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Premier League awards: Salah, Mane headline stellar Africans in England

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Salah or Mane: Who had the better season for Liverpool? (1:47)

Colin Udoh considers the influence of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane at Liverpool this season. (1:47)

Yet again, African football's biggest stars have been ubiquitous in the English Premier League; but who have been the most outstanding performers this season, and who have flattered to deceive?

We celebrate the best, and lament the worst, of Africa's players in the Premier League this season.

Player of the Season

We are truly in the midst of a golden era for African players at the top end of the Premier League, and this award caused much debate, and a split decision between Liverpool's two African stars.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane take the lion's share of the plaudits after their roles in Liverpool's title success, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Riyad Mahrez each also enjoyed an excellent season.

Mahrez became a more central component of Manchester City's starting XI this term, having won a swathe of silverware with the club and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with Algeria last year, starting 21 games compared with 14 last term and registering 11 goals and nine assists.

The Algerian could still win the UEFA Champions League with City this term, although he ultimately fell short in the EPL, and failed to impose himself on the Sky Blues' FA Cup semifinal defeat by Arsenal, when Pep Guardiola really needed his brilliance in the final third.

Aubameyang, who will contest the FA Cup final against Chelsea this weekend, also deserves a mention for another magnificent campaign.

He lost the race for the Golden Boot -- registering 22 goals to Jamie Vardy's 23 -- but it was still an awesome return considering the turmoil and transition he's had to deal with at Arsenal this term. Even more impressively, Arsenal were 12th in terms of big chances created during the 2019-20 season (Leicester were fourth), demonstrating Aubameyang's ruthlessness and efficiency.

Yes, he's one-dimensional at times, and doesn't possess the capacity to help get involved to turn contests in the Gunners' favour, but he remains their outstanding player and one of world football's finest goal-getters.

Only five players have reached a half-century of Premier League goals faster than Auba, and Mikel Arteta will surely be desperate to keep him at the club as the experienced figurehead of this blossoming side.

Despite the achievements of Mahrez and Aubameyang, however, they remain in the shadow of Liverpool duo Salah and Mane, who were influential figures as the Reds ended their 30-year wait for the Premier League title.

Their goal returns -- 19 for Salah, 18 for Mane -- were both slightly reduced from the 22 they each registered last term, but both were influential in getting Liverpool through some tight fixtures and playing their part in unforgettable performances.

For Salah, there were the match-winning displays in big victories over Arsenal in August, City in November, and Tottenham Hotspur in January, while Mane's intelligence, pace and lethal movement make him a nightmarish prospect for defences.

Both will be in the running for the African Footballer of the Year award, and they're perhaps unfortunate there will be no Ballon d'Or this year.

Signing of the Season

There were a few groans among Crystal Palace fans when the club signed Jordan Ayew permanently in the summer, with the Ghana forward having made limited impact on loan from Swansea City last term.

In fact, Palace improved significantly during the second part of the 2018-19 campaign, when Roy Hodgson started Michy Batshuayi at the expense of the ex-Aston Villa attacker.

However, Ayew justified the veteran coach's faith and then some; he registered a career-best Premier League return of nine goals, and Palace could have been in a sticky spot had it not been for his contributions considering Christian Benteke's miserable return of two goals.

He's repaid his £2.5 million transfer fee several times over, and no wonder he was named Crystal Palace Player of the Season and Players' Player of the Season as well as winning the Goal of the Season accolade.

"I had the desire to have a better season and things have gone so well," Ayew said on Crystal Palace TV. "I'm just grateful.

"I want to thank everyone at the football club; I want to thank the fans especially, they've been massive for us this season, for me especially they've been massive. I'd like to thank all the people that supported me within the difficult moments that I had in my football career."

Bargain of the season. Signing of the season.

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Worst Signing of the Season

Nicolas Pepe's £72 million switch from Lille to Arsenal is a contender, with the Ivory Coast wideman struggling to live up to the lofty expectations that accompany such a weighty transfer fee.

But Pepe, who scored 22 goals in Ligue 1 last term, has at least shown his class in glimpses, which cannot be said of Tanzania frontman Mbwana Samatta at Aston Villa.

The East African -- a midseason arrival from Racing Genk in Belgium -- was expected to replace the threat lost when summer signing Wesley was ruled out for the campaign with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, and a headed goal on his debut against Bournemouth boded well for the future.

Unfortunately, that's was as good as it got for Samatta.

He failed to score again, was dropped for rookie Keinan Davis after the restart, and has done precious little to suggest he can thrive at this level.

A miss against West Ham United from close range on the final day could also have earned him pariah status had the Villains been defeated at the London Stadium.

Unluckiest Player of the Season

Ivory Coast international Jean-Philippe Gbamin has been a disastrous signing for Everton, although, unlike Pepe and Samatta, he can hardly be blamed.

The 24-year-old arrived from Mainz in a £25 million deal in August, but, after featuring in the Toffees' first two matches, he picked up a thigh injury that sidelined him until January.

The defensive utility man suffered a fresh setback when early 2020 rolled around, which would keep him out of action until the season's end -- although the coronavirus suspension offered hope that he could see some further gametime if football returned in June and July.

It wasn't to be, however; Gbamin sustained an Achilles injury at Everton's Finch Farm training centre in May, only a fortnight before football returned.

It's looking increasingly likely that Gbamin won't see any action until early 2021, having lost the best part of a year and a half of his career.

Disappointment of the Season

Wilfried Zaha's return of seven direct goal contributions -- four goals and three assists -- is a meagre tally for a player of his quality who, at 27, ought to be in the prime of his career.

The Ivorian acknowledged that he started the season slowly following the disappointment of missing out on a dream move to Arsenal, but Zaha never found anything like his best form on a consistent basis, and he offered precious little during the Eagles' risible end-of-season run.

Will any big clubs still be interested in him this summer?

Nigerian duo Jordon Ibe and Isaac Success also made precious little impact -- despite their undoubted qualities -- with relegated duo Bournemouth and Watford respectively.

Goal of the Season

Jordan Ayew has to get the nod here, for his delicious dinked effort against West Ham United in December.

Contextually, this one was excellent -- a 90th-minute winner to settle a London derby -- and technically, it was a thing of beauty.

Ayew, who had earlier provided the assist for Cheikhou Kouyate's opener, took up possession on the right flank, cut inside, spun a complete circle with the ball to take one defender out of the game, shimmied past another, and still had the presence of mind to calmly lift the ball over Roberto Jimenez.

A thing of beauty, and a goal of which his father Abedi Pele would have been proud.

Underrated Player of the Season

Honourable mention goes to Franco-Ivorian centre-back Willy Boly of Wolverhampton Wanderers, although Wilfred Ndidi gets our award.

The Nigerian defensive midfielder produced another year of excellence, and he is clearly thriving under Brendan Rodgers.

Leicester City's pursuit of Champions League football ultimately ended in vain, but Ndidi nonetheless ended the year as the Premier League's second-most effective tackler (averaging four successful retrievals per match), and only Diego Rico of Bournemouth averaged more interceptions per match than the Nigerian's 2.5.

In fact, Ndidi's 129 tackles during the season was equalled only by Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and he's now topped the charts in this category for the past three campaigns.

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Which Arsenal youngster has the brightest future?

Gab Marcotti and Stewart Robson believe Arsenal's Bukayo Saka is their best young talent.

Breakout Star

Bukayo Saka enjoyed a sensational campaign at Arsenal, having made his league debut for the Gunners only in January 2019.

Injuries to Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac allowed him to secure more gametime from the autumn, and Saka caught the eye despite being played in an unfamiliar left-back role.

His speed and astute reading of the game helped him adapt to a defensive brief, while his ability with the ball at his feet made him a key threat going forward.

He'd made only one league appearance before this term, but he ended the season with five league assists, and 11 in all competitions -- the first teenager to achieve this return in a single campaign at Arsenal since Cesc Fabregas.

Following the restart, and the return of Tierney and Kolasinac, he impressed in a more offensive role and netted his first Arsenal goal against Wolves.

Big things are expected for the Anglo-Nigerian wideman.