With the contentious PFA team of the year, and player/young player of the year accolades decided, and the season all but at an end, now is the time to start looking back and considering some of the other high/low points of a fascinating campaign.
There are many awards that the PFA do not give out, yet often are the subject of much debate from pundits and punters alike. So, here are my picks for; game of the season, goal of the season, breakthrough player of the season and manager of the season, as well as some alternative awards: flop of the season, best chant, best fans, best pundit and best moment of the season.
Game of the season
Despite being quite sick of this Liverpool love in from the media, and sickened by the sight of a seemingly lost generation of Liverpool fans suddenly and unexpectedly donning their red shirts from February onwards (where have they been hiding these past few years?) I cannot deny that Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City was a quite magnificent game of football and the atmosphere and significance of the game makes this the unescapable choice as game of the season. Whilst Liverpool did indeed fail to go on and win the league, I suspect this game will live long in the memory of those fans. Regardless of the outcome. The early Liverpool onslaught was almost too predictable to have worked – yet at half time Daniel Sturridge really should’ve put them three or four nil on front. Alas, he failed and City were able to expose Liverpool’s defensive frailties and the often embarrassing actions of Simon Mignolet, who I believe has escaped a lot of criticism this season by virtue of Liverpool’s ability to outscore the opposition. Step up Vincent Kompany to virtually hand Liverpool the title on a plate, cue the ensuing of calamity. Even if you’re not one of Liverpool’s greatest sympathisers – it is difficult to escape the pure magic of that moment.
Goal of the season
It shocks me that this hasn’t been chosen more often for goal of the season by the pundits. I don’t see how any true football fan can not put it down, given the pure beauty of it. Jack Wilshere vs Norwich is, for me, not only the goal of the season but probably one of the best goals of the Premier league era (I’m sorry if I appear Arsenal-biased). The thing is, goals of the nature of Rooney’s, Shelvey’s or Kasami’s are undoubtedly moments of magic but you do tend to see them every season, in fact you’ll find one at least once a fortnight somewhere in Europe. Yet that team goal with the one touch football and the speed of it, as well as the sheer level of understanding/communication between the players was something you don’t see very often. It really was a moment to be savoured. The faces of the Norwich players says it all, they just stood their looking at each other.
Breakthrough player of the season
Ross Barkley might have suffered a very, very slight dip post January (injuries being a factor) but otherwise has had a quite remarkable impact on Everton’s first team – deservedly making England’s 23 man World Cup squad on Monday. His finishing, passing, final ball, work rate and confidence are all crazily good for a player of his age and Everton would be well served to keep him under lock and key in the next transfer window – almost regardless of what is being offered to them. Whilst honourable mentions go to Adnan Januzaj and perhaps even Luke Shaw (although he was already on the radar by the end of last season), Barkley has been by far and away the most consistent as well as the one who has performed the most in big games.
Manager of the season
Had Liverpool won the league, Brendan Rodgers would’ve been an absolute shoe in – and to be honest, it is still so, so hard not to put him in given the scale of Liverpool’s resurgence this year. But quietly and surely, Tony Pulis has been doing an even more remarkable job at Crystal Palace with them finishing arguably about eight places above where they should be. Furthermore, none of Pulis’ close rivals have had to play double the number of games as Palace – an undeniable factor for Liverpool. I’m not Tony Pulis’ greatest admirer, I certainly didn’t admire his Stoke team and maintain that it was the right time for both parties to part company but none can deny that he has done a superb job this season at Palace.
Flop of the season
Spurs pretty much have a monopoly on the nominations for this category, with Marouane Fellaini and Ricky van Wolfswinkel making up the rest of the shortlist. The head over heels winner for me though, is Roberto Soldado. After scoring four penalties in his first six games and attracting a ludicrous amount of praise in the process of doing so – he has been found out for what he is. A lazy, overhyped, Spanish league player who has managed to lose his place as Tottenham’s second choice striker to Harry Kane. Doesn’t that just say it all?
Originated rather late in the season (naturally), but this one really is fantastic. First heard (I believe) at Goodison Park for Everton vs City, sung by both home and away fans in unison:
Steve Gerrard, Gerrard,
He slipped on his f*cking arse,
He gave it to Demba Ba
Steve Gerrard, Gerrard
Without having been there myself, I take it on good authority (Twitter mostly) that Selhurst Park and the Crystal Palace fans are absolutely fantastic. Even at the start of the season when perhaps thinks weren’t looking quite so rosy and they sat bottom after fifteen or so games they have consistently produced the best atmosphere in the country – only eventually topped by Anfield during Liverpool’s late, great winning streak. But Palace fans have been doing it all season. A few more of those at my club, Arsenal, are desperately needed.
Who can see past Gary Neville as once again being one of the most sensible men in football. He manages (unlike far too many others) to all but remove bias from his analysis whilst being able to make a joke out of it if he is defending United too staunchly, whilst providing some of the most in-depth team analysis that you’re likely to see on Monday Night Football. Has only been made better by the relationship between him and Carragher.
Best moment of the season
If not because of the priceless reaction of the many Liverpool fans who for so long had been acting as if the trophy was already coated in red ribbons, Gerrard’s slip has to go down as one of the most painful yet hilarious moments in Premier League history, unless you’re a Liverpool fan. Even setting aside the ‘we don’t let this slip’ team talk, the whole media love in surrounding Liverpool at the time had just become sickening and for it to come crashing down in such a literal and ironic way was simply amazing.