Eight months, a condensed 2020/21 Premier League season and it’s all over but like always it’s been one hell of a ride. It was filled with the mundane, the insane, the slightly chaotic, the absolutely incredulous, more than a billion goals and, so without further ado here’s the end of season awards.
Manager of the season
Prajnadip Pal - Pep Guardiola: When it comes to Pep Guardiola, the one thing that comes to mind is consistency. Yes indeed Manchester City did have a slow start with that ridiculous loss to Leicester City as they dropped as far ninth on the table, 10 games into the new season. But did it create any doubts in the minds of their supporters? None whatsoever. With Ruben Dias proving to be the buy of the season alongside the performances of Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and co, Guardiola managed to get hold of things and turn it upside down playing no nonsense attacking football and in the process for another title. Three league titles in 4 seasons is a very impressive feat.
Siddhant Lazar - David Moyes: I mean it really had to be, didn’t it? Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola both absolutely deserve plaudits and then some for what they have done this season but to do what David Moyes did, now that is absolutely insane. To take a team that barely finished above the relegation zone in 16th place, transform them without overspending and create a side capable of challenging for the top four is incredible. Especially from a manager that nobody expected to not only be resilient but thrilling and prove that he still has his mojo at the highest level.
Best Goal of the Season:
PP - Erik Lamela vs Arsenal: Have you ever witnessed football but with a tinge of “Flair''. That's what Erik Lamela’s Rabona looked like as it made its way past a shocked Arsenal defence. Although Lamela came on as a substitute his goal was a sublime piece of skill on display. Visually pleasing, with a perfect stance for a close range goal, the Argentine stole the show that day even if it was for a brief moment before earning a red card to cap a typical performance. Serge Regulion’s iconic expression as the ball made its way past was every football fan that night.
SL Tanguy Ndombele vs Sheffield United: This one took a while especially in a season that saw if my math is right, just over 900 goals scored and it took a lot longer than I expected. In the end, my shortlist had 15 choices and all 15 were wonderful in their own regard. Technical skill on show, insane goals, pure magic and then there was this. Tanguy Ndombele vs Sheffield United and at the end of it all, you’ve got one question on your mind. Did he mean it? He most definitely did and the video proves it all, look at his face before, during and after the shot and you’ll see it all. A sublime piece of skill.
Offensive player of the year (Big six)
PP - Bruno Fernandes: Isn’t this an obvious choice? Barely a season in the rough terrains of English football and another Portugese player is leaving his mark at Manchester United. Reminds you of someone from Sporting CP? Fernandes was thought to be a top player but nobody expected this. The midfielder has led by example with his attacking output rather ridiculous and showing no signs of stopping. He has taken United to new heights and has been quite literally inseparable from the starting lineup, improving the likes of Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and co. It’s a key reason why the Red Devils finished second on the table.
SL - Harry Kane: The man won both the Golden Boot and the Playmaker of the year award. Does there really need to be an argument over the best offensive player this year? Look at it this way, Kane scored 23 goals and added 14 assists, remove it and you’re removing 36 goals from 68 that Tottenham scored this season. That’s half, that’s more than half in fact and while his assists are helped by the fact that Son Heung-Min was his strike partner, it doesn’t make what Kane did any less impressive. It’s been an incredibly impressive individual season for the Englishman and many hope he replicates it for England.
Defensive player of the year (Big six)
Yes, he cost a lot of money. £60 million plus add-ons and all that hoopla and yes, he walked into a Manchester City defense that has spent more on their back-line than most countries spend on their entire budget for their military. We’ve all seen the memes, heard the jokes and even made a few ourselves but look at it this way, Ruben Dias transformed Manchester City. That expensively put together defense was nothing more than a slapstick outfit for the entirety of the 2019/20 season. Then arrived a former Benfica captain, a player nobody expected to do this well and he delivered beyond expectations. Dias has taken to English football like a duck to the water, sorted out the City defense, resurrected John Stones’ career and transformed Manchester City. Need we say more?
Outright winner - Ruben Dias
Offensive player of the year (everyone else)
PP - Matheus Pereira: Surely a name that you wouldn’t have reckoned coming towards your way when talking about alternative offensive choices. The talisman for the relegated West Brom, it really is sad that Pereira’s one man brilliance has been talked about too much. Someone who surely deserves to play in the big leagues rather than the Championship, Pereira’s 11 goals for West Brom is the most by a midfielder playing in the lower hinges of the Premier League. Not only that he also outscored the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Raheem Sterling, Edinson Cavani, Roberto Firmino and countless others. A fan favourite for FPL bosses and a bargain buy for the Baggies, surely this won’t be the last we see of Matheus Pereira in the Premier League?
SL - Allan Saint-Maximin: Yeah he plays for Newcastle United, but who cares? Because somehow, in a season that has been gloomy and just weird, Allan Saint-Maximin has been magic. Pure unadulterated magic with fairy dust flying from his boots and with him on the field, the Magpies are a sight to behold. Just imagine what a consistently fit and firing Saint-Maximin could do to a team because while his repertoire of tricks and flicks are a sight to behold, the Frenchman is cunning, clinical on his day and the saviour of St James’ Park. No wonder they’re in love with him.
Defensive player of the year (everyone else)
Two defenders playing their first season in England, thriving and transforming their team after incredible amounts of money and they’ve won our defensive player of the year. Who would have ever thought about it? But while eyes were raised when Leicester City spent £36.5 million on a raw but talented teenage center-back from Saint-Etienne, Fofana has dropped jaws. His confidence, maturity, and his eye for a pass plus that cockiness he shows on the ball made him the perfect fit for Brendan Rodgers’ team. And then there was that performance in an FA Cup final which showcased everything I just mentioned and then some.
Outright Winner - Wesley Fofana
Rookie of the year
PP - Emile Smith Rowe: One of the positive takeaways from a truly horrible season for Arsenal is Emile Smith Rowe. He has been a ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel with the youngster drawing comparisons to the likes of Mesut Ozil. Smith Rowe’s positional awareness and versatility has to be one of the talking points with his sheer presence in the starting lineup vital in transforming Arsenal post December. His brilliance, fearlessness, creative vision and eagerness to push the club forward especially when their senior stars have been off their game is something that few speak about. If Smith Rowe’s nurturing goes on as it is, Arsenal can be quite hopeful about their future prospects.
SL - Eberechi Eze: This kid truly is magic. There are few players you can even say that about in modern football but when Eberechi Eze gets the ball, you know something special is about to happen. And for the 22-year-old, playing in his first season in the Premier League, he took to the league rather beautifully and thrived at the chances handed to him. Was he inconsistent? Of course, he was, he’s only 22 but even then and especially in that Crystal Palace team, Eze has proven to be a star and that’s saying something given the presence of Wilfried Zaha. That Achilles injury will prove to be his first big blow and big hurdle but hopefully, he slaloms beyond that effortlessly as well.
Game of the season
PP - Liverpool 2-7 Aston Villa: You wouldn’t expect a Liverpool defence to be blown up wide against a team barely surviving relegation last season? Don’t worry because you're not the only one who was perplexed or stunned. Out of all the unusual occurrences this season, watching the defending champions concede 7 goals on the run was flabbergasting and it makes it even more so when you realise that Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez were fit. But it wasn't enough as the floodgates burst open and goals flew out, so many goals. Ollie Watkins scored a hattrick in the first half, Ross Barkley turned back time, Jack Grealish and John McGinn stole the headlines and the rest is history. One of the best games of the season, this scoreline will surely go down in Villa history as one of the greatest performances ever.
SL - Newcastle United 3-4 Manchester City: Imagine this. Somebody, anybody who knows football, walked up to you and told you that Newcastle United vs Manchester City will have seven goals scored but the Magpies would score three of them. Now any sane person would slap the other and march them off to the nuthouse because the Magpies have been battling relegation all season. How on earth could they even score thrice against Manchester City, take the lead twice, invoke nightmares for Pep Guardiola and also provide us with far more entertainment than anyone ever expected them to? Off to the insane asylum you go.
PP - Tomas Soucek: Branded as one of the nicest guys in the Premier League, the man from Sk Slavia Prague truly enjoys his potato salad. Yes, he plays for West Ham now and yes, he is a massive set piece threat thanks to his impressive stature. Standing tall at 6 ft 4 in and scorer of a billion headers, Soucek has proven to be worth far more than anyone ever expected him to be. Not only that, his partnership with Declan Rice in midfield has been key to the Hammer's success and as if that wasn't enough, he scored the same number of goals as Michail Antonio, 10. It's safe to say West Ham’ scouting department has done a fabulous job at a time when player prices are going through the roof.
SL - Edinson Cavani: If we’re all being fair, nobody expected this to work out. Who would have thought a 33-year-old, now 34, who thrived in both Italy and France could sign for Manchester United to replace the dreams of signing Jadon Sancho and would actually do well? Nobody and they were right until he scored against Everton off the bench, then a double against Southampton, then five in the Europa League plus three assists. They’re not impressive numbers (16 goals and 6 assists across all competitions) until you factor in the minutes and for someone with just over 2000 minutes, that’s bloody impressive. Not washed out now, is he?
Changing allegiances from Stamford Bridge to Emirates Stadium on a free transfer at 32 and then signing a lucrative 3-year deal did raise a few eyebrows when Arsenal made the move. But devoid of any inspiration, the fans had no choice but to hope that Willian had yet to find his best well into his thirties with his time at Chelsea average at best. Calling him a shadow of his former self would be giving too much respect to the forward. It makes you think who got the better deal here? An uninterrupted three years stay at London for a player past his prime or the Arsenal scouting team who expected 10+ goals and assists for a player running purely on name value.
Outright winner - Willian
Best save of the season
This hasn’t been a season for incredible saves and little could top Dean Henderson’s triple save from the last term but this comes pretty close. On paper, it doesn’t look hard but there are factors to be considered which makes it superb. The ball in from the right from Westwood is poor, Brownhill flicks it on as the first man and it should have rolled out rather comfortably beyond Dubravka’s far-right. But Paul Dummett decided to intervene at the last moment, flicked a foot at it and sent the ball flying towards his own net. And yet, there was Martin Dubravka, his reactions superb as ever with the Slovakian showing Jan Oblak he has competition for his spot.
Outright winner - Martin Dubravka
Worst moment of the season
The sheer arrogance with which capitalism was at display in a sport that is considered to be the common man’s game is what the delusional European Super League was all about. The announcement came when 12 European giants took the world by storm when they announced their decision to create and be a part of an elite league, designed fill their pockets and capture more “young audiences”. Along with the Premier League “Big 6”, the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Milan were some of the clubs that perpetrated and tried to sell something which can be termed as nothing short of a marketing gimmick. Following major backlash from fans, players and pundits alike, clubs were forced to take a U-turn on their decisions as the response was overwhelmingly negative. Nothing else even comes close to being the worst moment of the season.
Outright winner - European Super League