Editor’s Note: The following was constructed by Hugo Jennings and Patrick Moore of LWOS.
At the end of a calendar year, it is inevitable that some teams will have had better years than others. This article focuses on five teams whose 2015 has been a good one. Make sure you come back tomorrow to read about the five teams whose 2015 has been one to forget.
LWOS Presents: Five of the Best Football Clubs of 2015
Starting with the obvious, the Catalan giants have dominated in 2015. Barcelona clinched the La Liga title away at Atlético Madrid—one year after Atleti won the league at the Nou Camp—with Lionel Messi scoring late on to secure a 1-0 win, before winning the Copa Del Rey with a 3-1 win against Athletic Bilbao (featuring that Messi goal). To finish off a perfect year, Los Culés beat Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final to secure an historic treble.
The Messi-Suarez-Neymar combination, which has felt like it has been stretching the laws of football at times, have been literally unstoppable. As of 20th December, the trio—probably the greatest front three of all time—have scored an incredible 134 of Barcelona’s 176 goals between them in 2015; making up a staggering 76% of the team’s goals.
As much credit as “MSN” deserve, the team around them has been magnificent too. Sergio Busquets is without doubt the best holding midfielder in the world, truly making the game look easy as he reads the game with a touch of class. Andres Iniesta shows time and time again why he is considered one of the greatest midfielders of all time and along with Ivan Rakatic, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves (who will be a huge loss to Barça when he does leave) the side are beyond superlatives at times.
One of the most important things Barça fans have learnt over the year, though, is that Barcelona can cope without Messi in Suarez and most notably Neymar. When Messi got injured early on in the season, the two stepped up to the plate by scoring for fun, and some even argue Neymar should win the 2015 Ballon d’Or for his incredible year. Barcelona have added a Super Cup and Club World Cup already this season and are on course to get better and better with every match.
Sometimes, football can seem like a fairytale. In March, with just eight games to go, Leicester were seven points from safety and looked destined to be back in the Championship. But what was to follow was an escape that Houdini himself would have been proud of. They won seven of their last nine games, only losing to champions Chelsea in the run in, and finished an incredible 14th in the Premier League table.
However, the man behind the escape, Nigel Pearson, was sacked after a collapse in relationship with the chairman at the end of the season; following a season where he called a journalist an ‘Ostrich’, grabbed James McArthur during a match and told a fan to die (in so many words).
Leicester fans would have been forgiven to think they’d be facing another relegation battle in the 2015/16 season. If you’d have put Leicester to win the league before the season started, you’d have got odds of 5000/1. Five thousand to one. But the Foxes, led by Claudio Ranieri, sat top of the table at Christmas and are equal on points with leaders Arsenal going into 2016.
It’s most likely that some psychic-like punter will have somehow put money on this before the season, but can they win the league? Every week people presume that they’ll “regress to the mean”; almost every week they prove them wrong. The truth is, whilst they’re full of confidence, they’ll continue to stay at the top. Jamie Vardy’s incredible 11 goals in a row record symbolises the Foxes’ year. Whatever happens next year, Leicester City fans will never forget 2015.
It’s a well-documented story, but one can hardly blame those who go on about Bournemouth’s rise to the heights of the Premier League, even if the so-called “fairytale” may not have been quite what it seemed. Eddie Howe masterminded a Championship title in 2015 and has shown his team can deal with the very best teams in England—most notably with back to back wins against Chelsea and Manchester United a few weeks ago.
Ultimately, Bournemouth’s aim will be to stay in the Premier League in 2016, and their 2015 certainly helped them get close to achieving this. Even without their talisman, Callum Wilson, the Cherries have played some entertaining football under Eddie Howe, and very few clubs in England and the world have had a better 2015 than them.
The first half of Dortmund’s 2014-15 season was nothing short of a disaster. Bottom of the table and looking like genuine relegation candidates after 19 games, Der BVB were in a truly diabolical situation with almost none of their players putting in consistent performances.
In the league, their 2015 didn’t get off to too strong a start, either. Draws against Leverkusen and a loss at home to Augsburg meant that they stayed firmly rooted to the foot of the Bundesliga. However, after that things started to look better as they won four games on the trot to distance themselves from the teams at the bottom. By the end of the season they had got their act together and finished a respectable—given the circumstances—seventh place to take them into the next season’s Europa League. Outside of the league they made it to the final of the DFB-Pokal, but missed the chance to give the departing Jürgen Klopp a dream send-off as they lost 3-1 to Wolfsburg.
Under new manager Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund have looked like a different animal to the team of the season before. The black and yellows have got their swagger back and now sit second in the table, eight points behind the imperious Bayern Munich. A title challenge is very unlikely, but they are safely through to the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal and will face Porto in the last 32 of the Europa League. Their chances of winning silverware are still very much alive and 2015 can be considered an excellent, if not so memorable year.
The French team ended a 21-year wait to be back in the French top flight in 2015. They secured promotion as they finished third in Ligue 2, with Jonathan Kodjia, who has since joined Bristol City, as the club’s top scorer. But it is not just their promotion which makes them one of the teams of 2015; they are doing stunningly well in Ligue 1.
They sit in third place only behind Paris Saint-Germain (who look like they have already won the league) and moneybags Monaco. Holding the unstoppable PSG to a respectable 0-0 draw at home in the same week as beating Lyon 0-2 away from home has highlighted an unbelievable year for the underdogs. In a way, Angers have been playing like they have been in Ligue 1 for the past 21 years rather than away from it.
From 19 matches in the 2015/16 season, Angers have only conceded 11 times, which is the second best in the league. They have impressed week in week out as they continue to shock teams. The fans can only dream of playing in Europe next season but it seems the worst position they can finish is somewhere in midtable, which, for a newly promoted side, would be more than enough.
If at the beginning of 2015 you’d told Angers fans that they’d be in the top three of Ligue 1 at the end of it, it is highly unlikely that they’d have believed you. Bon travail, Angers!