A gripping, thrilling Premier League season is over.
Manchester City are champions by a point over Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk and Raheem Sterling have split this year’s biggest awards, the Golden Boot was shared by three players – Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – and Alisson won the Golden Glove.
Those are the official awards. But what about the ones that really matter?
Read on to see who’s won Sport360’s Premier League Alternative Awards.
LIKELIEST TO CRASH AT THE WHEEL: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Unfortunately for the Manchester United manager, his superb start to life at the club ended up dooming him. “Ole’s at the wheel” became the favourite chant at Old Trafford, and it was sung loudly in Paris during one of the club’s most famous nights when they became the first team to win a Champions League tie after losing the first leg by two goals at home.
It was a chant that ended up being used against United – Arsenal tweeted “Unai’s at the wheel” after a 2-0 victory over the rivals, and even Barcelona succumbed, saying Messi’s at the wheel. Both of those backfired – Arsenal ended up outside the top four and Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League – but with just two wins in 12 games since that night in Paris, this award could only end up in Solskjaer’s hands.
BEST DANCE FLOOR: Emirates Stadium It all began with United’s king of banter deciding to celebrate a goal at Arsenal by busting out some rather impressive moves. Jesse Lingard scored during his side’s 3-1 win over the Gunners in the FA Cup at Arsenal’s home stadium, pulled out a moonwalk to celebrate, and then, to rub it in, put up a picture of the celebration on Instagram and tagged the location as “dancefloor”.
Arsenal got their revenge when the two sides faced off at the Emirates again just over a month later, winning 2-0, and their players hit back at Lingard by…doubling down on their own stadium being called a dance floor.
HEALTHIEST MANAGER: Maurizio Sarri Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has become known for three things this season: never changing his tactics or philosophy, backing Jorginho to the hilt, and chain-smoking.
The Italian reportedly smokes a whopping 80 cigarettes a day! He’s been infamous for lighting one up on the touchline. Sadly – or fortunately, depending on perspective – he couldn’t get away with that in England, thanks to a ban on public smoking. An unlit cigarette did make an appearance when Chelsea were pushed to a penalty shootout by Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League, however.
STEAL OF THE YEAR: Alexis Sanchez and his wages Alexis Sanchez managed one league goal all season. Two in total along with three assists. And he’s the highest-paid player in the Premier League – by far.
With all his bonuses and incentives, the Chilean reportedly earns £500,000 per week. That works out to just under £1 every second, or roughly £50 every minute. Or, put another way, the £18million Sanchez has earned over the course of this season meant United paid their highest earner £9million per goal.
BEST PARTNERSHIP: Liverpool and opposition goalkeepers Remember the days when strike partnerships were common? Nowadays the two up front formations have largely gone out of vogue – apart from when teams play 3-5-2, still defying convention – but partnerships remain the key to winning titles. Just ask Liverpool and Man City.
Liverpool came oh so close to their first league title in 29 years, missing out by a point. But they had their share of luck along the way; rival fans would argue perhaps more than their fair share. There were debatable penalty calls and blatantly incorrect offside decisions – how big a difference will VAR make next year?
And in their defence, their rivals also had their own share of luck; goal-line technology came to City’s rescue at two pivotal moments. First, Liverpool failed to score by a matter of millimetres when the two sides faced off in January in what ultimately became the title-defining clash; then, late in April, a Sergio Aguero strike crossed the goal-line against Burnley by just about the same margin. One goal that wasn’t, one that was, both decisions coming down to the finest of margins – City owe a big debt to technology, making the right calls of course, for their title.
But Liverpool and the referees or City and technology was still not the best partnership of the season. That honour goes to the strange relationship Jurgen Klopp’s side had with opposition goalkeepers. On three separate occasions – against Everton, Crystal Palace, and Tottenham – the men tasked with preventing Liverpool from scoring instead gifted them goals. Jordan Pickford, Julian Speroni, and Hugo Lloris nearly won the title for the Reds.
BEST JURGEN KLOPP EXCUSE: Manchester United’s injuries Speaking of Klopp, here are some of the things he’s blamed for Liverpool not winning games this season. It was the wind’s fault that they couldn’t beat Everton at Goodison Park in March or Wolves in the FA Cup in January, the referees’ for breaking Liverpool’s rhythm against West Ham – by trying to make up for a missed offside call that allowed Klopp’s team to score earlier in the game – and the snow when Leicester City came back from a goal down to get a draw at Anfield.
But none of those can top Klopp’s explanation for a 0-0 draw against fierce rivals United at Old Trafford. That was down to injuries, Klopp said.
Harmless enough – except the Liverpool manager didn’t mean injuries to his own players. United were forced to make two first-half substitutions when Juan Mata and Lingard were both taken off after picking up knocks, while Marcus Rashford also looked stricken and would probably have come off had the other two substitutions not already been used.
And those injuries – to United players, remember – threw Liverpool off their rhythm, according to their manager.
MOST RIDICULOUS SIGNING REVEAL: Lucas Perez to West Ham Is this the real life? Or is this just fantasy? So opens one of the most famous songs of rock history: Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody.
These days fantasy means more than one thing in football, and West Ham were keen to remind everyone of that fact during the summer transfer window.
Reveals of transfer signings have become increasingly ridiculous over the last couple of years and the Hammers decided to join the party when they signed Lucas Perez in August – by putting up a video which showed that the Fantasy Premier League app now included the Spaniard in West Ham’s list of strikers. Along with Queen’s instantly recognisable lines, in case anyone didn’t get the fantasy reference.
LEAST DURABLE ITEM ON A FOOTBALL PITCH: Huddersfield corner flag What is the least reliable thing you can spot on the pitch during a Premier League game? Paul Pogba? Mohamed Salah’s ability to stay upright, whenever a defender comes too close? The entire Tottenham team?
All good answers, of course. Pogba comes closest, because he was actually on the pitch to see the right answer. In a must-win game for United, his team were 1-0 up against a Huddersfield side that had already been relegated, but were struggling to find a second goal that would seal the points and keep the top-four race alive. And of course, in keeping with the end of United’s season, they were caught on the counter as Isaac Mbenza ended up equalising for the hosts.
What happened next was no fault of Pogba’s. Mbenza, perhaps shocked that it was so easy to score against a team chasing a Champions League spot, went a little overboard with his celebrations, and kicked the corner flag. Happens often enough. What doesn’t happen, however, is that flag snapping in two, causing a five-minute delay to the game as a replacement was found.
A gripping, thrilling Premier League season is over.