunned Reds had conceded seven goals in Premier League history. Goals from Ross Barkley and John McGinn, plus a Jack Grealish brace, completed the scoring as Dean Smith’s hosts ran wild (PA Archive)

Post-match play fight

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, left, shares a joke with team-mate Gabriel Magalhaes following a 1-0 victory over Manchester United. Despite winning at Old Trafford at the start of November, the Gunners had a season to forget. Having signed a new contract last summer, Aubameyang was unable to consistently replicate the red-hot form shown in 2019-20, with his struggles epitomising the club's (PA Archive)

Spot of bother

Fulham forward Ademola Lookman covers his face in disbelief after dramatically fluffing a Panenka-style penalty. The poorly-executed spot-kick was the final action of a 1-0 defeat at West Ham in November. Scott Parker's Cottagers endured a disappointing season following promotion, with their relegation back to the Sky Bet Championship confirmed with three games remaining (PA Archive)

Controversy never too VAR away

Referee Mike Dean disallows a goal scored by Aymeric Laporte during Manchester City's 2-0 loss at Tottenham in November having consulted a pitchside monitor. VAR remained a hot topic throughout the season, often adding to controversy rather than eradicating it (PA Wire)

Ward are you doing?

Crystal Palace defender Joel Ward goes through an unusual warm-up routine ahead of his side's 5-1 win at West Brom in December. Ward did not make it off the bench at The Hawthorns that day but went on to surpass 200 Premier League appearances during the season. Only Wilfried Zaha has made more outings in the competition for the Eagles (PA Wire)


Georginio Wijnaldum, right, celebrates scoring Liverpool's second goal in a 4-0 win over Wolves on December 6. The game was notable for the return of fans, with 2,000 Reds supporters at Anfield to watch their club for the first time as Premier League champions. Games soon returned to being played behind closed doors after England entered another lockdown following Christmas (PA Wire)

Reasons to be cheerful

A lucky Liverpool fan sports a novelty face mask after being among the select few to acquire a ticket to attend the fixture against Wolves in early December. Almost nine months after the last Premier League game was played in front of spectators, the Reds gave their 2,000 followers in attendance plenty to smile about by running out resounding 4-0 winners over Wolves (PA Wire)

Gunner be trouble

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, right, grabs Burnley's Ashley Westwood by the throat during a heated moment at Emirates Stadium. Xhaka was initially shown a yellow card for the incident before referee Graham Scott upgraded the punishment to a red after consulting the pitchside monitor. The Gunners slipped to a 1-0 loss against the Clarets, with manager Mikel Arteta claiming the indiscipline showed how committed his players were to addressing their Premier League slump (PA Wire)

City slickers

Phil Foden, left, celebrates with Kevin De Bruyne after scoring in a 3-1 win at Chelsea in early January. After a slow start to the season, City comfortably regained the Premier League title from Liverpool. De Bruyne was once again instrumental in the success of Pep Guardiola's side, while fellow creative midfielder Foden underlined his status as arguably England's brightest prospect with a string of standout performances across the campaign (PA Wire)

Palace departure for footballing Roy-alty

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson wears a face mask ahead of January's clash with Wolves. After prolonged speculation, the 73-year-old former England boss announced two games from the end of the season that he would leave Selhurst Park at the end of his contract in the summer and not manage in the top flight again (PA Wire)

Inspired appointment

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel salutes Marcos Alonso, not pictured, sealing the first win of his Stamford Bridge reign. Former Borussia Dortmund and Paris St Germain boss Tuchel arrived in English football in January to replace the sacked Frank Lampard and sufficiently revived the club's fortunes to secure Champions League qualification. The German also guided the Blues to the finals of the FA Cup and the Champions League. After overseeing a goalless draw against Wolves in the immediate aftermath of Lampard's exit, strikes from Cesar Azpilicueta and Alonso gave Tuchel a 2-0 win over Burnley four days later (PA Wire)

Blunt Blades

Chris Wilder grimaces during a tough season for relegated Sheffield United. The Blades took the division by storm during the 2019-20 campaign following promotion but failed to replicate that form and ended up with the tag of 'one-season wonders'. United had to wait 18 games for their first win, with Wilder - who guided his boyhood club from League One to the top flight - relieved of his duties on March 12 (Clive Rose/PA) (PA Wire)

Easy ride

Paul Pogba enjoys a piggyback from team-mate Eric Bailly ahead of Manchester United's record-equalling victory over Southampton in early February. The light-hearted pair were not needed for the game, remaining unused substitutes as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men ran out resounding 9-0 winners at Old Trafford. The remarkable scoreline matched United's victory over Ipswich in 1995, as well as Saints' home loss to Leicester the previous season (PA Wire)

Backstreet Moyes

Jesse Lingard, middle, celebrates after scoring for West Ham against Tottenham in February. On-loan Manchester United man Lingard proved to be an inspired signing for David Moyes' men following his arrival in January. His fine goal-scoring form significantly helped the Hammers' push for European qualification, with this musical celebration prompting the quintet involved to be dubbed the 'Backstreet Moyes' by team-mate Michail Antonio (PA Wire)

More action kneeded

Wilfried Zaha opts not to take a knee ahead of Crystal Palace's game against West Brom in mid-March. Premier League players and officials performed the anti-racism act ahead of every game for the duration of the season. Palace forward Zaha became the first top-flight player to remain standing since play resumed last June, citing the ineffectiveness of the gesture. “I feel kneeling has just become a part of the pre-match routine and at the moment it doesn’t matter whether we kneel or stand, some of us still continue to receive abuse,” he said. (PA Wire)

No Mour Jose

ose Mourinho grimaces at Goodison Park in April. The Portuguese had significant reason to be unhappy following the 2-2 draw with Everton as he was sacked by Tottenham just three days later. The Portuguese, who spent 17 months in charge of Spurs, was not out of work long as he was appointed head coach of Italian club Roma ahead of the 2021-22 season just over a fortnight later. His dismissal by the north London club came less than a week before their Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City. Ryan Mason was placed in caretaker charge of Spurs for the rest of the campaign (PA Wire)

Leeds protests

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks on as Leeds winger Pablo Hernandez warms up wearing a t-shirt opposing the European Super League. The announcement that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City Manchester United and Tottenham would break away from the Premier League to join the new competition was greeted by shock, anger and widespread opposition. The so-called top-six Premier League clubs swiftly withdrew from the ill-fated venture but were left embarrassed and attempting to appease unhappy supporters (PA Wire)

Not so super

Chelsea fans gather outside Stamford Bridge to protest against plans for their club to join the European Super League. English football was rocked by the proposals, which prompted widespread anger and considerable opposition following their announcement on April 18. The project, which also included Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham, was scrapped just two days later (PA Wire)

Reality Cech

Petr Cech, Chelsea's technical and performance advisor, attempts to defuse protests ahead of the Premier League game with Brighton on April 20. Furious Blues fans stormed Fulham Road at tea time, unfurling expletive-laden banners criticising the club's decision to join the doomed European Super League. Police riot vans raced around west London and helicopters circled overhead, while the evening kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes (PA Wire)

Emotions flare

Manchester United fans protest against the club’s owners ahead of the scheduled fixture against rivals Liverpool. Anger over the proposed European Super League reignited long-standing opposition of the Glazer family, with hundreds of supporters managing to enter Old Trafford and get on to the pitch, forcing the postponement of the behind-closed-doors contest (PA Wire)

No laughing matter

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp shares a joke with Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl ahead of their sides' meeting at Anfield in May. Klopp had little to laugh about for large parts of a difficult season. The Reds produced a limp title defence, including suffering a 7-2 thrashing at Aston Villa in October and six successive home losses between January and March (PA Wire)

Sinking feeling

Sam Allardyce sinks into this chair during West Brom's costly defeat at Arsenal in May. Former England manager Allardyce returned to the Premier League following more than two and a half years away to replace the sacked Slaven Bilic in December. However, the 66-year-old was unable to preserve his record of having never been relegated from the top flight as a manager. His club's immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship was confirmed by the 3-1 defeat at Emirates Stadium (PA Wire)

Pepped up

A jubilant Manchester City fan celebrates his club regaining the Premier League title by lighting a flare outside the Etihad Stadium. City were confirmed champions on May 11 after second-placed Manchester United were beaten 2-1 at home by Leicester. Glory for Pep Guardiola's side, who are set to lift the trophy in front of 10,000 supporters after hosting Everton on Sunday, was their third title success in four seasons (PA Wire)

Alisson wonderland

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker is mobbed by stunned team-mates after heading a dramatic injury-time winner against West Brom on the penultimate weekend of the season. With Liverpool pushing for Champions League qualification at the end of an underwhelming campaign, the Brazil international went upfield for a corner and rose unmarked to nod in Trent Alexander-Arnold's delivery. An understandably emotional Alisson dedicated the goal to his late father, who drowned near his home in Brazil in February (PA Wire)

Seagulls soar

Brighton defender Adam Webster, number four, soaks up the acclaim of the euphoric Amex Stadium crowd as Manchester City's despondent players watch on. On the night fans were permitted to return to Premier League games, Albion made it an unforgettable occasion for the 7,945 in attendance. Webster's towering headed equaliser helped the hosts overturn a two-goal deficit en route to claiming a thrilling 3-2 win (PA Wire)

United against owners

Manchester United fans hold up anti-Glazer placards ahead of the club's final home game of the season. Around 10,000 supporters attended the 1-1 draw with relegated Fulham. Despite ongoing opposition to United's owners, there was no significant demonstration prior to kick-off (PA Wire)

The Newcastle normal

Face mask-wearing Newcastle fans use a hand sanitising station ahead of the Premier League match against Sheffield United at St James’ Park. Despite the season ending on the high of having supporters back in stadia, the experience of attending matches is noticeably different to pre-pandemic conditions. Football fans will have to adapt to a 'new normal' at grounds, with the wait for the return of capacity crowds set to continue for the foreseeable future (Owen Humphreys/PA) (PA Wire)

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