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Premier League 2019-20 End-of-Season Awards

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 27, 2020

Liverpool players Adam Lallana, James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrate with the English Premier League trophy after it was presented following the Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, July 22, 2020. (Paul Ellis, Pool via AP)
B/R

The 2019-20 Premier League season is finally over.

It was the longest campaign in history, spanning 353 days, enduring a three-month delay because of a pandemic and tested throughout by the debut impact of VAR, but it is, finally, in the books.

So it's time to hand out some awards, recognising the best, the worst and the most dramatic—among other things. Strap yourselves in one last time and relive the action that spanned almost a full year.

          


     

Best Team: Liverpool

Paul Ellis/Associated Press

Obviously.

They smoked the competition, went unbeaten until late February, won the title with seven games to spare and totalled 99 points. They conceded the fewest goals, scored the second-most and finished up 18 points clear at the top.

While some came close to matching their quality on occasion, none could conjure the consistency Liverpool did, and none possessed the same drive and hell-bent mentality to win games.

        

Best Player: Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City

Rui Vieira/Associated Press

A final-day assist in a 5-0 win against Norwich City, in which he also scored two goals, took Kevin De Bruyne to the 20-assist mark for the campaign—plus the 13-goal mark to boot.

It's a return of a combined 33 goal involvements, truly sensational, marking him out as the most productive player in the division. Combine that with the fact that he's been a dream to watch, and you've got yourself the clearest case for best player of anyone.

City struggled for consistency across the season; their five-game win streak to finish 2019-20 was their longest of the season, highlighting why they couldn't keep up with Liverpool. That accentuated De Bruyne's brilliance, as he was consistently excellent, at times saving them, at times putting the cherry on top of great performances.

          

Best Young Player: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool

Phil Noble/Associated Press

2019-20 saw Trent Alexander-Arnold continue to morph into David Beckham, with his crosses and set pieces reaching a point where they are borderline undefendable.

He ended up with 13 assists for the Premier League campaign, the highest tally on his team and second only to De Bruyne in a league-wide context.

He netted four goals, quadrupling his best-ever tally for a season, improved on the defensive end and developed a relationship with Joe Gomez that has Liverpool fans optimistic about a long spell of strength in that area of the pitch.

         

Biggest Surprise: Sheffield United's European Charge

Jon Super/Associated Press

There was some seriously lazy analysis of Sheffield United floating about before the season started, pigeon-holing them as a long-ball, defensive team that had no hope of surviving in the top tier.

But even those who knew better than to make such assumptions, even those who appreciated how quirky, efficient and effective the Blades were, probably didn't see a legitimate European charge coming.

Losses in Gameweeks 36 and 37 knocked them out contention for UEFA Europa League football or better—they were in it for that long. With the fourth-best defensive record, strong pressing in midfield and an eclectic mix of attacking tactics, they took everyone—opponents and those watching on—by surprise.

             

Best Manager: Chris Wilder, Sheffield United

Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Sheffield United's surprise European charge doesn't happen without Chris Wilder's brilliance at the helm. Their success isn't a case of having superior players or big transfer splashes; it's one derived from a brilliant figurehead who excels in every area of management.

Wilder's odd overlapping centre-backs tactic has caught the eye this year, with many amazed by how the Blades push their centre-backs to the wing and have them dribble and cross. It's not something we've really seen in the Premier League before.

They use that tactic to create overloads in certain areas, flooding players into it and creating chances. That's just as much a co-ordinated effort as their physical midfield play, intense pressing in specific situations and defensive nous.

Wilder's signed well, strategised well and man-managed well. He took a team many had destined for an immediate return to the Championship on a European chase, eventually settling for ninth on 54 points—just two behind Arsenal.

There's an extremely strong argument for Jurgen Klopp as Best Manager for obvious reasons, but Wilder's case is just as strong, making it a tough choice between the two that he edges.

        

Best Signing: Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United

Mike Hewitt/Associated Press

It feels a bit odd to select a January signing for this award, but Bruno Fernandes' impact on Manchester United since joining, in conjunction with the seriously up-and-down fortunes of most big summer signings in the league, makes him the pick.

The below stat line sums him—and his style—up perfectly.

Bruno Fernandes, 2019-20 Premier League
NameAppsGoalsAssistsShots per gamePass Completion %
Bruno14873.175.7
WhoScored.com

Bruno's a risk-taker—he tries things. And in a team that boasts speed and willing runners ahead of the ball, he'll happily try six difficult passes in order to land three. He'll also willingly shoot from distance, knowing the odd one will go in, and he takes about as guaranteed a penalty you'll find—a handy trait in a team that won a record number of penalties in a Premier League season (14).

He's played a massive hand in driving United up the table and into third. The Premier League table since February 1, Bruno's debut, has the Red Devils top with 32 points (followed by City and Liverpool on 30 and 29, respectively).

His consistent excellence and impact, coupled with the absence of that from the likes of Rodrigo, Tanguy Ndombele and Nicolas Pepe et al., clear a path to scoop this award.

          

Most Improved Player: Danny Ings, Southampton

Glynn Kirk/Associated Press

For the first time since 2014/15, Danny Ings was able to stay fully fit for an entire season. The result? He scored 22 Premier League goals, a total that included just one penalty, and ran Jamie Vardy (23) incredibly close for the Golden Boot.

Even back in 2014/15, he scored 11—exactly half his 2019-20 tally—though, in fairness, the Burnley side he played for then was a little less enterprising than the Southampton variant he belongs to now.

Ings developed rhythm and confidence, and through that he found a killer instinct, perfecting the arced right-footed finish and coming alive in the box to finish off scraps. He coupled that with relentless off-the-ball work and silky link play, making him the MVP of Ralph Hasenhuttl's side and more than just a difference-maker in the final third.

            

Biggest Midseason Makeover: Southampton

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Saints fans are sick of hearing about it, but it bears repeating one last time to relay the context for this award: Back in October, on a dismal Friday night drenched with rain, Southampton lost 9-0 to Leicester City. The result plunged them into the relegation zone and wrecked their goal difference (minus-16, joint-worst in the division).

Many considered them dead and buried, the damage irreparable. But Southampton fought back in style; they picked up 44 points from there, having kept faith in manager Ralph Hasenhuttl and his methods.

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

44 - Since Southampton lost 0-9 against Leicester City on October 25th 2019, they went on to earn a further 44 points - two more than Leicester managed to win since that night (42). Trust. https://t.co/nw8OaOdmw7

They beat Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester (sweet revenge) and Manchester City and ended the season on a six-game unbeaten run. In fact, they accrued more points than Leicester in the post-9-0 period.

Saints went from staring into the abyss to seeming just two or three astute summer additions away from a Europa League challenge.

         

Biggest Post-Lockdown Makeover: Aston Villa

Andy Rain/Associated Press

How did Aston Villa stay up? How did a club that, in FiveThirtyEight's prediction model, had an 86 per cent chance of going down with just two weeks of the season to play avoid the dreaded drop?

Certain statistics explain it quite simply.

Villa's Statistics Pre vs. Post Lockdown
Conceded per gameErrors leading to goalsSet-piece goals conceded
Pre-Lockdown21115
Post-Lockdown1.100
WhoScored.com + Premierleague.com

For 28 games, Villa tried to play good football, building from the back and moving it through the lines, but they continually shot themselves in the foot in doing so and were terrible from set pieces. They also got extremely unlucky with injuries, losing three key men for long periods, adding to their plight.

Clearly, the Zoom calls during lockdown were focused on these things because they came out risk-free, defensively solid and much-improved from set pieces. It kept them in games and fuelled their confidence, and eight points from their final four games—including a win over Arsenal in Gameweek 37—saw them leapfrog Watford and Bournemouth to stay up.

In the space of two gutsy weeks, they went from "Doing a Fulham" and taking big steps backward to looking toward a bright horizon, with the potential of keeping their best players and making serious progression up the league.

         

Biggest Disappointment: West Ham

Tim Ireland/Associated Press

There were a few contenders here: All three relegated clubs share a natural, obvious disappointment; Southampton endured the worst result of the campaign; and Tottenham Hotspur's 2019-20 was a dreary follow from the outset.

But arguably the biggest disappointment was West Ham United. They drastically underperformed according to their talent level under Manuel Pellegrini and then returned to David Moyes on their knees, asking to be saved.

He did exactly that, guiding them to 16th, and by the end of the season, the Hammers were an awkward customer. But how it went so wrong at the beginning is a mystery.

Their recruitment in the summer was strong; they secured Sebastian Haller—who had just combined for 15 goals and nine assists in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt—and Pablo Fornals, who had excelled at Villarreal and just won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship with Spain, and added them to a team already containing good players who had proved elsewhere they had quality.

Make no mistake: On talent level, this West Ham squad is a top-10, potentially even top-eight, outfit. The degree to which they underperformed this season is shocking, but at least in 2020 they appear to have found the right track.

        

        

Follow @stighefootball

Instagram.com/brsamtighe

All statistics via WhoScored.com, unless noted otherwise

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