We might only be two months into the 2020-21 Premier League season, however, there has been plenty of drama, goals and VAR to distract ourselves from the realities of day to day life in 2020. The new handball rule has caused a fair measure of disgust and outrage, and COVID-19 means we are still without fans, a presence that continues to be dearly missed.
For the first time in history Manchester United and Liverpool conceded six goals on the same day. Manchester United were demolished at Old Trafford by former boss Jose Mourinho: 1-6; Whilst Liverpool let in seven against Aston Villa, yes – you weren’t dreaming, in a global pandemic, with no fans, Villa beat the Premier League champions 7-2.
In a season like no other, anything is possible.
The beauty of early season awards is that we can overreact and dare to dream. Leicester are top of the league (again!), Southampton are fourth and Aston Villa are in the top the six, Manchester City are 10th, Arsenal 11th and Manchester United 14th – change is coming, change feels inevitable.
With the International break upon us, who are the early front runners for the awards?
- Player of the Season
- Young Player of the Season
- Manager of the Season
- Game of the Season
Player of the Season
1. Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur – Kane has 13 goals and ten assists in 14 matches in all competitions for Spurs this season.
The England International has looked back to his brilliant best this season, scoring his 150th Premier League goal in the 1-0 win over West Brom. Only Alan Shearer (212) and Sergio Aguero (217) scored their 150th Premier League goal in fewer appearances than Kane, who has done so in his 218th match in the competition.
His ability to drop deep and create as well as be one of the best goal scorers in the world, makes him the all-round centre-forward. After Tottenham’s historic demolition of Manchester United, Kane said “we could win the league” a huge ask for Tottenham, but if Kane and Son stay fit and Mourinho works his magic, stranger things have absolutely happened, in this strangest of all seasons.
2. Jamie Vardy – Leicester City – His penalty against West Brom on Sunday, means Vardy has scored against every current side in the Premier League, quite the milestone, and indicative of his consistency and form over the past couple of seasons.
Vardy golden boot in 2019/2020 made him the oldest ever player to finish top scorer in the Premier League, finishing with 23 goals. With eight goals already this season, it would not be surprising to anyone to see him repeat that feat again. Someone who is clearly a fan is his Leicester City boss, Brendan Rodgers:
He’s a phenomenal player, he’s tactically so good. You see his goals and runs but he has an incredible view of football. He understands the game. With that, along with his running ability, he’s sensational.
3. Jack Grealish – Aston Villa – If swagger could be a Premier League player it would be Jack Grealish, the slicked back-hair, the mazy box to box dribbling, Grealish plays like the best player on the school yard.
In many ways Grealish is a throwback, he has been compared to Paul Gascoigne, while a hefty comparison, it’s testament to his development. Four goals and five assists in seven appearances are great numbers, the highlight being a two-goal, three assist cameo in Aston Villa‘s humbling of Liverpool.
Honourable Mention: Heung min-Son (Tottenham), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Patrick Bamford (Leeds)
Young Player of the Season (aged 25 and under)
1. Dominic Calvert-Lewin – Everton – Back to back hat-tricks in home games against West Brom and West Ham, meant Calvert-Lewin become first player to do that under Carlo Ancelotti since a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in 2014.
Calvert-Lewin has played under six managers, the first of which, Ronald Koeman, occasionally went as far as to playing him at right wing-back and tasked him with providing opportunities for others as a crosser. Now, though, under the tutelage of Ancelotti, he is developing into an elite finisher. Earlier in the season, in reference to Calvert-Lewin, Ancelotti harked back to his time as boss of AC Milan, when Filipo Inzaghi made the predatory one-touch finish an art-form.
I had a fantastic striker in Inzaghi, who scored 300 goals and 210 with one touch, a striker has to be focused in the box and I think Calvert-Lewin understands really well because in the box he has speed, he jumps really high, he has power. Where he has improved more is there, in the box.
2. Diogo Jota – Liverpool – Jota scored 44 goals in 131 appearances for Wolves – averaging a goal every three games. The upgrade on talent on the Liverpool roster with players such as Mohamed Salah, Trent-Alexander Arnold and Andrew Robertson providing the final ball can only be a good thing for the young prestigious striker.
Jota has now scored seven goals in 11 appearances for Liverpool this season. Add in the double, he scored for Portugal in the UEFA Nations League against Sweden and its nine goals in 13 appearances in all competitions. For new manager Jürgen Klopp, the sky is the limit:
He’s 23 years old, still far away from being kind of a finished article, so much potential. He has the speed, he can combine, can defend, can press.
3. Tariq Lamptey – Brighton – England’s right back depth is well documented at this stage, with enough starting full-backs to field an eleven-side team. Nineteen-year-old Tariq Lamptey turned down a contract at Chelsea last season in favour of move to Brighton and first-team football. His decision so far looks to have been excellent one.
Lamptey has flew out the blocks this season being selected player of the match by BBC readers in both of Brighton’s opening fixtures versus Chelsea and Newcastle.
A top modern full-back needs pace (he’s the joint fastest player in the Premier League this season so far alongside Manchester City Kyle Walker at 36.6 km/h), the ability to make overlapping runs, the stamina to run up and down the touch line and the technical ability to whip dangerous crosses into the box, Lamptey ticks all the boxes. It will be a big ask for him to make England Euro squad this summer, his performances this season, has but himself in position to be in contention.
Honourable Mention: Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) and Timo Werner (Chelsea)
Manager of the Season
1. Brendan Rodgers – Leicester City – An easy choice, as Leicester City sit top of the Premier League table. Rodgers may not receive any great praise for his sensational record at Celtic, where he won the treble in both of his full seasons at the club, but he has shown he is among the very best coaches in the league since joining Leicester last February. Having got a real tune out of variety of different line-up’s this season, relying on his tactical nous and ability to set-up a team using a compact defence and then forging high-quality chances on the counterattack.
2. Ralph Hasenhüttl – Southampton – It feels like you cannot mention the job Hasenhüttl has done without mentioning that infamous 9-0 shellacking at the hands of Leicester City last season.
The Southampton manager has done a good enough job since then for that no-longer to be part of any fair analysis of his managerial credibility. His Southampton side are fourth in the league and look ready to contend for a European spot all season. Hasenhüttl was influenced by Ralf Rangnick at RB Leipzg tactically and has brought a structured game plan – giving the Saints an identity, through his organised pressing and team structure.
3. Dean Smith – Aston Villa – Five wins out of seven games, including the most recent humbling of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. A dream start has Villa faithful dreaming of finishing way higher up the table than last season’s 17th place. An excellent summer of recruitment – signing Emiliano Martinez from Arsenal, Ollie Watkins from Brentford, Ross Barkley from Chelsea – has added depth, talent and instant production. A +nine goal difference is an excellent start, Dean Smith has Villa looking organised, confident and mature.
Honourable Mention: Jose Mourinho (Tottenham), Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) and Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)
Game of the season
1. Leeds 1-1 Manchester City – As a fan of NBA basketball, I am accustomed to watching defence transition into offence as part of the natural ebb and flow of a game. Rarely in all my years of watching Premier League football, have I watched two teams play with such ‘YOLO’ (you only live once) attitude.
Two of the world’s most revered tacticians, duelling, in an epic, open encounter. With both teams deciding to have no regard for numbers in the centre of the field. It was football at its delightful best, a thrilling feast of attacking chaos, you attack, we attack, to hell with midfield pivots, defensive structure and the long ball. A game so intoxicating you never wanted it to end.
2. Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool – The first time ever a Premier League champion had conceded seven goals. It was a game that defied all logic, analysis and was proof that we really don’t have any idea what we’re talking about when it comes to predicting the outcome of a football match. Villa made Liverpool look like amateurs as Liverpool, to quote their manager Jürgen Klopp, “lost their mind”. Ollie Watkins, Jack Grealish and co had a performance for the ages and one for the Premier League archives.
3. Liverpool 4-3 Leeds – Start the season as you mean to go on. Liverpool and Leeds give us an early spoiler of what was to come in the opening weeks, goals, goals, and more goals. The seven-goal thriller saw Marcelo Bielsa Leeds side set the tone for how they plan to attack Premier League football. Their high intensity pressing, man to man marking and relentless running has been a delight to watch.
Liverpool’s vulnerability defensively in hindsight has borne out – conceding 16 goals in their first eight games. In this curtain opener, Liverpool largely dominated, having 22 goal attempts to Leeds’ six. Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick and has looked as sharp as ever in the early season. Phillips – “The Yorkshire Pirlo” – dictated from deep and Patrick Bamford looked a more mature composed forward. All trends that look to be continuing this season.
Honourable Mention: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool, Aston Villa 0-3 Leeds, Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham