Good riddance, 2020, we won’t regret you. But this bitter-tasting vintage nevertheless deserves a final look at what it has offered us during the last twelve months in the Premier League, for good and for bad. Here is a list that is not exclusive, in which other names and other categories could have appeared, without the slightest doubt: this choice can only be personal, although I doubt that there is a debate around the first one mentioned.
Team of the Year: Liverpool FC
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Who else in England? No one, of course, can compete with the Reds, who have ended three decades of waiting in the most convincing way – 18 points ahead of incumbent Manchester City – and certainly would not have deserved it. that the pandemic robs them of a historic title, which hindsight makes seem inevitable, but which certainly was not until the turn of winter. We wondered if Liverpool were not going to crack, as Liverpool had already cracked in the past. Only three times since the start of the 21st century, a team leading the rankings at Christmas has finally failed in its quest for the championship. Each time, this team had fallen in the very last lengths. Each time, that team had been Liverpool.
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But the Liverpool of 2020 is not that of the long awaited title. He is also the one who, despite the injuries that have affected and continue to affect key members of his workforce (including the most important, Virgil van Dijk, but also Thiago, Gomez, Jota and a few others), appears today promised to succeed himself on the honor roll of the PL. What would be an obstacle for others becomes a spur for Klopp’s Reds. Solutions are emerging where we least expected them.
Worried about seeing Gini Wijnaldum soon enter the last six months of his contract? Here is that Curtis Jones, a pure scouser in addition, is planted on the front of the scene and takes the microphone. Both Williams, Rhys and Neco, slip into the starting XI, and no one suffers except their opponents. And they may have become champions of England, Europe and the world in the space of two years, they are still hungry.
Curtis Jones, the beautiful promise in the middle of Liverpool
Player of the Year: Marcus Rashford
To make Jordan Henderson the “footballer of the year” in England was not a scandal. But what Marcus Rashford accomplishes in 2020 puts him in a category he’s pretty much the only footballer of his generation to qualify for. He helped change the world for the better. He has become a national hero. He did so with the seriousness and modesty that have characterized his progression in the world of football, since he was just an apprentice who arrived hungry for training at Manchester United minors, and never did. never forgot. Thanks to Marcus Rashford, 23 for two months, hundreds of thousands of children in the UK did not starve during the school holidays. He has challenged Boris Johnson’s government twice. He won.
Throughout a twilight year, he brought hope to a country struck like no other in Europe by the Covid (more than 84,000 dead as of December 31, according to the British National Bureau of Statistics, the ONS) , torn apart by Brexit, and in the throes of a more brutal recession than in any other G20 nation. All this did not prevent Rashford from ending the 2020 calendar year with a personal record of 21 goals and 13 assists in 42 appearances for his club, despite an injury preventing him from playing from January 11 to June 19. . The player still has some way to go; man, it is less certain.
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Revelation of the Year: Jack Grealish
I said all I have to say about this player wonder right here in mid-November. But if I have nothing to add on a personal basis, Grealish has continued to dazzle almost every one of his outings since. In the 2020-21 season, he is now, along with Neymar and Léo Messi, the player whose individual actions most often resulted in a shot on goal for his team in the major European leagues. And, whatever their problems may be, PSG and Barca are not Aston Villa, right?
The good surprise of the year: Aston Villa
Yes, Villa, precisely, saved in extremis from relegation by a draw obtained against West Ham, and today installed in the Top 6. The Villa who passed seven goals to the champion. The Villa of Grealish, but also of John McGinn, one of the great architects of the qualification of Scotland for the Euro, of the two rookies (and probably future internationals) from the Championship, Matty Cash (Nottingham Forest) and Ollie Watkins (Brentford), Emiliano Martinez, whose departure many Arsenal fans regret, Bertrand Traoré, Targett, Mings, Konsa and … Dean Smith, a coach who does not apply the Allardyce method to survive. Casually, this 2020-2021 vintage from Les Villans could be one that we will remember with gratitude, even emotion, in the future.
Anwar El Ghazi of Aston Villa celebrates with teammates Kortney Hause, Ollie Watkins and Jack Grealish after scoring his team’s third goal during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace
Credit: Getty Images
Fresh air of the year – Leeds United
It passes, it breaks? It never leaves you indifferent. It is a treat! As we hoped, as we expected. With a workforce that still has a strong Championship flavor, with Stuart Dallas for Cafu and Luke Ayling for Roberto Carlos, Marcelo Bielsa has concocted a marvel of a team that ignores what fear is, and therefore makes a appalling scare to anyone who crosses his path, including Liverpool, passed very close to the road exit on the first day of the season.
The error would be to exaggerate the risk part of the Bielsian game in the context of Leeds, insofar as this risk-taking, which unbalances almost all its opponents, is one … without being. If Leeds played like West Brom, or Burnley, wouldn’t Leeds run more risks, precisely? Thank you to them for reminding us that prudence is not always the best of calculations. And to give us so much pleasure, above all.
Leeds had fun against West Brom
Credit: Getty Images
Deal of the year: Bruno Fernandes
Manchester United had hoped they had recruited the creator they lacked, and Manchester United were not disappointed. The Portuguese have transformed the Red Devils like no other player since Eric Cantona. He has played a direct role in 32 of the 61 goals scored by MU since his arrival at the club, scorer 18 times, decisive passer at 14. He is also a strong-mouthed man who was immediately respected in the locker room of his club. United may have replaced themselves in Liverpool’s wake, United still do not fully convince, having owed their recovery – provisional or not, the future will tell – to the performance of some of their individuals rather than to the maturation of a game plan, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been in place for two years now. None of these individuals have contributed as much as the former Sporting number 10. 55 million euros? “A steal”, the English would say. A godsend, we all say.
Disappointment of the year: Paul Pogba
It is not relentlessness vis-à-vis a player who, when it is France who calls on him, knows how to respond. It is a simple observation. The world’s most expensive ex-footballer is worse than an outcast: a replacement. An outcast à la Ozil does not see his reputation suffer from his absence, quite the contrary. We tell ourselves that this absence has to do with factors that he does not control. We do not question his qualities, we speak of “sidelining”, “punishment”. Everyone is then free to get an idea of the real motivations for the ban.
Paul Pogba, 27, is not excluded, a leper sent to his island. He plays here and there. His playing time in 2020-2021 (62% of the minutes he could have played in total, except for games missed due to injury) is not ridiculous; but its impact has been minimal. The future Ballon d’Or no longer holds MU. His direct rivals Fred and Scott McTominay have more playing time than him in the Premier League this season. This disappointment, Paul Pogba must be the first to feel it. Strongly 2021, strongly the exit!
Credit: Getty Images
Bad gag of the year: the Saudi Newcastle saga
Ah, what a circus that the one offered around the “takeover” of Newcastle United by the sovereign fund of Saudi Arabia, in particular by a certain English press, which closed its eyes to the motivations of the Saudis and got flour like a blue by the communications advisers of Amanda Staveley, the so-called architect of this huge deal with the Absolute Gulf Monarchy. Consent victim? In some cases, absolutely, and even complicit, which, when it comes to a regime as brutal as that of Mohammed bin Salman, should have given rise to further reflection.
The gag lasted half the year, the balloon did not deflate for good until July, more than three months after Eurosport issued this warning. It was a beautiful illustration of what the media lose by hooking their wagon to the locomotive they are supposed to follow. One does not become with impunity agent of the nations which use football as an instrument of foreign policy.
Quack of the year: Manchester City and UEFA
The verdict delivered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the end of July, which invalidated the two-year suspension imposed by UEFA on Manchester City for serious breaches of financial fair play regulations, was undoubtedly also a death sentence for this too. famous FPF, this paper tiger which, in the end, only allowed the powerful to ensure that they remain so. Man City had not been “exonerated” by the CAS, far from it. UEFA had simply “forgotten” that there was prescription for the facts which were attributed to the Mancunian club. And now, pandemic obliges, the FPF is de facto suspended. In view of what its introduction triggered, we will not regret it too much. No more than 2020, anyway.
Pep Guardiola the manager of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final match between Manchester City and Lyon at Estadio Jose Alvalade on August 15, 2020
Credit: Getty Images
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