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