Wow. Where do I start when describing the 2015-16 Premier League season? It’s been one of the best in history that saw some remarkable stories. And the most remarkable story of all was that of Leicester City. Bottom of the table for most of the previous season, they had odds of 5000/1 to lift the trophy at the start of the season, but those odds plummeted as the Foxes surprised everyone by winning their first EVER top division with two games to spare.
The champions from 2014-15, Chelsea, went dramatically in the opposite direction as Jose Mourinho was sacked before Christmas, and the Blues finished the campaign in tenth. The end of the season also saw the end of the road for Louis van Gaal and Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester United and Manchester City respectively, who will be replaced by Mourinho and Pep Guardiola ahead of what looks set to be an even more thrilling 2016-17 campaign.
Along with the emerging stars of Leicester’s team such as Vardy, Mahrez and Kante, we saw youngsters Dele Alli, Kelechi Iheanacho and Marcus Rashford break onto the scene. Summer signings Dimitri Payet, Kevin De Bruyne and Anthony Martial all showed why clubs paid the big bucks to bring them to England.
Finally, before the awards begin, the 2015-16 campaign also saw the last ever game at West Ham’s Boleyn Ground, and fittingly the Hammers beat Manchester United in a 3-2 thriller. They will move to the Olympic Stadium in the summer after 112 years at Upton Park.
The Final Table
- Leicester City are Champions. (No matter how many times I say that, it still doesn’t sink in)
- They will be joined in the Champions League next season by the rest of the top four: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s new team will have to go through a qualifying round first though.
- Manchester United and Southampton have qualified for next season’s Europa League group stage, whilst West Ham enter the competition in the third qualifying round.
- Newcastle United, Norwich City and Aston Villa will be playing in The Championship next season after getting relegated.
Team of the Season (AS VOTED FOR BY YOU)
- GK: Kasper Schmeichel – 23 years after his father won the Premier League for the first time, Kasper Schmeichel lifted the trophy as the man between the sticks for Leicester. He kept 15 clean sheets (only Petr Cech got more) and conceded just 36 goals, the second fewest in the division. It’s been a tough journey for the 29 year old, but he’s made it, and with 39% of the vote, goes into your team.
- RB: Hector Bellerin – The Spaniard signed a new long-term contract before the start of the campaign, and missed just two games the entire season, scoring one goal and getting five assists. Renowned for his electric pace, Bellerin is the only player in your team from second placed Arsenal after gaining 46% of the vote. It’s incredible to think the 21 year old hasn’t made Spain’s squad for Euro 2016.
- CB: Toby Alderweireld – Tottenham snatched Alderweireld from under Southampton’s noses last summer, and he proved to be a key player in their title challenge. Influential at both ends, the Belgian was part of the tightest defence in the league and also scored five goals at the other end. With 71%, he was the most popular centre-back you voted for.
- CB: Robert Huth – It appears that most of you were split between Huth and his Leicester team-mate Wes Morgan, but the German makes the team with 43% of the vote. Even though Morgan has his merits, there’s also no questioning Huth’s place in this team. An experienced head in the Foxes defence that ensured nothing got through with his old-fashioned centre back style, the 31 year old also scored crucial goals against Spurs and Manchester City.
- LB: Christian Fuchs – Like Bellerin on the other flank, Christian Fuchs was one of the most effective full-backs in the division, only the Spaniard got more assists than Fuchs’ four. But that is in part due the Austrian’s more defensive attitude, which saw him make the fifth most blocks out of the Premier League’s defenders. Signed by Leicester for FREE last summer, Fuchs got 54% of your vote to make the team.
- RM: Riyad Mahrez – It’s been an incredible season for Riyad Mahrez, who became the first African to win the PFA Player of the Season award after hitting the back of the net 17 times and grabbing 11 assists. One of Leicester’s surprise stars, the 25 year old was playing for Le Harve’s reserve team three years ago. Mahrez got 89% of your vote – more than any player in any position.
- CM: N’Golo Kante – Another player who has had a meteoric rise, N’Golo Kante made more tackles (175) and more interceptions (156) than any other player as he dominated the midfield in each game he played in. The 25 year old had every blade of grass covered and showed an incredible work-rate, with his performances earning him a first France call-up. 71% of you voted for him.
- CM: Dele Alli – This time last season, Dele Alli was celebrating promotion from League One with MK Dons, but now he is heading into Euro 2016 as England’s biggest hopes following a spectacular season with Tottenham. Full of skill, the 20 year got 10 goals and nine assists and picked up the PFA Young Player of the Season award. Alli was the choice of 57% of you for this team.
- LM: Dimitri Payet – Subject to one of the best chants of the season, West Ham fans have fallen in love with Dimitri Payet since he moved from Marseille last summer as he has had a superb debut campaign. Only Mesut Ozil created more chances than the Frenchman’s 119, whilst Payet finished the season with nine goals and 12 assists. His magical free-kicks stunned the league, and 82% of you voted for him.
- ST: Harry Kane – Following a slow start to the season, some fans wondered whether Harry Kane would be a one season wonder, but the Englishman regained his scoring touch and heads into the Euros on fantastic form. The 22 year old won the Premier League golden boot with 25 goals, some of which were absolute stunners. This country’s best striker, 86% of you voted for him – only Mahrez was more popular.
- ST: Jamie Vardy – Partnering his compatriot upfront in this team and hopefully at the Euros is Jamie Vardy, who ended the campaign on 24 goals. Playing in non-league four years ago, the 29 year old broke the Premier League record for most consecutive games scored in (11) and spearheaded Leicester’s title winning attack with his blistering pace. Vardy got 75% of the vote, meaning that he’s having a party!
There are three changes between your team and the PFA’s team. David de Gea, Wes Morgan and Danny Rose go out, and Kasper Schmeichel, Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs come in. In total, your team includes six Leicester City players, three Tottenham Hotspur players, one Arsenal player and one West Ham United player.
Player of the Season (AS VOTED FOR BY YOU)
Riyad Mahrez – Leicester City
Riyad Mahrez doesn’t look like your typical footballer. His skinny frame might suggest that he’s easily bullied off the ball, but in 2015-16 the Algerian’s skill, pace and raw ability made him the best player in the top division. Mahrez may have scored twice on the opening day of the season against Sunderland, but no one foresaw what he, and Leicester, would go onto to do. Not only did the Algerian finish the campaign with a Premier League winners’ medal, but with 17 goals and 11 assists and the PFA Player of the Year award, becoming the first African player to receive the latter. Rumours have already begun linking Mahrez to the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, but the 25 year old who was playing in French second tier two years ago is staying grounded. How far can he go? At the moment it seems the sky is the limit for the winger, who as many first place votes for this award as the other five contenders combined.
2nd – Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
3rd – Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Young Player of the Season (AS VOTED FOR BY YOU)
Dele Alli – Tottenham Hotspur
Although Dele Alli’s suspension at the end of the campaign was fully deserved and showed he needs to tone down his temper, it did little to overshadow what a brilliant campaign the 20 year old had. He didn’t start a league game until a month into the campaign, but he quickly became one of the first names on Tottenham’s team sheet and one of the stars in their challenge for the title. A midfielder blessed with great skill, like Mahrez, Alli’s rise to glory has been impressive – only last season he was playing in League One with MK Dons. Spurs paid £5 million for him in January 2015, and have been repaid instantly, with Alli contributing 10 goals and nine assists in the league. Another award is also coming his way below (you can probably guess which!), whilst he goes to Euro 2016 as one of England’s star players despite making his Three Lions debut only in October. You agree with the PFA giving him the young player of the year accolade, as Alli gained over half of the first place votes.
2nd – Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
3rd – Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Manager of the Season (AS VOTED FOR BY YOU)
Claudio Ranieri – Leicester City
When Leicester appointed Claudio Ranieri last summer to replace Nigel Pearson, not many of the club’s fans were optimistic about their chances in 2015-16. But it soon became clear that the Italian was the perfect man to lead this team of rejects, and inspired them to Premier League glory. Ranieri had been sacked by Greece in November 2014 following a defeat to the Faroe Islands, which makes his rise to the title just as great as the story of his players. Rewarding the squad with pizza after every clean sheet, the 64 year old’s charismatic style has made him one of the most likeable bosses in the Premier League. But tactically, he got it spot on too as the Foxes lost just three games all season and won the league with two games to spare. To top it off, on the final day, Ranieri was given a guard of honour by former club Chelsea, who sacked him 12 years ago for failing to win the title. Dilly ding, dilly dong.
2nd – Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham Hotspur)
3rd – Slaven Bilic (West Ham United)
Goal of the Season
Dele Alli vs Crystal Palace
2nd – Jamie Vardy vs Liverpool
3rd – Matt Ritchie vs Sunderland
Game of the Season
Norwich City 4-5 Liverpool
Adam Lallana’s injury-time strike saw Liverpool edge a nine-goal thriller at Norwich in one of the most dramatic Premier League games of the season. Roberto Firmino scuffed the Reds ahead but Dieumerci’s Mbokani’s backheel levelled and Steven Naismith’s debut strike put the home side in front. Wes Hoolahan added a penalty before Jordan Henderson and Firmino struck. James Milner put the away side ahead and though Sebastien Bassong netted in added time, Lallana delivered a twist. The England midfielder’s volley – which was fired into the ground and bounced agonisingly in for the home side – sparked chaotic scenes as Reds boss Jurgen Klopp raced along the touchline to celebrate with his players. Read the full BBC report here.
2nd – Everton 3-4 Stoke City
3rd – West Ham 3-2 Manchester United
Club-by-Club Player of the Season
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
Aston Villa: Jordan Ayew
Bournemouth: Charlie Daniels
Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha
Everton: Romelu Lukaku
Leicester City: Riyad Mahrez
Liverpool: Philippe Coutinho
Manchester City: Sergio Aguero
Manchester United: David de Gea
Newcastle United: Georginio Wijnaldum
Norwich: Jonny Howson
Southampton: Virgil van Dijk
Stoke City: Jack Butland
Sunderland: Jermain Defoe
Swansea City: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Kane
Watford: Heurelho Gomes
West Brom: Salomon Rondon
West Ham: Dimitri Payet
If you disagree with any of the awards, please feel free to let me know who you think deserved a mention in the comments below! Tomorrow I write 10 things I learned from this Premier League campaign, whilst there are still season reviews from the Championship, League One and League Two to come!
The 2016-17 rebranded Premier League campaign begins on 13th August.