As always at this time of the year, half of the football-supporting public are beginning to form their opinions on who the season’s best players have been. Of course, the other half are loudly complaining about how preposterous it is to be discussing the topic with a fifth of the season still to play.
But with the PFA Awards due to be held later this month, the players are already being balloted on who they think should win Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and the 11 spots in the Team of the Year.
So if the players are doing their voting now, so should we.
Here’s my personal team of the year, in the champions-to-be Man City’s 4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1 hybrid formation.
GK: Nick Pope
Many will be clamouring here for David De Gea or Ederson, however what Nick Pope has managed to achieve this season between the sticks for Burnley is astonishing.
Drafted into the first team in early September to replace the injured Tom Heaton, Pope has managed to keep 10 clean sheets in 28 matches and has only conceded more than one goal in a match on four occasions.
He’s been the rock that Burnley have built their brilliant season on.
RB: Kyle Walker
He’s been the best right-back in the league for a while now, but following his big-money move to City there were questions about whether he could justify the £50m transfer fee.
To his credit he’s stepped it up this season by adding a more intricate passing game to his armoury. Combined with his blistering pace and stamina up and down the right wing, there hasn’t been another right-back that’s gotten close to him.
CB: James Tarkowski
Another rock at the heart of Burnley’s stout defence, the former Oldham Athletic man deservedly received his England debut against Italy last week.
Having being promoted to the first team to replace Michael Keane, the 25-year-old has exceeded expectations and indeed exceeded Keane’s own magnificent performances from last year.
If you want a ball cleared, there’s no better man than Tarkowski.
CB: Jan Vertonghen
He lost his partner-in-crime Toby Alderweireld to injury fairly early in the campaign, but to his credit it hasn’t affected his performance one bit.
The Belgian has been at his imperious best this season using his intelligence, passing and hunger for a tackle to cause fits for opposition strikers. He’s also been invaluable in helping his new 21-year-old partner Davison Sanchez settle right in beside him.
LB: Ben Davies
Probably the toughest position to pick this year, with no outstanding candidate. This slot could have gone to Andrew Robertson if he’d played a bit more but I’m going to give it to Ben Davies who’s gone up a level.
With six assists and two goals the Welshman has done the improbable by keeping a fit-again Danny Rose on the bench and locking down a slot in the Spurs backline. His passing and positioning in forward areas have been impressive, while he’s been cool and composed in defense.
DM: Abdoulaye Doucouré
Fernandinho has been invaluable to City’s record breaking season, but Doucouré has almost single-handedly dragged a mediocre Watford team to mid-table safety.
His all-action style has contributed an average of 2.2 tackles, 1.5 interceptions, 1.5 clearances and 1.4 dribbles per 90 minutes, yet somehow the 25-year-old Malian has also found the time to be Watford’s top scorer with seven goals.
Don’t be surprised if you see his name pop up as a target for the big boys over the summer months.
MF: Kevin De Bruyne
Without a doubt the player of the season for me. De Bruyne has almost redefined the role of the nominal eight with the trust of Guardiola. We’ve always known he could pass a ball, but the range and audacity he’s shown this year has been ludicrous.
He leads the league in assists with 15, but perhaps the most important factor in his brilliance has been the ease in which he’s moved back to a slightly deeper role in City’s setup.
A pleasure to witness.
MF: David Silva
Aging like the finest of wines. The diminutive Spaniard has ducked, weaved and danced through defences like they weren’t even there. His partnership with De Bruyne has been one of the highlights of the season and at 32 he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down yet.
The league’s best 10.
RF: Mohamed Salah
What is there left to say about the exhilarating Egyptian? On course to break the league’s single-season goal scoring record, his 29 goals have embarrassed defenders time and time again as he finds pockets of space to run at and through.
One of the most impressive aspects of his play has been his sheer relentlessness, he’s barely had a poor game all season and has looked a perpetual threat. Comparisons are being made with Messi due to his dribbling style, but to me Salah is more reminiscent of a prime Cristiano Ronaldo. Pace, power and the intelligence to always find himself in the right spot to score.
LF: Leroy Sané
In my mind the most terrifying player in the league, and a future Ballon d’Or winner. With electrifying pace, silky feet and the game-awareness to get his head up and find a man, the young German must leave opposition full-backs waking up in sweats.
With nine goals and 11 assists already this season, the winger will surely pick up the Young Player of the Year award too.
CF: Harry Kane
Still the best and most complete centre forward in the Premier League. Although hampered by injuries and his now traditional slow start, the striker has still managed to pick up 24 goals in 29 appearances.
He’s added a new level of physicality to his game this year and is now more than capable of bullying opposition defences on his own, while his hold-up play and long range passing have been a sight to behold.
Ederson, Otamendi, Robertson, Fernandinho, Eriksen, Sterling, Firmino.
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