Super Suarez star of the half-time show

PHENOMENAL:  Liverpool's Luis Suarez scores a long-range goal against Norwich City at Anfield last month. Picture: Jan Kruger

The Irish Examiner’s Darren Norris remains in festive mood this new year as he hands out his annual Premier League mid-season awards

Best player award goes to...

Wayne Rooney’s return to form has been one of the few pluses in a largely miserable first half of the season for Manchester United while Sergio Aguero’s pace, movement and finishing ability have kept Manchester City firmly in the title hunt. In the end though, it comes down to a straight shoot-out between Aaron Ramsey and Luis Suarez, with the Liverpool striker just edging it by dint of his phenomenal goalscoring exploits — 20 goals in 15 Premier League games — since his return from suspension in September.

Best goal award goes to...

Suarez has a number of contenders with the third of his four goals — a stunning flick over Leroy Fer before arrowing a half volley into the corner — in the 5-1 rout of Norwich last month arguably the pick of them. The Canaries were also on the receiving end of the best team goal of the first half of the season with Jack Wilshere volleying home from close range after a sumptuous 10-pass move in Arsenal’s 4-1 home win in October. But it’s almost impossible to look beyond Pajtim Kasami’s effort in Fulham’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Kasami controlled a long ball from Sascha Riether perfectly on his chest before, in one fluid movement, unleashing a stunning volley from an acute angle that flew into the top left corner. Glorious.

Worst miss award goes to...

Emanuele Giaccherini has been one of Sunderland’s better players this season but the Italian’s staggering miss in the scoreless draw with Aston Villa in November will haunt him for years to come. Giaccherini was in splendid isolation four yards out when he got on the end of a Phil Bardsley header but somehow fired over when it seemed easier to score.

Best save award goes to...

The luckless Giaccherini was also on the receiving end of the finest stops of the season so far as Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea produced a stunning reaction save to keep out his bullet header in October. The save was critical as if stopped Sunderland from going 2-0 up at the Stadium of Light. Instead, a brace from Adnan Januzaj secured victory for United. Honourable mention goes to Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny for a wonderful one-handed save to keep out a deflected Jermain Defoe effort in the North London derby.

Best individual display award goes to…

A few contenders. A string of fine saves from Tim Krul inspired Newcastle to 1-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane while Jordan Henderson excelled in Liverpool’s 5-0 win at the same ground.

But nothing touches Suarez’s four-goal show against Norwich at Anfield.

Best match award goes to...

It may have been riddled with defensive errors but the Merseyside derby was an incredible game that showcased the Premier League at its frenzied best. It had everything from an early goal from Philippe Coutinho to a late equaliser from Daniel Sturridge. In between Everton, who could and should have seen Kevin Mirallas sent off for an x-rated tackle on Suarez, twice came from behind before going ahead and then conceding at the death. Breathtaking.

The most one-sided match award goes to...

It could be any of a number of Manchester City’s demolition jobs at the Etihad Stadium. The 4-1 derby drubbing of Manchester United sent out at early statement of intent, Norwich were trashed 7-0, Arsenal hammered 6-3 but City’s most dominant display came when they hit a beleaguered Tottenham for six. Honourable mention goes to Liverpool’s 5-0 at White Hart Lane, a display that did for Andre Villas-Boas.

Disappointing signing award goes to...

One super solo goal aside, Dani Osvaldo has done little to justify the €15m Southampton splashed on him. Most of the contenders for this gong, though, reside in White Hart Lane. Eric Lamela, signed for €30m from Roma to fill the Gareth Bale shaped hole in the team, has been a major disappointment but given the reputation he brought with him to England, the award has to go to Roberto Soldado. The €30m striker has managed just a single goal from open play in the league this season and appears a pale shadow of the player who hit 24 in 35 games for Valencia last season.

Best newcomer award goes to...

When he’s been good, he’s been very good but Mesut Ozil hasn’t yet quite lived up to his €50m fee, going absent without leave in some of Arsenal’s bigger games. That can’t be said of Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo, who has scored freely — his winner against Liverpool over Christmas was the ninth home in a row that he netted in — since his summer arrival and he has developed a deadly partnership with Sergio Aguero.

Most improved player award goes to…

Not so long along Aaron Ramsey was perilously close to becoming the whipping boy of fans at the Emirates.

Now he’s developed into the player many thought he would become before he sustained a horrific injury against Stoke, and he’s become a credible contender for the player of the year award after a stunning first half of the season in which he’s added goals — eight in the league alone — and consistency to the energy and workrate he always brought to the table. A class act.

Best manager award goes to…

He may have inherited a strong team but it’s hard to look beyond Roberto Martinez for keeping Everton in the hunt for the Champions League whilst changing the team’s style. Signing Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu and Gareth Barry on loan were great bits of business and proved it is possible to bring in good players even on a tight budget. Newcastle’s Alan Pardew, Hull’s Steve Bruce and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger warrant consideration too.

Best emerging talent award…

He may have picked up an unwanted reputation for diving but Adnan Januzaj has also shown flashes of genius, most notably a game-changing brace to hand Man United a 2-1 victory over Sunderland.

Costliest blunder award…

The early part of the season was marked by a number of errors from Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart with the worst coming in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. With the game level at 1-1, Hart inexplicably dashed out of his goal in the final moments but failed to get anywhere near the ball and allowed Fernando Torres the simple task of tapping into an empty net.

The best of the Irish award goes to...

The lack of Irish representation among the Premier League elite will be a concern for Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill but Seamus Coleman’s form has provided some cheer. Having netted five times, Coleman is the highest scoring defender in the league and his energy and pace add an extra dimension to Everton’s attack. Club-mate James McCarthy has also impressed in his characteristic unfussy way while Shane Long’s exquisite brace for West Brom against Aston Villa showcased the talent he possesses when he’s on his game.

Strangest story award…

Chelsea may be within touching distance of the summit but it’s hard to understand Jose Mourinho’s alienation of Juan Mata. The Spaniard has been one of the Premier League’s brightest stars in recent seasons but has bizarrely found himself ostracised by Mourinho this season. Cardiff owner Vincent Tan’s treatment of Malky Mackay, ending in his sacking, also warrants mention.


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