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Player of the year so far? Worst signing? It's the Premier League of the half-season awards

We assess the good and bad of this year, as the campaign approaches its halfway point.

Tottenham's Son Heung-min is the Premier League's joint-top scorer currently.
Tottenham's Son Heung-min is the Premier League's joint-top scorer currently.
Image: Jon Super

Updated Dec 18th 2020, 3:03 PM

Player of the season so far: Son Heung-Min

The choice here is a toss-up between Son and his Tottenham attacking partner Harry Kane. The duo have been key to Spurs’ excellent start to the season. While you get the sense fellow high-flyers Chelsea and Liverpool have the depth to cope with the loss of a few key players, without Kane and Son, it seems unlikely that Tottenham would currently be sitting second in the table. Son is currently joint top scorer on 11 goals, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mo Salah. Kane is two behind him on nine goals and also has an incredible 10 assists.

Young player of the season so far: Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Is 23 too old for a footballer to win a ‘young player’ award? For the purposes of this column, we’ve arbitrarily decided ‘no’ and thus, Dominic Calvert-Lewin gets the nod for the category. The young England international has lit up the Premier League this season with an amazing haul of 11 goals from 13 top-flight games. He is only two away from his overall best tally of 13 last year. His success now highlights the value of persevering with a young player. He learned his trade as a teenager in loan spells at Stalybridge Celtic in Conference North and Northampton Town in League Two. One goal in 11 Premier League games during his first top-flight season suggested he was not necessarily destined for greatness. His improvement was gradual, however, with four goals in 32 appearances (2017-18) and six goals in 35 appearances (2018-19). It’s this season, however, where his talent is really starting to flourish and he is emerging as one of the top strikers in the league.

Manager of the season so far: Ralph Hasenhüttl

It seems strange to be giving this to a manager whose side lost 9-0 at home just over a year ago, and also were thumped 5-2 earlier this season, but the Saints have made a brilliant start to the campaign overall, as reflected by their current position of third in the table. When you consider that Hasenhüttl — the first Austrian to manage in the Premier League — inherited a team stuck in the relegation zone in December 2018, he has worked wonders ever since. He guided the side to the safety of 16th in his first season, before they came 11th last year. This campaign has begun in highly encouraging fashion and looks set to be their best yet under the 53-year-old coach.

Best signing: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg

There is plenty of competition here with a couple of honourable mentions necessary. Everton appear to have bought wisely, with James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré having a positive impact. Chelsea’s signings have looked similarly promising with Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner all improving Frank Lampard’s team. Eberechi Eze, signed by Palace from QPR for £20 million looks a very good player, while Ollie Watkins, a £33 million buy from Brentford, is one of the main reasons for Aston Villa’s improved form this season. Not many players would be talented enough to improve Liverpool’s attack, but Diogo Jota appears to have done just that, while 20-year-old defender Wesley Fofana has slotted in seamlessly at Leicester. However, perhaps the most astute purchase has been Jose Mourinho’s acquisition of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg from Southampton. The protection he offers the backline has made Tottenham a much more solid defensive unit, which largely accounts for their marked improvement this season.

Worst signing: Donny van de Beek

Signed by Man United from Ajax for a reported fee of £39 million, much more was expected from Van de Beek given his profile. The Dutch international is clearly a talented player, as anyone who watched him at Ajax will attest. Yet with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes operating in a similar area of the field, the 23-year-old has been left out of the team more often than not. Van de Beek has just two Premier League starts to his name, the last of which saw him replaced by Marcus Rashford at half-time amid the 3-1 win over West Ham. Nevertheless, if Mino Raiola gets his wish and Pogba leaves the club in January, that will surely help pave the way for the young Dutchman to have a more active role in the second half of the season.

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Standout Irish performer: Seamus Coleman

It’s slim pickings in this category unfortunately. Having enjoyed fantastic seasons last year, John Egan, Enda Stevens and David McGoldrick have suffered along with the rest of the Sheffield United squad. Other Irish players have either been injured or out of favour at their clubs. 

Yet one of the few optimistic notes has been the early-season form of Seamus Coleman. Although he is another who has been marred by injuries, making just six top-flight appearances since the start of the campaign, the Donegal native’s leadership, composure in possession and defensive solidity has been one of the reasons behind Everton’s promising start. Honourable mentions go to Jeff Hendrick, who appears to have settled relatively well at new club Newcastle, and West Brom’s Dara O’Shea, who has looked remarkably assured for a 21-year-old in his debut Premier League season.

Upcoming Premier League fixtures:

Saturday

Crystal Palace v Liverpool (12.30)
Southampton v Man City (15.00)
Everton v Arsenal (17.30)
Newcastle v Fulham (20.00)

Sunday

Brighton v Sheffield United (12.00)
Tottenham v Leicester City (14.15)
Man United v Leeds (16.30)
West Brom v Aston Villa (19.15)

Monday

Burnley v Wolves (17.30)
Chelsea v West Ham (20.00)

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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