Who will win the 2018 Player of the Year?! By Daniel Dwamena

Who will win the 2018 Player of the Year?! by Daniel Dwamena

The PFA (Players Football Association) Players’ Player of the Year is always a hotly disputed award, this season arguably more than any other in the last few years. For those unclear of the process, the players who are part of the PFA from the 92 Premier and Football League clubs are asked to pick whom amongst their peers has had the best individual season. In addition to this, the players also pick their Young Player of the Year and they pick the best 11 players overall to form their Team of the Season.

Saturday saw the six nominees announced and they were mostly as expected. Premier League leaders Manchester City boast the most candidates with three; they include David Silva, Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne. Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Manchester United’s David De Gea and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah round out the other nominees.

The 6 nominees: Top row – De Bruyne, De Gea, Kane. Bottom row – Salah, Sane & David Silva (source: BBC Sport/Twitter)

Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea (106 saves in the league) has produced some amazing performances, having to deal with more efforts at his goal than he should, considering United currently lay second in the Premier League. De Gea has easily made more saves than any other keeper in the top six, the closest top six keeper to him is Arsenal’s keeper Petr Cech with 82 (12th of all keepers). The standout of De Gea’s season was his performance away at Arsenal in December in a 3-1 win for United. Here he made 14 saves, this tied a Premier League record for the most in a single game; Tim Krul and Vito Mannone were the only two keepers who had done that previously. Without De Gea, United would have dropped many more points than they have in the league. If awards generally were not fixated on attacking players then he would have a great chance of being the first keeper to win the award since the 1970’s.

Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder David Silva (11 assists) has been his usual brilliant and charismatic self, all amid his baby son being seriously ill after a premature birth. Silva has helped out all around the midfield and has looked just as sharp as his debut season in 2011/12. It seems at times that no one can get near Silva and he makes things that are so easy look rather simplistic. City’s German left footed winger Leroy Sane (12 assists), is another young gun doing amazing things, Sane is ahead of schedule in his development under manager Pep Guardiola. His gracefulness on the ball, balance and ability to shift the ball pass defenders at a blistering pace have been a joy to watch. His delivery also is improving game by game.

Manchester City’s David Silva & Leroy Sane celebrate together (source: timesandstar.co.uk)

Tottenham’s striker Harry Kane, (26 goals), has been well…Harry Kane, scoring at will, pushing Tottenham towards another season of Champions League qualification. Kane is so good he can even score when the ball does not actually appear to touch him, recently swearing on his daughters’ life that a free kick brushed him in an away game at Stoke. The Premier League surprisingly awarded the goal to him.  Kane is the winner of the last two Premier League Golden Boot’s (Top scorer award), he is so integral to Spurs that the media are almost trying to force him to leave the club if his goals cannot bring them silverware.

And then there was two…

All the players above have legitimate claims, but the award will be more than likely be going to one of two players when it is all said and done. Manchester City’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Liverpool winger/forward Mohamed Salah will be where the Player of the Year award will surely end up. To say the battle is tighter than a pair of skinny jeans is an understatement. There is a split between football punidts/analysts and social media, but it is the fellow professionals who will decide the fate. There has been past speculation about the voting process and really they should wait until the end of the season rather than in April as voting is done well before then.

SeasonPOTY WinnerClubLeague Position
2009/10Wayne RooneyManchester United2nd
2010/11Gareth BaleTottenham Hotspur5th
2011/12Robin Van PersieArsenal3rd
2012/13Gareth BaleTottenham Hotspur5th
2013/14Luis SuarezLiverpool2nd
2014/15Eden HazardChelsea1st
2015/16Riyad MahrezLeicester1st
2016/17N’Golo KanteChelsea1st

One thing we need to know when the players cast their vote is whether they are thinking of the best player from the best team or whom they think has been the outstanding individual of the season regardless of the position their team looks like they will finish in the league table. As the table below shows it is hard to know what the players prioritise when voting.

The last three seasons show that the ‘best player’ from the league Champions has been selected for the award, if the players choose to stay in that vain then no one will argue if Kevin De Bruyne is crowned. However, preceding those years, the last five winners of the PFA award were players not from the eventual champions, which is where the problem lies with the award being done before the season’s end.

Belgian international midfielder De Bruyne has had an incredible season and at the time of print had accumulated 15 assists in the league. De Bruyne’s creativity, range of passing and work rate has stood out on numerous occasions throughout the campaign. The aforementioned premature birth of David Silva’s son meant Pep Guardiola has had to use De Bruyne slightly more than he would have wished through the season. After being held to a one all draw away at Burnley in February, De Bruyne stated, “I was feeling it from the first minute. I’ve said it before – you feel great for 10 games, then you feel OK for 10 games, and then the rest you feel like s***”, (Source: skysports.com). De Bruyne’s consistency has been a joy to behold through clearly being fatigued.

De Bruyne scoring a wonderful winner for City away at Chelsea in September (source: BBC Sport/Rex Features)

Even if De Bruyne does not pass the 18 assists he amassed in the 16/17 season when Manchester City finished third in the league, it has been the other things he has done which makes his case so strong. Der Bruyne has at times played so deep he has basically been a defensive rather than an attacking midfielder. De Bruyne doing this has helped his team congest the midfield allowing himself or one of his teammates to win the ball and start another attack. When asked about who should win player of the year De Bruyne acknowledged that it is very hard to choose who should win the award as it is almost impossible to see who has been more influential. With him and Salah playing in two different positions it is so hard to decide as they both mean different things to the way their respective teams play. De Bruyne informed, “Everybody has his own opinion. It depends on what you are looking for in a player”. On Salah he also added, “To compare us, I don’t know. With the statistics how are we going to compare ourselves? It’s totally different, I played (against Everton) as a defensive midfielder, how can you compare me to an inside forward? I have no idea”, (Source: telegraph.co.uk). De Bruyne is correct in his analysis, but as goals win games, goalscorers get more praise than creators and this really is the only thing that could stop him from being crowned player of the year.

Now where do we start with the case for Mo Salah? As the Egyptian international winger/forward had been unsuccessful in this first stint in England’s top division with Chelsea, some had already sealed his fate. Salah without kicking a ball for Liverpool was already a Chelsea ‘flop’ who was overpriced at just under £40 million. When Liverpool confirmed Salah’s purchase from Italian club Roma, pundit Mina Rzouki said on BBC Radio 5 Live that, “He is for me another Juan Cuadrado, and as much talent as they do have (both of those players), they have the pace, they have the technique, they know what to do with the ball, it’s just channelling it at the right moments and making the right decisions when there’s a lot of pressure, it leaves a lot to be required and I don’t think that’s what they have”, (Source; BBC Radio 5 Live). Throughout these kind of claims, (and there were many similar), Salah has netted 30 league goals to date for Liverpool, surpassing any wild expectations fans had when the bought him. It has not only been goals he has bought to the table either for the Reds, Salah has also assisted 9 times in the league. Liverpool still has four games to go in the league, meaning Salah has the opportunity to break the record of highest ever goals in a Premier League season. The record for goals in a 38 game league season is 31 shared by Alan Shearer (1995/96), Cristiano Ronaldo (2007/08) and Luis Suarez (2013/14). The record for a 42 game league season, is 34, this is shared by Andy Cole (1993/94) and Shearer (1994/95). Salah amazingly could break both these records.

Salah holds his third Premier League player of the month award this season (source: standard.co.uk)

In Salah’s original Premier League stint with Chelsea he arrived in January 2014, and then the following season was loaned to Fiorentina in Italy in the winter transfer window. This meant Salah did not spend a full season in England. With his tally this season the Egyptian has already eclipsed the amount of goals scored by a foreign player in their first full season in the Premier League, a record set incidentally by a former Liverpool player Fernando Torres, who scored 24 in his debut season in the 2007/08 campaign.

Salah blistering pace, skill and movement have terrorised defences and his decision making and shot selection has improved as the season has gone on.

Many had basically seemed to give the player of the year to De Bruyne earlier in the season amidst an unbelievable 18 game winning streak by Manchester City that ended in late December. Salah has gone from strength to strength and though Liverpool can finish no higher than second, he will be encouraged that the winners from 2010-2014 did not come from teams who won the league. The players voted for who they viewed the most influential individual at that point of the season and if they have voted like that this year then Salah will prevail.

De Bruyne has embodied Guardiola’s philosophy and would be a worthy winner being the ‘pivot’ and ‘quarterback’ of the league champions. I myself would have no problem with the award going to De Bruyne. Even if De Bruyne was not to get the award, one he looks like definitely getting is the inaugural Playmaker maker award that will go to the player with the most assists in the league. My vote for Player of the Year though would go to Mo Salah, I feel he  deserves it, just by a tad. We already knew of De Bruyne’s superb passing ability, but we did not think that Salah could come and do what he has this season, his instant impact and influence on Liverpool has been miraculous. To do what he is doing and not be a central striker is quite honestly amazing.

Written by Daniel Dwamena (@DubulDee)

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