We’re 36/38ths of the way through the Premier League campaign, and the race for the title is officially over. Your 2015-2016 Champions are …………..drumroll………………….. Leicester City! No, that is not a typo. Leicester are actually Champions of England. The team that was bottom of the table in mid-April last year and had 5000:1 odds to win the League in August have locked it up with 2 games to spare. As you can imagine, absolute scenes around Leicester last night as they were watching Chelsea-Tottenham. Watch this emotional rollercoaster, first as Tottenham go up 2-0, and then as Chelsea equalize 2-2:
And here are the Leicester players, at Jamie Vardy’s house no less, watching the last few seconds:
Absolutely love it. Grown ass men losing their collective shit brings a tear to my eye.
We’re going to go ahead and join in on the celebrations by handing out some End of the Season awards. Let’s go.
Team of the Season
Leicester City, obviously
Improbable. Shocking. Unfuckingbelievable. Leicester are League Champions with 2 games to play. How could it not be them? This will get little play outside the soccer crowd in America but it is literally the biggest cindarella story in sports history. Not the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team. Not 1984 NC State. 2016 Leicester. 5000:1 odds to win the league in August. 2016 Premier League Champions in May.
And the craziest part of the whole thing is that it hasn’t really felt like a fluke either, or atleast not since early February. When the Foxes came flying out of the gates in August, everyone said just wait and see where they are at Christmas. When they were still on top then, everyone said wait til February. They play Liverpool, City, and Arsenal, surely then we’ll see them falter. They took 6/9 possible points.
Every time that Leicester could have stumbled this year they didn’t. They cleared every obstacle, passed every test. That’s the stuff Champions are made of. And now they’ve achieved immortality. Sports have provided me with a lot of moments in my life that I’ll never forget, and thanks to Leicester this 2015-2016 EPL season will definitely be one of them.
Manager of the Season
Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City
See above. Ranieri’s hiring was met with mixed reviews from fans who thought ex-manager Nigel Pearson was hard done by. After all, it was Pearson who led the Foxes to 7 wins in their last 9 games to beat the drop last year; surely he’d earned the right to try and build on that. However, Pearson was disliked by ownership and was promptly sacked.
Enter Ranieri, a 64 year old man who’d never won anything at the highest level. He came in and, with the help of a couple shrewd signings, picked up right where Pearson left off. His laid-back attitude turned out to be exactly what Leicester needed, and his willingness to give players time off meant that their squad was never stretched too thin even before they were eliminated from the domestic cups. The job he’s done this year has already led to talks of him being knighted, but even if that never officially happens his name is going to be sung in the pubs of Leicester forever.
Player of the Season/Newcomer of the Season/French-African of the Season/Hottest WAG of the Season
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
17 goals, 11 assists. Not a bad return on the €500,000 they spent to get him. Of course, he would’ve been worth that much if only to get his wife, Rita Johal, into the mainstream.
Goal of the Season
Dele Alli vs Crystal Palace, 2-1
There may have been some that were close, but for me this Dele Alli strike takes the cake.
It’s just the complete package. Audacious, creative, technically brilliant, and a match winner. Doesn’t get better than that.
Save of the Season
David De Gea vs West Ham, 2-0
Hard to pick just one with how many times De Gea has saved our asses this year, and really over the past 3 years, but this one against West Ham in the FA Cup is pretty spectacular.
Premier League XI
GK – David De Gea, Manchester United
I’m just gonna go ahead and get my homer pick out of the way early. Even the most ardent United hater would be hard pressed to argue King Dave’s brilliance this season. IMO, this is the year where De Gea has finally cemented himself as at least the 1b to Manuel Neuer’s 1a. Despite the recent surge of United’s young attacking trio, the Spaniard remains the main reason that United are even within striking distance of a Champions League spot.
RB – Kyle Walker, Tottenham
There honestly weren’t a whole lot of great options here. Brana Ivanovic has fallen off a cliff at Chelsea, Zabaleta took a step backwards at City, and Hector Bellerin plays at Arsenal. That leaves us with Walker, who along with Danny Rose helps provide the width that makes Tottenham so lethal going forward. Walker is a phenomenal athlete who adds a lot to in attack, but as evidenced by Spurs defensive record he’s been pretty solid at that end, too.
CB – Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham
Old Toby was an even bigger reason for Spurs stalwart defense. The 27 year old Belgian barely put a foot wrong the entire season (he literally committed 0 fouls), marshaling Spurs to the best defensive record in the league and even chipping in with a goal or two when necessary.
CB – Wes Morgan, Leicester City
One half of the mountainous CB pairing that acts as the foundation for those lethal Leicester counters. The Captain has been an absolute rock at the heart of the Leicester defense, organizing his troops and popping up with absolutely huge goals (see the United game this past Saturday).
LB – Christian Fuchs, Leicester City
Another one where it didn’t feel like there were a whole lot of good options, so we’re going to go ahead and continue rewarding Leicester for the season they just had. Early on it looked like Luke Shaw was going to stake a claim on this spot, but since his injury Fuchs has probably been the standout performer. He is the perfect fullback for Leicester: extremely disciplined in his own half, doesn’t over-commit on the counter, and has a sweet left footed cross on the overlap.
CM – N’Golo Kante, Leicester City
He may be only 5’7, but you can’t help but notice the diminutive Frenchman if you watch more than 5 minutes of a Leicester match. He’s everywhere for them, breaking up an attack on the edge of his own box one minute before delivering a crucial pass into the opponent’s box the next. The man led the league in tackles per game AND interceptions per game, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better two-way midfielder in the league this season.
CM – Moussa Dembele, Tottenham
It really pains me to include him after the childish display he put on during the Chelsea game yesterday, but Dembele has been superb for Spurs all season. His running with the ball can relieve pressure and helps Tottenham transition quickly from defense to attack, and his defensive work in the high press has been exemplary. He’s 5th in the league in dribbles per game, 4th in tackles per game, and 4th in pass accuracy, which I think accurately represents how well-rounded his game is.
WM – Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
It’s been a characteristically up-and-down season for the Gunners, but at the center of everything has been Mesut Ozil. Ozil is an absolute joy to watch, casually drifting around the pitch with Cantona-esque self-assurance before delivering an absurd pass that even his own teammates didn’t see. His 4.2 key passes per game is more than twice as many as Alexis Sanchez in 10th, and his 18 assists lead the league by a mile, though it’s perhaps rather damning of the Arsenal strikers that they weren’t able to do more with such excellent service.
WM – Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
His English teammate may steal some of his headlines, but you’d have a tough time arguing that the PFA Player of the Year hasn’t been Leicester’s most influential player this year. 17 goals, 11 assists, and countless moments of game-changing brilliance. I’m happy to say I was on the Mahrez bandwagon from the first time I watched him against West Ham in August, and I really hope he stays in town to try and defend the title that he played such a big role in winning.
ST – Jamie Vardy, Leicester City
Chat shit, get banged. The timeless words of House Vardy. The Englishman perfectly encapsulates what Leicester have been all about this season, battling his way from 8th tier obscurity to the top of the Premier League. You can say what you want about how he goes about his business, but you can’t argue with the results. Simply put, Vardy has outworked and outhustled all comers this season, and the shifts that he has put in on his way to 22 league goals are a huge reason why Leicester are Champions.
ST – Harry Kane, Tottenham
Kane has taken another giant step forward in his second season in the Premier League limelight. The 22 year old Englishman has 25 league goals and has been generally excellent leading the line for the most swashbuckling attacking team in the league. He can bang them in any way (and from any angle) that you like and is the closest thing to a pure goal scorer that we have in the League.
GK – Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City
Kasper is finally moving out of his dad’s shadow, and was quietly excellent between the sticks for Leicester this year. He’s turned into a fantastic shot-stopper and saved the Foxes bacon more than once.
D – Robert Huth, Leicester
Could’ve probably been Otamendi here, but it’s my list and I’d rather honor the team that gave a shit over the team that didn’t. Huth is a proper hard man who gives zero fucks about who or what is in his way from clearing a ball. Leicester counter attacks wouldn’t be possible without the foundation that Huth and Morgan provide in the middle.
D – Chris Smalling, Manchester United
Smalling was one of the few bright spots in what was another relatively poor season for the Red Devils. He spent a majority of his time covering for less-experience and out-of-position teammates and was consistently dominant in the air. If United can find a ball playing CB in the Mats Hummels mold to pair with him they could be truly special.
M – Dimitri Payet, West Ham
An absolute wizard on the ball and on set pieces, Payet just oozes class; you could take someone who’s never watched soccer before to a West Ham game and they could probably pick him out as the best player within 10 minutes. Hopefully Lanzini gets a bit more time next year; seems like he and Payet were developing an understanding towards the end of the season and could be downright devastating if their budding relationship is given time to bloom.
M – Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
One of the other bright spots for Arsenal this year along with Ozil, Cech, and Bellerin. Sanchez is arguably the best winger in the league when fit, and when he was fit he chipped in 12 goals, 4 assists, 3.2 dribbles per game, and 2 key passes per game. If Arsenal could ever find a striker to play with he and Ozil they would be in business.
M – Dele Alli, Tottenham
The PFA Young Player of the Year chipped in 10 goals and 9 assists in his debut season as Tottenham’s #10, and is one of the key reasons that I’m expecting them mount an even bigger title challenge next year. Alli was inconsistent at times (dispossessed 2.5 times per game and 2.5 bad touches per game) but that’s nothing unusual for a young player. He’s an incredibly well-rounded player who contributes in every area of the pitch and is only going to get better as he gets older.
M – Phillipe Coutinho, Liverpool
Coutinho once again acted as Liverpool’s most influential figure in 2015-16. He only had 8 league goals and 5 assists, but his creative dribbling and passing was the catalyst for much of their success. Also, don’t look now but the Reds quietly put together a pretty solid 2nd half of the year. There is budding chemistry between the attacking foursome of Sturridge, Coutinho, Firmino, and Lallana, as well as signs the Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpress is starting to bear fruit. If they can stay healthy and get another high profile attacker in, they might surprise some people next season.
F – Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Probably the best striker in the league on his day, but unfortunately for City those days were too few and far between for them to mount a serious title challenge this year. His 23 goals trailed league leader Harry Kane by only 2, and he scored them in about 1000 fewer minutes. City have some decisions to make this summer about the direction they want to take the squad, but you have to figure that whatever the case may be, Aguero will be central to their plans.
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