The Akhmat Grozny goalkeeper was not keen to share his penalty box with the reptile in the loss to Sochi.
The 2020-21 Premier League season has officially reached the midway point and hasn’t it been one of the wildest seasons in recent memory?
To celebrate, it’s time to dish out some way-too-early awards.
Player of the season
Jack Grealish has led Villa into the top half of the table and proved himself as one of league’s most exciting talents, whike Kevin De Bruyne has kept doing Kevin De Bruyne things , despite his injury woes. Meanwhile, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son have improved exponentially under Jose Mourinho to form one of the league’s best partnerships.
But it is hard to look past Manchester United’s Portuguese talisman, Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes, who only joined United last January, leads the Premier League in goals from midfield, with 11, and sits fourth in assists, with 7. His statistical contributions have seen the Red Devils’ massive resurgence to currently sit second and well in the title challenge.
Although his performances against the ‘bigger’ sides can rightly come under scrutiny, Fernandes is currently the player of the season.
Young player of the season
Bukayo Saka has been one of Arsenal’s best, while Reece James has the potential to be one of Europe’s top fullbacks, but ultimately, the young player of the season has been Manchester City’s Phil Foden.
Arguably the most prodigious English talent since Wayne Rooney in the early 2000s, the 20-year-old Foden is still a boy, yet his performances are that of a man who has played 300 games.
Four goals and two assists is a solid return, especially given the calibre of player around him at City.
Having spent much of the season shuffling between left and right midfield, Foden’s intelligence and ability on the ball shows he is the natural heir to David Silva’s throne.
Coach of the season
This award is a little less contentious.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola have both got their teams firing and David Moyes’ West Ham are exceeding everyone’s expectations; the obvious winner is Aston Villa’s Dean Smith.
There were calls for Smith to be sacked at the end of last season, given his side finished one point above relegation, but they stuck by their man and he has well and truly turned their fortunes around.
Following some brilliant early form, including a 7-2 thumping of champions Liverpool, Aston Villa sit ninth, 18 points clear of the relegation, which is a massive improvement on their 18th in the same round of last season.
Smith has dragged Villa into a new dawn of potentially competing in European competitions come next season.
For Sheffield United, a club that finished ninth last season, to be rock bottom with only eight points after 21 matches is truly disappointing. Chris Wilder and his men stamped their own unique playstyle last season, with an aggressive system that featured oddities such as overlapping centre-backs, so to see them transform from one of the competition’s most exciting and surprising teams into an almost certain relegation side is truly disappointing.
Chelsea and Arsenal’s seasons have been a different kind of disappointing. Promising teams on paper who have suffered form slumps throughout the season that sees both currently out of the European places is a big disappointment, although both have the potential to turn their seasons around.
To select an individual player, it is hard to look past Timo Werner.
The German signed for Chelsea having lit the Bundesliga up with RB Leipzig the previous season, netting 28 times in 34 games. Yet it just has not worked at the Bridge. Werner has been shafted out of position for much of the season, playing on the left side of a front three, and has returned four goals and four assists in 20 matches.
It is not just the lack of goals that has disappointed fans, but also the level of performance. He often looks a shadow of his former self and has missed more sitters than scored goals.
Werner’s club and national team teammate Kai Havertz has also been disappointing, but unlike Werner, Havertz’s time in London has been riddled with both injuries and COVID-19, and as such, he has not had the same time or opportunity to settle.
Much like their club, there is no doubt about the pair’s talent and potential. The question is: how long until they start to live up to their potential?
Due to the financial problems that have arisen from the pandemic, the summer transfer window did not see its usual astronomical splurges. Clubs altered their recruitment policy from spending the most to smarter, cheaper signings.
So it should come as no surprise that the signing of the season was secured on a free transfer.
There were questions around the decision to sign the 36-year-old Thiago Silva, but the decision has proved to be one of the wisest moves Chelsea have made in recent times.
Silva’s leadership and defensive nous have helped Chelsea to the fifth-best defence so far. And while the signing of Edouard Mendy fixed a major problem at goalkeeper, it has been Silva’s experience in front of him that has aided the Senegalese’s smooth start to life in London.
Silva is a multi-faceted defender, able to bring the ball out from the back, win the ball in the area, make recovery tackles, and control opposition attackers with smart positioning. Off the back of this, Kurt Zouma has also flourished alongside Silva, and Antonio Rudiger, who has been given a run of games under new manager Thomas Tuchel, has looked steady and assured, thanks in no small part to the confidence that he seems to have in his Brazilian counterpart.
Given the fact that he was signed for free, has already captained the club, and massively improved Chelsea’s defence, which was their Achilles heel last season, Thiago Silva is naturally deserving of my signing of the season award. Honorable mentions go to the aforementioned Edouard Mendy, as well as Ben Chilwell, Ruben Dias, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and Emi Martinez.