james debate
james debate

Thursday 3 June 2021

There's something reassuringly normal about a football season where the craziest thing that happens is Chelsea becoming Champions of Europe. The world is reopening, fans are returning to games, Arsenal are midtable. Let's take the opportunity to enjoy this moment by taking stock with our traditional end of season awards.

premier league 2021 manchester city champions klopp pep guardiola tuchel lampard chelsea ephemeric european super league
There may not have been any fans at the grounds for much of the season, but the conclusion of a largely uninterrupted season of football will come as a welcome sign of normalcy. Indeed there is a reassuring familiarity in Manchester City once again romping their way to a well deserved, if highly predictable title. Despite their domestic success, however, it would prove to be another season of frustration as Pep Guardiola's boys once again missed out on the biggest prize in club football, losing the Champions League final to Chelsea in a shock result that may or may not have forced me to re-write significant portions of this post. 

Last season's champions, Liverpool, slumped somewhat disappointingly off the pace of the last few seasons, ending trophiless and only just squeaking into the top four. Instead, runner up position was left to Manchester United. The red devils stuck with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer through a rough start to the season before a storming run of form took them to second, reminding us once again of the virtues of patience. In stark contrast, see Chelsea FC, who sacked arguably last season's manager of the year Frank Lampard at only the first indication of trouble, resulting predictably in a stuttering, inconsistent season that somehow inexplicably resulted in an unlikely Champions League win. If ever there was a club that thrives in chaos, it's Chelsea, and for better or worse it looks like this is going to be the game plan for the foreseeable future.

Of course, no discussion of poorly run football clubs would be complete without mentioning Arsenal. Moving swiftly on to more interesting clubs, Leicester City were nearly men once again, riding high in the top four for most of the season, only to once again drop out of Champions League qualification in just the final days. On the bright side, they have the FA Cup for consolation this time. It was a much happier story for West Ham United, who capped a very impressive season under a revitalised David Moyes with a return to European football.

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 2021:

Winners: Manchester City - A return to the Premier League's summit for Manchester City. Certainly, it is fair to say that their competition has not been up to the standard set in recent title challenges, but that shouldn't detract from a City side that ranks among the very best in world football today.

Relegated: Fulham, West Brom, Sheffield United - It was a disastrous season from Sheffield United, who proved unable to replicate last season's heroics and will face relegation. They are joined by Fulham who, despite major financial investment, just can't seem to find a winning formula at this level, as well as West Bromwich Albion.

Player of the Year: Harry Kane (Tottenham) - It might seem surprising not to award this prize to one of the title winners, but in my view there is only one choice. Harry Kane topped both the goals and assists table despite playing in a team that was bang average throughout. There is simply no more complete striker in the country, and few anywhere in the world right now.

U-21 Player of the Year: Mason Mount (Chelsea) - If last season was Mason Mount's breakthrough, this was the season where he truly arrived on the global stage. Doubts have persisted ever since Lampard promoted the Cobham academy product to the starting eleven of one of Europe's top clubs, but those doubts have surely been silenced following a year in which the 22 year old set the game alight with his creativity and industriousness. For a player so young, Mount already looks the complete package and can only get better.

Best Goalkeeper: Emi Martinez (Aston Villa) - Arsenal's loss is Aston Villa's gain. The Argentine goalkeeper has been in electric form at the back of an Aston Villa defence that vastly exceeded expectations. It's even more impressive when you look at the statistics: Martinez has the fourth best save % in Europe, the best PSxG (percentage of expected goals saved) in Europe, and the third highest number of clean sheets. Not bad for a goalkeeper playing behind a newly promoted defence.

Top Scorer: Harry Kane (Tottenham) (23) - This year's player of the season picks up his third Golden Boot. 23 might seem like a modest number of goals for the league's top scorer, but it gets even more impressive when you consider...

Most Assists: Harry Kane (Tottenham) (14) - ... that Harry Kane also topped the assists chart, a feat not achieved since Thierry Henry some twenty years ago. With a combined outlay of 37 goals produced for his team, there are few more complete and productive forwards in world football right now.

Overachievers: West Ham - At the beginning of this season few would have fancied West Ham for anything other than lower half of the table obscurity, particularly following the uninspired appointment of David Moyes, a man who had already had a previous (also uninspired) stint with the club. Well Moyes and West Ham have proven us wrong, resulting in a remarkable season which ended in European qualification, with a very real chance of breaking into the Champions League right up until the final days of the season.

Underachievers: Arsenal - The perennial underachievers of the Premier League, 2021 will surely mark a new low for Arsenal as they finish bang in midtable. Expectations had been high at the start of the season with the Arteta vibes going strong and the high from last season's (truthfully undeserved) FA Cup win. This season just reminds us that bad referees might help you out for one game, but they can't paper over the cracks for an entire season.

Manager of the Year: David Moyes (West Ham) - Credit where it is due, the job David Moyes has done with West Ham season has been remarkable. To be punching at the top of the table with the squad he has available, is very fine work indeed, reminiscent of the glory days of Moyes' Everton side.

Best signing of the season: Ruben Dias (Manchester City) - If there was one player other than Kane who might have claimed the title of this year's player of the season, it's Ruben Dias. Dias has been the core of Pep's formidable City side, running the league's most miserly defence like a general and forming a rock solid partnership with John Stones. A stellar debut season.

Worst signing of the season: Willian (Arsenal) - So much expectation when the two-time Premier League winner (with Chelsea) made the switch to the Emirates, and Willian's strong start to the season certainly bode well for the season to come. Sadly as the weeks rolled by Arsenal fans would eventually learn what Chelsea fans have known for years, consistency is not one of Willian's strengths.

The Ephemeric Premier League Team of the Season 2021:

english epl bpl premier league best team xi of the season 2021

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

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