866 goals, 40 red cards, 27 own goals, and 249 punches! (Sorry, but the PL website doesn’t specify what type of punches, I’m assuming goalkeepers here.) Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the 2018/19 season so far has been unpredictable, crazy and of course, very very entertaining. We have a proper title race on our hands for the first time since about 13/14 when Manchester City clinched the title, with only 4 points separating 1st from 3rd that year. Let’s not forget a top four race that doesn’t fail to disappoint with all four teams interchanging positions weekly apart from Tottenham, so far. Although seeing teams fighting for relegation might be painful for them, it’s entertaining from a spectators point of view, so let’s hope that area improves, as Huddersfield and Fulham look long gone now. Now, with all of this taking place, who have been the standout players that deserve to be nominated for the honorable player of the season accolade?
I could probably go ahead and name 2-3 Manchester City players, but Sterling has been different class this season, both for club and country. His ruthlessness in front of goal is demonstrated by 15 goals already this season, just three short of last season, and add to that, 9 assists. He really is the real deal and shows no real weaknesses in his game, beating any defender put in front of him. What Sterling has demonstrated more than anything is that he is a great student of the game, making considerable strides in his development in the three seasons Pep Guardiola has been in charge. His weight of pass, movement of the ball, dribbling, and finishing make him one of the elite players in world football today. It’s easy to think Sterling has been around for quite a few years, but he’s still only 24-years-old. Sterling is becoming a role model both on and off the pitch, and his development isn’t showing signs of slowing down, if City claims the title, then Sterling stands a very good chance of taking the crown.
He’s been terrorizing defenders all season in the Premier League, both with his speed and efficiency in front of goal, but it was that night in Munich that really bought the spotlight to Mane when his double took Liverpool to the CL quarter-finals. Always an entertaining player to watch, Mane has 17 goals this campaign, seven better than last season, as Salah has shared the burden more this time around. Liverpool’s front three have built up a telepathic understanding of one another, and this has allowed them to score 45 goals (55% of Liverpool’s total) between them. As more and more teams have looked to mark Salah out of the game because of his heroics last season, and Firmino’s clever positional play, it has opened up areas of the pitch for Mane to exploit, and boy can he exploit space. 11 goals since the start of 2019 and with plenty more still to come, Mane’s form will be pivotal in potentially claiming Liverpool’s first title in 28 years.
One of the Premier League’s best ever centre forwards, how Aguero hasn’t won even one of these awards is beyond me. It’s not just the consistency he’s shown in eight seasons at City, it’s the range of goals he scores. The current PL top goalscorer has 18 goals and 6 assists in 26 appearances, contributing to almost one goal a game. There’s not much to say with Aguero because it’s always the same stuff, it’s cliche, but his consistency becomes boring to comment on. The Argentinian scored two hat-tricks against London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in the space of two games, these took Aguero to 11 hat-tricks for Manchester City. He has continued to score all types of goals, headers and tap ins are often forgotten when he scores screamers like the one against Chelsea in February. At 30, Aguero’s chances of winning a PFA award will be slimmer every year, I think it would make everyone happy if he claimed just one. Besides our happiness and concern though, he may win it on merit and that’s just as good with me.
Unfortunately, we turn to a player that doesn’t stand a chance to win the PL title this year, but other than that, Hazard’s having a phenomenal campaign. On the pitch, the 28-year-old is having one of his most productive seasons to date, 11 assists mean he’s already matched his best ever tally, and 13 goals take him just three shy of the 16 goals he reached in 16/17. Despite the criticism Maurizio Sarri has received for playing Hazard as a false 9, similar to Mertens at Napoli, in 6 starts in that position, Hazard has 3 goals and 4 assists. It seems there has been a compromise of the Belgium international’s skill set, dribbling, for more efficiency in front of goal this season.
Virgil Van Dijk
For authenticity purposes, it’s always nice to have a defender be among the nominees or even go on to win it. But Van Dijk is here because he deserves to be and not courtesy of his position on the pitch. He has a chance to become the first defender to claim the award since Vincent Kompany won it in the 11-12 campaign. The authoritative figure is the catalyst in this Liverpool defence that has conceded just 18 goals in 31 league games. His leadership has led him to captain both Liverpool and Holland on numerous occasions since the turn of last year. No weaknesses have been found in his game so far, he’s always composed, physically brilliant, and his control and technique are not easy to find in a centre-half today.
Honorable mentions: Bernando Silva (Man City), Son Heung-min
(Spurs), David Silva (Man City), Harry Kane (Spurs), Paul Pogba (Man Utd)
As you can already see, the strongest contenders are those from Liverpool and City who are in contention to win the PL title. So it may very well depend on who wins the league, if it’s Liverpool, then Mane and Van Dijk stand the best chances and vice versa for City. However, taking a look at last years winner, Mohamed Salah, he claimed 3 player of the month awards, more than any other player, before winning the bigger prize. If that’s anything to go by, of all the players mentioned above, only Mane is yet to win a player of the month award this season, the rest have all claimed this honor once each. Based on this, it’s a much more open contest this time around and everything is still to play for. The Premier League is often decided on fine margins and this season is no different.