The best of 2015-16 EPL: Chhetri's pick

The 2015-16 English Premier League season was exhilarating. It had its share of surprises, upsets, stars, wonder strikes, making it a connoisseur’s delight.

West Ham's Dimitri Payet scores a stunner from a free-kick against Crystal Palace.   -  Getty Images

There’s a raging debate about whether the EPL is the best league in the world and the arguments are not likely to cease anytime soon. So, I’m not going to stir a hornet’s nest by making any proclamations. Instead, I will say that it is definitely the most entertaining League across Europe and this season it had enough and more brilliant games to highlight the fact. The choices I’ve made are based on a number of things — comebacks, the way it affected the title and to put it simply, goal fests.

 

Leicester City 2 Arsenal 5

Leicester were yet to be beaten in the season and were up against a team that believed this was their best year to win a title they have been craving for far too long. Leicester had a devil may care attitude about the way they moved on the pitch and were up against more than just a match in Arsenal. Jamie Vardy gave his side an early lead before Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez ended the half with goals to leave it at 2-1. Two more from Sanchez and a late strike from Olivier Giroud ended the bare-knuckled brawl 5-2. The game saw a staggering 43 shots on target. The pundits were quick to classify the result as the start of Leicester’s downfall. We all know how it ended.

Norwich 4 Liverpool 5

Norwich were relegated and Liverpool won’t play in Europe next season, so this result doesn’t really matter anymore. But this was some game for the neutrals! It had more drama than the heart could take. Firminio gave the Reds a lead only to see Mbokani, Steve Naismith and Wes Hoolahan score for Norwich. Liverpool were dead and buried, or so you thought. A twenty-minute burst saw Jurgen Klopp’s men go 4-3 up. But Norwich weren’t letting go and chose the second minute of additional time in the second half to make it 4-4. Even Stevens, fair result, good night. No! Adam Lallana volleyed home in the 95th minute and it finally ended 5-4. These are the games that you take with you to your grave.

Chelsea 2 Swansea 2

Another odd candidate on this list, but one that had a massive bearing on the nightmare of a season that Chelsea would go on to have. It was the first day of the season and the start to the Blues’ title defence. Ironically, they lost the title with 37 games to play for. Oscar’s free-kick put Chelsea ahead, Andre Ayew equalised before Federico Fernandez put one past his own goalkeeper to make it 2-1 for Chelsea. The Blues then had goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois sent off for bringing down Bafetimbi Gomis, who calmly made it 2-2 from the spot. If you’re still wondering what’s wrong with a 2-2 draw, let me remind you of a little (big) incident that was part of the game. Eva Carneiro, the Chelsea doctor, treating Eden Hazard in the pitch at 2-2, drew the wrath of Jose Mourinho, who later demoted her from first-team duties. This caused an outrage everywhere.

The slide had begun and there was no reining it in. One thing led to another and then Mourinho got the sack.

The Players

Every season the Premier League churns out a few names that halfway through the year are fit enough to make your Fantasy Premier League team. But the crazy season that this has been, we’ve had more than just a few names and I plead guilty for having to leave out a few on this list.

Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)

At the start of the campaign, a 20-year-old Alli said his target was to start 10 games for Spurs. By April 2016 he had 35 starts in all competitions, came off the bench 10 times and scored 10 goals for the North London club. He’s easy on the eye and has a knack of scoring some wonder goals and played more than a big part in Tottenham’s genuine title run for the better part of the season. He started the season as a ‘nobody’, who plied his trade for MK Dons in League One a season ago, and ended it as PFA Young Player of the Year. If that isn’t a rise, wonder what is?

Dimitri Payet (West Ham United)

I don’t think this one will be up for debate at all. Teammates, opponents, fans and pundits — everyone — has been singing songs of praise for the Frenchman, who, in his debut EPL season, signed off with nine goals and 12 assists as the Hammers finished a creditable seventh. He could well be the signing of the season. Interestingly, West Ham and Slaven Bilic came under fire for shelling out GBP10.7 on a 28-year-old (now 29) from Marseille. But they took the gamble and look how it’s paid off. I now read that Real Madrid are lining up for him! There’s a pleasant confidence in the way he glides across the pitch and his ability with the dead-ball is phenomenal. A call-up to France’s squad for the Euros is fair reward for the show that Payet’s put on.

 

N’Golo Kante (Leicester City)

You don’t need further advertising when Sir Alex Ferguson says you’re “by far the best player in the Premier League this season.” I’m certain Kante hasn’t read or heard that because he’s busy doing important things like making sure he’s covered every blade of grass on every pitch there in the British Isles. The Leicester story has many fascinating heroes around it but Kante is definitely at the epicentre of it. Leicester’s style has always been to attack on the counter and while you may not see Kante do anything fancy, it’s the Frenchman who sets ablaze the charge when the ball is won. Claudio Ranieri tells us how he thinks Kante will, one day, cross the ball and then finish the cross with a header himself. It was a joke, but you never know!

The Goals

Audacious chips, blinding volleys, clever flicks — everyone loves a goal with a touch of magic to it. I could go on with this list for as long as I’m writing these columns and it’s taken a great level of self-restraint to narrow it down to three.

Dele Alli vs Crystal Palace

They’re hailing it the goal of the season and it’s tough not to agree. Receiving the ball from Christian Eriksen just outside the box, Alli took a touch to keep it in the air and then lifted the ball over an onrushing Miles Jedinak before smashing home a volley of absolute beauty — all in one swift motion. What makes it even more special is the fact that it turned out to be a winner for Spurs five minutes from time.

Dimitri Payet vs Crystal Palace

Well, Crystal Palace at the receiving end of some magic, again. I personally love taking and watching free-kicks. But that’s not why this one makes the list. It’s a spectacular goal. Palace line up the wall and do everything they can to stop Payet. The Frenchman calmly steps up and sends it high. But just when you think it’s going over, the ball dips viciously and beats Wayne Hennessy all ends up. I can watch this one on loop.

Jamie Vardy vs Liverpool

This one was pure instinct. Leicester were being Leicester and absorbing attack after attack. Then picking a long clearance, Vardy ran between Sakho and Moreno down the right, let the ball bounce once before stealing a glance and smashing a 25-yard volley that dipped and swerved past Simon Mignolet. It was a moment that said all you needed to know about the season Vardy was having.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp admitted he almost applauded the goal. Enough said!

>Read: The unsung heroes of the EPL