PFA Premier League Player of the Year – The Contenders
With the shortlist and eventual winner not to be announced until next month, we take an early look at the potential candidates for this year’s Premier League Player of the Year award. Of course with the destination of the Premier League trophy far from certain, there is still ample opportunity for a hero to stake an irrevocable claim on this year’s prize, but here are the main contenders as we stand.
Jamie Vardy – Leicester City
Jamie Vardy and Leicester City have undoubtedly been the story of the season. His record breaking feat of scoring in eleven consecutive games back in November was an achievement which grabbed the imagination of the wider public, and his side’s meteoric rise to the top of the Premier League table, one season after being nearly relegated, is the stuff of fairytales. His Whoscored.com rating of 7.52 places him seventh in the division, yet he has scored an unsurpassed 19 goals and also contributed four assists to the cause. A first England cap too for good measure has been the icing on the cake of what will go down as a season to remember for the 29 year old.
Riyad Mahrez – Leicester City
To think that Leicester’s achievements have been driven solely by one man would be a massive disservice to a player who has been a revelation this term. Riyad Mahrez, the Algerian winger signed for a frankly unbelievable £400,000 from Le Havre in January 2015, has contributed 15 goals and 11 assists already, and his Whoscored.com rating of 7.88 cannot be bettered in the Premier League. To put his achievements into context, last year’s player of the year, Eden Hazard, contributed 14 goals and nine assists, securing a rating of 7.93. In the top five European leagues, Mahrez places seventh overall.
Toby Alderweirald – Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur have had a fantastic season to date, and attackers Harry Kane and Dele Alli have grabbed most of the headlines in the process, yet there is one man who can be pinpointed as the true catalyst to Spurs’ unlikely assault on the Premier League title, and the statistics do not lie. Last season, fifth-placed Spurs conceded 53 goals, easily the worst in the top half of the table and a number bettered by Hull City, who were relegated. So far this season, Spurs have conceded 24, making their defence easily the most miserly in the division. The only change in the backline? You guessed it. And with three goals, two assists and a Whoscored.com rating of 7.17 to boot, it’s been a stellar season for the Belgian.
Mesut Ozil – Arsenal
Mesut Ozil has the ability to make the game of football look ridiculously easy, and this season he has revealed himself to be the true assist king of the Premier League. The record for most assists in a single Premier League season is 20, achieved by Arsenal’s Thierry Henry back in 2002/03. So far this season, the classy German has 18 to his name, a number which included a record breaking run of seven consecutive games back in November. Three goals to boot, and a domestic double still in the pipeline, this season could well end up as a massive success for Arsenal fans, and they will have their inspirational playmaker to thank for much of it – as will Olivier Giroud, who has had six of his 12 goals teed up by the Arsenal number 10. Ozil’s Whoscored.com rating of 7.73 places him second only to Mahrez.
Dimitri Payet – West Ham United
This season’s final contender for the prestigious award is a player who was somewhat overlooked in the summer, when his new club signed him for a reported £10m from Marseilles, a fee which now looks like the steal of the season. Bare statistics tell much of the story. His Whoscored.com rating of 7.71 ranks him third behind Mahrez and Ozil, his seven assists bettered only by seven other players, and his eight goals from the centre of the park a number which perhaps only two other bona fide attacking midfield players can claim to beat. Yet it is the glorious style and swagger of Payet’s play that has truly won the hearts of West Ham fans and neutral admirers alike, and his side’s rise to sixth in the table, only a point off the Champions League places, can truly be stated as a homage to Payet’s game changing ability.
By: Steve Paget