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Premier League: Our non-Big Six end-of-season awards

There are 20 teams in the Premier League, not that the media coverage and accolades often reflect that. Sure, the ‘Big Six’ attract the most attention at the end-of-season awards, but what if they were excluded from the voting?

Ahead of the final weekend of the Premier League season, we’ve decided to pay tribute to the achievements of the rest of the division.

Here are our non-Big Six end-of-season Premier League awards.

Player of the Season

Aston Villa will play Champions League football for the first time next season after securing their place in the Premier League’s top four. Ollie Watkins has been the catalyst for a season of overachievement from Villa, continuing his evolution into a complete centre-forward under Unai Emery.

Watkins’ status as first-choice forward at Aston Villa was not completely clear upon Emery’s arrival, but the Spaniard has put his trust in the 28-year-old and has been rewarded. Watkins has 27 goals in all competitions, as many as he managed in the previous two seasons combined, and will become the first Aston Villa player to score 20 league goals in a top-flight season since Peter Withe in 1980/81 if he nets at the weekend.

Furthermore, no player in the Premier League has provided more assists than Watkins (13). Watkins has unnerved defences while operating in perpetual motion with his work rate and has added elite end product to match. Next season, he will get the chance to showcase his improvement on club football’s biggest stage.

Young Player of the Season

Anthony Gordon’s omission from the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season nominees has been criticised, after a brilliant first full season at Newcastle. Gordon entered the new campaign clouded in doubts after a slow start at St James’ Park but has repaid the faith of the Magpies.

The 23-year-old has built on a summer that saw him win the Player of the Tournament at the u-21 European Championship, emerging as a crucial cog in Eddie Howe’s attack. The question marks that greeted the £45m investment in a player with just seven career goals for Everton have gone, with Gordon having produced 11 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season.

Gordon is only the third Newcastle player to reach 10+ on both metrics in the same season and has placed himself in contention for a prominent role with England this summer. A burgeoning reputation as a big-game player, having scored against each of the ‘Big Six’ this season, will help his cause.

Manager of the Season

Unai Emery’‘s first venture into English football did not quite go to plan as the Spaniard underwhelmed after replacing Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. After a strong spell at Villarreal, he returned to the Premier League at Aston Villa and has had a transformative impact.

Villa will compete in the Champions League next season after a top-four finish, having had a taste of European action this season with a run to the Conference League semi-finals. It’s just the seventh time a non-Big Six side has secured Champions League football in the Premier League era and will be the first time Villa have competed in UEFA’s top competition since 1983.

An amazing achievement, that further proves that Emery – a record four-time Europa League winner – belongs among the elite coaches.

Goal of the Season

Brighton have had to cope without Kaoru Mitoma for large periods of the season and the Seagulls will hope the Japan winger can get back to his best next season.

One of the most watchable wingers anywhere when in the mood, Mitoma’s scintillating solo run in August’s win at Wolves was one of the Goals of the Season.

Newcomer of the Season

The Eredivisie is a notorious minefield when it comes to signing talents. For every Ruud van Nistelrooy there’s an Afonso Alves, with no division being quite as hit-and-miss.

West Ham, however, appear to have landed a gem in Mohammed Kudus. Signed from Ajax in a £34m deal as the Hammers reinvested their Declan Rice windfall, Kudus has been electric in East London. The 23-year-old has 16 goals and six assists in all competitions while no player in Europe’s top five league has completed more take-ons (120).

The Ghanaian has been worth the admission fee at the London Stadium.

Signing of the Season

No one saw this coming.

Ross Barkley’s career appeared to be fading when he left Nice as a free agent last summer, with a once-touted talent of English football having been on the slide. Newly-promoted Luton took a punt on the former Chelsea and Everton midfielder and have witnessed the renaissance of Barkley this season.

Barkley has been brilliant in a deeper role for Rob Edwards’ side, offering poise and an ability to travel forward with the ball between the lines. There was even talk of a call-up to the England squad for Euro 2024 earlier in the campaign, almost five years since the most recent of his 33 international caps.

Barkley’s performances have not been quite enough to keep Luton in the division, though it’s unlikely he will follow the Hatters to the second tier. The 30-year-old was last week named Luton’s Player of the Season, Signing of the Season and the Junior Supporters’ Player of the Season in a hat-trick of awards.

Signed on a free transfer, he’s been one of the pick-ups of the campaign.

Best Game

Bournemouth 4-3 Luton

Luton packed a punch at stages of the season to establish themselves as the best of the promoted trio. The Hatters played their part in one of the games of the season, as Bournemouth edged a seven-goal thriller in March.

Luton were sensational across the first half to race into a three-goal lead at half-time. Tahith Chong, Chiedozie Ogbene and Ross Barkley were all on the scoresheet as the Hatters looked set to claim a memorable win on the road.

Bournemouth, however, came out fighting after the break. Dominic Solanke’s brilliant goal began the comeback before Illia Zabaryni bundled in the second. Antoine Semenyo then completed the turnaround with a devastating double as Bournemouth became only the fifth team in Premier League history to overturn a 3-0 deficit to win.

Read – Five Premier League players who need more minutes next year

See more – Five Bundesliga players who will be in demand this summer

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