It is the Football Awards season and the PFA Player of the Year awards is loaded attacking flair, goals and assists. In a world where attackers take the glory, the PFA’s delivers once more with an abundance of attacking riches vying it out for Player of the Season. Whilst I have absolutely no bearing on who might win the award, here is my run down of the top 6 and one person who I really think should have made the cut.
*please note all stats are correct as of 20-04-16, and have been provided by the Premier League official website, Squawka and Fox Sports.
1st – Riyad Mahrez
2nd most successful dribbler in the Premier League
Signed by Nigel Pearson in the January window in 2014 for the stupidly paltry sum of £400,000, Riyad Mahrez has been simply scintillating this season on the right wing for Leicester City.
Mahrez is the creative force, the initial burst of pace that launches Leicester on their way down field and consequently to pole position for the Premier League crown.
It is the speed of Leicester on the break that has really allowed Mahrez to shine. The Algerian’s ability with the ball, both in beating the man as well as picking the pass, as seen Mahrez emerge as an essential figure under Ranieri and an ever present force in Leicester’s title push. Whilst Leicester proved after Christmas, they could cope without Vardy, the directness and the success of Mahrez’s style of play is something much harder to replace. He is second most successful dribbler of the ball and coupled with his sheer volume of goals he has scored from the right wing, Mahrez is my choice to win the PFA Player of the Year award.
2nd – Harry Kane
It is hard to believe that Harry Kane is the only player to make the shortlist from Tottenham. Harry Kane is fast becoming Mr Tottenham. His goal scoring return is edging on the ridiculous and his ability to remain fit and carry the Spurs’ front line is as much of a testament to him as it is the Spurs medical team.
Second position could of quite easily been Jamie Vardy’s as much as it could have been Harry Kane’s but the reason why I have choosen Kane is precisely down to how important a player he is for Tottenham. Without Kane, Tottenham wouldn’t be second – it is as simple as that. Not only is it Kane’s goals that have proved so decisive in games, it is the Englishman’s willingness to work for the team that has added another facet to his game. Able to drift out to both wings, Kane’s awareness of the channels and who may be marking him has created the space for the likes of Alli, Erikson and Lamela to work their magic this season. And, as proved with his first goal against Stoke City at the Britannia, he is more than capable of cutting in and still finding the back of the net.
In short, he has had yet another terrific season.
3rd – N’Golo Kante
Tackles Won: 108
Yellow Cards: 4
The only defensive player to get the nod. In a world where goals and flashy assists tend to grab the headlines. N’Golo Kante has become perhaps the holding midfielder in the Premier League. His relationship with Danny Drinkwater is second to none in the league, a perfect of example of how far the consistency of playing together week in and week out can be of a benefit to either player.
Kante leads the league for tackles won and interceptions and with only 4 yellow cards all season, this is a player who knows how and most notably when to tackle and when to press. Recently handed his debut for France, Kante surely must be in with a starting spot come the summer.
The diminutive holding player has endless energy reserves and rightly has been acknowledged for his incredible season. In a world where flashy grabs headlines, Leicester City’s success is as much down to this man doing the dirty work as it is to Mahrez and Vardy getting the goals.
Yet another stunning find by the Leicester recruitment team.
The Best of the Rest…
Jamie Vardy – Goals 22, Assists 6
Mesut Ozil – Goals 6, Assists 18
Dimitri Payet – Goals 9, Assists 9
The story of Jamie Vardy is one that has captured the hearts and imagination of football fans, even Hollywood want a piece of Vardy’s party. The reason though he hasn’t made the cut though is purely due to the importance of the two Leicester players in front of him. Mahrez and Kante have been revelations this year for Leicester, with the former carrying the creative baton and Kante becoming a pint-sized Viera in the centre of the park. Vardy’s goals have been instrumental in Leicester’s unexpected title challenge but its Mahrez creative that is finding Vardy and Kante’s solidity allowing Leicester to play deep and strike on the break.
If the PFA awards stopped at Christmas, Mesut Ozil would win hands down. 16 assists before January is simply mindboggling and the German was just sumptuous with and without the ball but with Ozil own loss of form coinciding with Arsenal’s, his push for this personal award has fallen short very much like Arsenal’s own title challenge. Close but no cigar Mesut.
Dimitri Payet might well be the buy of the season. West Ham gambled twice at the end of last season with swapping Big Sam for Bilic and spending £11million on the Frenchman and Payet has been the catalyst for much of West Ham’s success this season – the big question in all of this however is where West Ham would be now if Payet hadn’t got injured? Champions League football at the Olympic Stadium really could have already been secured.
And Why No Toby Alderweireld?
The Belgian has been an absolute rock at the back for Tottenham this year and despite having to go toe-to-toe with former club Southampton for his transfer, Pochettino picked an absolute gem to slot in alongside Jan Vertonghen.
Alderweireld has helped Spurs to become the best defensive in the Premier League, with clean sheets coming out of their ears and Alderweireld himself making 26 blocks and 262 clearances and it seems incredibly odd for a player who has had such an incredible season to be over-looked for the end of year accolades. This is a player who come next season will be plying his trade in the Champions League, potentially a European Championship winner’s medal in his back pocket and maybe even a Premier League title medal sitting on his mantel piece but keep clean sheets isn’t glamorous at awards season which I guess makes Kante’s appearance all the more remarkable.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog