The Premier League has been as exciting and intoxicating as ever this season but unfortunately its now drawing to a close with just seven match-days remaining.
There’s still plenty to look forward to however, such as the run-in between title contenders Arsenal and Chelsea, the FA Cup final – likely between Arsenal and Liverpool – the Champions League final and the Premier League’s official award ceremony.
The ceremony will be held in London this year at the end of April – so there’s not much time left for Premier League stars to convince the voters.
Ever-ahead of the curb however, Football Fancast have taken the audacious move of predicting this year’s results – particularly in regards to the Premier League Team of the Year.
There’s plenty of candidates to choose from and a wide selection of opinions to take into consideration, but we at Football Fancast think we’ve cracked the eleven lads dead-certs for the 2014/15 TOYT.
Although Premier League goalkeeping has maintained it’s ever-exceptional level this season, further aided by the return of Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois from Atletico Madrid, Manchester United’s David De Gea will take the No.1 jersey in the TOTY likely by an almost unanimous verdict.
There’s certainly been some decent competitors from the less glamorous end of the table. QPR’s Robert Green, for example, has made the most saves of any goalkeeper at an incredible 100, whilst Sunderland’s Costel Pantilimon boasts 77 saves and eight clean sheets from 22 appearances, ranking him seventh in both categories despite missing the first nine games of the Black Cats’ campaign.
Swansea’s remarkably consistent Lukas Fabianski is another strong candidate, as is Southampton’s gigantic Fraser Forster, showing tremendous quality during his debut Premier League campaign.
But without the Spain international’s many match-winning performances, it’s possible United wouldn’t be in the top six right now, let alone the top four. And in comparison to some of the Premier League’s more monolithic goalies, his acrobatic shot-stopping style is enthralling to watch. No wonder Real Madrid want to sign him this summer.
There’s only two genuine competitors for the right-back role in the TOTY – Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne.
The latter’s role in helping the Saints claim the best defensive record in the league, conceding just 22 in 31, has been so intrinsic that he’s now Roy Hodgson’s first choice at No.2 for the England team. Subsequently, the 24 year-old will likely be poached by one of the Premier League’s top clubs this summer – probably Manchester United.
But purely due to how much Ivanovic has added to his game going forward this term, epitomised by his stunning volley against Aston Villa shown in the video above, whilst maintaining his ever-famed solidity at the back, we’ve given the Serbian international the nod over the Saints star.
Few right-backs in world football contribute four goals and four assists to their team’s cause as Ivanovic has done this season, let alone one who measures in at above 6 foot and is now on the wrong side of 30.
Southampton needed representation somewhere in the TOTY backline so we’ve gone for almost ever-present skipper Jose Fonte.
Summer loan signing Toby Alderweireld has produced some fantastic performances alongside the Portuguese, whilst Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann, West Ham’s James Tomkins and Manchester United’s Phil Jones all deserve an honourable mention.
But Fonte’s missed just one game this season and has been the binding, orchestrate glue of the best back four in the Premier League – once again, boasting that record of 22 conceded in 31.
It’s the 31 year-old’s consistency that’s stood out the most, averaging an impressive 2.1 tackles, 3.1 interceptions, 5.4 clearances and 1.6 successful aerial duels per match.
Proving that age is just a number and knees are just the bits that connect your legs to your thighs, John Terry’s ability to laugh in the face of retirement and his crumbling leg joints made him one of the most obvious picks for the TOTY.
Despite reaching 34 years of age, he’s still easily one of the Premier League’s, if not Europe’s, best centre-halves, dominating that near-post zone with impeccable imperiousness, and has been streets ahead of Manchester City and Arsenal counter-parts Vincent Kompany and Laurent Koscielny this term.
Miraculously, the former England international has featured in every second of Chelsea’s Premier League campaign thus far.
In-form left-backs have been rather thin on the ground this year. Leighton Baines has popped up with eight assists but the England international is plagued by his synonymy with Everton’s attrotious defensive record, Manchester City duo Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolorov haven’t been up to much and Luke Shaw’s Manchester United career is still waiting to take off, whilst Arsenal duo Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs have chopped and changed throughout the campaign.
One could point to Ryan Bertrand, another Southampton representative, or West Ham summer signing Ryan Cresswell, whose attacking ambition has added a whole new dynamic to the Hammers starting XI.
But we’re going with Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta for one simple reason – have you ever actually seen a winger come anywhere close to dominating the Spain international this season?
It’s made all the more impressive considering he spends his time sitting behind Eden Hazard, a somewhat laissez-faire winger when it comes to defending, whilst keeping summer signing Filipe Luis, easily the best full-back in Europe during 2013/14, out of the Chelsea starting XI for the entire season.
Another unanimous verdict; although Cesc Fabregas’ influence in the Chelsea starting Xi has petered out somewhat over the last few months, it’s impossible to ignore his incredible haul of 16 assists – the second-most of any player in Europe’s five leading top flights after Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne.
His three chances created per match is also the strongest average in the Premier League this season and overall, the Spain international has provided vital technical quality, fluidity and vision to an otherwise functional Chelsea side.
In comparison to Cesc Fabregas, the second central midfield slot in the PFA TOYT is a little more open to interpretation.
Jordan Henderson, for example, has stood out in a Liverpool side lacking world-class quality, boasting six goals and seven assists in 29 Premier League starts. Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin has only further enhanced the reputation he’s built during the last two seasons and this year has averaged the second-most tackles per match of any Premier League player. And Manchester United’s improved form from November onward coincided with the return to fitness of Michael Carrick.
But we’ve gone with yet another Chelsea star, Nemanja Matic, for one predominant reason – the Blues have lost just one Premier League fixture with him in their starting Xi this year, compared to their one defeat in their two league games without him.
And he’s very much the glue keeping the rest of the team together; without the monolithic Serbian anchoring the midfield, averaging 3.5 tackles per match this term, it’s unlikely Jose Mourinho would have given Chelsea the licence going forward that saw them rip up teams for fun earlier in the season.
It’s not the role he’s played in this season but we at Football Fancast felt obliged to sneak Santi Cazorla somewhere into the TOTY.
Despite rumours his Arsenal carer could be coming to an inevitable end, the Spain international’s found a new lease of life in the Gunners’ engine room, starting with that incredible Man of the Match performance against Manchester City at the Etihad in January – which, looking back, had a monumental impact on this term’s title race.
Overall, the 30 year-old has claimed seven goals and eight assists in 26 Premier League starts this year, whilst averaging an impressive 2.3 shots, 2.2 created chances and 2.4 successful dribbles per-match.
But there are some honourable mentions FFC feels obliged to discuss. Despite City’s woes this term David Silva enjoyed arguably his most productive season, claiming eleven goals in 25 appearances; Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen has proved his quality with a spate of last-minute winners; and Victor Moses, although lacking in output, has proved a tremendous success at Stoke City.
An unquestionable TOTY selection and the only genuine candidate for this term’s Player of the Year award, Eden Hazard’s role in Chelsea’s (nearly secured) title-winning campaign has affirmed his reputation as the top talent in the Premier League.
His return of twelve goals and seven assists might not seem so almighty, but the Belgium international has become the undisputed focal point of Chelsea’s forward play, with games starting to revolve almost exclusively around him. It’s also worth mentioning nobody in the Premier League has come anywhere close to matching his 4.8 successful dribbles per match this term, whilst he ranks third in chances created.
And whilst other top Premier League stars have endured dips of fitness and form, the 23 year-old’s demonstrated a remarkable consistency, missing all but four minutes of Chelsea’s league campaign.
World-class stars are unfortunately becoming a rare breed in the Premier League, but Hazard firmly belongs in that category.
Alexis Sanchez has proved a fantastic addition to the Premier League since arriving from Barcelona last summer, going on to claim 14 goals and eight assists in his first 28 league outings for Arsenal – making him in some way responsible for 0.8 goals per match.
His form has petered out recently, with only two goals and two assists in his last eight. But ranked fifth for goals, fourth for assists, fourth for created chances per-match and third for successful dribbles per-match, the Chile international’s holistic contribution – especially when combined with his ferocious tenacity – cannot be overstated.
Dependent upon the views of the PFA however, Sanchez could find himself in the midfield rather than the attack, making room for a more recognised centre-forward and likely at the expense of team-mate Santi Cazorla.
Whoever claims the Premier League’s Golden Boot will be included in the PFA Team of the Year – but so will Harry Kane, regardless of what goal total he ends up with this term.
It’s been a mesmerising campaign for the young Tottenham striker, advancing from the peripheries of the squad to the cusp of greatness with 19 Premier League goals in just 21 starts – not to mention scoring eighty seconds into his England debut against Lithuania.
He’s been compared to German World Cup winner Thomas Muller and described as a cross between Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham by Les Ferdinand. In other words, everybody in England thinks the Lilywhites have a real player on their hands and he’s almost certain to walk away, rather comfortably, with the Young Player of the Year award.
Where does that leave Diego Costa and Sergio Augero? Well, the alternative scenario, as previously mentioned, is either one coming in for Santi Cazorla (or maybe Nemanja Matic), with Alexis Sanchez moving into midfield.
But Costa’s season has been ruptured by injury and considering he scored eleven goals in his first ten games for Chelsea, he’s slacked somewhat from November onwards, currently boasting a total of 19.
Likewise, Sergio Augero’s form has come in patches; he put four past Tottenham in October and scored a hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but hasn’t got on the scoresheet when it matters most – recent City defeats to Crystal Palace and Burnley being the predominant examples.