With around seven games of the Premier League season still to play (some teams have more and some have fewer thanks to the quirks of scheduling), it seems like a fairly odd time to be handing out awards.
If Chelsea collapse in the final few weeks, what will we make of Antonio Conte and his men then? And what would we think if Sunderland or Middlesbrough managed to do the impossible and beat the drop? Miracles probably won’t happen – which miracles were likely before they happened? – and that seems to be the only reason that the nominees for PFA Player and Young Player of the Year awards are announced quite so early.
In any event, the six who have been nominated for Young Player of the Year have already had fabulous seasons up until this point, and that cannot be taken away from them no matter what happens. The list contains a wide-ranging mix of positions and talents from clubs at varying ranking across the table, too.
It’s an interesting list, to say the least, and here are the stats behind each of the nominees.
Last season’s revelation is one of this season’s stars. Perhaps unlucky not to be nominated for the main award this year, Alli has weighed into his team’s unlikely title challenge with 16 goals and five assists in an incredibly productive campaign from midfield. And that could see him win back-to-back Young Player of the Year awards, becoming the first player since Wayne Rooney to achieve that feat.
If he keeps progressing as he has been over the past few seasons, you get the feeling that, one day very soon, Alli will be winning the big boys’ award.
Like his Spurs teammate Dele Alli, Harry Kane has also been able to keep his level high over the last few seasons, when many thought it would dip.
This year, in just 22 Premier League starts, Kane has scored 19 goals and managed four assists – a sensational scoring return for a player who has had more than one injury lay-off this season. Getting back into your stride after spending a few weeks on the treatment table isn’t easy, but Kane’s ability to pick up exactly where he left off is astonishing. As is his goal tally.
What a year it’s been for Michael Keane: he’s had his first England caps, all but ensured his unfancied Burnley side will remain in the Premier League for next season, and now he’s bagged himself a nomination for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, too.
In a solid 4-4-2, Keane has excelled himself this season as Burnley have turned their home ground, Turf Moor, into a fortress. The England international’s contribution in terms of clearances and blocks is impressive enough, but he has also made no errors leading to goals this season, something many other, more accomplished defenders can’t say this year.
Like Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku is another man who has found himself nominated for both the Young Player of the Year award and the main prize, too.
It’s not that difficult to see why, though. He has scored 23 goals and made six assists this season for a team who were struggling just before Christmas, but who have come back strongly in the second half of the season as they look to qualify for Europe.
Perhaps the biggest surprise pick in the Young Player of the Year nominations, Pickford is probably the only bright spot in Sunderland’s dismal season.
The young English goalkeeper has kept many scorelines respectable for the Black Cats this season, and although he’ll have been demoralised the number of the goals he’s conceded, he can hold his head high.
If (when) Sunderland go down this season, he’ll surely find himself another Premier League club willing if not eager to snap him up, though. His future – more than most of his teammates – is in his own hands.
After a tough start to life in Manchester, Leroy Sane was given his chance by manager Pep Guardiola. And the Catalan won’t regret it.
Sane’s four goals and one assist in the Premier League this season don’t tell the whole story, unfortunately. He terrorises defences with his pace and dribbling ability, giving City’s star-studded team an outlet in behind the opposition’s defence.
More to the point, though, those qualities scare defenders, making sure that coming up against Sane isn’t just a physical task, it’s also a mental one.