Greg Lea takes a look back on the best and worst from the 2016/17 Premier League season. Swipe left/right on your browser.
Best team – Chelsea
Any suggestion that Chelsea would ultimately be Premier League champions would have been laughed off after their 3-0 reverse to Arsenal in September. Antonio Conte (pictured) was visibly distraught after that game, bemoaning an absence of identity and asserting that his side were only a good one on paper. Yet that proved to be the turning point. Conte’s decision to switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation in the 55th minute at the Emirates Stadium – arguably the most decisive tactical tweak in Premier League history – changed everything, and Chelsea proved unbeatable in the weeks that followed. Winning 30 matches and amassing 93 points is a fine achievement in any season, let alone one in which five other teams had a realistic chance of finishing on top of the pile.
Best goal – Olivier Giroud
Most Premier League seasons feature several stunning strikes, but 2016/17 stands out for the sheer range of great goals scored. There were solo runs, acrobatic efforts, sweeping team moves and plenty more besides, so picking a winner is far from easy. With a nod to Dimitri Payet’s sensational offering against Middlesbrough and Emre Can’s on-the-run overhead kick against Watford, the most worthy recipient of this prize is probably Olivier Giroud. The Arsenal striker’s scorpion kick against Crystal Palace (pictured) took the breath away, while it was only enhanced by the fabulous interplay which preceded it.
Best player – Eden Hazard
Leaving Chelsea aside for one moment, the contributions of Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez and even Gylfi Sigurdsson should be recognised. But ultimately this comes down to a straight choice: N’Golo Kante or Eden Hazard (pictured). Both were essential to Chelsea’s success, but the latter probably just edges it given that it was usually he who provided the vital sprinkling of stardust in the final third.
Best young player – Dele Alli
With such high levels of intelligence and consistency, It is easy to forget that Dele Alli is still only 21. Tottenham Hotspur’s No 20 evolved into more of a second striker in 2016/17, a positional switch which helped him net 18 goals in 37 appearances.
Best manager - Antonio Conte
Again, it is hard to look past Conte here. With so much competition towards the top of the table, winning the division so comfortably goes down as one of the most impressive triumphs in recent years. The Italian has impressed in both tactical and man-management departments, although you can almost guarantee that his attention has now turned to defending his side’s crown next term. Sean Dyche (pictured) also deserves great credit for keeping Burnley up, as does Eddie Howe for yet another splendid year at Bournemouth. In Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, Tottenham have their most astute coach in living memory.
Best moment – Mamadou Sakho
It is reasonably common for defenders to take both opponent and ball when making a tackle, but very few have included the referee as part of the package. That is exactly what Mamadou Sakho did in Crystal Palace’s win at West Bromwich Albion, though, felling official Mike Jones with a crunching challenge, much to the amusement of The Hawthorns crowd.
Worst moment – Arsenal fans
Not a single moment, but rather a series: the treatment of Arsene Wenger by a small section of the Arsenal support. It is, of course, legitimate for fans to air their understandable frustrations, but the lack of respect shown in some quarters has been disheartening to say the least.
Best match – Manchester City v Chelsea
Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Manchester City in December was an absorbing watch and exactly the type of game that Premier League fans had been waiting for when many of the world’s brightest coaches decided to make England their next home. Pep Guardiola’s men dominated for the first 60 minutes or so, but Kevin de Bruyne’s incredible failure to convert with the goal gaping in front of him allowed Chelsea a route back into the game. The visitors to the Etihad Stadium then struck three times on the counter-attack to reaffirm their title credentials, leaving City – not for the last time – to rue poor finishing in a big game.
Biggest disappointment – no title race
With six sides seemingly in with a shout of the championship, it was a shame that – yet again – there was no real title race in the Premier League. This has become common in recent years and while Chelsea deserve the utmost respect for proving too strong for the rest, it would be preferable if next season’s winners were pushed a little harder by the chasing pack.
Best signing – N’Golo Kante
It is a reflection of modern football that £32 million (Dh150m) does not seem that expensive, yet at the same time it is difficult to argue that N’Golo Kante was not worth such a fee. The ball-winner supreme won his second successive Premier League title – with different clubs, no less – which says it all about his phenomenal influence.
Worst signing – Claudio Bravo
West Ham United’s Simone Zaza deserves a mention – 11 games, zero goals and a loan deal cut short – but Claudio Bravo is the clear “winner” here. The Manchester City shot-stopper seemed to be allergic to stopping shots, which was particularly damaging given that Pep Guardiola had put so much faith in him last summer.