Without further ado, here are One Club on Boylston's inaugural end of season awards.
Player of the SeasonSam: Andy, we're approaching the end of the season, which is traditionally the time of year that awards are given out. I'm sure the players will be ecstatic to know that we are going to hand out some awards of our own. The easy place to start is Player of the Season. I'm going to nominate Luis Suarez. Thirty-one goals - several of them spectacular - and 12 assists, despite missing six domestic matches for his infamous biting ban, plus he had the highest rating in the EA Sports Player Performance Index. He formed one of the most feared and prolific strike forces in the League this season and along with his club captain was the inspiration for a title challenge. Imagine where Arsenal could have been this season if they had increased their bid last summer... Anyway, let's not worry about that. Andy, do you agree with me?
Andy: Part of me wants to be a contrarian and go with one of the few other valid candidates for this award (Yaya Toure and Eden Hazard, in my mind)... but it's pretty much impossible to avoid picking Suarez as the player of the year. His goal and assist totals were impressive but are made even more astounding when you put them into the context of the league. His 31 goals were ten(!) better than second place while his 12 assists tied him for the league lead with teammate Steven Gerrard despite playing a game less. He also ranked fifth in key passes per game and was third in chances created per game (according to Squawka). Suarez had a dominant season by any metric and although some lasting injuries knocked out several potential candidates (David Silva, Aaron Ramsey, and Sergio Aguero among others), the Uruguayan is deservedly the Player of the Season.
Young Player of the Season
Andy: Young Player of the Year: Though I will acknowledge that Eden Hazard has been amazing for Chelsea this season, it seemed silly that he was given the Young Player of the Year award seeing as how; a) he's 23 years old and; b) this is his second high profile year in the EPL. One can argue that he still fits the criteria, but I'd like to stay as close to the intent of this award as possible. To that end, Luke Shaw is my pick and it's not even close. Shaw is already touted as England's left back for the next fifteen years and this isn't the normal overblown media hype. He is dangerous going forward, takes on defenders, can whip in an excellent cross, and rarely is caught out of position on defense. Oh, and he's 18 years old, a true young player in the league. While it would be unfortunate if Southampton was raided for all their talent, it says a lot about Shaw that he is already a target for so many big clubs. He has already proven himself in the league and he deserves this award.
Sam: The real Young Player award seems to have some loosely defined boundaries; how old is "young"? Also, I don't think you should be eligible for the award if you've been nominated for the main award, as it leaves out some deserving players, and creates the chance that one player could win both awards, which is frankly ridiculous. As an Englishman, I've experienced enough hype surrounding young English players (too many to name here) but I agree that Shaw has talent and could be Engand's left back for years to come (unfortunately for Kieran Gibbs). My choice, however, is Ross Barkley. Another young Englishman with unquestionable talent, he has been one of Everton's key players in their quest for Champions League football. He has scored some wonderful goals, and it was the one against Man City last weekend that swung the award his way for me. As and England fan, I am salivating about the prospect of watching him and Jack Wilshere wearing the Three Lions.
Manager of the season
Sam: There are several legitimate candidates for this one: Brendan Rogers, Roberto Martinez, Mauricio Pochettino (if the season finished around the halfway mark!), but I have to go with Tony Pulis. As much as Arsenal fans will hate this one, and as much pain as it causes me to select him, I can't think of another manager who has completely changed opinions of himself so quickly. Pulis took over Crystal Palace after 11 games this season, At that point, they had four points on the table; now they sit 11th, having climbed 9 places, keeping 10 clean sheets in the process. He's turned a side that looked like guaranteed relegation-fodder in to a solid mid-table club, and has seemingly abandoned his infamous rugby tactics from his Stoke days. More impressive: he's even managed to get Marouane Chamakh to score six - SIX! - goals.
Andy: Tony Pulis is an excellent choice for all the reasons that you mentioned (especially being a Chamakh Whisperer) but I find myself more drawn to managers who are pushing their teams forward rather than keeping them afloat. Roberto Martinez is my manager of the season and it's not just because he had Everton challenging for a Champions League spot until very near the end. What is remarkable to me is how he transformed that team from the old Moyesian style of wide play and crosses into an aggressive team comfortable in possession and relentless in pressing to win the ball back. Changing styles is no easy task regardless of the talent - as Moyes' own journey to and out of Manchester United shows - and for Martinez to do so successfully all while challenging for top level football is quite impressive. If he can keep his players, both those on loan and those under contract, Everton is sure to be a threat next season as well.
Signing of the Year
Andy: This is perhaps bending the rules if we normally think of a signing only to be a transfer from a different club, but Luis Suarez is my Signing of the Year. Almost everyone, including myself, thought that Suarez was a lock to move to Real Madrid (or *insert club with billions of dollars here) with Liverpool having no chance to keep him. Fast forward nine months and Suarez has single-handedly propelled his team not just to a Champions League place but through a race for the league title that will run until the last week of the season. As excellent as his supporting cast has been, and as much as his name will still be thrown around during the summer's transfer window despite his new contract, the controversial striker has been the catalyst for all the Reds' success. Liverpool was paid out on their risk and they should be rewarded for it here as well.
Sam: I'm going to loosen the definition here and go for Signings of the Season, and give the award to Everton's on-loan trio of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Gerard Deulofeu. Lukaku looks like the second coming of Didier Drogba, and I'm still shocked Jose Mourinho let him leave Stamford Bridge for the season, especially as ever since he's done nothing but complain about the quality of his strikers. Gareth Barry has helped shore up Everton's midfield and played well sitting in front of the back four, while Deulofeu added pace and trickery to Everton's wing play, and scored a pretty tasty goal at the Emirates in the process. You'd have to wonder what Martinez could have done with the squad Moyes left him if he hadn't signed those three players.
Goal of the Season
Sam: Goal of the season is an easy one, and I'm sure we'll be on the same page for this. Before I reveal my choice, there are several contenders. The media favorites will probably put forward the long-range volleys, lobs and screamers: Patjam Kasami v. Crystal Palace, Wayne Rooney against West Ham, Luis Suarez against Norwich all come to mind. However, I'm a sucker for team goals involving several players and intricate passes, so it has to be Jack Wilshere's goal against Norwich. Watching the goal again, I'd forgotten it started with a neat little one-two with Santi Cazorla, but it was the awareness of space and presence of mind of Olivier Giroud and Jack that made that goal beautiful. Three consecutive cheeky outside of the boot flicks while being surrounded by several yellow shirts freed Wilshere in the box for an easy tap-in. Andy, am I correct in thinking you're going to agree with me here?
Andy: You don't have to worry at all Sam, we are together on this one. Look, I love a good screamer. They're exciting, they get you out of your seat, and if the goal is meaningful then the reaction is that much more enthusiastic. But they happen more than you think, great as they are. The last time a long distance effort stayed with me after it happened due to sheer "I cannot believe that he did that" amazement was probably the Giovanni von Bronckhorst goal from the 2010 World Cup. So call it Arsenal bias, call it whatever you like, there's no way I'm not picking the Wilshere goal against Norwich because it was absolutely gorgeous.
Goalkeeper of the Year
Andy: Sam, I feel like we have to give an award to the goalkeepers somewhere in here. Not a single goalie has won PFA Player of the Year in the Premier League era and I can't remember one that ever came close despite the excellence of Petr Cech, Edwin van der Sar, Jens Lehmann, and others throughout the years. If we're giving out Goalkeeper of the Year I'm going to have to stick with my Arsenal bias and choose Wojciech Szczesny. He has made some phenomenal saves this year to keep the Gunners in matches and his biggest improvement is that he's become reliable. Arsenal fans are used to seeing the spectacular from Sir Szcz but this year he hasn't had the letdowns that have plagued him in the past. He still has exciting moments full of Cruyff turns and ridiculousness, but he actually pulls them off, which in my mind is further proof that he should win this award
Sam: Another one we agree on, then. You won't get any arguments from me, though for me Petr Cech definitely deserves some consideration.. One stat stands out above all others in the continued growth of Szczesny: he goes in to the final round of matches with the chance to win the Golden Glove, awarded to the 'keeper with the most clean sheets in the season (he is currently tied with Cech on 16). Many people will point to the high-scoring defeats against the other top-5 clubs, but the big Pole can't be held completely responsible as those are abject team performances as a whole.