We’ve hit the mid-point of this wildly crazy and entertaining Barclays Premier League season, so now seems like as good a time as ever to give out some mid-season awards to honor the performances over the first half of the season.
Young Player of the Year Award: Dele Alli (Tottenham)
If the Premier League actually gave out this award at mid-season, it would go to Romelu Lukaku since they classify “young players” as anyone under 23, which is bonkers considering that Lukaku has been getting regular first-team Premier League action for four years now. The award should be given to someone in their first year of regular first team action.
That’s where Alli comes in. The 19 year old signed with Tottenham from Championship side MK Dons in January. Since arriving at White Hart Lane over the summer, Tottenham planned to ease the teenager into first team action. The only problem with that plan was that Alli has been so good that he’s pretty much forced himself into Mauricio Pottechino’s starting XI every week. He already has four goals this year and is a major reason why Spurs are fourth in the table.
Most Disappointing Player: Memphis Depay (Manchester United)
It’s not that Depay has been bad this year for Manchester United; it’s that his football soul has been absolutely crushed by Louis van Gaal. Yes, he’s had trouble adapting to life in the more physical Premier League, but the bigger problem is he’s received no support from his manager. Depay is a player who likes to challenge defenders, but every time he loses possession it gets written down in van Gaal’s notebook. At this point you can see on his face how scared he is to play.
Depay arrived at Old Trafford with a lot of swagger and a very promising career ahead of him. Just four months later, it appears his confidence is gone.
Player of the Year: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)
Jamie Vardy may be the one out of Leicester stealing all the headlines, but the best player this season has been his teammate Riyad Mahrez. Mahrez’s creativity has been a crucial part of Leicester’s never-say-die attitude that has helped get them to the top of the table in December. Vardy may lead the league in goals with 15, but Mahrez is right behind him with 13 of his own. He’s also set up six more and has been the biggest reason Vardy was able to break the record for consecutive games with a goal. Mahrez is finally blossoming into the star we expected him to become, and all this comes at the young age of just 24.
Transfer of the Year: David de Gea (Manchester United)
Sometimes the best moves are the ones that you don’t make, and that’s certainly the case with Manchester United. Long rumored to be on his way to Real Madrid, the David de Gea transfer saga dragged on all summer until a paperwork error kept de Gea at Old Trafford. No player has had a bigger impact on their team’s place in the table over the past two seasons. United may be struggling and have only won eight games, but replace de Gea with anyone else and that number would be even smaller.
Mid-season Title Favorite: Arsenal
It’s been almost impossible to confidentially pick a title favorite in this wild and crazy Premier League season. Consensus pre-season title favorite Chelsea have been out of the race since about August. The other popular pick, Manchester City, can’t be taken seriously if they can’t defend without Vincent Kompany, who is missing significant time due to injury.
Arsenal have to be the favorites to win the title going forward. They’ve already had their annual period where everyone gets hurt, and they survived. At this point, Arsenal have proven they can withstand almost any key player going down with an injury as long as it’s not Mesut Ozil. Ozil has been Arsenal’s engine this season and is in the form of his life. The Premier League record for assists in a season is 20; at the halfway point, Ozil has 16. As long as he’s playing, Arsenal will be the favorites to win this thing.
Manager of the year: Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City)
No manager stepped into a more difficult position then Ranieri this summer. Ranieri arrived in the middle of the summer to a club that spent almost the entire season in the relegation zone and whose manager had just been fired amid club scandals. Over his career, Ranieri has been nicknamed “the tinkerer” for his perpetual habit of constantly changing things around. Since taking over at Leicester, Ranieri has done the exact opposite, leaving things the same way that they were when the club made their late charge up the table last season. Ever since, the club is exceeding every expectation anyone could have possibly had for them and sitting at the top of the table at Christmas.
Surprise of the year: Leicester City
At this time last year they were dead last in the Premier League, now they’re at the top of the table. I don’t need to elaborate on this.