The Fat Lady isn’t singing yet but she’s started her vocal warm-ups.
Now that the March international break is in the history books, the Premier League season is set to reach a crescendo over the next two months.
Naturally, most supporters will be emotionally invested in the title race, the various battles for European qualification, and the relegation dogfight.
However, they’ll also be plenty of interest in the end-of-season awards for standout individuals.
Here at Dream Team we’ve had a go at predicting the winners for each of the most prestigious gongs.
Nick Pope looked to have this award sewn up at one stage but Newcastle’s clean sheets have dried up in the last two months.
He’s now level on 12 with compatriot Aaron Ramsdale with David de Gea one behind on eleven.
Looking at the fixtures, we think Man United’s No1 could theoretically swoop in although there’s a chance the Red Devils will prioritise trophy avenues in the FA Cup and Europa League at the back end of the campaign.
It’s a similar story for Ederson (ten clean sheets in the league) who may join his team-mates in focusing on the possibility of Champions League glory if it looks like Arsenal can’t be caught domestically.
For those reasons…
PLAYMAKER OF THE SEASON
For those who need reminding, this relatively new award is presented to the player who registers the most assists in the Premier League.
Kevin De Bruyne is looking to claim this accolade for the third time in his career and his tally of 12 makes him the frontrunner at this stage but Bukayo Saka (ten league assists) has chipped away at the deficit in recent weeks.
Leandro Trossard is the mix too after he propelled himself into third when he provided three assists in one game to move onto eight overall.
Again, if Pep Guardiola believes the league is a lost cause but a European triumph is possible then it wouldn’t be unusual for City’s brilliant Belgian to rest his legs at the weekend here and there.
Saying that, it’s hard to bet against De Bruyne because he tops every metric related to creativity the stats boffins can think up.
WINNER: DE BRUYNE
PFA YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Phil Foden has won this award the last two seasons in a row and with nine goals and four assists to his name he’s in with a shout of making it a hat-trick, although his latest injury setback is a serious blow.
Arsenal are a young team across the board with the most prominent nominees being William Saliba, Gabriel Martinelli and the aforementioned Saka.
The latter is a very strong contender as the only top-flight player into double figures for both goals (12) and assists (ten) this season.
However, there’s an elephant in the room and he’s wearing a Man City shirt with No9 on the back.
History tells us that the powers that be prefer these awards to be spread around to some degree – in 2010/11 Gareth Bale won PFA Players’ Player of the Year but Jack Wilshere won PFA Young Player of the Year even though the Welshman was eligible for both.
Following that twisted logic…
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Several impressive candidates in this category.
Erik ten Hag has unquestionably improved Man United, Eddie Howe has still only tasted defeat three times in the league, Roberto De Zerbi has Brighton in the mix for Champions League qualification while Thomas Frank continues to help Brentford punch well above their weight.
But it would near impossible to look past Mikel Arteta if the Gunners achieve their main objective.
Most fans will have become accustomed to seeing Arsenal at the top of the table again but it’s important to remember this campaign has come as a major surprise – they finished fifth last season.
Only Liverpool at their best have been able to lay a glove on Pep Guardiola’s side in recent years where the Premier League is concerned so if Arteta were to edge out his mentor with a relatively inexperienced squad it would have to be viewed as a coaching achievement beyond compare.
The Spaniard may even get the award if Arsenal end up second, though we doubt that would come as much of a consolation.
There’s no point trying to engineer a false sense of tension here.
Erling Haaland has effectively had this award on his mantlepiece since August and while Harry Kane has done his best to make a race of it with 21 league goals, the Norwegian’s tally of 28 (twice as many Marcus Rashford) may already be unreachable and he’s bound to add it – he’s probably got another hat-trick in him.
FWA FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR
There’s an important distinction to be made here as there are two traditional awards that essentially celebrate the same thing.
This one, the FWA Footballer of the Year, is voted for by journalists who tend to take the season’s narratives into account more than the players do when voting for their peers.
For example, in 2019/20, the players voted for De Bruyne whereas the writers elected Jordan Henderson for captaining Liverpool to their first ever Premier League crown.
If it’s to be the same again this season and Arsenal win the title then Saka and Martin Odegaard may be favoured over the likes of De Bruyne and Haaland.
Rashford has to be considered a nominee too although his slow start to the campaign will count against – his main rivals have excelled all season long.
The journalists also seem to have a slight pro-English bias…
PFA PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The romance of a 21-year-old homegrown player inspiring Arsenal to their first league title since the Invincibles is likely to seduce the journalists, who love angles and stories, but we think the players will be more impressed by the relentless brutality of Haaland’s goalscoring exploits.
Every single player in the league knows that a Premier League goal is a precious thing, something that doesn’t come easy, particularly if you’re new to the league.
If Haaland continues on his current path and breaks the record for the most goals in a Prem campaign then his contemporaries will surely recognise that as a truly special achievement.