On Monday Night Football last night, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher both gave their Premier League Team of the Season, and dished out their end of season awards. The pair predictably chose Erling Haaland as Player of the Season, Neville went for Pep Guardiola as Manager of the Season and Carragher plumped for Eddie Howe.
But although justifiable, there’s too much focus on the top clubs. To help address the balance slightly, The Sportsman have picked their own alternative Premier League award winners.
Manager of the Season
Neville: Pep Guardiola
Carragher: Eddie Howe
The Sportsman: Gary O’Neil
Whilst we can appreciate the job that Guardiola has done in terms of taking City to another title, he hasn’t been the best manager this term. City were favourites to win the title and have done so with relative ease. Meanwhile, Eddie Howe is far more worthy of the award, and should be considered, but we believe there are other names more deserving.
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Unai Emery has transformed Aston Villa, Roberto De Zerbi has taken Brighton to Europe and Marco Silva has taken newly-promoted Fulham to the top half. But our Manager of the Season is AFC Bournemouth’s Gary O’Neil.
The Cherries had just been hammered 9-0 by Liverpool and Scott Parker had said before the season began that keeping this threadbare squad up would be a ‘big ask’. O'Neil took the job on a caretaker basis at first, before four wins and four draws over twelve games got him the full-time gig.
Bournemouth were favourites for relegation at the start of the season, and yet O’Neil led them to safety with several games to spare. They could even finish as high as 13th. A remarkable achievement for the unfancied manager.
Player of the Season
Neville: Erling Haaland
Carragher: Erling Haaland
The Sportsman: Kieran Trippier
Okay, Erling Haaland has been the best player in the Premier League this term. He’s hit 36 goals and been an absolute monster as City won the league… again. But therein lies the issue, Pep Guardiola would have won the title with or without Haaland. In terms of impact, there have been far more influential players on their teams this season.
Our pick is Newcastle United captain Kieran Trippier. He was the first signing of the new era and since his arrival, the Magpies have gone from relegation candidates to top four certainties. This season, he has been part one of the tightest defences in the league, but his leadership and set pieces have without a doubt dragged Howe’s men to the top four. They’ll be playing Champions League football next season, and Trippier has been utterly magnificent.
Young Player of the Season
Neville: Martin Odegaard
Carragher: Bukayo Saka
The Sportsman: Alexis Mac Allister
Taking into account the fact that for some reason the Premier League give this award to anybody up to and including the age of 24 opens up a world of possibilities. The Arsenal forwards have been frighteningly good this term, but choosing one out of Odegaard, Saka or Gabriel Martinelli is difficult.
Instead, we’ve plucked for World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, who at 24 has enjoyed the best season of his career. He’s been integral to everything positive that De Zerbi’s men have done and now looks likely to get a big summer move to one of the big boys. Whoever picks him up will have to spend a hefty amount, but he is worth every penny.
Signing of the Season
Carragher: Morgan Gibbs-White
The Sportsman: João Palhinha
This is an easy one for us. Fulham have stunned the top flight this term by flourishing in the top flight when everybody expected the yo-yo to head straight back down. The key pivot for their success has been the signing of João Palhinha, who has established himself as one of the finest defensive midfielders in the country.
He’s been the key difference between this Fulham team and the one we have previously seen at this level. He’s physically imposing, willing to do the dirty work but also clever with his use of the ball. Signing of the season (bar Haaland), by a country mile.
Shock of the Season
Neville: Brighton 1-5 Everton
Carragher: Lisandro Martinez
The Sportsman: Chelsea
The Sky pundits seemed to have forgotten that Chelsea spent half a billion pounds this season and are guaranteed to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League. It’s one of the most embarrassing failures, and shocks, of the Premier League era - let alone just this season.
Neville: World Cup Final
Carragher: Liverpool 7-0 Man Utd
The Sportsman: Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal
Given these are Premier League awards, we will stick to those parameters, unlike Mr Neville. Arsenal have given us the most drama this season and we could have picked a couple of their matches, but we’ve settled on Villa 2-4 Arsenal.
This was when Arsenal’s title charge truly got going as they returned to the top of the table after going behind twice at a raucous Villa Park. They levelled things at 2-2 before Aaron Ramsdale tipped Leon Bailey’s effort onto the bar and then, just as they looked to have run out of time, Jorginho hit a long-range effort off the bar that cannoned in off Emi Martinez.
With the Villa keeper up for a corner as the hosts chased an equaliser, Martinelli broke away to tap into an empty goal. The game of the season, and the moment the Arsenal fans truly believed.