Everyone awaits April for the announcement of the PFA Premier League Team of the Year, I await disappointment. I find far too often that the team they select is predictable, and very rarely do you find a player outside the top four included. This year only Romelu Lukaku and David De Gea were included, hardly shock choices. So here is my alternative selection, some choices may be controversial, but I will try to explain my reasoning the best I can. All of the stats are accurate prior to this last week’s games and are taken from the Premier League’s website.
GK Tom Heaton – Burnley
Despite sitting in 15th, Burnley have conceded less goals than every side in the bottom eleven sides excluding Middlesborough. The more astonishing fact is that they have scored fewer goals than every other side in the league outside of the bottom three. How are they clear of relegation if they cannot find the back of the net?
This is down to the heroics of their keeper. There is no keeper who has made more saves than Heaton this season, 139, with Jordan Pickford of Sunderland second with 132. By comparison De Gea, the PFA’s choice had to make just 74, and he has a far superior defence safeguarding him. Heaton managed 10 clean sheets this season, just 6 less than Courtois whose side play a back five, meaning Courtois only has to make 66 saves. The prowess of a keeper should be judged on how they personally affect games, not on the team, or the PFA team would just be Chelsea’s starting eleven.
LB Erik Pieters – Stoke
Danny Rose has only played 18 games this season, so it surprises me that he would even be in the running for team of the year. Now my choice may take a lot of criticism from my friends who know my love for Stoke’s defensive line, specifically Ryan Shawcross, but there is some logic to my choice, especially when no other defender made more tackles this season than Pieters. No left back has higher tackling success rate than Peters with 76%. Danny Rose has made less than half the tackles and only had a 68% tackle success rate. Marcos Alonso, the Champions Left back, had just a 67% success rate with far fewer tackles.
Pieters made more clearances than both and oversaw the same amount of wins for his side as Rose. He also had half the cards Rose picked up in twice the games, showing the great discipline and timing of his play. He also intercepted more balls than either Alonso and Rose, which arguably shows that he cut out overlapping play down the wings from full backs such as Rose. If you can’t rely on a defender to tackle, who else can you rely on.
CB – Cesar Azipulcueta – Chelsea
Cesar Azpilicueta has been very understated this season at Chelsea. When you’re not scoring goals or regularly assisting them, it is rare you find yourself on the back page of a daily newspaper. His progression with Chelsea this season has played a large part in their title charge, and unless you look at his statistics, this would go under the radar. No player made more passes in the Premier League, with Cesar making 2340. By comparison the next two players, both played in central midfield roles, Granit Xhaka and Paul Pogba, sit almost 200 passes lower. Only Kante has made more tackles for Chelsea than Azipulceuta’s 80, a clear 35 ahead of Marcos Alonso.
Azpilicueta himself has never made more passes in a season as he has this year. Last year he played the same amount of games, but only amassed 1798 passes, 542 passes less than this year. No defender in the last ten seasons has managed more passes and no defender has topped the passing chart in that time either. He has also had more assists this season than last and ten times as many through balls. This hasn’t changed how effective he has been defensively in the more traditional sense, having maintained his 75% tackling success. He has been the starter engine of Chelsea’s ‘build from the back’ tactics.
CB Jan Vertonghen – Tottenham
I must say that I don’t disagree with Gary Cahill being included in the PFA Team of the Year, but Vertonghen has been key to the Tottenham defence that has only let 24 goals in all season, 8 less than Chelsea. Although he has yet to score this season, he has hit the woodwork twice, and more importantly, he has been clinical in defence. He has played more passes than Cahill and more accurate long balls as well, meaning he has played a significant part in Tottenham’s attacking play.
Defensively, he has a 77% tackling success rate, even more successful than Azpilicueta’s, although if Micheal Keane had played more games, his 86% would outshine them all. As a tall defender, he has been played simply and effectively, making 224 clearances for Spurs and 104 Aerial battles. He has also won 24 50/50 challenges, six times that of Cahill, proving he comes up with the goods when under pressure. I think the best defence in the league deserves a centre back in the team of the year.
RB Victor Moses – Chelsea
How does this man not make your team of the year PFA? After years of Premier League underachievement, Victor Moses has found himself rejuvenated by the arrival of Antonio Conte and his tactical nous. Once an attacking right winger, this season has seen his transition to right wing back, a position he has made his own. He has a massive 84% tackle success rate, proving not only his effectiveness in his new position, but perhaps that he always should have been playing there.
He has made 45 tackles, blocked 17 shots and made 41 interceptions, more than highly rated Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin. His attacking prowess has not disappeared however, finding the back of the net 3 times, as well as laying on another two for his teammates. He has been like a new signing for Chelsea this season and having only spent one season at right back, he surely will be even better for his experience next year.
LM Eden Hazard – Chelsea
The PFA’s midfield is hard to dispute but, unsurprisingly, I have some changes. This one is hard to argue against, especially with his scoring record this season. 15 of his shots made their way past the opposition keeper, an incredible effort considering criticism over his performances last season, when he scored only 4 times. He also only assisted his team mates 3 times last year, but this season he has done that five times.
This campaign he has been vital in breaking down opposition through his unpredictable movement, his intricate dribbling and his accurate passing. Just under 50% of his shots have been on target and he has found the net with just under 50% have gone in. This means he has scored with one shot out of every five he takes, a very impressive stat when striker Diego Costa had a worse conversion rate and current leader Romelu Lukaku has the same.
CM Dele Alli – Tottenham
Another Agreement! What can’t you say about this man? He deservedly won this years Young Player of the Year Award for the second year running. Shall we run through the facts for the sake of it? Let’s! He has scored 17 times this season meaning he has scored a goal every other game. That also means he sits joint 6th in this years race for the golden boot.
He’s also given his team five goals this year through his lethal passing. This has helped when Kane was out injured and also while Janssen has been finding his feet in the Premier League. Basically Alli is amazing, and if his form does not turn the heads of Europe’s established elite, most likely Real Madrid and personally I think Juventus, then I think everyone is missing out.
CM Idrissa Gueye – Everton
Controversy time, who is N’Golo Kante again? Well let me tell you, he is the amazing player who is second to only one, Idrissa Gueye. Everyone goes on about Kante’s ability to mop up in midfield, he has made 124 tackles with a 65% tackle success rate this season after all. Gueye, however, has done this to a higher standard with 134 tackles and a 73% tackle success rate, and put him in a Chelsea team with all that talent, he would only get better.
He also beat Kante’s stats last season, Kante was with champions Leicester, while Gueye played with bottom of the table Aston Villa. His performances this season has meant Everton have conceded less goals than both Liverpool and Arsenal. This man is going places and if Everton lose Lukaku, he will be the next out the door.
RM – Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City
Sadio Mane and De Bruyne probably sit about equal in my eyes but I decided on De Bruyne because there are enough goal scorers in this midfield. That isn’t to say De Bruyne is short of them, he’s notched 6 to his name this season, but more impressive is his number of assists.
Mane laid on just five goals for his teammates this year, and the PFA’s midfield have made 16 assists combined. Enter one man assisting army Kevin De Bruyne, a player who has managed sixteen just by himself. This is because he passes the ball in key positions opposed to Mane who regularly shoots when there are better options. He’s made 1741 passes this season, slightly more than Mane’s 1020, that’s 721 more! I am a Manchester City supporter though so I might be a bit bias, sorry Liverpool fans.
STR – Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
Another player who really should be in this team ahead of Kane. For a start, let’s talk a striker’s main job, goals.
Kane sits on 22 goals with one game to go, Sanchez has 23. I know Kane has played fewer games, but this isn’t about what ifs, its about what they have actually achieved. If Seamus Coleman wasn’t injured he would have probably made the team but you don’t see him on the PFA’s list.
Kane has provided 6 assists for his team mates, Sanchez has provided ten. If you add those up, Kane has been directly involved with 28 goals, Sanchez has 33. Similar to De Bruyne, Sanchez doesn’t mind missing the glory if his teammates are in better positions. Kane has passed just 557 times this season, a massive 1051 behind Sanchez’a 1608. That is why Sanchez makes my team and Kane gets nowhere near.
STR – Romelu Lukaku – Everton
My final agreement, and one that has no alternative. This man is the leading player in the scoring charts with one game to go and he deserves to win the Golden Boot. 24 goals, one more than Sanchez, two more than Kane, four more than Costa and a massive 6 ahead of Aguero. Infact he has scored just three less than the entire Middlesborough team combined. Did I mention every other shot he takes is on target, one of the best percentages in the league!
He has also assisted his team 6 times as well. Made 941 passes, 384 more than Kane. He also won March’s Player of the Month award. This season’s tally brings the 24 year old to 84 goals in 185 appearances in the Premier League, meaning he scores in 45% of games. There is definitely more to come from him, if he doesn’t move, expect to see him in this spot next season as well.
Comments are welcome, thanks for reading.