Unsung Heroes

The PFA Award nominees have been confirmed and the winners will be announced on 23 April. As usual I think the group that have been chosen are correct – it’s easy to list dozens of players that could’ve made the list, perhaps Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana would’ve been up there without the injuries, but there are only six nominees per category. I can’t disagree with any of the six who have been nominated.

History has always shown us that some players’ contributions are undervalued, sometimes because of their playing style but sometimes because we admire someone else more. It’s easy to get excited about the genius of Henry but less so about Gilberto Silva. We talk about Gerrard’s screamers but Danny Murphy and Dietmar Hamann were very important to Liverpool.

My choice for player of the year this season would probably be an unusual choice to many, but hear me out. This season Chelsea have been brilliant – Conte has adapted to a new league brilliantly, taken a team from 10th to top and is within touching distance of the title: A big part of this is Cesar Azpiliqueta, he has been outstanding. He’s a right back, I’m sure we’d all agree on that, but he’s been playing in a back three in the EPL – a league renowned for putting pressure on slight central defenders. David Luis looked totally lost before Conte put the Spaniard next to him, I’m sure Cahill appreciated the extra pace at the back, too. He put in a similar shift last time Chelsea won the league, he played at left back for the whole season and performed admirably.

James Milner is another who has been excellent while playing out of position, he’s completely out of his comfort zone but you can hardly tell. At the start of the season Alberto Moreno was under huge pressure, he seemed to give goals away so easily, Klopp decided to pop Milner in there and I assumed it would be a temporary fix. It turned out to be an excellent decision. I’m sure Milner hates playing there and the way he takes one for the team means he’s worth a mention. I wish United had a left back who is so good at penalties, actually a decent penalty taker regardless of position would be nice.

Spurs look the real deal under Pochettino, they’re entertaining and effective (see Wenger, you can have both). We love our English heroes so Kane and Ali are getting the plaudits, rightly so, but there have been other contributors. Tottenham have conceded fewer goals than anyone else this season, when you consider their full backs are attack minded you have to look at the centre of defence. Both Belgians in the back line are focussed and consistent – Toby Alderweireld has become an absolute rock. He’s strong and disciplined. The attacking threat that Spurs have is complimented wonderfully with this guy steadying the ship at the back.

Teams who beat the drop sometimes need someone to score the goals to bail them out; Defoe did it for Sunderland last season, Benteke for Aston Villa the season before etc etc. Josh King has thirteen goals this season with five games to play – those goals have been invaluable for a Bournemouth side who have been dragged into a relegation battle. I’ve been impressed with his all round play, he holds the ball up very well and works defenders down the channels – he’s certainly a handful. I wouldn’t be surprised if Everton start sniffing around him when they sell Lukaku, different styles obviously.

I’m sure people could point out players who have had great seasons that I haven’t noticed, feel free to comment if so. Sadly I can’t watch every game that every team plays, West Brom are up to 8th so they must have some stand out performers.

In terms of the actual nominees, I think senior award will go to N’Golo Kante with Dele Ali taking the young player prize.

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