In recent days we’ve witnessed one of the most hotly anticipated events of the football calendar. As the season drew to a close, head inevitably turned in one direction – towards the announcement of this season’s Premier League awards.
A time that always sparks much interest, debate and scrutiny, we are all familiar by now with the awards that are given out season after season. Whilst some are purely statistical, such as the Golden Boot, Golden Glove, and top assist provider, most of the attention usually goes to the opinion based awards; player of the season, young player of the season, team of the season, etc.
So, for a change of scene, we decided to create a unique set of Premier League awards, looking at the good, the bad and the ugly in a season that certainly won’t be forgotten in a hurry. From scintillating team displays to fallen cult heroes, here are our alternative Premier League seasonal awards.
Alternative Awards in Premier League 2020/21
The signing of the season: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Kicking off with the signing of the season, we need to look no further than Manchester City’s Ruben Dias. Need I say anymore?
The Portuguese centre-back was brought in after City’s calamitous 5-2 drubbing at the hands of Leicester on Matchweek 2, and the rest is history. Revolutionising the defence and filling the void left by the great Vincent Kompany, Ruben Dias has had an immense first season in the Premier League and has arguably been the most important player in Manchester City’s title win.
Having performed at such an astonishingly high level in his debut year, the challenge for Dias now will be to keep that up next season and beyond.
Most improved: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
It has been another strong season from Leicester City, and one that, in the last three months, has forged a new hero at the King Power Stadium on the back of challenging circumstances.
In February, star players James Maddison and Harvey Barnes suffered untimely injuries, and the goals simultaneously began to dry up for club legend Jamie Vardy. Enter Kelechi Iheanacho. The forward, who didn’t even register a league goal until February, hit blistering form after coming into the side in March and finished on 12 league goals – his finest ever return in the Premier League.
It would have been unthinkable to give this award to Iheanacho just a couple of months ago, but the consistency of his performances has proven that this is more than just a flash in the pan, and it seems he is finally realising his exceptional potential from his Manchester City days.
Revival award: John Stones (Manchester City)
From one Manchester City centre-back to another, it’s time to focus once again on the incredible revival of John Stones, who has gone from being surplus to indispensable in just a few short months.
A poor performance from Aymeric Laporte in a defeat to Spurs gave Stones his chance in late November, and he hasn’t looked back since. His instantly efficient partnership with Ruben Dias was key to City’s title win, with the Blues going on a 15 match league winning run and conceding just once in an extremely busy period between mid-December and early February. Not only that, but Stones also went from having never scored a Premier League goal for City to registering four in one season, including a brace in a 4-0 home defeat of Crystal Palace.
Stones’ incredible comeback landed him a spot in the PFA Team of the season and also put him firmly back in favour for England, as he looks to continue to build on this exceptional season.
Best senior player: Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
This particular award goes to the best player aged 34 or over. Whilst Jamie Vardy enjoyed another excellent season for Leicester City, the award instead goes to Chelsea’s evergreen Brazilian, Thiago Silva.
To move to a new league is never easy, but to move to the Premier League at the age of 36 and perform to the level that he has done is a testament to his talent and adaptability as a footballer. Silva made 23 appearances for The Blues in the Premier League this season, scoring twice, but far more important is the impact he has had on improving the Chelsea defence both on and off the pitch through his experience and leadership. His presence seems to have rubbed off on the likes of Rudiger, Zouma and Christensen, all three of whom have enjoyed an elevated level of performance in 2020/21.
In hindsight, it was an incredibly smart move by Chelsea; low risk with a potentially very high reward, and that is exactly the way it has panned out. It’s no surprise at all to learn that his contract has been extended for another year.
The forgotten man: John Lundstram (Sheffield United)
A hero one season, invisible the next. It’s a tale that occasionally happens in the Premier League, and Sheffield United’s John Lundstram has unfortunately become the latest victim of the trend. The midfielder became something of a cult hero last season, the poster boy of a bold and innovative Sheffield United who took the Premier League by storm in their long awaited top flight return.
Dubbed ‘Lord Lundstram’ by keen followers of fantasy football, the midfielder’s return of five goals and three assists in 2019/20 made him a must-have for fantasy managers everywhere. However, this season his output has been a shadow of what it once was, with Lundstram suffering a dip in performance that has been shared with almost all of his teammates.
The Blades’ number seven scored zero goals in the Premier League this time around, despite making 28 appearances in 2020/21. He was released by his club at the end of the season following their miserable year which ended in relegation.
Another one season wonder, or one who might be back in the future?
Flop of the season: Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United)
It seems harsh to pick on Sheffield United too much, but given the money they spent on Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster, it’s hard to look beyond him when naming the flop of the season.
When The Blades and Chris Wilder forked out £23.5 million to sign the promising young striker, it seemed a big risk, given that he did not yet have a Premier League goal to his name. One full season later, he is still yet to register his first top-flight goal after making 27 appearances for Sheffield United this season. For one reason or another, it just hasn’t worked out for Brewster at Bramall Lane, with both the team around him and himself plagued by continuous bad form.
With The Blades dropping to the second tier, it may give Brewster an excellent to find his feet at the club and start firing in the goals against lower quality opposition. Either way, it seems unlikely that Liverpool will be triggering his £40 million buyback clause any time soon.
Individual performance of the season: Harry Kane vs Southampton
As you’d expect, there are a number of contenders for this award. Some of the finest individual performances this season have included Ollie Watkins vs Liverpool, Patrick Bamford vs Aston Villa, and Chris Wood vs Wolves just to name a few, all of which are worthy contenders.
The pick of the bunch, however, came very early on in the season when a sublime performance from Tottenham’s Harry Kane tore Southampton to shreds. His strike partner Son Heung-Min may have bagged four goals, but Kane supplied the assist for all four of them with some incredible passes that the Saints just couldn’t live with. He rounded off the rout with a customary goal of his own, a simple tap-in from a few yards out, as Spurs won 5-2 on the second day of the season.
With a performance like that, it’s no wonder that by the season’s end Kane was so far ahead of the rest of the competition in his number of both goals and assists.
Team performance of the season: Aston Villa vs Liverpool
This particular highlight is another that takes us back to the season’s early days, to a match and result that will live long in the memory than perhaps any other in 2020/21. In their fourth match of the campaign, Liverpool faced Aston Villa, with both teams having raced out of the blocks in the season’s early exchanges.
In one of the most stunning and unexpected displays of football the Premier League has ever seen, Aston Villa ripped the champions apart. Exceptional performances from the likes of Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins and John McGinn overran the Reds in all areas of the pitch, who were caught wanting in defence time after time after time.
What made the outcome even sweeter for Aston Villa was that, other than goalkeeper Adrian, Liverpool were essentially fielding a full-strength side, as of then unblemished by the injury problems at the back that would plague them for most of the campaign. A day that will never be forgotten by fans of either side, or indeed those who follow the Premier League in general.
The comeback kings: Manchester United
A season that saw the rise of some steady progress on the Red half of Manchester bore one extremely promising statistic in its conclusion; Manchester United had gone through the whole season without losing a match on the road – an astonishing feat.
The intriguing thing is, despite that achievement, they were no stranger to falling behind in a game. In fact, in a manner reminiscent of the title winning United in Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell season, United managed to come from behind to win ten games, nine of which happened away from home – almost half of their away fixtures for the entire season.
In the end, it was home form that cost the Red Devils a full tilt at the title. Still, this persistent trend of comebacks and knowhow away from home will surely serve United well going into next season.
Most surprising team: West Ham United
West Ham United; who saw that coming? Before the season, large swathes of pundits and fans, including myself, had the Hammers down as potential relegation candidates on the back of a difficult 2019/20 season in which they had just about survived the drop. After losing their opening two, West Ham then unexpectedly recorded comprehensive wins over Wolves and Leicester, and never looked back from there on in.
Inspired by the aerially-unstoppable Tomas Soucek but with players stepping up all over the pitch, West Ham enjoyed a superb season that few would’ve predicted, taking a colossal leap from 39 to 65 points in less than a year. They may have narrowly missed out on an incredibly unlikely Champions League spot that was almost within touching distance, but the fact that they have qualified for European football out all is an outstanding accomplishment.
For leading the Hammers to victory in half of their fixtures this season, David Moyes deserves an awful lot of credit, and would have made a more than worthy winner of the manager of the season award. Next stop for the London Stadium; Europe.