It’s that time of year again when the nominees for the PFA Young Player of the Year awards are announced and everyone moans about why Harry Kane is up for both awards but not Dele Alli.
Who deserves to be crowned the Premier League’s best young player this season, though? Leroy Sane has enjoyed a promising first season in England with Man City, Spurs duo Alli and Kane have been at their usual best while the likes of Burnley’s Michael Keane and Sunderland stopper Jordan Pickford have both been a real breath of fresh air. Romelu Lukaku, believe it or not, is still passes off as a young player despite being around for what seems like forever.
We asked four of our writers who they think deserves the crown…
The thing that differentiates this year’s nominees for the young player award from the main one is that it contains a much more balanced spread of the various contributions different players can make. Attackers, a defender, two creators and even a goalkeeper are included. Fair play. Though you get the feeling one or two will play the role of filling the numbers.
All of these players have been brilliant this season, obviously, but because I can’t elevate one player over all others in some sort of dystopian Miss Premier League contest, I think the award should go to Michael Keane: he has formed part of an outstanding defensive unit which has turned Burnley’s Turf Moor into a fortress, probably kept his unfancied side in the Premier League, and even allowed him to win his first England caps.
If this award is about recognising outstanding contributions rather than salaciously masturbating over the division’s top attackers, then why not give it to Keane?
But it’s not, though, is it?
This kid just gets better and better. His debut season was phenomenal, but Alli has already overshadowed his goal return from last season by six and is now encroaching upon Gerrard and Lampard territory in terms of providing goals from midfield.
It’s not all been plain sailing for the Tottenham sensation this term; he started the campaign poorly and his sending off against Gent was a real low. But the 21-year-old always battles back and it’s that mentality which makes Alli such a special young player.
It also speaks volumes that he arrived at White Hart Lane as a box-to-box midfielder but will finish this season playing almost as a second striker in Spurs’ 3-4-3 set-up.
Alli is not always the easiest player for opposition supporters to like, but there can be no doubting the 21-year-old’s contribution to Tottenham Hotspur this season.
The England international has 16 goals and five assists in 30 Premier League appearances for Spurs during the 2016-17 campaign, which is even more remarkable when considering his inexperience at this level of football.
The former MK Dons midfielder could become the first player to win this award in consecutive seasons for the first time since Wayne Rooney in 2005 and 2006.
Burnley’s Michael Keane and Manchester City’s Leroy Sane are worth a mention, but Alli has been absolutely vital to another impressive campaign for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Over the last few years, Romelu Lukaku has slowly been developing into the sort of player that everyone had expected him to be.
Sure, he can have off days and he can be frustrating – but on his day there is simply nobody better in the Premier League.
He has become the talisman for a club that has otherwise struggled at points this season, becoming the catalyst-like figure that his presence on the field has demanded.
The small feat of bagging a remarkable 23 league goals so far – the highest in the league – is proof of his rise, and proof that he has finally reached the level that we expected of him as a teenager.