It’s that time of year when we all disagree with each other on who should be crowned Player of the Year.
But this year that debate is a little bit different because it doesn’t have many of the ‘top’ names involved. Diego Costa? Nah. Eden Hazard? Pft! Alexis Sanchez? LOL!
Instead we’re all talking about Jamie Vardy, Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Dimitri Payet and Riyad Mahrez this season.
But who deserves the crown? Mahrez and Vardy have been the main men behind Leicester’s ridiculous challenge for the Premier League title, as have Alli and Kane to Spurs’ charge, and Dimitri Payet has ensured every single person who predicted West Ham to be relegated just because they parted ways with Big Sam are now being forced to broaden their little footballing minds a bit more. Dare to dream, guys. Live a little.
That’s what Leicester did and now look at them, they’re gonna win the league! But that’s a discussion for another article…
We asked our best writers who they think should be named Player of the Year this season and, as expected, there was only one real winner…
There are a number of candidates that deserve to be in the reckoning – but the most interesting thing about this season’s frontrunners are that they generally don’t play for the historically biggest teams.
Looking at the favourites for the title before the campaign started, it is hard to select anyone from Chelsea or the Manchester clubs as a potential candidate.
I think Romelu Lukaku has proven himself as one of the best strikers in the division with his goals this season, while his all-round play has visibly improved also.
English strikers Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane have both had great campaigns, while Mesut Ozil was on fire before the turn of the year – 18 assists so far is an amazing return.
Another gifted player that should be on the shortlist is Dimitri Payet, who has been a revelation since moving to West Ham and the signing of the summer in my view. Had the Frenchman not been sidelined for an extended period of time he could well have won it.
However, my choice is Riyad Mahrez. The signs were there in the late stages of last season, but the Algerian has been a revelation this term. To score 16 goals from midfield and provide 11 assists has been an essential part of Leicester’s title push.
Some years there are lots of outstanding candidates, but this has been a season low on quality, especially from the big names. For me, Riyad Mahrez is the one name that stands out; he epitomises the pace, the directness and the attacking quality that Leicester have shown this season.
This year has seen Chelsea and Manchester City fall by the wayside and Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all struggle to regain competitivity. That’s partly due to the changing face of the Premier League, and no man illustrates that mix of skill and efficiency that has characterised the successful clubs this season quite like Mahrez.
In keeping with this being the oddest Premier League season ever, this is a really tough choice. Ultimately I can’t look past Riyad Mahrez regardless of Leicester’s eventual finishing position, as his return in terms of numbers (16 goals and 11 assists) is amazing given that many fans, and I’ll wager pundits, didn’t know who he was before a ball was kicked this season!
Harry Kane deserves much praise given that he had the ‘one season wonder’ tag put on him and the burden of being Spurs’ only real striker, while Jamie Vardy’s goal return has been excellent – albeit I fear he will actually be a ‘one season wonder’.
Venturing a little way from the title race, Mark Noble has been as consistent as ever – he rarely puts in a performance below 7/10 – in a good West Ham team, and Willian has earned some credit for being the only interested player in a worrying Chelsea XI.
Mahrez is the prime candidate for me, and many more I suspect, though.
It’s a toss-up between Harry Kane and Riyad Mahrez at the moment and my verdict will probably depend on which of Leicester or Spurs win the league.
The pressure on Kane, as Spurs’ only natural centre forward, has been phenomenal, whilst Riyad Mahrez has been the greatest revelation across the whole of Europe.
As it stands, Mahrez will probably take the award, but Kane’s exceptional form – and probably golden boot – mean he is pushing the Leicester man close. No player has carried a team quite like Eden Hazard did with Chelsea in the second half of 14/15, making it a little harder to pick just one player.
Mahrez has been the most consistent threat in the Leicester side and has flourished in a 4-4-2, that is built around the industry of Kante and pace of Vardy.
The Algerian’s goal contribution is ahead of any other Premier League player and only Zaha and Barkley have completed more dribbles per 90.
Honourable mentions go to Dimitri Payet, Ngolo Kante and Toby Alderweireld, too.
The Player of the Year has to be Riyad Mahrez, if not for the sheer fact he is the true cutting edge in an otherwise industrious Leicester City side that look set to clinch the title. Of course, team-mates N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy, and to a lesser extent Robert Huth and Kasper Schmeichel, deserve a shout as well if the Foxes claim this season’s crown, whilst Dimitri Payet is the other standout contender for me.
But the stats speak for themselves and the Algerian international ranks fourth in the scoring charts, second in the set up charts and third in terms of completed dribbles per match throughout the Premier League. What has impressed me most is Mahrez’ transition into a genuine talismanic entity – opposing teams are now double and triple marking him, but he’s still having the same effect he did back at the start of the season.
Likewise, the 24-year-old winger has provided the deciding goal in two of Leicester’s last four one-nil victories – a run that could well secure the title for the King Power stadium outfit if it continues for another three or four games.
Riyad Mahrez. The likes of Mesut Ozil, Dimitri Payet and any number of Mahrez’s Leicester teammates may run him close, though the masterful Algerian pips his peers.
Describing the table topping Foxes as a ‘basic’ team would be a touch too harsh, though the brand of football they deploy is relatively straightforward. Simple. Effective.
While clearly they are a good team in their own right, it is their 25-year old midfielder who has provided the quality required to reach the summit of English football. 16 goals and 11 assists is a truly remarkable record and one that will likely grow further during the closing stages of the season.
The fancy flicks and tricks have been a joy to watch all season but it is the end product that earns him the Player of the Year Award. He’s the best player in a solid team, scoring wonderful goals against Chelsea and Aston Villa and even more crucial ones at Watford and Crystal Palace to help keep Leicester at the top of the league.
There are no words that need to be said as to why the Algerian deserves this accolade.
So here are two goals he scored against the two teams who were supposed to be in a battling it out for this year’s Premier League title instead: