As we approach the last phase of the Premiership season, it’s time once again for us to consider who have been the players that have captured our eye this year in an enthralling season of football.
The defence of Manchester United has been almost infallible this season. Liverpool have finally become title challengers. Aston Villa have pushed Arsenal all the way for a Champions League spot. Elsewhere Hull City enjoyed a fantastic start to the season. Wigan and Fulham have gone from relegation candidates last year to challenging for a Europa Cup spot.
Looking at the odds given today by most bookmakers, Steven Gerrard is sitting as favourite to claim the accolade. After the Liverpool talisman we have Nemanja Vidic, who has been a rock at the heart of Manchester United’s defence this year. He is joined by club mates Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Edwin Van Der Saar as potential suitors for the PFA trophy.
Ashley Young has enjoyed a rich vein of from this season for Aston Villa. Nicolas Anelka enjoyed a great start to the season, scoring freely under the now departed Luis Scolari. Another candidate is Stephen Ireland who has been Manchester City’s best player this year when their big stars have failed to perform.
Steven Gerrard has once again been inspirational for Liverpool this season. In a season where Fernando Torres has suffered from consistent injuries, Gerrard has grabbed Liverpool by the scruff of the neck and put them in a position to still challenge Manchester United for the Premier League. The ‘PFA Player of the Year 2006’ has chipped in with 13 goals from midfield. His performances have been magnificent, and has had many ex footballers and pundits hailing him as the best player in the world.
His central midfield partner, Xabi Alonso is also one of the front runners for the award. Last summer it seemed he was heading out of Anfield to Juventus, Arsenal or Real Madrid. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez preferred Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry over the stylish Spaniard midfielder. Yet, Alonso remained at the club and he has been Liverpool’s most consistent performer this season. With a point to prove to the manager he has hardly put a foot wrong. His vision and passing has been second to none.
It’s ironic that before Liverpool’s demolishing of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Nemanja Vidic was the favourite to claim the title. However he was embarrassed that day, as Torres tormented him throughout the game. Taking away that one poor performance though and Vidic is a suitable candidate to win the award. He has held United defence together, when they have been missing key players at right back and centre back. He was key to United’s record breaking 12 game clean sheet. Since he arrived in England three years ago, he has gone from strength to strength and is now rightly considered as one of the best defenders in the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo, winner of the award in 2007 and 2008, is in the running to claim it for a third year running but it seems unlikely. His form this season has been patchy. After the annual summer of flirting with Real Madrid, his looked liked he’d lost the heart to play for Manchester United when the season kicked off. However he has contributed 13 goals to United’s title push, and has performed well since, and majority of bookmakers have him at third favourite to hold onto the trophy.
Edwin Van De Sar and Ryan Giggs have also been touted as potential winners of the trophy. Van De Sar has been solid as ever in goal for Manchester United and like Vidic, was ever present throughout their record-breaking sequence. Giggs has been revitalised this season. Despite starting only nine of the 29 games he has played this season, he has been impressive for Manchester United scoring one goal with his experience proving vital for United.
Elsewhere Nicolas Anelka thrived on his regular starting role at Chelsea. Under Scolari he started to justify his expensive price tag, banging in plenty of goals for the London club. But recently with the departure of Scolari and the arrival of Hiddink, Anelka’s goals have dried up. The return to form of Drogba and the recent toe injury has jeopardised his starting place. Had he continued his fantastic start to the season throughout the second half then he would undoubtedly be one of the front runners to bring the trophy home.
Ashley Young has had an electric season. Clearly one of the hottest prospects in English football right now, his pace and crossing abilities have set games alight and thrilled the Aston Villa faithful. He has been instrumental to Villa’s push for a Champions League push. He has scored 5 times and has plenty of assists to his name. Such are the quality of his performances this season that England manager Fabio Capello saw fit to hand him his first start against Spain. He might not claim the senior title but he should be considered one of the favourites for the ‘PFA Young Player of the Year’.
Manchester City have endured a turbulent season. But one of the positive aspects that has come out of this campaign for them has to be the maturing of Stephen Ireland into one of the Premierships brightest talents. While big names like Robinho have taken all the limelight at the City Of Manchester Stadium, but yet not produced consistently, Ireland has done a quiet but effective job. With ten goals from midfield and countless more assists along with Young, he may miss out on the main accolade, but stands a great chance of picking up the Young Player of the Year award.
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