It may be a new year but some things don’t change – including the GIVEMESPORT Fans’ Player of the Month awards, which are going full steam ahead into 2021.
And there’s plenty to mull over in the new year’s first edition with January being a typically strange month in the Premier League as Manchester United squandered top spot by losing at home to rock-bottom Sheffield United and reigning champions Liverpool incredibly went their first three games without scoring a goal.
Throw in Chelsea’s decision to dismiss Frank Lampard, West Ham doing their best impression of The Invincibles and relegation-threatened Brighton quietly winning the sixth-most points of any Premier League side, and January was a mad-cap start to 2021 in the top flight.
But let’s forget about clubs for a moment and consider some of the individual driving forces behind them. Here, we take a look at the six Premier League players who impressed us so much that they’ve earned nominations for the GIVEMESPORT Fans’ Player of the Month award.
Nominee: Nick Pope
Are we being a bit harsh on Manchester City’s Ederson here? Perhaps – it’s not very often a goalkeeper will keep five clean sheets in as many games and go a whole calendar month without conceding a goal.
But having only actually faced seven shots on target in that time, you have to question how much of that was really down to the Brazil international, compared to how much was owed to Pep Guardiola’s side winning five games against considerably lesser teams in dominant fashion. Compare that to Burnley’s Nick Pope.
Now, there’s something to be said for Burnley’s uber-deep, ultra-organised low block making things as simple as possible for whoever’s between their sticks, but you still have to make the saves and Pope did that an incredible 29 times throughout January – including six saves to secure the Clarets’ only clean sheet of the month in a shock 1-0 win at Anfield.
Honourable mentions go to Emi Martinez, Brighton’s new No.1 Robert Sanchez, Vicente Guaita and Bernd Leno, who all had a decent balance between clean sheets and saves last month. Pope, however, was in a league of his own.
Nominee: Craig Dawson
Considering summer loan signing Craig Dawson hadn’t even made his Premier League debut for West Ham until the last week of December, it’s quite incredible that he was a crucial part of the Irons’ four-game winning run in January which was only ended by reigning champions Liverpool.
Adding even more aerial presence to David Moyes’ already monstrous side, Dawson was pivotal in securing 1-0 victories over Everton and Burnley, while he scored what proved to be the winner against Crystal Palace and even netted a consolation goal against the Reds.
It was a fine month for Aston Villa’s Matt Targett as well, grabbing an assist against Burnley while producing an incredible nine tackles in a clean sheet win over Southampton, while Manchester United’s Luke Shaw has been nothing short of superb of late with 14 key passes in January alone, and Manchester City’s Ruben Dias continues to impress with his authoritative consistency.
Nonetheless, Dawson went from merely making up the numbers to being one of the first names on West Ham’s team sheet in the course of a single calendar month, and that deserves recognition in the form of a nomination.
Nominees: Ilkay Gundogan, Paul Pogba, Bukayo Saka
In truth, January’s nominees list could’ve been entirely devoted to midfielders, such was their collective impressiveness throughout January.
Jack Grealish once again shone with one goal and three assists, Leicester City pair James Maddison and Harvey Barnes notched up a whopping eight goal involvements between them, Tomas Soucek followed up last month’s nomination with three strikes and Matheus Pereira has almost single-handedly kept West Brom from disappearing into oblivion.
Nonetheless, three midfielders stood out most for slightly different reasons. First up is Ilkay Gundogan, who scored the most goals of any Premier League player throughout January with five in six games, many being absolute beauties.
Paul Pogba, meanwhile, has quite simply started playing like Paul Pogba again, and when the French World Cup winner’s in top form he’s without question one of the best central midfielders around. And finally we have Bukayo Saka, who might well be Europe’s most in-form teenager at this moment in time.
The Arsenal youngster’s influence seems to only be growing by the game and last month saw him net three times, including a goal as well as an assist in a 3-1 away in over Southampton. It’s incredible to think he doesn’t turn 20 until September.
Nominee: Harry Kane
In stark contrast to midfielders, the Premier League’s striker cabal really didn’t give much to write home about at the start of the year. Of course it would be far too simplistic to exclusively determine a forward’s influence by their output, but goals are the main factor strikers are inevitably judged on and last month, only two in the Premier League actually scored more than twice.
Perhaps we should be giving a bit more credit to Alexandre Lacazette then, having netted three times and grabbed one assist, but with all four of his goal involvements coming in just two games, it wasn’t exactly a month of consistent brilliance from Arsenal’s French front-man.
So, almost by default, we can’t really look beyond Harry Kane here because, let’s face it, he’s definitely the best striker in the Premier League right now and arguably the best in the world. January was another solid month for him, scoring in three consecutive games and even looking decent against Liverpool until being forced off with a double injury.
Tellingly, Spurs lost that game 3-1 in Kane’s absence and couldn’t even score without him against lowly Brighton, which serves as a timely reminder of just how massive an influence the England captain is in north London.