james debate
james debate

Friday 31 July 2020

Welcome to another end of year retrospective on an "interesting" season of Premier League football. Here at The Ephemeric I'd like to use this moment to take stock of the season gone by and bestow a few carefully considered accolades.

premier league 2020 liverpool champions klopp lampard chelsea ephemeric
To call this an unusual season would be an understatement. In truth, it bore many of the hallmarks of being a remarkable year of football even prior to the Coronavirus pandemic forcing an unprecedented three month delay that ultimately saw the season resolved in a six week mad-dash to the finish.

Liverpool were eventually crowned as Champions for the first time in thirty years; a conclusion that, while not made official until the resumption of football in June, had been pretty much a certainty for much of the year. The reds' victory marks the crowning achievement in a remarkable tenure under Jurgen Klopp that has also seen the club reach two Champions League finals, winning one. The transformation of this club from superclub has-beens to arguably the best side in the world today is no small accomplishment and one that surely cements Klopp's place as one of the great managers of the modern era.

As Liverpool have been impressive, so too have Manchester City been disappointing. For a club to so routinely spend hundreds of millions on transfers (net) and still fall so short is a serious underperformance. One that Pep won't want to make a habit if he is to retain his job.

Outside the big two we have seen far tighter competition for the final two Champions League places. The final sprint came down to a three-horse race of Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester City, but for large swathes of the season that contest also featured the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United. Ultimately those two places went to a Manchester United side resurgent in the second half of the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard's homegrown Chelsea.

At the other end of the table the goals of Teemu Pukki were not enough to save Norwich from early relegation, while it took the last game of the season to separate Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Watford. Of the three it was ultimately Villa, spearheaded by the managerial dream team of Dean Smith and John Terry, who managed to secure survival for another season.

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 2020:

Winners: Liverpool - Champions and comfortably so. As frightening as their quality should be the consistency with which they have shown that quality over the past three years. Arguably the world's top side at the moment.

Relegated: Bournemouth, Watford, Norwich - Heartbreak on the final day of the season for Bournemouth and Watford, two sides who have made a credible presence of themselves in the top flight over the past five years and will now be looking to bounce back.

Player of the Year: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) - While his club may have disappointed, Kevin de Bruyne has had probably his best year in football. An indispensable creative force and dangerous goal threat, adept from set-pieces blessed with a vision that few in the world possess. For all his renown, this is the season that truly established his place as one of the world's best.

U-21 Player of the Year: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) - TAA is not only the best young player in the league, but one of the best old ones too. A top level fullback by anyone's measure, but TAA has remarkably also managed to become the most prolific creative force in a Liverpool side known for its attacking swagger. The good news for U-21 players is that this is the last year in which TAA will be eligible for this award.

Best Goalkeeper: Nick Pope (Burnley) - The form goalkeeper of the season has not been the expensive superstars at Liverpool or Manchester City, but the little fancied Nick Pope. For Pope to have been in contention for the Golden Glove despite being supported by such an unremarkable defence is no small achievement. Indeed no other goalkeeper has registered more saves this year.

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) (23) - At 33 years of age, Vardy still shows no signs of slowing down. A gifted goalscorer and consistently one of the most difficult strikers in the league.

Most Assists: Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City) (20) - A remarkable season in which Kevin equalled, but sadly failed to beat, the existing record number of assists.

Overachievers: Chelsea - An easy choice for this prize. An inexperienced manager's first season in top flight football, an inherited squad full of kids with no established striker and the league's weakest goalkeeper, and to top it all off a transfer ban to prevent any solution to these issues. This Chelsea side should not have been anywhere near top four, and their final position tied for third with Manchester United is nothing short of remarkable.

Underachievers: Arsenal - Also an easy choice. This Arsenal team was fancied by most pundits to take a top four position. Instead they finished in eighth, their lowest table position since 1994. This is a club with a lot of work to do if it is to compete with the top teams again.

Manager of the Year: Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) & Frank Lampard (Chelsea) - This year I simply could not pick a winner for this prize, and so yes I am going to cheat a bit and share it between Klopp and Lampard. For Klopp the rationale is simple: the man won the title, a culmination of years of work with the club that has been nothing short of legendary. But for Klopp to win the title with such a great team is arguably less impressive than what Lampard has achieved. Fourth place (tied third) and a cup final is far beyond what should reasonably have been expected for Frank's youthful and transfer banned side, a remarkable debut achievement for what looks to be a managerial star in the making.

Best signing of the season: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) - An impressive debut season in English football for Fernandes and arguably the main reason for United's dramatic turnaround in form. The only reason Fernandes is not on the team of the season below is because I believe a player should participate in at least half the games of a season in order to be eligible. But the fact that Fernandes has had such dramatic impact in such a short spell of time in the league shows why he deserves this prize.

Worst signing of the season: Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) - They say that the transfer fee should not dictate expectations for a player. "They" have clearly not been watching Nicolas Pepe.

The Ephemeric Premier League Team of the Season 2020:

english epl bpl premier league best team xi of the season 2019

So there we have it, another season of Premier League football gone by. We'll see you again next season!

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