Much in keeping with the Oscars this year who have introduced 10 nominations to the proceedings for Best Picture it threw up some interesting results such as Avatar, Up In The Air and Up being nominated for best picture when ordinarily they wouldn’t be – so just to make things easier for myself I’ve decided to do the same with this list and introduce 10 nominees hopefully widening the spectrum and throwing it up for debate more. The award is voted for in February by professionals from all four leagues and whilst this can lead to form players at the time of the vote rather unjustly taking away the prize when a retrospective award in May would be much more sensible, let’s take a look at the contenders for the prize in no particular order.
1. Carlos Tevez – His move to bitter rivals Man City from Utd in the summer has caused much bitterness between the two, especially after his 2 goals in the Carling Cup tie at the semi final stage but look beyond the controversy and Tevez is arguably having his finest season in English football, 12 league goals from 21 games is not to be sniffed at as well as 18 goals in total and whilst his work rate was always evident at Utd he’s now become a much more deadly finisher since his move. A scorer of important goals, like he proved at Utd and West Ham he’s also a big game player and a real contender for the award.
2. Wayne Rooney – Currently enjoying his greatest goalscoring season in an Utd shirt, his 23 league goals have kept the title holders in contention and without him their title bid would seriously be in doubt. It’s not just his goals that have been pleasing though, his general play has improved and he’s really taken up the mantle of the team’s best player since Ronaldo departed to Real Madrid in the summer. Although 15 of his league goals have come against teams around the bottom four at the time of playing them, the shouts of flat-track bully should be ignored, he’s a special player enjoying a special season, let’s just pray he doesn’t get injured for England’s sake.
3. Didier Drogba – Arsenal’s chief tormenter and a target man of world-class value, Drogba’s absence wasn’t felt as much during the ACN as might have been expected but that can be attributed to the strength of the Chelsea squad and a fairly favourable run of games. Pacy, as strong as a bull, a willing runner and a player who always rises to the occasion for the big games, Drogba’s character may be unsavoury at times but he’s unquestionably Chelsea’s best player this season with 17 league goals and 8 assists and should he continue his form, it could be a two horse race with Rooney for the award.
4. Richard Dunne – Oh how Mark Hughes must regret selling him in the summer, a serious error of judgement on his part by allowing Dunne to leave for pastures new at rivals for the much coveted top four place Aston Villa. City have been crying out for a centre half with the organisational abilities of Dunne and his willingness to put his head where it hurts has contributed to the Premier League’s meanest defence as the Irishman enjoys an outstanding season.
5. James Milner – Capello’s a big fan and so am I, he’s been Villa’s stand out attacking player in a team full of attacking minded midfielders. Playing much like a young version of Frank Lampard his versatility could be invaluable come World Cup time as he can seamlessly slot in on the left and right flanks as well as popping up centrally. A great crosser of the ball with 8 assist to his name already and a strong runner, Milner is now delivery the sort of form his early career always promised.
6. Francesc Fabregas – Consistently touted with a move back to his boyhood club Barcelona it’s not hard to see why. Potentially Xavi’s successor at Barca, Fabregas has in only 19 league games this term contributed 11 goals and 13 assists – quite some record and whilst they tend to come in bunches he’s Arsenal’s most valuable player and is enjoying a fine season in front of goal for the Premier League’s leading scorers Arsenal.
7. Darren Fletcher – An integral cog in the Man Utd machine now, once derided as nothing more than a workhorse it’s for this very same quality that he’s now held up as an example for others to follow. He adds the bite to a somewhat tackle shy Utd midfield and the biggest compliment you can pay him is that he’s probably now one of the first names on the team sheet. Great performances over rivals Man City and Arsenal have only added to his growing reputation.
8. Roger Johnson – It’s very rare for a player to make the step up from Championship level to the Premier League so easily, sure there have been others before him, Cahill and Lescott probably the best examples in recent memory but they were stand out players in the league unlike the former Cardiff man. One half of a formidable partnership with other former Championship centre half Scott Dann who signed from Coventry, Johnson is the stand out performer in a much better than expected Birmingham outfit enjoying a remarkable season.
9. Aaron Lennon – It’s extremely difficult to pick just one player from a Spurs side that have performed so well this season, it could just as easily have been Modric or Defoe but I’m plumping for Lennon. His 9 assists and 3 goals this term mean he’s added a consistency to his game that was always lacking before and his delivery has improved beyond measure. He’s gone from World Cup hopeful to starter in the space of six months and whilst always a threat in certain matches prior to this season, in every appearance he makes now he looks as if he’ll make something happen and even against the very best (he manages to tear Evra apart every time he plays him now) and Defoe should thank his lucky stars he’s playing with the best right winger in the league – Theo Walcott take note.
10. Ashley Cole/Patrice Evra – I know this is cheating technically and I’m sure you’re a bit annoyed at two players being here but it’s simply too difficult to choose between the two. They’re the two best left backs in the world, are good going forward (although Evra has the edge) and solid defensively (Cole has the edge here) and they’re almost impossible to replace when they’re missing from both sides. In short they’re both simply excellent left backs and a joy to watch in very different ways.
Honourable mentions go to – Joe Hart, Scott Dann, Robin Van Persie, Antonio Valencia, Jermaine Defoe, Kevin Doyle, Thomas Vermaelen, Bobby Zamora, Fernando Torres, Steven Pienaar, Nicolas Anelka and Alex Song
I’m bound to have missed somebody out depending on your team of choice, but who would get the award if you were voting?