PFA Player of the Year Candidates: Who Deserves it?

Eden Hazard

The Belgian international is one league goal away from making this his highest-scoring season since arriving in England. He’s been outstanding this campaign and has certainly played a big part in guiding Chelsea to their fourth league title and Conte’s first in English football.

He was voted the PFA player of the year in Chelsea’s victorious 14/15 campaign in which the Blues effectively strolled to the title with little resistance, and it would be anything but ridiculous to suggest the player has gone up another level since then.

The season after, Hazard disappeared, as did all of the Chelsea players. It is certainly an unwanted blotch on his Chelsea CV, but it could be quite reasonably argued that his stale performances were down to a loss of ability. As proved to be the case, it was the manager in charge, current United boss Mourinho, that had been a key factor in many of the players’ dip in form.

If Real Madrid managed to pry Hazard from Conte, it would take some doing to replace him. He said recently that he was happy at Chelsea, and it’s safe to assume similar sentiments will be uttered by the Belgian from now until the end of the season, when he is likely to have yet another Premier League medal around his neck.

In all fairness, what else would he, could he say when asked about his future?

Chance of winning: 7/10

 

Harry Kane

The Tottenham forward is just one league goal away from reaching his own personal milestone: should he net again (which could easily happen this weekend against Bournemouth where he is likely to return to the starting eleven) it will mark three consecutive Premier League seasons in which he has managed a total of twenty goals or more.

It’s been another remarkable season for Kane, but also for Tottenham. It’s unbelievable the job Pochettino has done with this team and the club as a whole since taking over. If you had been told three years ago that for the next two Premier League campaigns, Tottenham would be the closest challengers to the title favourites, you would have probably enjoyed a nice hearty chuckle.

Harry Kane has been the beating heart of this rise. If Pochettino wants to continue to build on the club’s ambitions, keeping Kane at the club is of top priority. Sure, during his recent injury spell, Tottenham refused to crumble, with other players such as Son and certainly Deli Alli stepping up and proving that this team is anything but a one-man side.

But with Kane in the side, holding up play, finding the correct positions and scoring some outstanding goals, Spurs are a real force.

The title is yet to be won this season, albeit it could be decided should Chelsea beat United on Sunday, but Tottenham have been the only other team this season who have shown any real consistency and will to catch the leaders up. Harry Kane deserved all the plaudits he will undoubtedly get.

Chance of winning: 8/10

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

There is no doubt that Ibra has been United’s best player this season. With United lacking a prolific forward for the last couple of years, Zlatan has come in and done his part in a side that is not enjoying a massively successful season under Mourinho.

At thirty-six years of age, the Swede has proved all doubters and sceptics wrong. He has scored seventeen goals in the Premier League, twenty-eight in total; a remarkable return for a player who many saw as possibly on the wane and not up to another season in a top European league.

The issue with Ibra has been the number of games he has gone quiet, where he has had very little impact going forward and essentially been anonymous. He is certainly the kind of player who can pop up out of no where to produce a bit of magic, but the problem is that United, and Mourinho, need a striker who can have more say in games.

This is not to dump all blame on Zlatan however. United have managed to draw twelve games in the league so far, more than any other team, and that is down to an regularly mis-firing front line, with other players besides Zlatan being at fault.

The reason Zlatan will not win the PFA player of the year is simply down to the fact that he has exceeded most people’s expectations, but the trouble is those expectations were rather low to begin with.

However, this is not at all to downgrade his efforts this season; he has been tremendous and without him, it’s worrying from a United fan’s perspective where the team would be without his goals.

Chance of winning: 7/10

 

Romelu Lukaku

As the Premier League’s current top scorer, the big Belgian, still in his early twenties and with more yet to learn about his craft, Lukaku has propelled himself to being one of the best strikers in the country.

He is a nightmare for defenders, most of whom he can bully with ease, pulling them all over the field and allowing space for the likes of Barkley and Mirallas. But his finishing is his finest tool. He has bagged twenty-three goals this season, a record high for him in England.

One major criticism of Lukaku is that he does tend to go quiet in a number of games in which he is desperately needed, notably in games against bigger teams. He’s scored twice in two games against Man City, and once against Spurs, a game which they lost. Apart from that, Lukaku has failed to score in any other games against sides in the top six, and they only have Chelsea left to play in that bracket.

With the PFA player of the season accolade normally given to a player of a top four team or that of the eventual champions, it’s difficult to see Lukaku picking up the award, even if he ends up as top scorer.

However, his efforts certainly will not go unnoticed, and it will be interesting to see whether Koeman and the Everton owner can convince Lukaku to stay in Merseyside for at least one more season.

Chance of winning: 6/10

 

Alexis Sanchez

If there was an award handed out to players who have looked like the only ones who give a damn amongst their under-performing teammates, then Sanchez would be a top candidate.

He has been Arsenal’s best player this season, but in the last month or two, even he has dropped off the boil a tad. This could be massively worrying for fans, as he was their last hope in regards to maintaining a top four spot. But, in light of recent results, just snatching a top four place surely is not enough to save what has been an ultimately negative season for the Gunners.

In the last eight league games, Sanchez has scored three goals and provided two assists.

It is hard to see how the Chilean could sign a new contract and remain at Arsenal, especially if Wenger decides to stick around. Not to delve too much into the subject, but Arsenal are only going backwards under Wenger, and for a player of Sanchez’s ability and hunger, a move away has to be the call.

You don’t win the PFA award for carrying a team through a terribly mediocre campaign. You deserve heaps of credit and recognition, but Sanchez has his teammates and manager to thank for not being more competitive this season.

Chance of winning: 4/10

 

 

N’Golo Kante

The only downside to Kante’s incredible overall performance this season is that he may not be around for too long.

It’s difficult to imagine the likes of Real Madrid not coming in for the French midfielder, and it is even more difficult to imagine a scenario where Kante would be able to say no and remain at Stamford Bridge.

He has gone from the unsung hero at Leicester who helped them on the way to a historic league win, to the player who in most people’s eyes has been Chelsea’s most important player this season and will for the second year in a row be an integral part of a league-winning side.

He has been many people’s shout for player of the year for a while now. Other names crop up for sure, but no one has had a bigger influence on a side, been a more important asset than N’Golo Kante.

It will be a most refreshing thing should Kante win PFA player of the year. It would remind a lot of people that football is by no means all about scoring goals.

With the Ballon D’or for the last ten years been only concerned with handing the prestigious award to players whose main achievement has been in the goal-scoring department, Kante’s triumph would also serve to puncture a hole in this current climate in which the under-appraisal of defenders and midfielders is commonplace and the over-appraisal of goalscorers is rife.

Kante deserves this award because he has upped his game, he has stepped up another level in his performances. We all knew how good a player he had been for Leicester once the title was theirs. He then made the move to Chelsea, where he has been even better and announced himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe.

As well as that, the Frenchman will probably be challenging for league titles and competing in the Champions League for the rest of his career.

Chance of winning: 10/10

 

DAVID NEWMAN