PST's Premier League Awards for the 2023-24 season: Best XI, top player, manager, moment, more

Two of the most fun things in Premier League fandom are predicting who will thrive in an upcoming season and reviewing who actually did the thing at the end of the campaign.

The time is now for ProSoccerTalk to deliver the verdicts of editor Joe Prince-Wright and pals Nick Mendola and Andy Edwards.

[ MORE: Premier League table — Standings from 2023-24 season ]

Who makes the Best XI? How about a Second XI? Who was the best signing of the year? What moment resonated the most?

The title race was three-strong for most of the year and the top-four fight a proper scrap, as storylines delivered all year long.

Premier League Best XI & Second XI

Joe Prince-Wright

1st XI : Jordan Pickford; Ben White, William Saliba, Micky van de Ven; Rodri, Declan Rice; Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Cole Palmer, Phil Foden; Ollie Watkins (3-2-4-1)

2nd XI: Ederson; Gabriel, Ezri Konsa, Virgil van Dijk; Leandro Trossard, Douglas Luiz, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva; Mohamed Salah, Kai Havertz; Erling Haaland (3-4-2-1)

Andy Edwards

1st XI: Emiliano Martinez; Gabriel, Micky van de Ven, William Saliba; Rodri, Declan Rice, Cole Palmer, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Ollie Watkins, Phil Foden (3-4-3)

2nd XI: Jordan Pickford, Cristian Romero, Manuel Akanji, Virgil van Dijk; Douglas Luiz, Pascal Gross, Bruno Guimaraes, Bruno Fernandes; Mohamed Salah, Erlinig Haaland, Heung-min Son (3-4-3)

Nick Mendola

1st XI: Emiliano Martinez; William Saliba, Manuel Akanji, Micky van de Ven; Rodri, Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard, Phil Foden; Mohamed Salah, Ollie Watkins, Erling Haaland (3-4-3)

2nd XI: Jose Sa; Virgil van Dijk, Gabriel, Nathan Ake; Douglas Luiz, Alexis Mac Allister, Bruno Guimaraes, Bruno Fernandes, Cole Palmer; Bukayo Saka, Heung-min Son (3-5-2)

Premier League Breakout Player of the Season (Criteria: Young player award + no previous honors)

Joe Prince-Wright: Cole Palmer — I selected Palmer at the start of the season as my young player of the campaign… but thought he would break through at Man City! After watching him lead England’s U21 side to European glory last summer, it was clear Palmer was going to have a breakout season. But unexpectedly moving to Chelsea for big money late in the summer window, the way he’s handled all of that this season has been incredible. His number of goals and assists are equaled by the beautiful way he plays the game with confidence, swagger and creativity.

Andy Edwards: Cole Palmer – Not much to debate here as the numbers (22 goals and 10 assists) speak for themselves, though I did drop him to my 2nd team because nine of his goals were penalties.

Nick Mendola: Jarrad Branthwaite – Palmer was fantastic for Chelsea but he also gets honored by me later in this post so let’s go for the giant young English center back who is clearly learning plenty from CB mate James Tarkowski and coach Sean Dyche. The only question is whether he can be a star when the Toffees – or another team that buys him – have more of the ball.

Premier League Manager of the Season

Joe Prince-Wright: Unai Emery — He overachieved massively and that is because he always overachieves. Emery is meticulous in everything he does and now so are his Villa players. They are fun, organized and efficient and they’re in the Champions League. Emery has worked miracles with a squad of players which were heading for relegation before he arrived 18 months ago.

Andy Edwards: Unai Emery – Not only did he take Villa to the Champions League by finishing 4th, but he did so while juggling a run to the semifinals of the Europa Conference League — an extra 14 games, half of them elsewhere on the continent.

Nick Mendola: Mikel Arteta – Emery has been fantastic but Mikel Arteta continues to overcome doubters (including me). Sure he might’ve overtaxed his top players and overcome the best team in the world since 2008-2010 Barcelona, but the Champions League return proved little problem and they nearly reached the semifinal round.

Premier League Goalkeeper of the Season

Joe Prince-Wright: Jordan Pickford — It got lost in the chaos of their season but Everton have conceded the fourth fewest number of goals in the Premier League and their 13 clean sheets ranks second. For a team battling relegation (the points deduction obviously impacted their position as they would have finished much higher) that is remarkable. Defensively the Toffees were solid but Pickford came up with big saves galore, was incredibly consistent and has become a real leader. He’s also cleaned up his erratic errors.

Andy Edwards: Emiliano Martinez – While there was very little to separate Martinez and Pickford in terms of goals prevented, Martinez’s was instrumental in Villa being able to play out of the back and better control games (just 21 percent of his attempted passes traveled over 40 yards, compared to 57 percent for Pickford).

Nick Mendola: Emiliano Martinez – While the eye test tells me Jose Sa was close to the best this season, there’s no denying that Martinez, Jordan Pickford, David Raya, and Alisson were also exceptional. Alisson’s earnest the title of best GK in the world, but Martinez is getting there.

Premier League Defender of the Season

Joe Prince-Wright: William Saliba — When you look back to the way Arsenal crumbled without Saliba at the end of last season, you wonder what might have been. Saliba doesn’t have a weakness. He is everything a modern center back should be and he’s still just 23 years old. When he plays, Arsenal look calm and assured. He truly never looks flustered and he and Gabriel have created an incredible partnership.

Andy Edwards: William Saliba – The unquestioned best defender on the best defense in the league. It must have been those two loans back to France that did the trick.

Nick Mendola: William Saliba – The Premier League’s stingiest back line in terms of conceded goals, clean sheets, and xGA was led by Saliba, who played every minute in every competition save two League Cup games and 28 minutes of a single Champions League group stage outing.

Premier League Player of the Season

Joe Prince-Wright: Declan Rice – He has been incredibly consistent, taken his game to a new level with goals and assists and makes everybody around him better. Rice gives Arsenal the balance they’ve craved for so long and he doesn’t have a weakness. Doing all of that in your first season at a huge club with that price tag hanging over you is quite remarkable.

Andy Edwards: Ollie Watkins – Ever so slightly over Rice because if you take Watkins out of Aston Villa’s team, they’re nowhere near the Champions League, whereas Arsenal were already title runners-up before Rice arrived.

Nick Mendola: Declan Rice – First year in a system, first year at a Champions League club, first year with massive transfer fee baggage would conspire to hamper a lot of players. Declan Rice looked great from nearly moment No. 1.

Arsenal Unveil New Signing Declan Rice
Arsenal Unveil New Signing Declan Rice

Best summer transfer

Joe Prince-Wright: Micky van de Ven — If we’re looking at a transfer which had the biggest impact then it’s Declan Rice. But in terms of play on the pitch and value for money, it’s Micky van de Ven. He was Spurs’ player of the year in his debut season in the PL and the way his hamstring injury derailed their season highlights his importance to their high-line and style of play. Fast, strong, great on the ball and a driven, just 23 years old VDV has the potential to become one of the best center backs in Europe. If he isn’t already.

Andy Edwards: Declan Rice – Van de Ven was probably the best signing based on “value” (if $43 million can be considered such a thing), but no newcomer made a bigger impact than Rice. He was the missing piece, clearly.

Nick Mendola: Cole Palmer – Rice is probably No. 1 overall and Van de Ven pound-for-pound given the price tags, but consider the incredible way Palmer was able to not just justify but demolish the expectations bar for those saying, “If he’s so promising, why would City let him leave?” It’s wild.

Best USMNT player performance

Joe Prince-Wright: Chris RichardsAntonee Robinson was very consistent for Fulham, once again, but I can’t look past Chris Richards becoming a starter for Crystal Palace. He has taken his game to new heights, barely put a foot wrong in a team which struggled for many months of the season, and now he fits perfectly with their new 3-4-2-1 system under Glasner. The USMNT’s central defensive issues looked to be solved with Richards now a PL regular.

Andy Edwards: Antonee Robinson – Defensive action stats indicate that Jedi was a maniacal ball-winner for Fulham this season, and he did it while starting 36 of 37 games thus far. Ever-present and ever-impactful.

Nick Mendola: Antonee Robinson – Not only the standout USMNT player in the Premier League but the standout left back considering Andy Robertson’s three-month absence through injury has to knock the comparison down a peg.

Biggest player disappointment

Joe Prince-Wright: Marcus Rashford — After scoring 30 goals in all competitions last season, this has been an incredible drop off with just 8 goals scored in 40 games this season. Mostly, I just hope Rashford is okay and gets back to his best. He has suffered with poor form, injuries and the general situation at Man United as he’s been criticized heavily online. He has looked a shadow of the player we all know he can be. I hope he returns to his best soon because everyone can appreciate a fit and in-form Rashford is a joy to watch.

Andy Edwards: Mason Mount – $69 million doesn’t buy what it used to. Mount dealt with various injuries this season (he made just five PL starts, 14 appearances and played 513 minutes) and very likely played (or didn’t play) himself out of an England place for EURO 2024.

Nick Mendola: Christopher Nkunku or Sandro Tonali – Whether injuries or suspension, both had a chance to complete a team’s lineup and couldn’t do it.

Biggest club disappointment

Joe Prince-Wright: Manchester United - For a while Chelsea ran them close, but United have been woeful despite their injury issues. Remember: they were supposed to be title challengers this season. But they’ve been battered so many times during games but somehow won or drawn plenty of them. There is no clear plan from Erik ten Hag and he can’t blame injured center backs for the lack of energy, organization and defensive diligence they’ve lacked all over the pitch all season long. The INEOS takeover of the football side of the club has clearly had a negative impact, initially, as they shuffle things around and get ready for a huge reset this summer. There are a lot of players at United concerned for their futures and they’re playing with fear. It has been ugly for nearly a decade but this season was the ugliest.

Andy Edwards: Manchester United – We knew it would be rough for Chelsea this season (new manager and loads of new players), but they showed significant growth as the season went on (just one defeat in their last 13 games at time of voting), while Man United have only gone further and further backwards under Erik ten Hag.

Nick Mendola: Manchester United – How wrong were we – or at least was I? – on the high potential of Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford after last season? Almost every player either stalled or regressed and the continued chances for Antony despite failings and some alleged character issues while Jadon Sancho was cast away? Mess.

Favorite moment of the season

Joe Prince-Wright: There have been some crazy games this season but being at Stamford Bridge for the crazy 4-4 draw between Chelsea and Man City was incredible. That game, in the pouring rain, summed up the chaos of the Premier League. Late drama, wonderful tempo, both teams just going for it, it was magic.

Andy Edwards: Man City 3-3 Tottenham, Dec. 3. Son Heung-min scored the game’s first two goals — a regular goal and an own goal — 127 seconds apart in the first half, Spurs fell 3-1 behind, and Dejan Kulusevski smashed a fantastic equalizer into the top corner in the 90th minute. Strange to see City play a couple of wide-open goal fests, but who’s complaining?

Nick Mendola: There were so many great moments, including Tom Lockyer's salute from the Kenilworth Road faithful after his awful injury on the pitch, but I couldn't pick one so I'll go with the club I've watched for 20+ years scoring eight goals in one game.