The 2019/20 Premier League is finally over and so it’s time to start handing out some awards.
Jordan Henderson and Kevin De Bruyne are set to go head-to-head to win the PFA Player of the Year award, which is the most coveted of individual prizes on offer.
But for this article, we’re picking another category: most improved player.
We’re looking at the one player from all 20 sides who stepped it up this season.
There’s often a thought that most improved player awards suggests that the player used to be pretty naff.
But that’s not really the case here. Some players might have had a down year in 2018/19 and returned to enjoy an impressive 2019/20 campaign.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Arsenal: Granit Xhaka
The sight of Xhaka being booed off by his own fans seems like a lifetime ago now.
The Swiss midfielder bounced back from that moment, which seemed to spell the end of his Arsenal career, to produce his best form, leading the Gunners in tackles won.
Aston Villa: Douglas Luiz
The Brazilian midfielder failed to make a single appearance for Manchester City after signing a five-year contract in 2017, but his efforts this season might convince the Etihad club to activate the buy-back clause in Luiz’s Aston Villa contract.
Bournemouth: Diego Rico
Rico struggled in his first season at Bournemouth, making just 16 appearances in all competitions.
Eddie Howe admitted the Spaniard experienced some difficulties adjusting to the Premier League, including the increased physicality and the language barrier, but he overcame those hurdles in 2019/20.
The 27-year-old was reported by the Daily Mail to be on Chelsea’s radar in February.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Yves Bissouma
A few months ago, Brighton fans would have laughed at the idea of Bissouma being Graham Potter’s first-choice holding midfielder.
But he returned from the Premier League suspension with a new-found maturity, closing the season with a string of impressive performances.
Burnley: Charlie Taylor
Taylor proved his worth this season for Burnley.
The left-back, who had to wait for his opportunity in the Premier League, excelled in 1-v-1 situations for Sean Dyche’s side.
Chelsea: Mateo Kovacic
There’s a strong case to be made that Kovacic wasn’t just Chelsea’s most improved player in 2019/20, but their best player.
The Croatian midfielder was in and out of the team last season under Antonio Conte, and there was a feeling that there was more to come.
And he didn’t disappoint this season, with Frank Lampard helping to bring out the best in Kovacic. He brought an added class to Chelsea’s midfield and was a joy to watch.
Crystal Palace: Jordan Ayew
Ayew started just 14 league games for Palace in 2018/19 but justified the Eagles’ decision to make his loan move permanent with a really good season.
He scored nine goals, including that incredible solo effort against West Ham, and also contributed a couple of assists.
Everton: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The 23-year-old is coming off his most prolific season in front of goal, scoring 15 goals in all competitions.
The Toffees will now feel like they have their striker of the next decade, with more to come from the forward.
Leicester City: Caglar Soyuncu
Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan believes Virgil van Dijk is the only centre-back better than Soyuncu.
The Turkish defender has perfectly filled the void left by Harry Maguire and Leicester will be desperate to keep on to the 24-year-old for a long time.
Liverpool: Jordan Henderson
Henderson was the butt of the jokes for a long time, but he’s the only one laughing now.
The midfielder, the heartbeat of Jurgen Klopp’s title-winning Liverpool side, has captained the Reds to Champions League, Club World Cup and Premier League glory.
Much is made of Henderson’s impact in the dressing room but he’s also been terrific on the pitch, with his display against Wolves in January one of many impressive showings.
Manchester City: Riyad Mahrez
Mahrez has had to wait to enjoy the spotlight at Man City but he’s never failed when given his opportunity.
This season, he contributed 11 goals and nine assists in 33 league appearances for Pep Guardiola’s side, and now looks like he belongs at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester United: Anthony Martial
Martial has shown glimpses of his talent throughout his Man United career but he hadn’t been able to put it all together for one 38-game season - until now.
The Frenchman scored 17 goals in the league and 22 in all competitions for the Red Devils.
That’s seven more than he managed in the league in 2018/19, marking his best season in front of goal in his career.
Newcastle United: Isaac Hayden
Hayden has developed into a popular figure among Newcastle fans due to his talent and commitment.
The central midfielder, deemed not good enough by Arsenal, was a consistent performer under Steve Bruce, with his defensive nous proving integral for the Magpies.
Norwich City: Todd Cantwell
To go from scoring one goal in the Championship to six in your debut Premier League campaign is very impressive.
Expect to see Cantwell back in the top flight next season.
Sheffield United: John Lundstram
Lundstram proved to be a fantasy football revelation this season.
He scored five goals and provided three assists as the Blades enjoyed a remarkable return to the Premier League.
Southampton: Danny Ings
Ings’ career seemed to be on the decline when he joined Southampton on loan in 2018/19 after an injury-ridden spell at Liverpool.
He managed eight goals in all competitions last season but the Saints saw enough to make his move permanent - and they’ll be glad they did.
Ings was one of the best strikers in the league this season, scoring 22 goals in total.
That’s more than Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Anthony Martial.
He added three more in cup competitions and his turnaround was one of the best storylines of the campaign.
Tottenham Hotspur: Serge Aurier
There remain concerns about Aurier’s defensive skills but the Ivorian certainly improved his game under Jose Mourinho.
He was a consistent threat going forwards, providing five assists in the league from full-back.
Watford: Will Hughes
There weren’t too many bright points in Watford’s season but for Hughes, he at least did enough to warrant staying in the Premier League next season.
West Ham United: Angelo Ogbonna
Ogbonna was a brick wall for West Ham this season, as his stats prove.
Former manager Manuel Pellegrini preferred Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop as his centre-back pairing last season, but there was no way Ogbonna could be kept out of the lineup in 2019/20.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Adama Traore
A pretty easy choice, this.
Traore’s talent has been obvious for a long time - he spent his youth career at Barcelona - but only in 2019/20 was he able to add an end product to his game.
The Spaniard scored four goals and made nine assists in the most productive season of his career to date.
He led the way in the Premier League with 183 successful dribbles.
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