Here's the mid-season Premier league awards

The halfway point of the Premier League campaign dovetails nicely with Christmas so the time has come to provide a little festive cheer by handing out some imaginary mid-season awards

Here's the mid-season Premier league awards

Best player award goes to...

With Manchester City turning the title race into the biggest procession ever in the Premier League era you could make a case for a number of Pep Guardiola’s troops. Offensively, David Silva is playing his best stuff in several seasons, Raheem Sterling has made giant strides while Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Ageuro are scoring freely.

Defensively, Fernandinho is playing superbly in the holding role, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi look far more assured at the back while, unlike last season, City now have goalkeeper in Ederson who can save the odd shot.

However, their main man is undoubtedly Kevin De Bruyne. Like many of his team-mates, the Belgium star has taken his game to a new level, opening up opposition defences at will.

At times in the past he looked something of a flat-track bully, excelling when City were dominant but fading out of big games when the pressure was at its highest. Not any more. Now De Bruyne decides games rather than decorates them, his brilliant match-winning strike against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge being the best and most obvious example.

It takes a lot to stand out in a team as good as this City one. De Bruyne does. That says it all.

Best goal award goes to...

No shortage of contenders going right back to the opening month of the season when Charlie Daniels’ left-foot rock flew in via the crossbar in Bournemouth’s 2-1 home defeat to Manchester City.

September saw that already mentioned superb De Bruyne strike secure three points for City against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Valencia’s breathtaking half-volley that put Manchester United on their way to a 4-0 win over Everton.

The standout goal from October was scored by Sofiane Boufal, a brilliant individual effort that saw the Moroccan beat six players, two of whom were so befuddled that they crashed into each other, before calmly slotting to the net to secure a 1-0 victory for Southampton against West Brom.

Last month saw Wayne Rooney produce a moment of genius, completing a hat-trick with a stunning strike from his own half in Everton’s 4-0 win over West Ham. There have been some crackers this month too, the best of which was arguably Mesut Ozil’s textbook volley to give Arsenal a 1-0 win over Newcastle.

Overall though, the two that stand out are Boufal’s solo goal and Rooney’s long-range effort. On the basis of the sheer amount of work Boufal had to do to score his goal, his effort narrowly gets the vote.

Worst miss award goes to...

Two misses stand out. Remarkably they were both from the same game. Even more remarkably they were both from the same the player.

Richarlison has had a fine start to his Premier League career at Watford but the Brazilian is probably still having nightmares about his first visit to Stamford Bridge.

The first howler came when he got on the end of a low cross six yards out but fired wide of a gaping net.

Miss two was arguably worse as Richarlison headed wide of a gaping net when it seemed easier to score. To add insult to acute embarrassment, Chelsea rallied from 2-1 down to win 4-2 to ensure Richarlison’s howlers proved costly.

Best save award goes to...

The most important save of the season came in the Manchester derby when City goalkeeper Ederson blocked a goalbound shot from United striker Romelu Lukaku before then stopping Juan Mata’s follow-up effort.

A United goal then would have ensured the illusion of a title race remained for at least a few weeks longer but Ederson’s intervention denied United a point.

However, for sheer brilliance the best save came from David De Gea in United’s 3-1 win at Arsenal eight days earlier.

His save from Alexandre Lacazette was in itself remarkable but the speed with which he reacted to stop Alexis Sanchez’s follow-up with his foot was simply sensational.

An Arsenal equaliser then and there would only have been one winner. Instead, United wrapped up victory by grabbing a third on the break.

Best team display award goes to…

Several contenders here, going right back to Liverpool’s 4-0 annihilation of an admittedly abject Arsenal team in August.

Jurgen Klopp’s men were on the receiving end a month later as Manchester City produced a real statement display to batter Liverpool 5-0. The Reds were hammered again when Tottenham showed they could perform at Wembley by cruising to a 4-1 victory.

However, a month later Mauricio Pochettino’s men were on the receiving end as Arsenal produced their standout effort of the campaign to win the North London derby 2-0.

Nor should Burnley’s 3-2 win at champions Chelsea on the opening day of the season be forgotten. Or West Ham’s 1-0 over Antonio Conte’s men.

However the standout display of the season was City’s 1-0 win at Chelsea.

Okay, the margin of victory was narrow but Pep Guardiola’s men dominated from start to finish against a side who went the game having just won 2-1 at Atletico Madrid.

To make a team of such quality look so second rate put down a massive marker.

Best individual display award goes to…

Plenty of options here, not least David De Gea for his exploits in United’s win at Arsenal.

The double save mentioned earlier was his standout moment but the Spaniard produced several other top-class interventions to ensure the Red Devils left the Emirates with all three points.

Kevin De Bruyne has produced a host of brilliant displays, as has Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

However the award goes to Eden Hazard. The Chelsea star hasn’t scaled the heights he hit last season but when he’s been good, he’s been very good.

His best display came in Chelsea’s 4-0 win at West Brom when Hazard exacted maximum revenge on the Baggies after the Hawthorns faithful accused him of feigning injury after a bad tackle from Gareth Barry. Bad idea.

Minutes later, an angry Hazard created the opening goal for Alvaro Morata before quickly following up with a goal of his own.

He grabbed his second and Chelsea’s fourth in the second half, his point having been very much made.

Best match award goes to...

There have been some pretty good ones but it’s pretty hard to look beyond Arsenal v United at the Emirates, a game that felt like a throwback to the era when those clubs dominated English football.

This was a match that had it all, early goals, chances galore, great saves, contentious incidents, and a fierce comeback that was snuffed out by a brilliant breakaway goal.

While Arsenal undoubtedly shot themselves in the foot in the opening 10 minutes the ruthless with which United seized on their mistakes was deeply impressive. As was Arsenal’s response. The Gunners laid siege to the United goal but a combination of wasteful finishing and inspired goalkeeping ensured they only once managed to find a way past David De Gea.

In winning so thrillingly, United showed how good they can be when let off the shackles. It’s a shame it doesn’t happen more often. Speaking of which…

Worst match award goes to...

Liverpool v Man United is historically the biggest game of the season but it’s hard to think of the last time these sides produced a half-decent game, let alone a truly compelling one.

The latest borefest came in October when Jose Mourinho’s men came for a 0-0 draw and left with a 0-0 draw.

In a normal season a point at Anfield would be a decent result but with Manchester City blowing away all before them it was clear even then that draws were of little use to any team with genuine title ambitions.

There was also something decidedly small-time about a team as expensively assembled as United’s approaching a game in manner one might expect of a Brighton or a Stoke. The wrongness of the approach was highlighted a week later when Spurs went at Liverpool, cruising to a 4-1 win at Wembley.

Best comeback award goes to…

It hasn’t really been a season for dramatic comebacks but Watford were the victims in the two that standout.

Earlier this month the Hornets looked on course for three points at Crystal Palace. The Eagles got a lifeline when Tom Cleverley was sent off after 87 minutes but it didn’t look like they’d have enough time to take advantage of their numerical advantage. They did. Bakary Sako equalised two minutes later before James McArthur won it for Roy Hodgson’s men in stoppage time.

As bad as that was for Watford, their defeat at Everton at the start of last month was worse. Leading and cruising mid-way through the second half, they conceded twice in seven minutes to surrender their advantage. Then in stoppage time, they gave away a penalty which Leighton Baines converted.

Watford had a chance to rescue a point in the 11th minute of stoppage time but put his penalty wide to ensure the points stayed at Goodison Park.

Best newcomer award goes to...

Two players stand out. Alvaro Morata has settled seamlessly into life in the Premier League, scoring goals at will and linking up brilliantly with Eden Hazard.

He lacks the aggression and sheer devilment of a Diego Costa but he brings plenty to the table, not least a brilliant ability to score headers.

However, it’s hard to look beyond Mohamed Salah. You could argue he’s not strictly new to the Premier League but the Egyptian is unrecognisable from the player who failed to make the grade at Chelsea.

This Mohamed Salah has a swagger, performs to an incredibly high level on a consistent basis and when he gets a chance to find the net, he invariably takes it. In the current market, a fee of £36.9m (€41.5m) looks a snip.

Most disappointing signing award goes to...

Given the amount Premier League clubs spend nowadays it’s inevitable there’ll be few dud acquisitions. It was hard at the time to see why Liverpool paid £35m (€39.4m) to Arsenal to sign a player in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain they could have signed for nothing next summer.

Such an outlay was particularly odd when you consider that after six years in the Premier League nobody was any the wiser as to what position Oxlade-Chamberlain should play or if he is in fact any good.

Elsewhere, Tiemoue Bakayoko has not yet showed why Chelsea paid £40m (€45m) for his services while Marko Arnautovic has only recently began to display evidence of the talent that persuaded West Ham to sign him from Stoke.

However, the award goes to Renato Sanches. Remember him? Only 18 months ago he was named the Young Player of the Tournament after helping Portugal to victory in Euro 2016.

Before the Euros, Sanches had agreed a deal to join Bayern Munich for €35m. It was then that things began to unravel.

He struggled in Germany but it was still a surprise when he joined Swansea on a season-long loan on transfer deadline day. But what looked an amazing coup on the part of the Swans has turned into a disaster.

Sanches has only played 90 Premier League twice and looks a shadow of the player who seemed to have the world at his feet not so long ago.

Best manager award goes to…

Chris Hughton and David Wagner are working wonders to keep newly-promoted duo Brighton and Huddersfield above the drop zone, Marco Silva is winning admirers at Watford while Roy Hodgson has gone some way towards redeeming his battered reputation by transforming the fortunes of Crystal Palace.

However, two managers are performing to an astonishing high level.

Those who say Pep Guardiola has spent millions to turn Manchester City into the awesome force they are have a point but they’re also missing one.

While he has splashed the cash, he has also improved and developed the players at his disposal. Raheem Sterling is perhaps the most obvious example but several others have improved too.

That’s a trait he shares with Sean Dyche. The Burnley boss doesn’t have anywhere near Guardiola’s resources but is consistently getting the most out of his players, the essence of what a coach is supposed to do. ‘The minimum requirement is maximum effort’ is Dyche’s mantra. He inspires his players to just that.

To have Burnley in the mix for a Champions League spot at the half-way point of the season is a staggering achievement, one that in any normal season would ensure this award went to the Clarets boss.

However, this is no normal season and the brilliance of Guardiola’s accomplishments can’t be overlooked. His team are a masterpiece.

Biggest meltdown award goes to…

Managers behaving like petulant kids in the immediate aftermath of a disappointing result is hardly new but Jurgen Klopp’s reaction when speaking to Sky Sports after Liverpool were pegged back by a Wayne Rooney penalty in the Merseyside derby earlier this month went some way beyond the standard outburst.

Klopp was incensed by the decision to give Everton a penalty after Dejan Lovren was — correctly — adjudged to have fouled Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

At one point in a bizarre interview he asked Pat Davison if he thought a penalty should have been awarded.

When the Sky Sports reporter responded by saying he thought it was a penalty it pushed Klopp over the edge.

“Ha ha ha! Well, then we can stop the interview, because I only want to talk to people who have a little bit of an understanding of football,” he replied.

Childish stuff? Yes. Gripping entertainment? Definitely.

The best of the Irish award goes to...

It’ll take some time for the dark cloud left by Ireland’s devastating 5-1 World Cup playoff defeat to Denmark to lift.

And with the Irish struggling to shine in the Premier League the prospect of brighter days arriving — at least in the short term – look pretty slim. There are exceptions though, most of whom are plying their trade at Burnley. Stephen Ward is a key part of a defence that specialises in keeping clean sheets, Robbie Brady was playing good stuff before suffering a knee injury that may keep him out for the rest of the season while Jeff Hendrick has also had his moments.

However, the Irishman who has shone brightest to date is Shane Duffy.

The centre-half has been a towering figure at the heart of Brighton’s defence, forming a superb partnership with Lewis Dunk.

If Brighton are to stay up, Duffy will have to maintain his fine form.

If he can do that, he could have plenty of suitors next summer.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox