Next weekend, Premier League footballers will descend on London for the annual Professional Footballers’ Association awards. The 6 nominees for Player of the Year have already been announced and the winner will be presented with the coveted award at the ceremony this coming Sunday.
This two part article takes a closer look at the nominees, the good season they’ve had and who I consider the favorites are to take the award home.
Winner of this award back in 2011, it has been another whirlwind season for the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder. He has so far contributed to Spurs push for a top 4 finish with 18 goals in the Premier League alone. He had a fairly quiet start to the season and it took till the middle of September for him to grab his first goal of the season in Spurs 3-1 away win at Reading. A couple of weeks later however he played a big part in the team’s 3-2 away victory at Manchester United. While that was arguably their biggest win during the first half of the season, it was coupled with some big defeats in October and November to London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal. Bale ended 2012 on a high though scoring a hat-trick at Villa Park in Spurs 4-0 demolition of Aston Villa on Boxing Day and the team finished the year sitting in 3rd place in the table.
2013 would prove to be even better for the Welshman. At the end of January, Bale went on a 5 game scoring run in the Premier League, netting against Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United, West Ham United and Arsenal. He managed a brace in the games against The Magpies and The Hammers leaving him with 7 goals from the 5 games. His second goal against West Ham is considered a goal of the season contender by many after his 25-yard shot found the top corner in the last minute of the game to win all 3 points for his side.
This impressive form also led to him winning the Player of the Month award for February as well. Bale’s goals and contributions were also part of what was a 12 game unbeaten run in the Premier League that started with their 1-0 win at home to Swansea in mid-December and ended with their 3-2 loss to Liverpool at Anfield just over a month ago. An injury at the start of the month ruled him out for a couple of games but he returned with a bang on Sunday as he helped his side pick up a vital 3-1 win over Manchester City at White Hart Lane and leave his side in 5th place but only 2 points behind 3rd placed Arsenal with a game in hand over the Gunners.
To say Tottenham are a one man team would be disrespectful to the other players in the squad, but you can’t deny that whenever they have been in desperate need of a goal this season, Gareth Bale has been there to provide them with it. He is a valuable asset to Spurs and has even had well-known pundits drawing comparisons between him and some of the best players in the world such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi due to his work rate and his contributions to the team. It is clear for all to see that his teammates love playing with him and opposing teams can’t stand playing against him. Regardless of where Tottenham finish in the league this season, Gareth Bale’s efforts will not be forgotten and give him a great chance of winning the award this year.
A surprising choice to some, but a deserved choice to others, Michael Carrick has been almost ever-present in Manchester United’s Premier League campaign playing in his trademark central midfield role and playing a key part in what has been a very successful season for The Red Devils who have now just recently reclaimed the Premier League title.
While Carrick’s name cannot be seen at the top of scorers and assists charts this season, that doesn’t mean for one second that he hasn’t had a productive season. He has featured in 32 of United’s 33 league games this year with his only absence coming in their 3-1 win at home to Queens Park Rangers back in November.
The 31 year old has played a key part in the midfield for United mainly by doing the hard work such as winning the ball back off the opposition and then playing it to more creative teammates who will be able to create a scoring opportunity for them or quite often another teammate. The latter obviously means no assist goes to Carrick in the stats table, but the nomination for this award shows that finally, the hard work is paying off. Carrick’s style of play has made it tough for attacking opposition players and is reflected by the 11 clean sheets United have kept when he has been in the side.
The season as a whole has been good for Michael Carrick and this past month in particular has also been extra special for the Englishman and it could well be even more special before the awards ceremony this Sunday. A Man of the Match display away at Sunderland and a goal at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke as well as the return of the Premier League trophy to Old Trafford means regardless of whether or not Carrick wins the Player of the Year award, he will have enjoyed a great end to the season. I have to admit that I don’t consider him to be one of the favourites to win the award, but at least the nomination shows that his hard work for the team has not gone unnoticed.
Eden Hazard was one of the most talked about players in world football this time last season with people wondering where his next move would be after he left Lille OSC in France. In May last year, the Belgian midfielder revealed on Twitter that he would be signing for Chelsea and the move was confirmed by the club a week later for a reported €32 million. Hazard made a good first impression in his Premier League debut in a 2-0 win away at Wigan Athletic by setting up his the first goal for his side and winning them a penalty for the second. His first goal for the club came a week later in a 2-0 home win against Newcastle.
After that win, Chelsea sat at the top of the Premier League table until the start of November when their form began to take a turn for the worse. By the start of December, they had fallen 10 points behind Manchester United and any chance of winning the title was all but gone by then. Hazard continues to contribute goals and assists to at least ensure that the team will still continue to push for a top 4 finish.
As it stands, the 22 year old currently has 9 goals and 9 assists in the Premier League this season, his most recent strike coming in Sundays 2-2 draw with Liverpool at Anfield. He has been a regular starter for The Blues this season and has always been one of their most consistent performers. One of his best performances in a Blue shirt came just as recently as last month when he assisted the first goal and scored the second in a 2-0 win against West Ham at Stamford Bridge and showing everyone watching exactly what he is capable of doing.
I believe his consistency is what has led to him being nominated for this prestigious award. However, when I compare his season with Chelsea teammate and fellow nominee Juan Mata, I can’t help but feel that the Spaniard has probably had the better season of the two and thus makes him stand a better chance of winning the award. But at only 22 years of age, the only way is surely up for Eden Hazard and if this time next season he can better his accomplishments of this season, the next Player of the Year award may very well be his.