It’s that time of year again. The sun is out, excitable English football fans are ripping up foreign cities in the latter stages of the Champions League – this time in a Brexit-fuelled rampage – and the football season is coming to its climax: it’s the time that the nominees for the PFA Player of the Year award have been announced.
As always, attackers are favoured and the token defensive representative has been chosen only because he is perhaps the Premier League’s unique entity.
It’s a depressing list, in some ways, but to be voted the best player in the league by your peers is a great achievement nonetheless, and all of these players deserve accolades in some way. It’s just a shame it has to be narrowed down to six – and finally one – in the end.
Here’s a run-down of the nominees, and a look at why they’ve been nominated.
The Belgian star’s 14 goals and five assists have often been key to his side’s success this season, but really, it’s been the tactical nous of Antonio Conte that’s helped Hazard weave his magic.
With Marcos Alonso providing width in attack for Chelsea, Eden Hazard is able to play more as an inside forward than as a winger. Acting as a decoy for defenders, the wing-back has allowed Hazard to wreak havoc whilst cutting inside. Freed of too many defensive duties, the Belgian has been devastating on the counter attack, too.
No player in the Premier League has scored a higher percentage of his team’s goals this season than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, so his importance to his team is unrivalled.
In fact, without the Swede, who knows where United could have ended up this season. It’s been a disappointing one when it comes to the Premier League, but United could still win an EFL Cup and Europa League double, which would guarantee qualification for the Champions League next season. And a lot of that is down to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s contribution, too.
He may not have been the very best performer in the Premier League this season – but he has proved to an unconvinced country that he’s a world class talent, and Manchester United could barely live without him this year.
19 goals in only 22 Premier League starts says it all, really. Injuries have laid Harry Kane off for some of the season, whilst the bizarre hoodoo of not scoring in August has taken hold again.
All things considered, then, to be one of the league’s top scorers with so many goals despite such huge barriers is hugely impressive from the Tottenham man. Having been nominated for PFA Player of the Year in each of the last three seasons, perhaps it’s to be Kane’s year this time.
N’Golo Kante may well be most people’s pick for Player of the Year this time. Last year, he was pipped by teammate Riyad Mahrez to the prize, winning the Football Writers’ version of the award.
This time, his stats are less impressive than they were last year, racking up ‘only’ 69 tackles and 67 interceptions this season. Last year, though, he was playing in a very different team. This time, his arrival has helped transform a Chelsea team who finished in mid table into title winners. His contribution to his team is second to none, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Kante is only the second player to be recognised as Player of the Year for defensive contributions since Paul McGrath in 1992 – and the first since John Terry in 2005.
Just before Christmas, it looked like Everton had fallen into no-man’s land between the top six and the rest, but over the last few months, Ronald Koeman’s side have pulled themselves back into contention by their bootstraps. One of the major reasons for that, though, is the form of Romelu Lukaku.
23 goals and six assists this season have sealed the Belgian’s place on the PFA Player of the Year list of nominees, and perhaps his club’s place in the Europa League next season – whether that will be enough to allow Everton to bat away potential suitors for the striker this summer remains to be seen.
To call this a frustrating season for Arsenal would be an understatement, but it’s easy to forget that there was a time when they were looking good. Two away defeats in a row in the North West just before Christmas changed the perspective of the Gunners’ season completely.
Since the start of the campaign, Alexis Sanchez has done his level best to keep his team in contention, but a mix of poor tactics, spineless teammates, and perhaps his own sulkiness led to a terrible winter for his team. Still, 18 goals and nine assists is not to be sniffed at, as Sanchez continues to prove he’s one of the best players in the league.