We’re about 1/3 of the way through with the Premier League season. With that in mind, it feels like there has been a large enough sample size of games to start making declarative statements on players and teams.
Here’s an Americanized version of EPL awards. We’ll do this at milestone markers throughout the season. Awards up for grabs include Most Valuable Player, Most Improved, Manager of the Year, Executive of the Year.
Here we go…
Chops: Kevin de Bruyne
MVP discussions are always fun because they’re open for interpretation. Is it simply just “the best” player in the league? That’s mostly what baseball does. Mike Trout is a generational talent. However, his teams never win. Baseball stat heads don’t care. He won another MVP this season despite his Angels finishing with a .444 wining percentage.
Is it the most impactful? That’s kind of how the NFL does it. QBs’ influence reigns supreme in the NFL. Typically the best QB on a winning team wins the award.
Is it just the best narrative? That’s how the NBA often does it. Otherwise, LeBron James should’ve won at least 10 in a row.
With that out of the way, I’m going with a hybrid approach: who is the literal most valuable player on a top 4 team? With apologies to Roberto Firmino, that answer has to be Kevin de Bruyne (my #YNWA text thread is hanging my name in effigy upon reading that).
He’s taken the mantle of best EPL player from the now departed Eden Hazard. Kdb has created more chances than any Premier Leaguer this season. He could challenge for the all-time season assists record (he has 8 so far). He’s scored 3 goals. He has 1.13 g+a per 90 minutes and .89 xG+xA per 90. Among players with at least 500 minutes played, only Sergio Aguero (1.35 / 1.18 per 9) and Tammy Abraham (1.20 / .90) are better in both categories. It’s gotta be KdB.
Tyler: Sadio Mane
It has to be someone from Liverpool, but who? The two biggest stars people associate with this team are Virgil van Dijk and Mo Salah, and there are decent cases for others as well.
But for me, it has to be Sadio Mane, who is on his way to a historic year in terms of late contributions. Liverpool has dropped only 2 points, but could be in a very different spot if not for Mane. The way he fights for every inch creates problems for the opposition all game long. This was especially true in the closing minutes vs. Leicester and Aston Villa, to name just two opponents who were on the verge of beating or drawing the Reds if not for Mane. Oh, and 6 goals in 11 EPL games isn’t bad either.
Uttiyo: Kevin de Bruyne
As good as Liverpool have been this season, I feel it’s been a more combined effort resulting in the success. Kevin de Bruyne’s been a one man wrecking-machine for Manchester City, creating chances as he pleases. Be it his venomous crosses from the right, set-pieces or ability to perfectly find his teammates, KDB has done it all. His two insane assists against Spurs and two more against Watford stand out. When fit, there’s hardly any better than him in the league.
Chops: Joel Matip
When fit, Liverpool’s best defender this season is its most unheralded one: Joel Matip.
Well, maybe he’s somewhat heralded. He was recognized as PFA Player of the Month for September. Matip is the top rated player via WhoScored on a Liverpool team with lots of top rated players. His year-to-year WS has lept from 7.11 to 7.52. While Dejan Lovren has filled in admirably while Joel is injured, Matip’s return is highly anticipated by all at Anfield.
Tyler: Teemu Pukki
The story of the first month of the season–Teemu Pukki— had a track record as a prolific scorer before ‘19-20. However, seeing him do it in the best league in the world was stunning.
He helped give us one of the most memorable afternoons of the year when Norwich beat Manchester City, so he deserves some love even if he and his squad fail to make any more noise this year. And while not necessarily part of the equation, it’s hard to ignore his impact on Finland for the 2020 Euro qualifiers.
Uttiyo: Tammy Abraham
It’s almost weird thinking about how Tammy Abraham flopped bad with Swansea in his first try at the Premier League a few years ago. He’s become so much better under Frank Lampard, showing Drogbaesque traits at times. Tammy’s the complete package with his finishing and the hattrick against Wolves & braces against Sheffield+Norwich were a joy to watch.
Chops: Christian Pulisic
To quote Billie Eilish on this, “Duh.”
After a slow start fraught with anxiety from American fans, Christian Pulisic has taken the EPL by storm. He’s netted five times and is FIFTH in xG+xA per 90 minutes.
Tyler: Christian Pulisic
The star of the USMNT has enjoyed a hell of a turnaround since that horrific illness (it couldn’t possibly have just been a disaster of a decision by Gregg Berhalter to take him off the pitch) ended his last appearance in red, white and blue early. Christian Pulisic has been a bright spot for arguably the biggest pleasant surprise of the season in England, as he and his young teammates have a great shot to finish top-4.
Uttiyo: Christian Pulisic
To think, Christian Pulisic didn’t even play the first couple of games for Chelsea! He’s been such a breath of fresh air for both Chelsea as well as the league. His dribbling, ability to find himself in scoring positions have really lightened up the side. Some say transitioning from the Bundesliga to EPL isn’t the easiest. The fact he’s done it so seamlessly proves how good he is, as his consistency is key towards maintaining their top-4 charge.
Coach of the Year
Chops: Jurgen Klopp
I mean, come on. This is easy. His team has dropped 2 points in 12 matches against the hardest slate of opponents in the league. They’re on pace for about 115 points. They’re 9 points clear of fourth-place City. Jurgen Klopp is the coach of the year for any sport. I swear if Tyler freaking says Lampard…
Tyler: Frank Lampard
Speaking of suddenly likable Chelsea, how about the job Frank Lampard has done? (Editor’s Note: FFS, Tyler)
He had his doubters as the season began, but it’s impossible to overstate how impressive he’s been leading his absurdly young team to so many quality results both domestically and in Europe. This was probably the easiest decision on this ballot.
Uttiyo: Chris Wilder
As flawless as Jurgen Klopp’s been, I gotta give this to Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder. To take a team which finished 2nd in the CHAMPIONSHIP to fifth place in the Premier League is remarkable. His tactics have been unique, his man-management astounding and he’s built Sheffield into a spirited, fearless side. Win over Arsenal, Draws away to Chelsea & Spurs are only some of his stunning achievements early on.
Executive Team of the Year
Chops: Team Leicester
Football operations don’t always have a clear cut path to a GM like in the NBA. So here, it’s an easy call: Susan Whelan (CEO) and team Leicester. With Jon Rudkin, Andrew Neville and Brendan Rodgers, Leicester have built a true Premier League contender for the long haul. They currently sit second in the Premier League, one point ahead of fourth place Manchester City. They utterly fleeced Manchester United for Harry Maguire–and got better defensively.
Tyler: Team Leicester
This is a tough one. None of the top 4 teams in the EPL table are succeeding because of splashy summer signings. Liverpool stood pat. City spent (kinda) big but has disappointed, at least to their standards. Chelsea was forced to sit out the summer period and Leicester’s most notable “move” was allowing Harry Maguire to walk.
However, this goes to Team Leicester. They’re in great form despite a much smaller budget than the teams they’re punching against at the top of the table.
Uttiyo: Team Leicester
Even I’m having a difficult time finding out the best option for this one. I mean, Arsenal invested really well in the summer, but their signings have almost all been under-part. I think I gotta give it to Team Leicester as well. They signed an x-factor like Ayoze Perez, sold Harry Maguire for a huge profit and regained Youri Tielemans services. A job well done!