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.
Since signing from Valencia in 2011, Juan Mata instantly became one of Chelsea’s key players and while he had a good solid first season with The Blues, his second one has been even better. He currently sits top of the Premier League assists table with 12 in total and has also found the back of the net himself on 10 occasions.
It took Mata a little while to get going before he got his first assist of the season in a 1-0 home victory over Stoke City. A week later however he turned it up in a big way against Arsenal at The Emirates assisting in the first goal and scoring the second in a 2-1 win. It would then trigger more top performances from Mata over the coming games and led to him winning the Player of the Month award for October with the highlight of the month coming at White Hart Lane when he scored a brace and set up the final goal in a big 4-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur.
While the results then started to turn sour for Chelsea just a few weeks later, Mata continued to come up big for the team whenever he could and his good work was rewarded in December when he signed a new contract at the club to stay with them until 2018. In January, he came back to haunt Arsenal again as he netted the first goal against The Gunners in another 2-1 victory.
Chelsea are in a great position right now to have a very talented group of creative midfielders in their ranks, and I think it would be fair to say that Juan Mata may well have outshone most of them. Oscar and Eden Hazard are showing great potential and have played a big part in the challenge for a top 4 finish and Frank Lampard has shown that he can still step up and perform when he has to despite his old age, but this season Mata has excelled and shown himself to be one of the best midfielders in the world, let alone the Premier League in my opinion. Almost every time I watch him, I believe something is going to happen. He has the knowledge and the skill that helps him beat players and set up great chances for his teammates to score. He definitely faces some really tough competition to win this award, but I think he is in with a very good chance.
If the votes for this award have already been made before the fixtures this past weekend, Luis Suarez is in with a really good chance of winning this award. If not, I’m afraid his chances begin to fade away over one act of stupidity in the game against Chelsea on Sunday at Anfield.
Before Sundays match, Luis Suarez was having the season of his life. The Uruguayan striker is currently the Premier League’s second top scorer with 23 goals from 33 appearances. He is one of only two players in the league this season with two hat-tricks to his name, the first coming at Carrow Road in September in a 5-2 victory over Norwich and the second coming at the start of March in a 4-0 win over Wigan at the DW Stadium. Out of his 23 goals he has scored so far, the pick of the bunch surely has to be his goal against Newcastle at Anfield back in November when he expertly controlled a long ball from Jose Enrique on his chest in the 18 yard box, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into the empty net. It was wonderful to watch and it showed everybody watching exactly how talented Suarez is. As well as scoring goals, he can be very creative as well, as he proved on Sunday when he played a great curving ball into Daniel Sturridge who got Liverpool’s equalizer when they were 1-0 down.
Last season was a controversial one for Suarez, and up till the 65th minute of the match on Sunday, it looked like he would have been remembered more for the work he did with his feet this season. But despite scoring a last minute goal to level the tie at 2-2, it appears that his bite on Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea is what he will be mostly be remembered for by many this season. It is a real shame given the talent he possesses but when you do stupid things you will get punished for it. He has already been fined and issued a statement apologising to fans and Ivanovic.
The FA have also charged him and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lengthy retrospective ban is issued. It likely rules Suarez out of the running to win this award now unless the votes were cast before the game on Sunday which is a shame as I felt he was in with a great chance of getting it until he once again made all the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Last year’s winner, Robin Van Persie was another one of the most talked about players this past summer. The Dutchman announced at the start of July that he was not going to sign a new contract at Arsenal and with only 1 year left to run on the deal, The Gunners decided cashing in on their then-captain was the right move to make. Bids reportedly came in from Manchester City, Juventus and Manchester United, and in August Van Persie decided to make the move to the red half of Manchester in a reported £24 million deal.
Once the move was finalised, it didn’t take last season’s top scorer to start firing again. In his first start for his new side he scored against Fulham in a 3-2 win at Old Trafford and it got even better a week later as United travelled to Southampton and won 3-2 again with Van Persie grabbing all 3 goals. As the season went on, he continued to score important goals in big games including the winner against Liverpool in the 2-1 win at Anfield back in September and the first goal of the game against his old side Arsenal in November at Old Trafford which The Red Devils also won 2-1. December was a particularly special month for him and the fans as he won the Player of the Month award for his performances during the busy spell of games in the Premier League that month. The fans favorite moment from that month will be when he scored a free-kick against rivals Manchester City in the 92nd minute at Eastlands to win the game and give his side a 6 point lead in the title race at the time.
Robin Van Persie continued to score goals early into 2013 and helped United to continue extending their lead at the top of the table. The 29 year old suffered a slight blip recently in front of goal going just over two months without scoring for Manchester United until he converted a penalty at Stoke City just over a week ago. But United have still managed to pick up the points while City have continued to drop them, the Reds have just recently secured the Premier League title for a 20th time after a 3-0 home win over Aston Villa with Van Persie grabbing a hat-trick.
Out of the 78 league goals United have scored this season, Van Persie has scored 24 of them and sits 1 goal ahead Luis Suarez in the top scorers table. Overall Van Persie’s first season at Old Trafford can be considered a huge success and I would say that a title winning sides top scorers efforts will certainly not go unnoticed and that will mean that he is in with a very good chance of joining the likes of Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo in winning the Player of the Year award two seasons in a row.