I am a huge fan of the NBA and I have always found their awards categories to be far more interesting than the ones that we use in soccer. Given that most of my readers are from the US, I thought that it would be fun to utilize some of the NBA’s awards categories by extending them to the English Premier League.
So, this week, we shall explore the various candidates within each category and see who emerges as the winner! The awards that I have chosen to use are the Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player of the Year. To make things even more interesting, I have decided that a player cannot be nominated for multiple awards. I made this decision so I could analyze even more players!
Rookie of the Year (ROtY)
According to the NBA, a rookie “is any player who has never played a game in the NBA until that year” and this is the definition I have used. This means experienced players and inexperienced players are both eligible for the award.
Felipe Anderson: Runner up (West Ham)
The 25-year old Brazilian arrived at the London club this past summer, for roughly $40 million dollars, and his transfer caused a real stir in England. For years, Anderson has been linked with a move to one of England’s elite sides and the Brazilian has shown this season why his talents are held in such high regard.
The midfielder has been superb for West Ham and he has affected both ends of the pitch. Defensively, he averages 2.4 tackles per game, 1 interception per game and 1.8 defensive dribbles per game. Anderson is a willing defender and these numbers are even more impressive when you factor in his offensive contributions.
The Brazilian’s offensive numbers are excellent as he averages 1.4 shots per game, 1.8 key passes per game and 2 successful offensive dribbles per game. Anderson’s offensive numbers register a great return, especially for a player who is playing their first season in the Premier League. The midfielder has also scored 8 goals in the league and has 4 assists to his name. When viewing the totality of the Brazilian’s offensive output you can see why he is regarded as one of the league’s most exciting offensive talents.
Anderson’s quick adaptation to the league means that he is one of the signings of the summer and a worthy candidate for the ROTY award.
Raul Jiminez: winner (Wolves)
When I did an in-depth analysis of Wolverhampton Wanderers, I highlighted Jimenez as one of the club’s key players. Much of Wolves’ successes this season are down to the exploits of the Portuguese striker and he has transitioned to the English game with relative ease.
At the start of the season, he signed for Wolves on a season-long loan but this week the West-Midlands club announced that they have agreed to make his deal permanent. The Portuguese international is now the club’s record signing and will complete his $40 million dollar move when the transfer window re-opens this summer.
The hardest thing for a newly promoted side to do is score goals. Without Jimenez’s offensive numbers, Wolves would be a mid-table club and would not be in the position they currently find themselves in. Jiminez averages 2.9 shots per game, 0.9 completed offensive dribbles per game and even averages 1.2 key passes per game. However, it is his tally of 12 goals and 7 assists which sees him win the ROTY award.
Jiminez has contributed to his side’s successes more than any other player that was eligible for the award. The Portuguese international has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and has been a real revelation this season. The striker is a worthy winner of the ROTY award.
Coach of the Year (COty)
When it comes to the Coach of the Year Award, I have based my decision on winning and progression. Of course, winning is important but I also believe that part of the coach’s job is to improve the side. Therefore, winning and progression are what I have based my selections on.
Unai Emery: Runner up (arsenal)
Unai Emery joined Arsenal this past summer and many expected that club would be going through a rebuilding phase. Arsene Wenger was at the club for over 20 years and everything had become stale. Arsenal had been stagnating and mediocrity infested all parts of the club. However, Emery has been like a shot of adrenaline that has brought Arsenal back to life and the rebuild is well ahead of schedule.
Arsenal has defied all expectations this season, as they are fourth in the league, and are just a point behind Spurs who are third. Many pundits predicted that Emery would need 2-3 transfer windows to construct a squad that can challenge for a Champions League position. Yet they have a real chance of finishing third this year, which is incredible. Even though there are 6 games left, Emery’s Arsenal has already equaled last season’s number of wins and have already equaled last season’s points tally. The Emery revolution is well underway and the future looks bright for Arsenal.
Nuno Espirito Santo: Winner (Wolves)
There is something special happening at the West-Midlands club and Nuno, the manager, is at the heart of it. Wolves have been stuck in a promotion/relegation cycle. However, with new owners at the club and with Nuno as the manager, it is my prediction that Wolves will break this cycle. In last week’s post, I analyzed Wolves’ rise as a club and one cannot underestimate Nuno’s influence on the side.
At the start of the season, many pundits predicted that Wolves would finish mid-table. The fact that they are 7th in the league and in a Europa League spot is an incredible achievement. The West-Midlands club is having a historic season and is about to achieve their best finish, in England’s top division, since the 1979-1980 season. Wolves are a tier below the Premier League’s top 6, who are amongst the elite sides in Europe, and are the “best of the rest.” After all, Wolves have won more points against the league’s top 6 than any other club this season.
Wolves’ resurgence has been so exciting to watch and it will be interesting to see how the club continue their development under Nuno. No other manager has had a greater impact upon their side than Nuno and the Portuguese manager is a deserving winner of the Coach of the Year award.
Most Improved Player (MIP)
The Most Improved Player award is given to the player who has progressed the most during the season. This award took the longest to research as there are so many players that I could have chosen for this accolade.
Ben Chilwell: Runner up (Leicester)
When the young left-back broke into Leicester’s first team last season he initially struggled. He looked like a boy who was playing against grown men. However, this season the left-back has been excellent. You can tell that he has spent this past summer working on his physique and his playing IQ has greatly improved.
This season, Chilwell has been exceptional in defense and has also made real contributions on the offensive end of the field. Defensively, Chilwell ranks amongst the best full-backs in the league as he averages 1.3 tackles per game, 1 interception per game, 0.9 successful defensive dribbles per game and a brilliant 3.4 clearances per game. On the offensive end of the pitch, Chilwell averages 0.6 shots per game, 1.2 key passes per game and averages 1.3 successful offensive dribbles per game. Chilwell makes real contributions on both ends of the pitch and he has been an integral part of everything that Leicester have done this season.
Chilwell has improved all aspects of his game and is a worthy nomination for the Most Improved Player of the Year award. The young full-back is linked with a summer move to Manchester City, in a deal expected to be around $70 million dollars, and he seems destined to join one of Europe’s elite sides. From being a fringe player to a borderline star in the league, Chilwell growth this season has been great to see.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: winner (Crystal Palace)
Wan-Biassaka struggled in the 7 appearances that he made last season. However, this season Wan-Bissaka has emerged as one of the best right-backs in the league and now seems destined to join one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Nobody expected that Wan-Bissaka would end the season as one of the best right-backs in the country, but that just shows how much his game has improved this season.
Wan-Bissaka has been a defensive monster this season and his defensive numbers rank him as one of the most productive full-backs in the world. The young right-back averages an incredible 3.8 tackles per game, 2.2 interceptions per game and a staggering 3.5 clearances per game. Wan-Bissaka is ranked as the best tackler in all of Europe’s top-5 leagues as he has completed a staggering 95 tackles this season. His tackle completion rate is a ludicrous 92.6%!
Wan-Bissaka seems to have emerged from nowhere and it is no surprise that he is linked with a $60 million dollar move to PSG or Manchester United. The fact that he has gone from an unknown quantity to one of the world’s best full-backs means that he is a worthy winner of the Most Improved Player of the Year award.
Defensive Player of the Year (DPoY)
The standard of defending has gone up a level in the league as many sides have invested heavily in their defenses. Sir Alex Fergurson once said that “attack wins you games, defense wins you titles” and Premier League teams have embraced this mentality. There are now several elite defenders in the league and narrowing it down to just two selections was extremely tough to do.
Andrew Robertson: Runner up (Liverpool)
Andrew Roberston has taken the league by storm and the Scottish international is one of the best full-backs in all of soccer. Robertson has everything that you want from a modern full-back. His superior athleticism means that he can impact both sides of the field and Robertson plays a significant role in Klopp’s system.
Defensively, Robertson has been exceptional this season. He averages 2.4 tackles per game, 0.9 interceptions per game, 0.8 successful defensive dribbles per game and 1.4 clearances per game. Robertson’s defensive output ranks him amongst the elite full-backs in all of soccer and he is establishing himself as a world-class performer.
The Scotsman is also putting up incredible offensive numbers and his averages read like a midfielder’s. The talented left-back averages 0.5 crosses per game, 0.7 offensive dribbles per game, 0.5 shots per game, 1.4 key passes per game and has an unbelievable 9 assists to his name. These assists rank him 4th in the league for assists which puts him ahead of midfield superstars such as Paul Pogba and Bernardo Silva.
Robertson has been amazing this season and he is, in my opinion, the best left-back in European soccer. Without a doubt, he is a worthy candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Aymeric Laporte: Winner (Manchester City)
The 24-year old has become one of the world’s best centre-backs and is a deserving winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award. The Frenchman has always been regarded as one of the most exciting prospects within European soccer and he is starting to live up to this reputation. Guardiola demands so much from his centre-backs and Laporte has shown this season that he is the perfect defender for Guardiola’s system. His ability to read the game, his positional sense and his technical abilities on the ball make him the complete defender.
The defender has put up impressive defensive numbers as he averages 1.1 tackles per game, 1.8 interceptions per game and averages 3.1 clearances per game. However, the Frenchman’s impact upon the game is not always reflected by his statistics. Tangibles such as leadership and defensive positioning cannot be captured by statistics. Anyone who has watched Laporte play this season will know that he is amongst the elite centre-backs in world soccer. He is an exceptional defender who has incredible technical skills, as his 92.8% pass completion rate indicates, and is a worthy winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Most Valuable Player of the Year (MVP)
Now, the big one. The MVP. The player who has made the biggest contributions to his side’s successes this season. Out of all the awards, I think this one will generate the most controversy as, just like the NBA’s own MVP race, there are two players who are neck-and-neck for the award.
Raheem Sterling: Runner up (Manchester City)
The Englishman has been in spectacular form for club and country this season. Sterling endured a difficult World Cup and many soccer fans began questioning if the young starlet would ever reach his full potential. Well, the 24-year old has silenced all his critics this season as he has been nothing short of incredible. Raheem Sterling is maturing into an elite player, under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, and it is so satisfying to see that he is starting to fulfil his potential.
Sterling has become an integral part of Guardiola’s side and the contributions that he has made are a major factor behind Manchester City’s successes this season. The attacker’s defensive output is admirable given that he spends most of his time in the opposition’s half of the pitch. Sterling averages 0.9 tackles per game and 0.5 interceptions per game, but it is his offensive output that has made him a candidate for the MVP award.
The 24- year old averages 2.2 shots per game, 2.1 key passes per game and averages 2.5 offensive dribbles per game. Sterling has also scored 15 goals in the league and has been accredited with 9 assists. His total attacking output ranks him amongst the very best attackers in Europe. Sterling has been an offensive force this season.
Sterling is a worthy candidate for the MVP award and the attacker is on the verge of being regarded as a world-class player. If his progression under Guardiola continues, then Sterling will join the upper echelons of world soccer.
Virgil van Dijk: winner (Liverpool)
The Dutchmen has transformed himself into one of the best centre-backs in all of soccer. When Liverpool spent over $100 million dollars on the defender many pundits questioned the fee. This was because, at the time of the transfer, van Dijk was not seen as a world-class defender. However, van Dijk has been worth every cent.
In fact, he is looking like a bargain now especially as defenders of his caliber, such as Raphael Varane, are now valued at around $150 million dollars. In American sports, commentators often speak of transformative players that can change the fate of a franchise; this is the effect that van Dijk has had on Liverpool. Without van Dijk, Liverpool would not be challenging for the league title and he has transformed the Merseyside club into an elite side.
Defensively, van Dijk has been an absolute monster this season and he has demonstrated that he is a complete defender. Many of van Dijk’s attributes, such as leadership and positional intelligence, cannot be highlighted by statistics. Nevertheless, his defensive numbers rank amongst the very best in Europe.
Van Dijk averages 1 tackle per game, 1.2 interceptions per game and an outrageous 5.4 clearances per game. The Dutchmen has won 78.3% of his duels and has a successful tackle percentage rate of 72%. When you couple van Dijk’s impressive defensive numbers with his pass completion rate, that stands at 89.7%, then you can see why pundits label him as a complete defender.
The Dutchman has been the league’s most valuable player this season and without him, Liverpool would not be top of the league. Liverpool’s defense is the league’s best, as they have conceded the least number of goals, and this is largely down to van Dijk’s heroic performances. If Liverpool did not have van Dijk then the Merseyside club would be challenging for a Champions League place; instead of the league title. Without Sterling, Manchester City would still be a championship caliber team. This acknowledgement is what influenced my selection of van Dijk, over Sterling, as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
This week’s post was a lot of fun to research and I am sure that I have upset some readers. Anything you’d change? Let me know, get in touch!
Any suggestions, questions or comments then do not hesitate to get in touch! Remember, if you have any requests for future articles then you all you have to do is ask! Whether it’s about a manager’s tactical philosophy or an in-depth analysis about a specific player, if it is soccer related; I will look into it!