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Eye On EPL

Why the Premier League is the world's toughest

There were no fairy tales in the past season, and it just proves why the English Premier League (EPL) is the toughest league in the world.

A good example to prove my point would be Liverpool. I personally feel happy that the five-time European champions are fourth and back in the Champions League. But let's not forget that they were once at the top of the table earlier in the season.

They began the season in excellent form, beating Arsenal 4-3, Chelsea 2-1, and Leicester 4-1. Jurgen Klopp gave the Liverpool fans something to dream about - a hope that this might be their year.

But that little flame was extinguished when they went a whole month without a win in January - drawing with bottom-placed Sunderland and losing at home to Swansea City.

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They had their fair share of ups and downs; their injury struggles in the form of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson hampered their fight for the title.

Frankly, I never thought Chelsea could win the Premier League. They finished 10th with 50 points last season and looked nowhere near champions material.

Yet it all changed the moment Antonio Conte walked into Stamford Bridge. Not only did the Italian bring a wealth of experience with three Serie A titles with Juventus, but he also brought along his striking and infectious charisma.

Yet, the fact that United's long unbeaten streak got them merely a sixth-place finish means that nothing is easy in this league. Pep Guardiola, manager of United's neighbours Manchester City, also learnt this the hard way.

One of my favourite moments of the season is seeing Conte running up and down the sidelines, gesticulating wildly and celebrating as if he had scored himself. He reminds me of a younger Jose Mourinho - he didn't just want to win, but he had an intense passion for the game that rubbed off on his players.

But even the Italian mastermind had a tough time at first. Going 3-0 down to Arsenal in the first half signalled that no team was perfect. This prompted him to implement his now-famous 3-4-3 formation that led Chelsea to a staggering 13 straight wins, undoubtedly the foundation of their title win.

The title was not at all easy to grasp when you have young and daring players at your heel. Yet, Tottenham Hotspur played such beautiful football that I am simply in awe of them.

Every Spurs player adds to the team's vibrant style of play. Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen, and two young English talents in the form of Dele Alli and Harry Kane are stars in the making.

Had it not been for Chelsea's magnificence, they would have been popular winners of the EPL title. They are a team we must watch closely next season.

Not all streaks were magnificent. Manchester United's 25-match unbeaten run had too many draws, and while it allowed Mourinho to revive them into a tough-to-beat unit, their lack of firepower cost them a top-four spot. Tomorrow's Europa League final will be key to deciding whether the Red Devils' season had been a success.

Yet, the fact that United's long unbeaten streak got them merely a sixth-place finish means that nothing is easy in this league. Pep Guardiola, manager of United's neighbours Manchester City, also learnt this the hard way.

After conquering the Spanish and German leagues, the Spanish manager went to England with the hopes of another easy success. But the man who made tiki-taka famous has only managed to finish third - a big surprise for me. It's good, but not good enough.

Leicester City, the fairy-tale winners of the 2015-16 season, came crashing to reality, flirting with relegation before finding their feet late in the season.

Out of the three promoted teams, two - Middlesbrough and Hull City - will make their way back down. It's an unforgiving league; any weakness will eventually be exposed to hinder a team's ambitions.

Chelsea found a quick tactical solution to their early problems, and therefore are deserving champions of the world's toughest football league.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2017, with the headline 'Why the Premier League is the world's toughest'. Print Edition | Subscribe