Wednesday, 25 May 2016
There was no Premier League this year, look into the neuralizer below and forget this ever happened. While you're at it, forget Men in Black 2 and 3 ever happened.
Well that was... something. I like to pride myself on making pretty good predictions, yet somehow I missed out on Tottenham and Leicester City duking it out for the title. On the other hand I did predict a very poor season for Chelsea, though in retrospect I don't think I went far enough. There will be time later to dissect what went wrong there, for now I'm just going to go scream into this pillow.
Moving on, Leicester City deserve all the praise in the world for what surely has to be the greatest upset in sporting history, going from relegation candidates to Champions in a notoriously lopsided sport, becoming only the sixth team to win the title during the Premier League era. While the Thai-billionaire-backed club are perhaps not quite the penniless underdogs that the media like to pretend, there is certainly no diminishing the unbelievable work they have done this season in order to defy all expectations.
The big takeaway from this season is just how open and competitive the Premier League really is, and it's a testament to the League's policy on income distribution, and in this view a far healthier approach to take than the "super-club" route being taken in hopelessly one-sided leagues like Spain and Germany. With the insane amount of new TV money coming into the Premier League over the coming years, you can expect an even greater amount of competition, where even the bottom teams have the financial clout to match the biggest clubs elsewhere in Europe.
Now without further ado it is time to move on to the Ephemeric end of season awards, followed by our carefully selected Premier League team of the year.
The Ephemeric Premier League Awards 2016:
Winners: Leicester City - A perfect example of how to build a team. Leicester have spent plenty of money over the past few years, but focused on depth and squad development, rather than overpriced prima dona "stars". Money + well-rounded squad + calming managerial influence = success.
Relegated: Newcastle, Norwich, Aston Villa - The official Ephemeric prediction at the start of the year had Norwich going down, and Villa in serious danger, so not much surprise there. For Newcastle however it's been a bitterly disappointing season. I felt at the time that people weren't nearly pessimistic enough about Steve McClaren, but that given the improvements to their playing squad they should be fine. Incredibly I managed to overestimate McClaren, this is what happens when you let yourself listen to the idiot pundits too much.
Player of the Year: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City) - A star is born. After an impressive end to the previous season, Mahrez started the season with a bang and never looked back. In Leicester's stunning season, Mahrez has nevertheless managed to stand out, bagging a remarkable 17 goals and 11 assists.
U-21 Player of the Year: Dele Alli (Tottenham) - If not for the incredible story that is Leicester, we might have been talking about how massively improved Tottenham looked this season, or at least they did until their late season slump which allowed arch rivals Arsenal into 2nd. One of the highlights of this side has been the instant success of youngster Dele Alli, who in his debut season has become an integral part of the title challengers' midfield, and looks set to make his mark on the national side despite being only 20 years of age.
Best Goalkeeper: Petr Cech (Arsenal) - Still the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. With him between the sticks, Arsenal go from Champions League qualification hopefuls to genuine title challengers. Chelsea look on with red faces as they look to have weakened their own side while strengthening an arch rival for barely a pittance.
Manager of the Year: Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City) - Just rewards for the most likable manager in football. This website was (shockingly) one of the lone voices defending his appointment at the start of the season, and I'm glad to see him vindicate that statement. Still few would have imagined him having another shot at the Premier League title after leaving Chelsea some 13 years ago, his re-emergence and success will surely go down as one of the great comebacks in sporting history, and all the more sweet for him to have taken the title from his old employers Chelsea.
Top Scorer: Harry Kane (Tottenham) (25) - Another top season for the great English hope, effectively answering anyone who wondered whether the previous year had just been a flash in the pan.
Most Assists: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) (19) - An impressive turnaround for a player who had largely been seen as a big-money flop for most of his first few years in England, this season Ozil came alive, with an astonishing assists total that ranks among the highest tallies in Premier League history.
Overachievers: Leicester City - Never has a prize been more deservedly awarded...
Underachievers: Chelsea - ... Until now.
Best signing of the season: N'Golo Kante (Leicester City) - A domineering debut from a player who will almost certainly be the talk of much transfer gossip this summer.
Worst signing of the season: Radamel Falcao (Chelsea) - A remarkable back-to-back champion of this most coveted of awards. Whoever thought this was a good option for the Champions' first two choice strikers should be fired, as should the pundits who agreed. Anyone with even half decent awareness of the game could have seen this one coming.
The Ephemeric Premier League Team of the Season 2016:
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech (Arsenal)
Right Back: Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Centrebacks: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham) & Robert Huth (Leicester City)
Left Back: Christian Fuchs (Leicester City)
Right Mid: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
Centre Mids: N'Golo Kante (Leicester City) & Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Left Mid: Dimitri Payet (West Ham)
Forwards: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) & Harry Kane (Tottenham)
So there we have it, another season of Premier League football gone by. We'll see you again next season!