Premier League

DANNY MURPHY: Liverpool’s win over Man City was my best game but who made my team of the season?


The Premier League has never known a season like 2019-20 with Liverpool’s first title for three decades, the controversial introduction of VAR and an unprecedented mid-season shutdown equivalent to a three-month spring break.

With the final fixtures being played, I cast my mind back over the past 11 months — yes, 11 months! — for the highs and lows from a once-in-a-lifetime campaign.

Premier League has never had a season like it, from Liverpool’s success, to VAR to the hiatus

BEST GAME

Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City at Anfield in November was pivotal. Not only was it an incredible performance, it also meant they finished the day nine points clear at the top instead of three. From there, momentum and belief were unstoppable.

Fabinho’s stunning strike set the tone and Mo Salah and Sadio Mane scored either side of half-time. Having been pipped by City the previous year, this was Jurgen Klopp’s players saying, ‘There will be no repeat this time.’

Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City at Anfield in November was a pivotal moment

Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City at Anfield in November was a pivotal moment

BEST GOAL

The overhead kick by Brighton’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Kevin De Bruyne’s strike against Newcastle were special. But the one I’d love to have scored was the stunning half-volley by Leicester’s Harvey Barnes against Sheffield United in August.

That type of goal doesn’t come around very often. The technique is hard enough in itself and it’s very rare the ball falls for you to have a go during a match. Barnes caught it so sweetly. It was an absolute beauty — and the winner as well.

There were some great candidates but Harvey Barnes' goal at Bramall Lane has to get the nod

There were some great candidates but Harvey Barnes’ goal at Bramall Lane has to get the nod

SURPRISE PACKAGE

Like nearly everyone else, I didn’t see it coming. Relegation favourites Sheffield United have been challenging for Europe most of the season and will finish in the top half of the table and that’s not by luck.

They are well-coached, play a great formation, have a fit squad who combine intensity with the intelligence to rotate positions on the pitch and are very good defensively. It has been a brilliant collective effort. The two strikers they signed: Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset made real contributions.

Relegation favourites Sheffield United challenging for Europe this season was very surprising

Relegation favourites Sheffield United challenging for Europe this season was very surprising

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

After 30 years of waiting, it seemed grossly unfair, though obviously unavoidable, that Liverpool supporters weren’t able to share the moment of Jordan Henderson lifting the trophy inside Anfield.

These times have meant all fans having to witness the drama involving their teams second-hand. Because I grew up watching football on the Kop, I particularly felt for Liverpool. I am aware of the togetherness between their players and fans and it was a huge shame the joy of winning the league and celebrations couldn’t be normal.

It was a shame that fans weren’t able to share the moment Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy

It was a shame that fans weren’t able to share the moment Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy

BEST BUY

I am torn between Bruno Fernandes and Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin, who has been the catalyst for his team avoiding any relegation trouble. For £16million, he has proved an absolute bargain, their best player by a mile.

The Fernandes story at Old Trafford has been equally amazing. He arrived in January and has practically turned around Manchester United’s season single-handedly. Very few players can walk into a club that size and make an impact so quickly.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's signing of Bruno Fernandes was one of the best decisions in the league

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s signing of Bruno Fernandes was one of the best decisions in the league

WORST BUY

I feel for Joelinton and hope he can kick on in that second season like others have done in the past. But there is no point in sugar-coating it, for £40million he has really struggled and been a major disappointment. He’s fortunate to be in a well-organised team otherwise his lack of goals, two in 37 Premier League games, would have become even more of an issue. It can be particularly tough for strikers when they first come into the Premier League.

The worst signing of the 2019-2020 Premier League season was Joelinton for £40million

The worst signing of the 2019-2020 Premier League season was Joelinton for £40million 

MY TEAM OF THE SEASON 

Formation: 4-3-3  

  • Nick Pope
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold
  • Willy Boly
  • Virgil Van Dijk
  • Andy Robertson 
  • Kevin De Bruyne
  • Jordan Henderson
  • Bruno Fernandes
  • Raheem Sterling
  • Jamie Vardy
  • Sadio Mane

Five Liverpool players are in my team, as you’d expect, but a couple of players from clubs lower down the table also deserve their places. Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope has been phenomenal and could finish the weekend with the prestigious Golden Gloves award for most Premier League clean sheets. Willy Boly is a real leader in that Wolves team and just edges out the worthy defensive contenders from Sheffield United such as John Egan.

 

SEASON’S LEGACY

I was hoping football’s lockdown would lead to greater appreciation of what we have from managers, players and fans. I think that’s been the case. Since the resumption, there has been less abuse and nastiness, fewer bad fouls and less arguing with officials.

When fans return, I hope and expect more of the same. You can be passionate cheering your team without indulging in mindless behaviour, particularly when it involves racism or homophobia.

The number of yellow cards per game has fallen from 3.6 to 2.9 since Project Restart. Red cards are down as well. And it hasn’t made the games any less enjoyable or competitive. Maybe the lack of a crowd has eased the pressure but it’d be nice to think when fans are back, the new spirit continues.

WATCH OUT FOR

Manchester is blessed to have two of Europe’s best young talents; Phil Foden at City and Mason Greenwood at United. If they maintain their progress, I can’t see why they wouldn’t be in Gareth Southgate’s England plans next summer.

Greenwood is looking like a superstar. He is probably the most natural finisher English football has seen since Robbie Fowler. To strike the ball so cleanly with either foot gives him a great advantage. He can go either way on the ball and that’s a problem for defenders.

Ultimately, he’ll be a centre- forward because he can also hold the ball and link play — we saw that against West Ham last week with his brilliant one-two with Anthony Martial.

Both Phil Foden (above) at Manchester City and Mason Greenwood at United are ones to watch

Both Phil Foden (above) at Manchester City and Mason Greenwood at United are ones to watch

MUST DO BETTER

If David De Gea is around in 2020-21 — and that’s a big if — he can’t afford to continue his current form if Manchester United want to challenge at the top. 

Nobody is doubting De Gea’s ability and he doesn’t look as if he is suffering physically or has let himself get out of condition. 

So it has to be mental. It looks more like a lack of concentration rather than a technical flaw or conditioning.

If David De Gea is around in 2020-21  he can’t afford to continue his current form at United

If David De Gea is around in 2020-21  he can’t afford to continue his current form at United

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