No shin­ing star in race to be top player in Premier League

Bray People - - SPORT -

IN THE com­ing weeks the Premier League’s Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers' As­so­ci­a­tion Play­ers' Player of the Year will be an­nounced and the race to get the gong is as wide open as Jose Mour­inho’s mouth when asked what he thinks of him­self.

The fact that the awards are non­sen­si­cally staged in April rather than at the end of the sea­son makes it all the more dif­fi­cult to pick a win­ner; es­sen­tially it’s a prize for a player’s per­for­mance in the first half of the sea­son rather than look­ing at the the whole pic­ture.

Most sea­sons there’s maybe one or two stand-out can­di­dates that are head and shoul­ders above their peers, but this year no play­ers have re­ally stamped their class on the sea­son. Maybe it’s symp­to­matic of the league as a whole where the qual­ity in gen­eral has dropped a notch or two from the heady heights of a few years back and there’s been a lev­el­ling out of stan­dards through­out the top flight.

Sev­eral play­ers have had good sea­sons, with­out ever match­ing the stan­dards of pre­vi­ous win­ners, al­though ad­mit­tedly Ryan Giggs re­ceiv­ing the award a cou­ple of years back was more of a life­time achieve­ment award, rather than what he had done on the pitch that year.

Wayne Rooney picked up the ac­co­lade last year and even though Man United were beaten by Chelsea in the ti­tle race few could ar­gue with the choice, given that he al­most sin­gle­hand­edly kept them in the run­ning, al­though if the vot­ing had taken place at the sea­son’s end Di­dier Drogba prob­a­bly could well have won it, as Chelsea won the league and he fin­ished the sea­son as top scorer.

Rooney spent much of the early part of this sea­son hid­ing in the shad­ows af­ter em­bar­rass­ing news­pa­per al­le­ga­tions, try­ing to squeeze as much money out of Man United as pos­si­ble and pil­ing on the pounds, so it’s safe to say he won’t be hang­ing onto his crown this time around, and as for Drogba - the in­cred­i­ble sulk looks like he wants to be as far away from Stam­ford Bridge as pos­si­ble.

The PFA award has been a bit of a Manch­ester United ben­e­fit in re­cent years with Cris­tiano Ron­aldo win­ning it in 2007 and 2008, Ryan Giggs the fol­low­ing sea­son and it was Wayne Rooney’s turn last year, so they’re go­ing for five-in-a-row.

So who are the con­tenders from Old Traf­ford and else­where this time around?

If the award was judged for just a few weeks in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber, Gareth Bale would be a stonewall cer­tainty. The Welsh winger was get­ting praise from all quar­ters, par­tic­u­larly af­ter his stun­ning hat-trick in Mi­lan.

His re­cent in­jury woes could have scup­pered his chances of be­ing named top dog, but he’s still one of the fron­trun­ners nonethe­less.

With the bal­lot pa­pers sent out at the end of Fe­bru­ary and re­turned by the mid­dle of March, his Tot­ten­ham team­mate Rafael Van der Vaart could suf­fer from the same prob­lem, sim­i­larly hav­ing gone through a cold spell re­cently through in­jury and loss of form.

How­ever, he’s def­i­nitely the sign­ing of the year and there’s no doubt­ing the im­pact the Dutch­man has had at White Hart Lane this sea­son, and if his ef­forts are not recog­nised this term, he’s sure to be in the reck­on­ing in sea­sons to come.

Car­los Tevez has also had a de­cent sea­son, at times be­ing Man City’s sole at­tack­ing threat, but the thing that would go against the diminu­tive Ar­gen­tinian is that the win­ner is cho­sen by fel­low pro­fes­sion­als and by all ac­counts Tevez doesn’t have too many friends in the game. His attitude on the pitch is spot on, but off it he’s dif­fi­cult to say the least.

Arse­nal’s main hope would have to be Samir Nasri, who has made a real break­through for both club and coun­try this sea­son, and the skil­ful French­man has shown a real eye for goal, par­tic­u­larly in the early months of the sea­son. Al­though young star­let Jack Wil­shere has prob­a­bly been the Gun­ners’ most con­sis­tent player this term he’ll prob­a­bly have to wait a year of two to land the big prize.

If Man United are to make it five on the trot their hopes would be rest­ing on the trio of Dim­i­tar Ber­ba­tov, Nani and Ne­manja Vidic.

Ber­ba­tov has shown a mas­sive im­prove­ment on last year’s no-show and is rid­ing high in the goalscor­ing charts but is still suf­fer­ing from the frus­trat­ing ten­dency to blow hot and cold - scor­ing a hat-trick one day, then habitu- ally suf­fer­ing a bar­ren spell.

Sim­i­larly Nani’s con­tri­bu­tion has been far greater this term and he has been United’s most po­tent at­tack­ing threat for much of the sea­son but also doesn’t turn it on all the time.

If it’s con­sis­tency you’re look­ing for Vidic could be United’s main man. It’s been six years since a de­fender was voted Player of the Year by his peers. That was Chelsea skip­per John Terry in 2004-’05 so it may be time for the award to be won by an­other de­fender and who can be bet­ter qual­i­fied than the teak­tough Serb?

The lesser lights rarely get a look-in, but if there was to a be a shock win­ner the most likely duo are Black­pool’s Char­lie Adam and West Ham United’s Scott Parker.

Black­pool have tried to sur­vive in the top flight by play­ing free-flow­ing, at­trac- tive foot­ball with Char­lie Adam as their shin­ing star. As one of the most soughtafter mid­field­ers in the Premier League, he’ll un­doubt­edly be off to a big­ger club in the sum­mer.

Scott Parker has al­ways been a class act and the mid­fielder would not look out of place at any of the big clubs. He’s the main rea­son why West Ham are still in there with a good chance of keep­ing their Premier League sta­tus.

So who’ll win it? At a push ‘In­side Right’ would plump for Samir Nasri with Jack Wil­shere fan­cied to make it a dou­ble for the Gun­ners by pick­ing up the Young Player of the Year gong.

If Arse­nal man­age to buck their re­cent trend of bot­tling it and some­how sum­mon up the courage to win the Premier League it will be the ic­ing on the cake, but if they fin­ish an­other sea­son tro­phy­less it will be scant con­so­la­tion.

Arse­nal’s Samir Nasri is one of the fron­trun­ners for the Premier League’s Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers' As­so­ci­a­tion Play­ers’ Player of the Year award.

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