PFA Player of the Season: Who gets your vote?
The Professional Footballers’ Association have issued a shortlist of six players for their prestigious Player of the Season award and, as expected, the top clubs in England are heavily represented. Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante is widely tipped to win the crown but will the former Leicester midfielder be taking over from his former teammate and 2016 winner Riyad Mahrez when the decision is announced on April 23?
Out in Front
Kante has competition from current Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard along with Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku of Everton, Manchester United’s veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez but common opinion suggests there can only be one winner.
Chelsea are as short as 1/7 in bet365’s Premier League betting markets to triumph, and while one man shouldn’t transform a team, many are crediting Kante for the Blues’ revival this season. Among those who believe that the French international should win the PFA award are his Chelsea colleague Eden Hazard, who credits his midfield partner for helping his own performances to return to the top level.
Hazard adds that it shouldn’t all be about the goal scorers and it’s certainly true that Kante’s record in front of goal is a modest one. His job is all about breaking up opposition play and developing attacks and clearly, he has been instrumental in Chelsea’s turnaround.
At the end of a disappointing 2015/16 campaign, there was talk of Eden Hazard moving away from Stamford Bridge, but with 14 goals in 29 league games so far, the Belgian has been vital to his side’s title challenge.
Hazard is the nearest challenger to Kante for the PFA’s main award and his scoring contributions from midfield have certainly been a key to his club’s success.
A free transfer could rarely be called a gamble but Manchester United’s wage bill would have risen considerably when they took on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the summer and the club needed a return on their investment. At 35, the veteran striker hasn’t disappointed with 28 goals in 45 matches, including the winner in the EFL Cup Final over Southampton.
Completing the list of PFA nominations are Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez; three attacking players who have enjoyed plenty of success in front of goal. Kane has just notched his 20th league goal of the campaign and has now reached this milestone in three successive seasons but injuries have stopped him achieving more.
Sanchez has also drifted out of the spotlight, due to Arsenal’s poor form in the closing stages of the season. The Chilean striker has an impressive tally of 18 goals in 29 games but the Gunners’ subdued campaign should see him slip out of contention.
That leaves Lukaku, who may be seen to have a genuine claim on the award with an impressive return of 24 goals in just 32 league appearances. With Kane just coming back from his latest injury, Lukaku is the better bet for the Golden Boot so why is he an outside option for the PFA’s highest honour?
Perhaps his well-publicised U-turn over a new contract at Goodison will not go down well with his peers but the Belgian’s goal scoring return would make him a worthy winner.
The awards night takes place at London’s Grosvenor Hotel on April 23 but is Kante a certainty for the main trophy, or is there a surprise waiting among the remaining nominees?