It’s that time of year again when the nominees for the PFA Player of the Year awards are announced and everyone shows their disgust at the decision to leave out their favourite player.
As always there are scores of players who perhaps deserved to be nominated, but the six faces you see at the top of your screen are the chosen ones.
Who will come out on top, though? N’Golo Kante appears to be the favourite if early reports are to be believed and all Twitter poll results unsurprisingly point to a landslide victory for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez. The others? Who knows.
We asked four of our writers who they think deserves the crown…
Player of the year? It’s a team sport, isn’t it?
Beyond the rather obvious assertion that individual awards fit into football like Sam Allardyce in skinny jeans, it’s the attacking bias of this gaudy pageantry that provides the most nauseating aspect.
N’Golo Kante is the token representative of the Premier League’s defensive labourers this season, and whilst the Frenchman has been a motor upon which Chelsea’s title challenge has been built, that probably tells you everything you need to know.
Only goalscorers and tacklers could ever be considered, and because of that, David Luiz and Toby Alderweireld are overlooked, despite being vital parts of the league’s top two teams, and two of the best defences in the league to boot.
If I *have* to pick one, then, why not go for Alexis Sanchez? Of the bunch, he’s contributed the most entertainment to everyone this season with his supporting role in the weekly meltdowns outside the Arsenal end – and surely that deserves some sort of award?
Becoming the first player to win consecutive Premier League titles with different clubs, one being the unlikeliest champions of all time, speaks for itself, and although it may be judging him on two seasons rather than one, Kante deserves the award for proving his unique qualities can not only improve a side like Leicester City, but also one of the biggest clubs in Europe who lifted the title just two years ago.
Furthermore, Antonio Conte’s season-defining switch to 3-4-3 formation might not have been possible without the Frenchman; his ability to provide the industriousness of two in midfield has allowed room for another attacker in Chelsea’s starting line-up – a distinct tactical advantage that few, if any, midfielders in world football are offering at the moment.
When Man United brought Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford on a free transfer last summer, there were question marks over whether the Swede, deep into his thirties, could make a difference in the Premier League.
Such questions have long been answered, however, with the 35-year-old registering 17 Premier League goals for the Red Devils entering this weekend’s key fixture at home to Chelsea.
It is not just goals that have made the experienced forward so important for Man United this season, however, with his presence and personality everything that the club needed after a difficult spell since Sir Alex Ferguson departed.
Ibrahimovic could have been forgiven for taking the riches on offer from China or the MLS last summer, but he instead chose Man United, and the Red Devils have enjoyed having a true superstar in their ranks once again.
N’Golo Kante deserves a lot of credit for coming into the Chelsea first team and making such an impact, but the Frenchman has rarely been a game changer for Chelsea this season.
When the Blues have been struggling and desperately grasping at straws and needing a lucky break, there has only ever been one man to turn to – Eden Hazard. The Belgian has so often been the saviour for Chelsea this season, picking up 14 goals along the way – many of which came against some of England’s biggest sides.
Excellent performances against the likes of Man City and Arsenal often pulled Chelsea past their opposition, and those are the games that Conte will look back on as defining when he lifts the Premier League trophy in a few weeks. It is no coincidence that Hazard’s return to form has coincided with Chelsea’s – he really is that influential.