With the PFA Player of the Year Award set to be announced on Friday, now is an appropriate time to look back at the season that was.
The 2019/2020 Premier League season, abruptly halted for over three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will go down as one of the most unconventional and unpredictable Premier League campaigns ever.
Liverpool blew the competition out of the water. Norwich City blew themselves out of the water. Sheffield United are set to finish above Arsenal. Watford sacked three different managers.
Despite the parity that dominated this season, we can still rejoice in the individuals whose performances this season outpaced the competition.
To recap and honour the season’s best performers, a panel of Premier League Central columnists made their selections for the following awards: Team of the Season, Player of the Season, Manager of the Season, Player of the Season Outside the Traditional Top Six, Newcomer of the Season, Breakout Player of the Season, Most Surprising Team, and Most Disappointing Team.
Without further ado, here are the results:
Team of the Season:
GK: Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Çağlar Söyüncü (Leicester City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
Forwards: Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Liverpool are well-represented in this year’s Team of the Season, with 6 selections. Van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold, and Robertson were all unanimous choices, while Henderson, Salah, and Mane all fell just one vote short of unanimity.
Jamie Vardy’s 23 Premier League goals this season earns him the spot alongside the Reds’ wingers to lead the line, while Çağlar Söyüncü’s leadership from the back to guide Leicester City’s surprise ascension into Champions League contention merits his selection as van Dijk’s defensive partner.
Kevin De Bruyne was also a unanimous selection in the midfield. The Belgian’s 11 goals and 20 assists this term warrant his undoubted place in the team.
The #1 jersey was hotly contested with Alisson, Bernd Leno, Dean Henderson, and Nick Pope all receiving votes, but ultimately it was Pope who was chosen between the sticks. The third midfield spot alongside Henderson and De Bruyne was also heavily disputed, with Ndidi (4 votes) beating out Mateo Kovacic (2), Fabinho (1), Georginio Wijnaldum (1), Jack Grealish (1), John Fleck (1), and James Madisson (1).
Player of the Season: Kevin De Bruyne
As reflected in the Team of the Season voting, an array of Liverpool players staked strong claims to take home this award. Ultimately, they were jostling for second place, as 10 of our 13 voters selected Kevin De Bruyne as the top flight’s top player.
Despite Man City’s disappointing record in the league this season, De Bruyne’s displays were simply magical. The former Chelsea man’s mix of chance creation, cross-field passing, shooting touch, defensive covering, and overall impact on the game was just too good to deny.
The race for second best between Henderson, Mane, and Van Dijk was quite close, with Henderson just beating out Mane and Van Dijk who tied for third. The only other players to receive a top 3 vote were Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jamie Vardy.
Manager of the Season: Jurgen Klopp
Out of the 13 panelists, all 13 voted Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp as Manager of the Season, while 8 of the 13 had Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder in 2nd place. The battle for third place was more interesting, with Frank Lampard and Nuno Espirito Santo sharing the spoils. Brendan Rodgers and Ralph Hasenhüttl each received votes as well.
Put simply, winning the league with 7 games remaining, setting countless Premier League records along the way, and constantly dominating the competition makes it nearly impossible to give this award to anyone other than Klopp.
Similarly, leading your side into a full season battle for European qualifications despite widespread expectations of relegation makes it hard not to recognize Wilder for his side’s accomplishments.
After losing manager Mauricio Sarri and club legend Eden Hazard in the summer while being constrained by a transfer ban, Lampard’s success in leading Chelsea to a probable 3rd place finish in what many expected to be a rebuilding season for the Blues earns him joint 3rd place in this race as well.
Nuno Espirito Santo showed that his club’s remarkable rise from the Championship last season was no fluke, as Wolves have firmly established themselves as one of England’s best clubs.
Player of the Season outside the Traditional Top Six: Danny Ings
Now more than ever, we’ve seen teams outside the traditional “Big Six” of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham challenge for European positions. Wolves, Leicester City, and Sheffield have all straddled near the top of the table all season and have seemingly disrupted the traditional hierarchy that we’ve become accustomed to.
Furthermore, we’ve seen players outside the Big Six top the scoring charts. Assuming Jamie Vardy can hold on to his two goal lead in the Golden Boot race in the final week of the season, this will be the first time a player outside the Big Six has won the award in 20 years. Ings, whose contributions have been vital to Southampton’s revival, is just two goals behind Vardy and just edges him in the voting. Jimenez sits on 17 goals.
Ings, who has spent so much time on the sidelines in the past season, was finally able to stay healthy this season and showed what he’s capable of. The former Burnley and Liverpool striker completely changed the gloomy trajectory of Southampton’s season, and they can now look forward to climbing up the table next season.
Newcomer of the Season: Bruno Fernandes
You have to be impressive to win a Premier League award despite only joining the league in January—and that’s exactly what Bruno Fernandes did. The Portuguese maestro has been a revelation for a resurgent Manchester United side, scoring 7 goals and bagging 7 assists in just 13 appearances.
Pulisic has also been quite a sparkplug for Chelsea, especially since the restart. The halt in play gave the American an opportunity to properly tend to an abductor muscle tear, with his post-restart performances largely catapulting Chelsea to a likely 3rd place finish.
Dean Henderson’s consistency in net for Sheffield has also been recognized, along with Allan Saint-Maximin’s mercurial style for Newcastle. The Manchester United loanee may yet overtake David De Gea next season, while Saint-Maximin has spearheaded an overachieving Toons side.
Breakout Player of the Season: Mason Mount
This year has seen an array of players come into the forefront of the headlines from relative obscurity. Between young players breaking into the first team at top clubs (Mount, Greenwood, Saka), Premier League newcomers (Fernandes), or players who just massively stepped up their play this season (Traore, Söyüncü, and Ings), these players have all emerged into household names.
Mount starred under Frank Lampard for Derby County in the Championship this past season and continued his impressive displays in the top flight for Chelsea. The Chelsea academy product has been a consistent presence in a side that has rotated quite a bit in the midfield and attack.
Traore may be the most unguardable one-on-one player in the world at the moment, with an incredibly rare mix of power and pace allowing him to record 9 assists in the league this season for Wolves. Söyüncü’s team of the season selection alludes to his importance as the stalwart of Leicester’s backline.
Most Surprising Team: Sheffield United
You really can’t speak about Sheffield United without understating just how impressive they’ve been this season, but maybe the fact that all 13 of our panellists chose them as the league’s most surprising side is a start. The Blades were the oddsmakers’ favourites to get relegated this season, but they have consistently been in the race for a top 7 finish.
Ultimately, the Blades will fall just short of a spot in the Europa League next season, but this doesn’t undermine the glorious efforts of the club this season. With a squad consisting of underappreciated players who play with an astounding amount of cohesion, Sheffield deserve everything that they’ve accomplished and will look to build on their success from this season.
Most Disappointing Team: Tottenham
On the other hand, Tottenham have endured a rocky season. After playing in the Champions League final last season, Spurs have spent the majority of the campaign locked in mid-table positions. Jose Mourinho was appointed following the dismissal of Mauricio Pochettino, as the club will finish outside the top 4 for the first time since the 2014/2015 season.
West Ham—a team that sought to emulate what Leicester City and Wolves have accomplished in fighting for European positions—ultimately found themselves in a tense relegation scrap that they’ve seemingly just survived. Manchester City, despite producing viciously dominant displays throughout the season, shockingly lost 9 games this season and really didn’t prove much of a match for Liverpool this season.
Arsenal and Everton both also sacked their managers midseason and failed to meet preseason goals of finishing in the top 7, while Bournemouth—a steady mid-table side in the past several seasons—will need a miracle on Sunday to stave off relegation.