It may only seem like just yesterday that the thrillingly intense, nerve-jangling, pain-inducing breackneck-paced rollercoaster that is a Premier League season got underway in the midst of a glorious, sunshine-laden August yet as we find ourselves mired in the deep, bleak midwinter and as Christmas fades into the rear-view mirror and the spectre of 2019 looms large, so we have reached the midway point of one of the more intriguing campaigns of recent times.
Unlike previous seasons, the title race in particular has undergone a series of facelifts over the past four months, with multiple teams rising and fading from view of the big trophy and no doubt the coming months will produce more of the same. Beyond the riches of the top six however, much is still to become clear with regard to the final standings; no one currently in the bottom half can be sure of extending their stay in the salubrious surroundings of Premier League extravagance beyond the summer just yet. With myself currently procrastinating in the post-festive period shakedown, it seemed like there was no better time to reward my frontrunners for various end-of-season awards. They may not mean anything at present, but if these stars can maintain their current trajectory, they may find themselves having to make space on their shelves come May for a shiny new, richly deserved gong.
Manager of the Year: Jurgen Klopp
This is a prize should usually be reserved for the bosses of middling-to-lowly Clubs who drag their charges well above their expected finishing position despite operating with modest funds and resources. However given that no manager in that bracket has truly distinguished himself, I find myself having to revert to the boss of the tabletoppers. Liverpool’s current record of Won: 17, Drawn: 3, Lost: 0 is simply marvellous and is truly a testament to Klopp. Since arriving on Merseyside in 2014 he has striven to create the team that he now currently has: modelled brilliantly in his image. It remains to be seen whether they can hold their nerve and bring a title back to Anfield for the first time in 29 years this spring, but at present, its impossible not to applaud the work the German has achieved this year.
Player of the Year: Virgil Van Dijk
Yes I know it is very rare to give this award to a defender, but when you consider his role at the heart of by far the stingiest defence in the league and the incredible improvement Liverpool’s defence has enjoyed since he arrived a year ago, it is only right to at present honour him with such an accolade. Before his move up from Southampton, Liverpool’s style best represented an inverted Christmas tree: lavished with riches up top but never far away from a defensive slip that’d bring the whole structure crashing to earth. Van Dijk can take much of the credit for their transformation into an almost impenetrable force, with his commanding presence a source of much relief for his more offensively inclined teammates. Defenders generally have to work significantly harder than other positions to be crowned as the League’s best but the Dutchman has been simply fantastic this year; barring injury or a stunning loss of form, the award should be his.
Young Player of the Year: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Most casual observers outside of Croydon would’ve had no idea who this youngster was at the start of the season, indeed many may still may be none the wiser, but the Crystal Palace fullback has quietly complied a very impressive season, providing energy down the flanks as well as high levels of defensive competence en route to becoming arguably the biggest emerging talent outside of the top 6. He enjoyed a breakout performance during Palace’s stunning win over Manchester City at the Ettihad earlier this month and in a season that could still go either way for the Eagles, he has been a real brightspot. An England call-up now appears inevitable, as could potentially a move to of the Country’s powerhouse Clubs next summer.
Signing of the Year: Fabinho
So this may not actually be an official award, and I’m very aware there is a risk here of this choice making my article look more like a sole dedication to Liverpool’s storming first half of the year, but put simply there is no denying Fabinho’s quality and how he has fast become a near-indispensible member of their starting XI since his arrival in the summer. In a team saturated with extravagant, eye-catching players, the Brazilian’s role is far from an attractive one, yet in his first four months in the Premier League he has settled in brilliantly, providing a crucial defensive screen as well as a useful base of attack, with his great vision and calm demeanour on the ball. It’s a role that Liverpool have arguably been crying out for since the latter years of Steven Gerrard yet with it surely having now been filled, it really is becoming very tough to identify a chink in the armour of the red half of Merseyside.