As expected, there has been a mixed reaction to the announcement of the PFA player and young player of the year shortlists. I’ll be looking at whether the selection is is a good representation of this year’s competition, and investigating whether the inclusion of players such as Carrick and Welbeck is really justifiable, considering the absence of the prolific Michu, and young defender Nastasic.
Player of the year shortlist:
1 – Gareth Bale
It would be a brave man who argued with this nomination; Bale has set the Premier League on fire this year in a way that hasn’t been seen since the departure of Ronaldo in 2009. With 17 Premier League goals this season making him the third highest goalscorer, at times Bale has single-handedly dragged Spurs to victory with some excellent solo goals, and Tottenham have notably struggled in his absence. For the good of the Premier League, we can only hope that he resists the allure of a glamorous overseas move.
2 – Robin van Persie
Once again, this choice is a no-brainer. Despite a recent goal drought, RVP is still the second highest Premier League goalscorer this season with 21 goals to his name. It’s been suggested that he has been the difference between the two Manchester sides this season, and this was proven to be the case in the Manchester derby at the Etihad earlier in the season, as his last minute free-kick saw United steal a narrow 3-2 victory over their rivals. He has had a clinical season in his first year at Old Trafford, and well deserves the nomination.
3 – Luis Suarez
As the top scorer thus far in the 2012-13 season, Suarez has gone from strength to strength at Liverpool. His attitude on the pitch is flawless, regardless of his poor disciplinary record off the pitch. He chases down every single ball, and works tirelessly for his side. He has been rewarded for his hard work with 22 goals in the Premier League this season, and deserves his nomination.
4 – Eden Hazard
Hazard made an excellent start to his Chelsea career, with a scintillating performance in the Community Shield against Man City. However, with all the turmoil at Stamford Bridge this season, he has hardly been consistent despite flashes of brilliance. He is an excellent player with a bright future, but player of the year? Not for me.
5 – Juan Mata
Hazard’s Chelsea counterpart, on the other hand, has had an exceptional season. With the most assists in the Premier League this year, Mata has been the puppeteer at Chelsea, pulling the strings in their attack and offering consistency at a club where stability is severely lacking in its management.
6 – Michael Carrick
For the casual spectator, this may seem an odd choice. Indeed, many are furious at this player’s inclusion in the nominations at the expense of some other players who have performed exceptionally well, often at much smaller clubs. That said, anybody who has watched United play regularly this season will know what an impact Carrick has had behind the scenes. His passing has been exquisite, and his defensive work superb; in fact, he has made 2,442 passes this season with a completion rate of 88%. I for one am delighted that not all the nominations were taken up by attacking players, as is so easily done.
Who missed out?
The notable absence from this list is newcomer to the Premier League, Michu. He has had an outstanding season for Swansea, helping them to their respectable league position and to winning the Capital One Cup. His achievements, in my mind, should not have been overlooked. At fourth highest scorer in the Premier League, I believe that Michu might well have been value for a nomination.
Young player of the year shortlist:
Bale and Hazard have also received nominations for the young player of the year award. The last player to win both awards in the same season was Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2006-7 season, and both these players will be hoping to follow in his footsteps. Here are the other nominations for young player of the year:
1 – Christian Benteke
A powerhouse in attack, Benteke has muscled his way into this year’s nominations despite being in a struggling Villa side which is still threatened with relegation. A summer move might be beckoning for the young Benteke, who has managed to cement his place in the side at the expense of the experienced goalscorer Darren Bent, and has proved the focal point of Villa’s resistance this year. Performing well in a side which is excelling is difficult; playing well in a struggling side is even more so.
2 – Romelu Lukaku
The big Belgian has excelled in a successful season for West Bromwich Albion, who have outperformed their expectations under the guidance of Steve Clark. Chelsea may well have regretted loaning him out this season, as they initially struggled without powerhouse Didier Drogba leading the line. Lukaku may well find himself challenging for a place in the Chelsea side next season. Mind you, it is a brave man who predicts the future of players and managers at Chelsea, under the leadership of the capricious Russian tycoon billionaire, Roman Abramovich. Having said that, there are a lot of young players this year who have excelled, and whether Lukaku can really be placed among the top 5 is questionable.
3 – Danny Welbeck
How? Please will somebody explain to me how he has made it onto this list! In 22 league appearances this season he has scored just one goal. Before you say it, I know that the amount of goals scored doesn’t qualify a good season. However, Welbeck’s performances have not been consistently brilliant, and when you compare him with others on this list such as Bale and Hazard, you do wonder what went through the mind of the selectors when they decided Welbeck’s season was worthy of a place in the shortlist. Madness.
4 – Jack Wilshere
This young player has all the potential to become a great midfielder for both England and Arsenal. When he has played this season, he has often invigorated Arsenal, proving to be the catalyst for good performances with his excellent vision and passing capabilities. That said, he has had yet another injury struck season, making just 21 appearances thus far in 2012-13. His performances have also been hindered by his injuries, and I personally think that there are other, more deserving players who could have been included over Wilshere this season.
Who missed out?
It is such a shame not to see a defender anywhere in these nominations. Once again, the goal-scorers have grabbed the attention of the selectors, as is so easily done. I would argue that, for a young player, being a consistent defender is a much harder task. It is for that reason that I believe Man City’s young Serbian defender Matija Nastasic was more than deserving of a nomination, if not the award itself.
The whole selection feels lazy, as though no real thought as been put into it. The same big names have been recycled again, with Welbeck and Wilshere featuring despite not having standout seasons. I feel that some players have been overlooked simply for being at smaller clubs, and therefore bring in the limelight less often. What about Adam Lallana? A Southampton academy graduate, he resisted the temptation of a bigger club, unlike Walcott and Bale, and has admirably battled up with Southampton from League 1. He has been excellent in the Premier League this year, and I would’ve at least considered him for a nomination.
Other names that spring to mind include Swansea’s Ben Davies, Southampton’s 17 year old defender Luke Shaw, Steven N’Zonzi of Stoke, and Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling. Indeed, Sterling was voted the best young player in the Premier League in the manager’s poll, garnering over 50% of the votes. I would certainly have at least considered some of these names ahead of Welbeck and Wilshere.
Who would I have picked
I am in agreement with many of the choices made by the selectors, but a few choices have left me scratching my head. Here is my shortlist in response, and the most deserving winner of each award in my mind:
Player of the year
Robin Van Persie
Winner: Gareth Bale
Young player of the year
Winner: Gareth Bale
As much as I hate awarding both prizes to the same player, what we have witnessed from Bale this season has been nothing short of legendary. He has scored some memorable solo goals, and I honestly believe that he is the best the Premier League has had since Ronaldo’s departure in 2009. What impresses me most about him is his attitude. He often stays behind after training to practise his free-kicks, and it was great to see that practice bear fruit. I am no doubt not alone in hoping that he remains in the Premier League for as long as possible, so we can continue to witness his growth as a player, and his superb ability for goal-scoring.