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After Chelsea ended its interminable and frustrating four-year wait by finally adding another English Premier League title, the overriding emotion at Stamford Bridge this summer will be one of relief.
Such a period of time between championships may seem insignificant to all clubs other than Manchester United. Yet investment, especially that on the scale of Roman Abramovich's transfer dealings, breeds impatience.
The Champions League is the prize that Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner craves above all others. Even so, the snapping of United's EPL success at three consecutive titles lifted the spirits of the West London club and offered proof that head coach Carlo Ancelotti was a wise appointment.
Chelsea's triumph was built on consistency and solidarity with a sprinkling of star power thrown in. The route to the title was steady rather than swashbuckling, despite an 8-0 trouncing of Wigan on the final day, and was based on a strong team ethic.
Three members of Ancelotti's side made the Yahoo! Sports EPL Team of the Season. Runner-up United and third-place Arsenal provided two members apiece.
A total of seven teams were represented in all, all from the top half of the table, as opposed to last year when our All-EPL team featured players from only five clubs – four from champion United.
Here we take a look at the men who produced when it mattered during the 2009-10 campaign.
Yahoo! Sports' English Premier League Team of the Season
• Joe Hart (Birmingham City). Finally, the future of English goalkeeping looks somewhat secure after Hart, the lanky 23-year-old on loan from Manchester City, had an excellent season at St. Andrews. His performances for Alex McLeish's side helped Birmingham enjoy a comfortable top-half finish.
• Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea). He is certainly not the most flamboyant member of the Stamford Bridge squad, but Ivanovic established himself as a reliable option while Jose Bosingwa was injured. The Serbian international is tough and committed and was a big part of Chelsea's title success.
• Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal). He became the latest evidence of Arsene Wenger's shrewd eye for talent, proving himself a defensive rock in only his first season after signing from Ajax for $15 million. Strong and physical, Vermaelen took a tenacious approach to help him immediately adapt to the EPL.
• Michael Dawson (Tottenham Hotspur). Tottenham's campaign had much to do with its strength at the back, and the emergence of Dawson was a welcome boost for the North London club. His efforts in combination with those of Ledley King gained recognition from England boss Fabio Capello, who included both Spurs center backs in his provisional 30-man squad.
• Patrice Evra (Manchester United). He has become one of United's most dependable players and once again stood out in what was a difficult campaign for the defending champions. With Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville in the twilight of their careers, Evra's stability and leadership will be even more important next season.
• Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal). Those rumors linking him with a move to Spain just won't go away, yet the Arsenal hierarchy surely knows just how hard it would be to replace the superb 23-year-old. If not for an untimely injury with a few weeks left, the Gunners might have kept pace in the title race a little longer.
• James Milner (Aston Villa). Martin O'Neill's Villa club saw its bid for the top four tail off toward the back end of the season, but by then Milner had already made a major impact and started to generate some real recognition. Villa faces a fight to hold on to him this summer.
• Florent Malouda (Chelsea). Frank Lampard may be unlucky to miss out on this team, but when it really counted, it was Malouda who provided the kickstart to Chelsea's title challenge. With his tireless running, timely goals and plenty of imagination, he blossomed under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti as the campaign progressed.
• Didier Drogba (Chelsea). Drogba did his reputation as a good teammate no favors with his antics on the final day. However, his performance on the field spoke for itself. A haul of 29 league goals secured the scoring title and completed his best season yet in a Chelsea shirt.
• Carlos Tevez (Manchester City). How United could have used Tevez this season as the title slipped away. Instead, it had to watch him wreak havoc just across the city, helping to infuse the blue half of Manchester with genuine hope for the future. But with no Champions League next season, will he stick around?
• Wayne Rooney (Manchester United). See "Player of the Season" below.
• Player of the Season: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United). Cristiano who? The departure of the great Ronaldo was filled admirably by the emergence of Rooney, who stepped out from his former teammate's shadow to end the season widely acknowledged as one of the world's very best. Such is Rooney's effectiveness that he is seen to hold the key to both England's chances of World Cup glory and United's future. Physical, ruthless and blessed with innate talent, he is still getting better and continuing to develop under Sir Alex Ferguson's watchful eye.
• Manager of the Season: Harry Redknapp (Tottenham Hotspur). Redknapp is not to everyone's taste, but he gets the job done. Spurs started out strongly and kept on rolling, all the way to an unexpected Champions League place. Redknapp has managed to get the best out of a talented front line and, more importantly, turn the club into a solid defensive force.
• Best American: Clint Dempsey (Fulham). Dempsey has grown in stature and confidence every season he has spent in England and his development is a major cause for optimism ahead of the United States' World Cup campaign. Despite a two-month injury layoff, he provided the driving force behind Fulham's campaign and produced some spectacular goals.
• Worst player: Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal). There were many contenders for this unwanted honor but none suffered a collapse as public and humiliating as Fabianski, Arsenal's backup goalkeeper. Already derided for a disastrous performance in the Champions League, he effectively signaled the end of the Gunners' title challenge by letting in three goals in 10 minutes at Wigan, including one horrendous mistake where the ball slipped straight through his hands.
• Worst signing: Alberto Aquilani (Liverpool). Despite a handful of reasonable performances toward the end of the season, Aquilani never came close to doing enough to justify his $29 million price tag from Roma. In truth, the fault lay primarily with head coach Rafa Benitez for his bizarre decision to splash out so much money and invest so much responsibility on a player who was injured at the time of purchase.
• Goal of the season: Maynor Figueroa (Wigan Athletic). A fairly routine EPL clash between two of the league's less fashionable teams would barely be remembered if not for Figueroa's spectacular strike from within his own half after 72 minutes. Letting rip with his left foot, the Honduras international sent the ball scorching over Thomas Sorensen and into the Stoke net.
- Manchester United
- English Premier League
- Carlo Ancelotti
- Manchester City
- Harry Redknapp
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Wayne Rooney