Jim, Marley & Niall from Football Social Daily break down their award winners of the 2020/21 Premier League season.
So that’s another season in the can, and what a season it’s been.
From Manchester City’s stuttering start and Liverpool’s mid-season collapse, to final day drama with Leicester dropping out of the top four, it’s been some ride.
In fairness, it’ll probably go down as the weirdest season ever, and not just because Newcastle United managed to finish 12th after trying their hardest to get relegated for most of the season.
On our Football Social Daily podcast, we like to hand out awards at the end of every season, and here’s what we’ve dished out this year.
Manager of the Season
CANDIDATES: PEP GUARDIOLA, BRENDAN RODGERS, THOMAS TUCHEL, DAVID MOYES, MARCELO BIELSA
Marley Anderson: I’d go for Marcelo Bielsa. I like to think of Manager of the Season as the one that’s overachieved the most in the season, and despite Moyes working wonders at West Ham, I’m going for Bielsa at newly-promoted Leeds.
I like managers who do things differently, and Bielsa does that. His style was written off by pundits who couldn’t be bothered to analyse what he does that makes his sides tick, and it’s been proven with a ninth place finish and a positive goal difference – great achievement for Leeds.
Most of his squad are Championship level players who have been superbly coached to within three points of a UEFA Europa Conference League place, which is insane. Also, his lack of English is a key thing for me. He might speak it on the training ground, but with such an intensive tactical style, that’s a major hindrance in any coach’s life, as it’s not exactly fluent.
Jim Salveson: Although it’s impossible to downplay the job that Pep Guardiola has done at Manchester City in winning yet another trophy (even though many will try) especially given the start they made. It also feels like big trophies are becoming the norm in East Manchester and so for that reason, my Manager of the Season pick goes somewhere else.
As a West Ham fan, even in my more optimistic moments, I had 16th/17th as the very most we could expect from this season and to see my club sitting in the European spots is almost unbelievable. Whilst there have been some great individual performances from players much of the credit has to go to David Moyes. The squad unity he has fostered, his development of certain players and canny working of the small transfer budget he was afforded has been nothing short of miraculous and when you look at delivery vs expectations surely there isn’t another manager who comes close.
Niall McCaughan: Pep Guardiola is getting my vote for manager of the season. I know, I know. The manager who wins the league nearly always gets the gong at the end of the campaign, so it isn’t exactly a turn up for the books.
But I couldn’t not pick Pep. When City were 8th at Christmas, everyone said they were finished. No chance would they win the league. Fast forward to March and they’ve ran away with it – title effectively sewn up with 6 weeks to spare, eventually winning the league by a margin of 12 points.
City fans never doubted their players – or their boss – and neither should we have. In order for Manchester City to have surged up the table like they did, they needed to string a decent run of wins together. They far exceeded that, breaking Premier League records by winning an astonishing 21 games in a row. When Guardiola gets them winning, City are a juggernaut of a side. A winning machine who seem impossible to stop at times.
Yet, that staggering record has almost wispily disappeared from the memory, with the more tangible barometers of success in another Carabao Cup triumph, a Premier League title and a possible maiden Champions League crown coming to the forefront in recent weeks. People only ever tend to remember the ‘business end’ of the campaign.
Yes, Manchester City are well backed. Yes, Manchester City have exceptional talent. But they’ve also got an exceptional manager.
There’s been loads of speculation about Pep’s future this season too, but it feels now like we’ll see him puffing on more Cuban cigars and butchering Oasis songs for a while yet.
Player of the Season
CANDIDATES: RUBEN DIAS, ILKAY GUNDOGAN, JACK GREALISH, HARRY KANE, MO SALAH
Marley Anderson: I can’t sit here and make a case for anyone other than Ruben Dias, as much as I’d like to make a case for Joe Willock!
Dias’s arrival in Manchester was the turning point in City’s season. Before long, they put together 21 straight wins and practically walked away with the Premier League while their rivals clambered all over each other below them.
For me, Dias is Vincent Kompany 2.0. City have lacked leadership since the Belgian left and now they seem to have that in spades after spending big on Dias. He makes an insane amount of blocks, tackles and interceptions and you only have to look at the transformation in John Stones’ game to see an example of his influence on the team.
I don’t think City would have reached the Champions League without him, and the title race would have been a lot closer had he not swapped Lisbon for Manchester last year.
Jim Salveson: Rarely does a new player coming into the league have the impact that Ruben Dias has had on Manchester City? Until now City has tried and failed to replace club captain Vincent Kompany but in Dias have finally found a worthy successor. Not just is he a dominant defender but he is also a natural leader in the heart of that City backline that has been the foundations for their success.
It’s easy to forget that City had a terrible start to 20/21 Premier League season (the worst in Guardiola’s domestic career) and the rebuilding job that was performed on the team all stemmed from a very solid defensive base. A transformative signing and I don’t think City would have won the league without him.
Niall McCaughan: It has to be Harry. Another season for the England skipper ends with another Golden Boot, the prize for the most goals scored in a Premier League campaign. It’s Kane’s third, which puts him in the elite company of Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry – the two inaugural inductees into the Premier League Hall of Fame – as players who have won the Golden Boot on three or more occasions.
Just ponder on that for a moment. Kane is in the same category – the same elite – as two of the greatest players to put on a pair of boots in the history of the Premier League. This is a player we are watching in his prime. Too often does that slip the thinking of Premier League fans. To think this is a striker who could feasibly break Alan Shearer’s mammoth record of 260 strikes leads me to think often Kane doesn’t get the plaudits he truly deserves.
Harry Kane, too, is a superstar. He’s also my player of the season.
Signing of the Season:
CANDIDATES: JESSE LINGARD, EDINSON CAVANI, RAPHINHA, EMILIANO MARTINEZ, RUBEN DIAS
Marley Anderson: For all the reasons above, it should be Ruben Dias, but we apparently established a rule where he’s not allowed to sweep up all the awards, so I’m going for Jesse Lingard.
Many wrote him off, me included, and it never looked like he was going to get his career back on track. It turns out he just needed a fresh start and to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, and that’s what West Ham have given him. I don’t think they’d have qualified for Europe without him arriving in January, and he’ll be unlucky to miss out on England’s Euro 2020 squad if that’s the case when it’s announced on Tuesday.
Jim Salveson: Whilst Jack Grealish gets the plaudits at Aston Villa a man at the other end of the pitch deserves much of the credit for Villa’s decent Premier League season. The fact that many Arsenal fans rue his departure from The Emirates tells much of the story and the £20m transfer fee now looks like a snip as he marshalled one of the meanest defences in the Premier League
Niall McCaughan: The other nominees in this category have all had brilliant seasons. But Ruben Dias sticks out like a sore thumb (in a good way). For me, Dias is comfortably the best signing in 2020/21. Manchester City have finally found the heir to Vincent Kompany.
It’s not so much the Belgian’s quality which they have missed since his departure, but more his leadership. Dias has that in abundance. Football Social Daily’s own Pete Hall spoke to those behind-the-scenes at Benfica who know Dias well for “the I” newspaper.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of Pete’s discussion with Benfica academy coordinator Rodrigo Magalhaes was that Dias was playing up multiple age groups at youth level not because of his ability with his feet, but his ability to communicate with others.
That’s not to say the Portuguese isn’t a highly skilled defender. For example, Dias’ Manchester City teammate Aymeric Laporte is a top-class operator, and has kept Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos out of the Spain squad for Euro 2020. But this season Dias has been a cut above even Laporte, and that takes some doing. He forged a partnership also with a flagging John Stones, who looked nailed on to be sold by City after a nosedive in form.
But since the arrival of Dias, John Stones has turned out the season of his life and that’s no coincidence.
When recently asked by a reporter what his favourite ever Champions League moment was, Ruben Dias replied: “The best is yet to come, my friend” – a nod to this season’s upcoming final in which City face Chelsea in Portugal.
If what Dias prophesises is indeed to be the case for Manchester City, that’s £60m well spent.
Moment of the Season:
CANDIDATES: FANS SHUTTING DOWN SUPER LEAGUE, MOURINHO BEING SACKED, LEICESTER FA CUP WIN, AGUERO’S FINAL CITY GAME, ALISSON’S HEADER
Marley Anderson: For me, I have to pick Sergio Aguero’s farewell to Manchester City.
I honestly couldn’t sit here and script a more perfect send off for the little Argentinian. In front of 10,000 fans for the first time in 14 months, coming off the bench as he did in his debut 10 years ago, two goals to break Wayne Rooney’s record for the most Premier League goals for a single club. It was written in the stars, just as almost all of Aguero’s City career has been. It was 93:20 part II, and a perfect send off for a club legend.
It’s not beyond him to go and do something similar in the Champions League final next week either. Watch this space.
Jim Salveson: The collapse of the European Super League has to be my moment of the season. It was one of the most significant moments in football over the last 20 years and we are still to feel the full impact that the decision of six Premier League clubs to join a breakaway league will ultimately have.
Not only was it high drama but I think for many fans it made them feel like they had a voice. I’m not naïve enough to think that it was fan pressure along that caused UEFA to take such as strong stance or even the UK government to get involved but certainly the strength of opinion and outrage from every quarter of football caught the minds behind the ESL off guard and will maybe put a pin in future proposals in the near future.
A massive moment in football and if it leads to further fan engagement and input when it comes to club decision making it might turn out to be worth the drama.
Niall McCaughan: Before I talk about the rightly condemned European Super League, I have to say this was the hardest category of all to pick my winner.
However, in my lifetime as a football fan, I have never experienced the uproar, the furore, the sheer chaos of the European Super League proposals. I’ve never seen anything like it. The way that everyone came together to vent their anger and exasperation – whether it be players, pundits, or even people who don’t like football that much – was truly seismic.
Fan power won the day. Supporters up and down the country said collectively ‘we won’t stand for this.’ It was a huge middle finger to those who tried to bastardise our game. The fans’ game. It’s a close call, as the reason we all love the sport is for what happens on the pitch. The fairy-tale of Tielemans’ goal in front of 21,000 after 14 months of no crowds will certainly be one of those memorable moments for years to come.
But the way that all of football came together, driven by the fans, to force the Super League proposals out of the door was a significant, poignant moment in not just the season but in the history of English football.
For more chat about awards, winners and losers of the season (sorry Steve Bruce), check out the Football Social Daily podcast from Monday, May 24th.