Having covered another complete football season (2011-2012) – We, the crew at TheHardTackle, are excited to bring you TheHardTackle Awards 2011-12.
Corporations have their fiscal years, parliaments have their annual budget sessions, school seniors have their proms – days set aside to take mark a time gone by. Thankfully, we’re not that full of ourselves, and truth be told we tend to squirm under the spotlight. However, we have no qualms whatsoever about hauling all the European leagues under that very high-powered microscope of ours, at the end of the season.
We’re determined to settle that never-ending debate about just who was the best in their area of expertise, this past season – The best manager, custodian, defender, midfielder, attacker, young talent and pretty much any other category we can think of. It’s a lot of hard work! Which is why it’s best handled by someone with a deep insight of the game, untainted by prejudice and willing to make the tough choices.
Vote for your top choices from six competitions – English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, Champions League, Europa League – and help us figure out the winner in each of the below mentioned categories.
Goalkeepers are among the most underrated players on a football field. Their participation in a match can often be limited to a few minutes, and in those few minutes a legend is born. The recently concluded European Season 2011-12 has seen some amazing action from goalkeepers – both legendary and downright laughable. We, here at TheHardTackle, have identified five top-performing goalkeepers of this season for the End of Season Awards. There have been some who missed out closely.
Winner – Petr Cech, Chelsea FC
The Blues’ custodian had a remarkable season and thoroughly deserves this crown after his heroics against Bayern Munich that earned his team the first ever Champions League title in the history of the club. Gianluigi Buffon was not a far second in the race but this season has truly belonged to the man from Czech Republic and so has been the fans’ verdict.
The cliché “defenders win you championships” has been stated before and as obvious as it sounds, a defender proves himself over the season with his consistency and moreover, ability to lead and organise the line.
It is a combination of spirit and the intelligence to see danger before it happens. Some players opt to cut off a move early and others rely on their ability to make last ditch tackles. Either way, the result is shown in the player’s team conceding fewer goals or not conceding when it matters the most. This is TheHardTackle’s attempt to give the top 5 defenders in Europe the recognition they deserve.
Winner – Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus
Midfielders are the heart and soul of any football team. While strikers get their plaudits for putting the ball in the net, they are only as good as their team’s midfielders. It’s the men in the middle of the park that make the difference. They can as easily make an average attack look lazer sharp as they can make a solid defence look as permeable as sand.
The 2011-12 season saw old pros such as Scholes and Pirlo show their class while the young brigade of Hazard and Kagawa made people sit up and notice. TheHardTackle picks out its five nominations for the best midfielder for the End of Season Awards. It was not an easy choice.
Winner – Andrea Pirlo, Juventus
Andrea Pirlo having comprehensively beaten everyone in the race is THT’s midfielder of the season 2011-12 after rolling back the years for last 12 months or so. Pirlo has been the fulcrum around which Antonio Conte’s plans revolved. Gianluigi Buffon said ‘it’s the signing of the century’ when Juventus secured Pirlo from Milan on a free transfer. Well, his words have not fallen completely out of place after the season Pirlo had with the Bianconeri. Certainly one of the best midfielders of his generation, Pirlo once again proved there is no substitute for class.
Managers and coaches play the most vital role in shaping the destiny of a team. This has been a very strange season throughout the Europe. Young managers have made their mark while senior pros have enhanced their reputation through astonishing achievements. In England, Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City made all the noise by claiming their first league title in 44 years. Challenging the might of their derby rivals, Manchester United and clinching the title in a nail biting finale adds flavor to their success. In Italy, an unknown figure in the managerial world, named Antonio Conte stunned everyone when his Juventus side won the Scudetto knocking AC Milan off their perch. In Spain, Real Madrid returned to the throne after dethroning Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. The credit can swiftly be passed to ex-Porto boss Jose Mourinho. Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund became the envy of Europe demonstrating breath-taking football at times. Chelsea had a torrid start to their campaign but caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo changed their vicissitudes, guiding them to their maiden European Cup triumph. Diego Simeone, Luciano Spalletti, Frank De Boer and Alan Pardew punched above their weights and need special mention too for their outstanding achievement this season.
Winner – Antonio Conte, Juventus
Juventus were far from a well-oiled machine when the erstwhile club captain Antonio Conte took over as manager and as the team started the season under the new manager, only a Champions League spot was set as a realistic ambition. What the team achieved under Conte in the next one year remains to be stored forever in the history books. Winning the title beating the favorites Milan and remaining unbeaten throughout the season is phenomenal. Adding to it, Juventus’ performances against the big teams deserve special mention for Conte’s abilities to deal with the big games.
Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp who stands second as per our voters’ verdict too deserves credits aplenty for the manner in which he defended the Bundesliga title especially after Bayern Munich looked unstoppable during the early stages in the season.
The most lethal facet of a starting eleven – players with the ability, skill and finesse to finish off a game or turn it around in the blink of an eye; such is a prestige of a striker. With the recently concluded football season in Europe, there have been some scintillating performances from not just the top teams but also those who have shown the spirit despite lacking in quality. Who then, are the strikers who stand out as the shining light at their club?
We, here at TheHardTackle, have picked 10 strikers who have time and again showcased their plethora of talents this season. Their presence on the pitch has been instrumental while their absence has hurt. Here are the nominations for TheHardTackle’s Striker of the Season.
Winner – Robin van Persie, Arsenal
Though Robin van Persie by all means looked from another planet throughout the season, the one-sided battle that it turned out to be in the race for the best forward would even surprise the most ardent of Arsenal fans. The stats speak themselves for the sensational Dutch striker and it can be argued he has carried Arsenal single-handedly in a season where Gunners saw two of their most influential players – Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri – leave. What now remains to be seen is whether van Persie signs a new contract with Arsenal or will we see him plying his trade elsewhere the next season.
During each transfer window, with the arrival of new faces, comes great hopes and expectations. Not all transfers leave upto those expectations whereas some exceed those. Last season some big signings took place, which directly impacted the fortunes of the respective clubs. While big names as usual came with big price tags, there were some relatively unknown low-profile transfers which later on turned out to be splendid piece of business. With the season coming to an end, we at TheHardTackle have nominated five of the best summer/winter signings during the season – players who have represented the phrase ‘Value for money’.
Who do you think has been the best new signing for season 2011-2012?
Winner – Andrea Pirlo, Juventus
This is the second category in the THT end of season awards that Andrea Pirlo has convincingly won. His arrival in Turin, that too on a free transfer, simply changed all the propositions of power in peninsula and there is a section of fans and pundits who believe Milan gifted Juventus the title by releasing Pirlo. His stats, his general influence to Conte’s side have all been adequately documented already and it’s only reaffirmed by the fans in their verdict.
As the 2011-12 season comes to a close, a time has come for us, at TheHardTackle, to reflect on the games that were special, for one reason or the other. Few games are remembered for what was at stake for the club (s), while others will never be forgotten just because of the manner in which those 90 minutes unfolded before the world.
Which, according to you, is the match of the season 2011-12?
Winner – Manchester City 3-2 QPR
Undoubtedly the greatest advertisement for the Premier League, this encounter defined everything football stands for. Drama, sending offs, tears, heartbreaks, jubilation and most importantly, goals aplenty. The last minute strike in the injury time from Sergio Aguero won City their first title in nearly four decades while broke hearts of the red half of Manchester.
While the other nominations too made for a wonderful viewing, the impact that this particular result had on the fortunes of a club makes it a very obvious choice for the best match of the season and our voters have echoed the same sentiments.
Chelsea’s 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge against Napoli came particularly close in fans’ voting. An incredible comeback it was by the Blues that lay the foundation for their eventual triumph in the Champions League.
They represent the finest young talent in the European football circles. They’re raw, they are energetic and they are highly motivated to prove a point to the world. Some of these prodigies are already highly sought after by some of the biggest clubs in Europe. As the 2011-12 season comes to a close, a time has come for us, at TheHardTackle, to throw light on these young dynamites and while doing so, we have listed the five names that we feel had the highest impact on the 2011-12 season.
Winner – Eden Hazard
The young Belgian is surely having the world at his feet with another incredible campaign in Ligue 1 which now sees him at the top priority signing list of a host of big clubs in England. Hazard’s stats for goals and assists are phenomenal for a winger and the hot property that he is in the next season’s transfer market further explains his credentials.
Athletic Bilbao’s Iker Muniain too failed not to impress one and all with his industrious performances under a highly respected coach Marcelo Bielsa. He managed the second position on our voting poll.
With the football season taking a break from the action, the avid fans of diverse teams scattered all over Europe are left with the memories to ponder upon, memories which never fail to bring a random smile on one’s face. The most beautiful thing about a goal scored in match, apart from having a noticeable and massive relevance in a team’s conquest for glory, it injects confidence in the team as a whole. The buildup, the passing, the ecstasy after the goal, the celebration of the team and the fans going berserk– all these makes a goal all the more special.
We have had a breathtaking European season, with many teams making history, teams fighting back, to avoid the drop, but midst all this there were some great goals which left the fans dancing in the aisles. After thorough inspection TheHardTackle lists down ten best scorchers scored in the recently concluded European season and now passes the buck to its readers to pick out the best of the lot.
Winner – Pappis Cisse (Newcastle United) v Chelsea
Cisse’s incredible strike that left the Chelsea custodian Peter Cech, the entire Chelsea team and the fans spellbound has been chosen as the goal of the season by our voters. The brilliant curling strike was a perfect combination of power and precision and put and end to the thinnest hopes of fans to qualify for the European football next season – not that it mattered two weeks later.