PFA Young Player of the Year

Following from my look at the PFA Player nominees, here is my look at the Young Player nominees! Now, shout outs this time though unfortunately!

Thibaut Courtois – Chelsea

At the age of 22 Courtois has managed to dislodge Chelsea’s former number one and in my opinion the best goalkeeper of the Premier League in Petr Cech. He is one of a handful of goalkeepers who are challenging Manuel Neuer as the world’s best and I feel that the Belgian is Neuer’s closest rival in terms of not just his ability, but also his potential.

Courtois came straight into the Chelsea team this season after several excellent seasons and showings on loan at Atletico Madrid where he made his name as one of the world’s most promising stoppers. Aside from his incredible shot-stopping ability and athleticism, Courtois’ mental ability and composure help put confidence into the back four in front of him, as well as his imposing 6″ 6 frame.

David De Gea – Manchester United

The first of four players who are on the Young Player of Year shortlist as well as the Player of the Year shortlist, as well as being the second goalkeeper on the list. To read my full inspection into De Gea’s inclusion then read my bit on him in the PotY shortlist review. The one part I will say here is the Spanish internationals performances this season are the only set which have not been consistently scapegoated by United fans, a testament to the amazing season De Gea has had, he is a lot of the reason why United occupy such a high spot in the table.

Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur

This seems to be the year where all the young players take over the Player of the Year category as well, with Harry Kane being the second on this shortlist to occupy a place in both lists and personally he is my favourite to pick up the Young Player award. Kane’s surge to prominence has been a shining light ins dull season for Tottenham who are battling for a Europa League spot as a much-coveted Champions League spot has fallen slightly out of their reach. The question on everyone’s lips will be if the 21-year-old can replicate his excellent form over the coming seasons.

Phillipe Coutinho – Liverpool

If people doubted that Coutinho deserved a place on the Player of the Year shortlist then. His inclusion in the Young Player of the Year shortlist can’t be in question. The Brazilian has been one of two Liverpool players who have been consistently excellent over the course of the season (Jordan Henderson being the other) and who can really hold their heads high despite overall team disappointment. Coutinho will be another hoping to kick-on next season and really make an impact in the Premier League and try and push his team if not to a title then a Champions League spot.

Raheem Sterling – Liverpool

Finally, another player who is only up for the Young Player of the Year award. After a blistering start to the campaign, carrying on his form from last season, Sterling needed to have a break and after the 20-year-old winger returned to action we saw much of the exciting play return with him and he was back to his best, interchanging with his team-mates as part of an exciting Liverpool attack.

Sterling has returned his best-ever goals tally so far of his career this season netting 11 so far. Despite contract talks stalling and wage demands becoming astronomical there is no doubt in my mind that Liverpool would prefer to keep Sterling, who if he can keep his feet on the ground will have an excellent career and Liverpool will want to come to some sort of compromise to keep the prospect.

Eden Hazard – Chelsea

The Belgian is the last player on the list, he however is also up for both awards. He is my favourite and the bookies favourite to pick up the Player of the Year award with Spurs striker Kane being the favourite to pick up the Young Player award. But don’t be surprised after his best season so far in West London if Hazard picks up both gongs like Gareth Bale in 2012-13.

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PFA Player of the Year nominations and David Luiz

Firstly I’m going to start off by giving a shout out to David Luiz. It is not your fault that PSG decided to fork out a monumentally stupid sum of money on you, man. It meant Jose Mourinho and Chelsea were laughing their way to the bank, €50 million wasn’t it? Even so, when Luiz has a defensive rock like John Terry or Thiago Silva next to him he has the heart of a roaring lion, it goes with his permy mane of hair that envelops his cranium, a cranium where defensive knowledge and solidity doesn’t seem to inhabit. Now I like Luiz, I think he’s a good footballer but defensively he can be so slack. With Germany, Luis Suarez and Barcelona being the most notable beneficiaries of such mistakes. Suarez loves a nutmeg on the poor guy doesn’t he?

Now onto the real business; PFA Player of the Year nominations, and here’s my take on them:

Diego Costa – Chelsea

The Spaniard arrived at Stamford Bridge at the start of the season with a rough reputation and equally as high expectations. But his goalscoring exploits and all-round play have more than justified the hefty price that Chelsea paid for him. His strong and robust style of play have helped the Brazilian-born frontman in the Premier League with a lot of opposition players also trying to get under his skin, but Costa has risen above any negativity drawn towards him and scored goals for his new club.

His great start to the season saw him combine with fellow new signing Cesc Fabregas to devastating effect. He scored seven goals in his first four games and now currently stands on 18 in 22 in the league, which looks set to have contributed to firing Chelsea to their first league title since 2010.

Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur

21-year-old Kane has had an incredible breakthrough season in his first full season in the Tottenham first-team. He was initially restricted to cup and Europa League games but his good goalscoring form saw him usurp Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor and demand a place in Spurs starting 11 where his rise to prominence has been a shining light in a mediocre season for Tottenham. 

He is currently the joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League with 20 goals and he became the first Spurs player to get 30 goals in a season in all competitions since Gary Linekar in 1991-92. His fine form was recognised with a call-up to the senior England national team where he scored on his debut after 79 seconds of being on the pitch after coming on as a substitute.

Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal

The Chilean winger joined from Barcelona in the summer for a fee of £35million, making him Arsenal’s second most expensive signing ever. After being a consistently good player for Barcelona and Chile (especially during the World Cup) there were initial doubts as to whether Sanchez could adapt to the Premier League but he quickly dispelled any doubts by producing moments and goals of class and ingenuity for Arsenal consistently over the course of the season.

Sanchez’s work-rate and determination are just as vital in his repertoire as his South American flair.  It is these traits which have endeared him to Arsenal fans just as much as his 22 goals in 45 games in all competitions this season. 

Eden Hazard – Chelsea

Personally, I think Hazard is the favourite for the Player of the Year crown and it’s a long-time coming as it’s the second time in a row he has been nominated. He is the current holder of the PFA Young Player of the Year award and has been the main component in Chelsea’s title chase.

He’s a vital part in the fluid attacking unit that Chelsea possess with his brilliant dribbling skills, balance and touch which have helped him wreak havoc among defences this season. He has scored 18 goals in 45 appearances in all competitions this season as well as laying on heaps of assists for his Chelsea team-mates. In my opinion he has consistently been the best and most exciting player in the Premier League this season and him winning Player of the Year would be a just reward for his efforts.

David De Gea – Manchester United

The Spaniard used to be a scapegoat for Man United’s failings but his talent and potential was never in doubt. After a bad start to his career in England he is now regarded as one of the best goalkeepers not just in the Premier League but in the world.

The Red Devils had a poor start to the season by their high standards and many fans were rightfully frustrated with the team. Even when they did manage to win fans were still disappointed with their play, one player they were never disappointed with was De Gea. He has produced countless match-winning saves and on occasion looked unbeatable between the sticks and is one of the main reasons why United sit so pretty where their early and mid-season form suggested they wouldn’t be so well off.

Phillipe Coutinho – Liverpool

The 22-year-old playmaker has been a controversial inclusion in the shortlist but he is in the shortlist nonetheless and there are obvious reasons as to why. He has been a standout member of the Liverpool team this season producing brilliant goals and moments while consistently playing well to help their push for a coveted Champions League spot.

Countinho’s pace, vision and dribbling skills have allowed him to influence games like no other Liverpool player has been able to do. He has produced important goals in big games and has really stepped up in the eyes of not just Liverpool fans but his Premier League peers as well, which despite the disagreements as to whether he should be in the shortlist or not, justifies his inclusion.

Top ten most disappointing players in 2014/15 – Premier League

Here is my list of ten players who great things were expected of this season but they’ve failed to deliver.

1) Yaya Toure – Manchester City

Last season the Ivorian powerhouse was a key factor in City winning their second Premier League title. He scored 20 goals in the league campaign, only the second midfielder ever to do so, and was shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award. He was also included in the PFA Team of the Year as he helped guide City to the league crown, having his highest scoring season in the process with 24 goals in all competitions.

This season, Toure has disappointed City fans with his lackadaisical approach to matches, he has only scored nine goals all season but his impact in games has faded away from the dominance he has had in previous seasons. In the Manchester derby he registered just over 11 kilometres travelled in the game which was the fourth highest of everyone on the pitch, the problem for City and Toure was the slow, lumbering pace at which he travelled. 

2) Adnan Januzaj – Manchester United

Last season Januzaj was one of United’s best players but in all honesty I think he was such a phenomenon because of the Red Devils, quite frankly, awful season. Januzaj scored four goals in his first full season in the first team but it was his exciting play which made the fans buzz about their new teenage sensation. A brace in a 2-1 win away to Sunderland in his first start gave Januzaj the confidence to express himself in what was a new era without Sir Alex Ferguson and he certainly gave the United fans hope.

Summer signings of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera and the emergence of fellow Belgian Marouane Fellaini in the United squad have limited 20-year-old Januzaj’s chances and his appearances to just 18 so far this season, mostly from the bench, and he has notched no goals. His off-the-boil performances have been questionable, just like his ability to stay on his feet as his tendency to dive has given him a reputation among opposition teams, fans and match officials. He has picked up four yellow cards for diving in his short career so far, the same amount of first-team goals he has scored.

3) Tim Howard – Everton

The American international had a good season in 2013/14 which is what he has become renowned for since his move to Everton, steady if unspectacular. He has kept over 100 clean sheets for Everton and was just two games short of Neville Southall’s record of 212 consecutive Premier League in 2013; he accumulated 210 consecutive appearances which dated back to 2007 and he was behind the third-best Premier League defence last term. Howard’s real excellence came in the World Cup where he broke the record for most saves made in a World Cup match with 15, in a 2-1 loss to Belgium.

Evertonians would have hoped that Howard would have come back from the World Cup in fine form continuing from his quarter-final heroics and last season’s consistency. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case as several high-profile mistakes, injury problems and only keeping four clean sheets mean that Howard has failed to deliver for the Toffees. At 36 years old, Everton may start thinking about a replacement for their stalwart.

4) Per Mertesacker – Arsenal

The BFG (you know what it stands for) was in good form last season, forming an excellent partnership with Laurent Koscielny. His influence was cited as a factor behind Arsenal’s excellent start to the season and he was club captain in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta. Mertesacker was an essential part of Arsenal’s defence as they kept the joint most clean sheets in the league, conceding the fourth least amount of goals. Mertesacker also went to the World Cup with Germany and returned a world champion.

Mertesacker’s form this season has been less than convincing, his early season form saw people question his ability and assume a World Cup hangover. His poor form lately has seen him briefly replaced by January signing Gabriel Paulista to ease the pressure on the 30-year-old German’s shoulders. Some Arsenal fans have called for Mertesacker to be sold at the end of the season as his shortcomings this season have often led to Arsenal conceding goals and invaluable points.

5) Dejan Lovren – Liverpool

The Croatian centre back had an outstanding season last year with Southampton after signing from Lyon, even scoring the winning goal at Anfield against Liverpool in a 2-1 win. His partnership with Jose Fonte was one of the most impressive in the league and he was the fifth highest ranked player from the Premier League in 31st position in Bloomberg Sports’ Power 50 list.

Lovren moved to Liverpool after much speculation about his future, becoming the third player to move from Southampton and Liverpool in the summer transfer window. He cost Liverpool £20million and Liverpool must have wished they bought Fonte instead after some questionable performances from Lovren who instead of being the commanding, no-nonsense centre back to replace Daniel Agger has made some high-profile errors which have compounded Liverpool’s struggles at the back this season.

6) Rio Ferdinand – QPR

After leaving Manchester United last summer following a 12-year stint at Old Trafford where he forged a name as one of the best centre backs of the Premier League era, not to mention becoming one of the most decorated centre backs too winning honours including six Premier League titles, one FA Cup and a Champions League. His contract expired with the Red Devils and he moved to QPR where he was expected to give some high-level experience at the heart of a defence that was expected to be shaky.

Ferdinand’s season has been awful and he has looked every bit of his 36 years of age. He has had a couple of spells out injured and his partnership with Steven Caulker was meant to be a successful one but it had been anything but with QPR languishing in an around the relegation zone for most of the season. Ferdinand also announced in October 2014 that he expects to retire at the end of the season. 

7) Mario Balotelli – Liverpool

The Ghanian-born Italian has always been able to show his talent at past teams and there’s no doubting his ability but there have always been question marks over his attitude and discipline. In his time at AC Milan, Balotelli went through a streak of scoring 12 goals in 13 games, he also started off his time with AC by scoring four goals in three appearances equaling Oliver Bierhoff’s record. Balotelli’s form with Italy was also good in this time giving him many suitors across Europe.

Balotelli signed for Liverpool for £16million and was expected to help fill the boots of the departing Luis Suarez but the 24-year-olds past problems have caught up with him again with his attitude and work-ethic being called into question many times. He has only scored four goals in 21 appearances, with just one of those coming in the league; even that took him 13 appearances.

8) Elaquim Mangala – Manchester City

24-year-old French centre-back Mangala was bought for £31.8million, making him the second most expensive defender in Premier League history and a lot was expected of the Frenchman after he shone at FC Porto, winning consecutive Primeira Liga titles. Reported interest stemmed from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City before the blue half of Manchester pipped any would be rivals to the signature of the promising defender.

Mangala’s City career started well with a performance described by BBC Sport as “colossal” against title rivals Chelsea on his debut. However, six days later against Hull he conceded a penalty and scored an own goal and his performances have disappointed the City faithful ever since. The physically imposing central defender has failed to make much of a positive impact in the first team, failing to permanently hold down a starting spot alongside captain Vincent Kompany.

9) Falcao – Manchester United

When United signed Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco the Premier League stood up and took note of the sleeping giants. For years, the Colombian has been one of European footballs hottest properties; from his time with Porto to his stint in Monaco, the lethal frontman has always scored goals having a scoring record of 155 goals in games in Portugal, Spain and France combined. 

Falcao has endured a torrid time in Manchester having only played 23 games all season and only finding the net four times. His injury troubles have given him lengthy spells on the sidelines and he found himself playing for the under 21s which is a step down from the player who fans thought was going to fire them back to greatness. For £350,000-a-week and a substantial loan fee the fans and the club would have expected more, I can’t see United making his loan move permanent at all, let alone for the fee reported. 

10) Vincent Kompany – Manchester City

Another City player to make it onto my countdown, not very surprising considering their extremely disappointing season so far. Kompany was back to his dominant best last season as he captained City to his, and their, second Premier League crown in three years. He was included in the 2014 Premier League Team of the Year which was a reward for his fine form during the season.

The Belgian has had a season to forget at the heart of the City defence as he has failed to consistently produce the dominant displays which became so synonymous with his style of play. Injuries and inconsistent form from the captain have been replicated across the City squad who have been in and out of form in their attempted defence of their Premier League title and I think Kompany’s form  has personified City’s failings this season; back to their dominant best on occasion, but not often enough.