We’re in ‘seasonal’ territory, folks. Before we get to POTY and YPOTY, we start with Football365’s SPOTY, the surprise players of the year.
We are not talking about your Mohamed Salahs or Kevin De Bruynes, for whom the accolades will no doubt follow, but about those who have swept the Premier League when we expected little more than a downpour. We say that they have conquered the league, but we have done one per club, so everything is relative. More on the great Pierre Lees-Melou to come…
Arsenal: Martin Odegaard
We knew it was good, but not quite. East good. He joined the club permanently in a £34m deal at the start of the season after an impressive, if inconsistent, loan spell last term one of Mikel Arteta’s leaders has become the creator-in-chief in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield. This season, only Mohamed Salah (58) and Bruno Fernandes (73) have created more chances than Odegaard’s 52 from open play.
Martin Ødegaard created 6 chances today against Leicester. His total of 49 chances created this season is the most by a #Arsenal player in a Premier League season since Mesut Özil (84) and Alexis Sánchez (51) in 2017-18. pic.twitter.com/mkOr3VykZA
—Harvey Downes (@HarveyDownes92) March 13, 2022
Aston Villa: Jacob Ramsey
Six Premier League starts and no goals last season, 27 starts and six goals this season. The narrative dictates that Ramsey owes his promotion to midfielder Steven Gerrard, but he arguably owes more to Dean Smith, who made him a key part of his team before he was fired. He has scored some brilliant goals this season and is part of a new generation of England midfielders, along with Jude Bellingham, who can dribble past opposing players and pass through them.
Brentford: Christian Eriksen
The guy died for five minutes just under a year ago and you wouldn’t know it; in fact, it’s arguably better for those times outside of this mortal realm. Thomas Frank believes Brentford “have a very good chance” of keeping the playmaker at the club, but that will depend solely on the goodwill of Eriksen, who will receive offers from bigger clubs this summer. He is still very capable of performing at the highest level.
Brighton: Marc Cucurella
“He grew up in Barcelona, so he knows how to play football,” Graham Potter said this week. That is clear not only for the brighton boss, but unfortunately for him too Tottenham and other parties interested in luring the £18m summer signing away from Amex this summer. He has featured for nearly 78 minutes in the Premier League this season, and has been absurdly consistent throughout.
Burnley: Josh Brownhill
A forgettable Premier League midfielder turned Burnley hero in recent weeks, there’s a hint of recent bias with this one. Brownhill has essentially been responsible for lifting Burnley out of the relegation zone since Sean Dyche was sacked, earning four of his ten points having provided both assists in a 2-0 win over Southampton before scoring that last goal to see off Burnley. Watford.
Chelsea: Ruben Loftus-Cheek
After a less-than-successful loan spell at Fulham last season, the summer money will have piled up on Loftus-Cheek, whether sold, returned on loan or, at best, putting together infrequent squads on football days. game and giving a minute or two here and there under Thomas Tuchel (see Ross Barkley). But Loftus-Cheek has been rotated as one of four central midfielders, and he too put in stellar performances at right-back, notably in the 3-2 win at the Bernabéu. We’ve all known of his potential for years and Tuchel could finally be the coach to push the 26-year-old to make it happen.
Crystal Palace: Conor Gallagher
Few Chelsea fans would have resisted if Crystal Palace had signed Gallagher for even £10m in the summer. The 22-year-old had a rough time in a rotten West Brom team last season. But the Blues dodged another graduation mistake and Tuchel will welcome Mason Mount Mark II to Stamford Bridge with open arms after a wonderful season at Selhurst Park.
Everton: Anthony Gordon
Perhaps the only thing that can scream for the Evertonians in a dismal season that could yet end in relegation. Frank Lampard’s players seem to have finally realized that they are in a relegation fight and have began to import, but Gordon has cared all season. He’s Toffee through and through and he can’t help it.
Leeds: Joe Gelhardt
Little gains at Leeds this season so we’ve based it on limb levels. Gelhardt has scored twice in the Premier League, the first to equalize at Chelsea before a point was snatched from him in the last minute, the second in the late winner at Norwich.
The collective “FOLLOW” as Raphinha surrounds the goalkeeper to #LUFC it’s great here.
Just like the momentary silence before Joe Gelhardt touches the winner 👏🏻
Limbs aren’t bad either 🙌🏻
— Social Sport (@TheSportSocial) March 14, 2022
Leicester: Kiernan Dewsbury Hall
Lots of surprises for Leicester this season, but none of them great. Dewsbury-Hall returned from loan with Luton and has been one of the Foxes’ best players. He is a low bar.
Liverpool: Luis Diaz
There have been claims in recent days and weeks, from Liverpool fans and the media (one and the same, amirite?), that Diaz is the biggest January signing in history. Is he? Maybe. We care? No. However, he is very good and he is the latest in an absurd line of transfer successes from Liverpool. he came to completely change the game against Villarreal and take them to the Champions League final, and Jurgen Klopp’s side might well be out of the Premier League title race now had Diaz’s dancing feet not reached Merseyside.
Man City: Bernardo Silva
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. Pep ‘The Godfather’ Guardiola has a habit of dragging unhappy players about to go into the fold. Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Aymeric Laporte and Bernardo Silva have all come close to leaving Etihad, stayed and have excelled ever since. Only Joao Cancelo and Ederson have played more minutes than Silva for City this season, as the Spaniard’s frustration has been replaced by consistent brilliance with the ball at his feet.
Manchester United: Anthony Elanga
The gloss through which the Manchester United shit has been rolled. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani and Jadon Sancho as striker options at the start of the season, no one, least of all Elanga himself, would have expected him to play in every Premier League game. this year, from the 12th, and be the great hope for another new dawn.
Newcastle: Dan Burn
Newcastle’s season has been a surprise in every way: the acquisition; who took care of them; Champions League form under Eddie Howe. And the Dan Burn move, though football hipsters stuck their heads out from behind the latest World Cup issue (I have one on my desk right now) to let us know what it is. Really a very good footballer, came out of nowhere. Newcastle kept two clean sheets in 23 games before the Burn arrived and have five in 12 since then.
Norwich: Pierre Lees-Melou
Absolutely willing to accept that we may have completely misunderstood this as we were a bit stumped. Grant Hanley and Teemu Pukki have been decent, but that’s no surprise. Milot Rashica has looked good on occasion, but they probably expected a bit more for £10m from him. Lees-Melou only cost £3m, has played plenty of games and hasn’t shyed away. That is the level we are dealing with.
Southampton: Valentino Livramento
The 19-year-old has quadrupled his market value having signed for £5.5m in the summer. With a big, athletic and technically gifted right-back blocking their way into the first team, Chelsea allowed another to go to St Mary’s, and amidst Reece James’ injury struggles and Livramento’s excellent form, they will likely regret it.
Tottenham: Dejan Kulusevski
“Interesting that Tottenham have decided to buy two out-of-the-box flops this time around,” this writer smugly told his Spurs-supporting brother when Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur joined in January. A goal or an assist every 93 minutes from the Sweden international since then has made that prediction one of the silliest in history.
Watford: Emmanuel Dennis
The goals, the assists, but most importantly, the nutmegs. In a game that we too often forget is supposed to be entertainment, Dennis has served as a glorious reminder.
West Ham: Declan Rice
It’s no surprise that Declan Rice is West Ham’s player of the season, the surprise is in the way he escaped from a locker to take his game to a whole new level. It wasn’t long ago that the question was raised that Rice might end up at center back. He is now one of the best box-to-box midfielders in world football, as capable of breaking down opponents’ defenses as he is of breaking up the game.
Wolves: Jose Sa
A save percentage of 82.6% dwarfs all other goalkeepers and is the best in a Premier League season since Edwin van der Sar in 2009-10. Selling Rui Patricio, 34, for £10m and signing Sa, 29, for £7m has to be the best deal of the season.