Even though I only started this blog in September, it can be argued that 2016 has been one of the most entertaining, unpredictable and expensive footballing years ever.
Despite the negativity surrounding Brexit, celebrity deaths, American Elections and more, Football proved once again how it is an escape for normal people, how, just for those 90 minutes, you could forget about things and just enjoy yourself.
In this review, I will cover a number of things which stood out for me in this year of Football – the Players, Teams, Games, Managers and more which will live long in the memory.
Team of the year
Leicester City, the team from the East Midlands in England, were 5,000/1 to win the Premier League last year. In a time where Russian Billionaires and Qatari investment funds dominate the game, this was the ultimate story of an underdog rising to the absolute pinnacle of the game. In the end, Leicester didn’t just win the league, they run away with it and won it by 10 points. A phenomenal achievement and one which we will probably never see again. It was the combination of a team who found a formation that worked for them, with players in a system which they were comfortable with, capitalising on the traditional title challengers’ inconsistent form.
Player of the year
It is no coincidence that N’Golo Kante’s transfer from Leicester to Chelsea has coincided with both teams’ fairing in the league this year. Whilst Chelsea have just racked up their 12th consecutive win and look like they’ll have the title won by March, Leicester are 16th in the League and find their selves in a relegation battle. Kante burst on to the scene for Leicester last season after his transfer from French minnows Caen and was an integral part of the title winning side who made history. In particular, he was colossal in the final third of the season last year, with so many important interceptions and tackles during crucial games which saw Leicester over the line. His performance in particular in the game away to Manchester City, where Leicester were so impressive, really made people take notice of him. He has since moved on to Chelsea and established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world alongside Nemanja Matic and looks on course to pick up his second league title in two years.
Goal of the year
Whilst the European Championships were somewhat of an anti-climax for most fans in the summer, there was one goal which lit up the tournament. Playing for Switzerland, Stoke winger Xherdan Shaqiri saw a failed headed clearance drop to him on the edge of the 18 yard box. In a split second, he decided to try an overhead kick and he perfected it brilliantly, with the attempt beating the Polish goalkeeper and sending fans, neutrals and experts wild. It was absolutely brilliant.
Dele Alli’s Volley against Palace, any of Payet’s free kicks and Vardy’s volley against Liverpool all deserve a mention as well.
Moment of the year
This was something that touched myself and every football fan up and down the country just a few weeks ago. Bradley Lowery, who suffers from a rare type of cancer and is just five years old, was the guest of honour and scored a penalty at Sunderland’s home game against Chelsea on December 15th. Just the look on his face as he met the footballers he idolises was a fantastic moment and was something that bought a tear to a lot of people’s eyes and is my moment of the year. He takes a great penalty, too!
Game of the year
No one really believed that Leicester would win the Premier League last season and it wasn’t until a game against Manchester City at the Etihad in February when the Foxes were considered serious title contenders. Against Pellegrini’s superstars, Leicester ran City ragged, putting in a performance which made the whole of Europe sit up and take notice of them. With Robert Huth scoring twice and Riyad Mahrez scoring one of the goals of the season, Leicester romped home and finished the game 3-1 winners. Even after the final whistle, the way in which the players and the fans celebrated gave us an idea of how the whole club were feeling. The players walked off down the tunnel almost expecting that the result was inevitable, such was their confidence at the time. It was an extraordinary 90 minutes and the most defining game of an outrageous history making season.
The East Terrace’s 3 to watch in 2017.
- Gianluigi Donnarumma, AC Milan, Goalkeeper
The 17 year old goalkeeper is the brightest young talent in world football at the moment and has consolidated himself as AC Milan’s number 1 goalkeeper for this season, a season in which they are challenging for one of the top 3 places in Serie A. Donnarumma, who stands at over 6ft tall, is a commanding, confident goalkeeper who has made some crucial saves already in his short career to make him the prime candidate to replace the legendary Gigi Buffon when he decides to retire at Juventus. Should they qualify for the Champions League in 2017, Donnarumma will be keen to display his talents in the biggest club tournament on the planet. A huge future awaits.
- Ousmane Dembele, Borussia Dortmund, Winger
When Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel signed the flying Frenchman from Ligue 1 outfit Rennes in the summer of 2016, big things were expected of the 19 year old who burst on to the scene in the 2015/2016 season. However, no one expected Dembele to have the impact he has made so early on in to his Bundesliga career. Possessing an abundance of pace, excellent ball control and dribbling skills, he has slotted in seamlessly into BVB’s front line alongside other pacey players such as Aubameyang and Reus. As well as assists, he has also chipped in with 4 goals to date, meaning he also has an end product to go with the raw talent. A huge 2017 awaits at club and international level for the youngster, but just don’t expect to get the ball off of him if you’re a Bundesliga full back.
- Leroy Sane, Manchester City, Winger
Many who read this will argue with my selection to include Leroy Sane in this top 3, given his huge transfer fee and relatively poor performances in the Permier League when he’s been given a chance so far this season under Pep Guardiola. However, he has been putting in some excellent performances in the Premier League towards the end of 2016 and with one of the best attacking, fluid coaches in world football looking after him, Sane should be a star in 2017. Much like Dembele, Sane possesses a huge amount of pace and his close control with the ball whilst running at speed is excellent. I feel as soon as he fully buys into Pep Guardiola’s tactical system and is aware of what the coach wants from him, he will excel and will play the role that Robben did at Bayern and Pedro did at Barcelona for Pep.
If you would like to make any suggestions for any other awards you think players/teams should be awarded, please get in touch!
Thank you for all of your support in 2016. Although I have only been doing this for 5 months or so, I enjoy putting my thoughts into words for people to read every week and the numbers continue to increase. (which is obviously great.) I hope 2017 is a year which will see the website grow.