De Bruyne, Salah, Kane, Aguero, De Gea: Premier League Player of the Year contenders
With only nine games remaining in the Premier League season, who is in with a shout of the top award?
With just nine games to go in this Premier League season, the race for the top accolades is heating up.
Who’s the best ‘keeper? Who should get into the overall season’s best XI? Which manager deserves the personal silverware…? These are all the questions that early March brings to locals up and down the UK.
But it’s the overall ‘top dog’ award which conjures up the more in-depth debates. Let’s have a look at the select few whose name’s are on track to be considered…
Kevin De Bruyne
Just to be clear, this is very much a ‘in no particular order’-type job. The Belgian, though, would probably be right at the top of most lists, let’s be honest.
Hate them? Love them? Not bothered? Whatever your personal feeling towards Manchester City may be, their football must be admired.
It’s been said a lot this season that no side has ever looked so dominant in this league – at least not in recent memory. An integral part of the unrelenting sky blue machine is undoubtedly De Bruyne.
Not for some time have fans had the ability to watch such feats being performed in the manner in which De Bruyne does. One may suggest the likes of Eden Hazard, Christian Eriksen, Alexis Sanchez and Riyad Mahrez, but the difference is the City playmaker’s consistency.
Rarely, if ever, is De Bruyne accused of having a ‘bad game’. Where some of his peers and rivals can go missing and not ‘turn up’ to matches, he always stands out.
His 16 assists so far this campaign put him four clear of Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, but for most fans, it’s not necessarily in the numbers.
The vision and creativity that has been on display from De Bruyne this season has often been out of this world. Sure, you need players around you that will make those runs and find that space, but you still need someone to pick them out.
Another box ticked in De Bruyne’s favour is his ability to be a ‘big game’ player. We often see players able to look special against weaker sides, but then go missing against the top six. Goals and dominating displays against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs this season have ensured he’s caught the eye at the most important times.
Perhaps the direct, on form rival to De Bruyne’s challenge for the Player of the Year title is Liverpool marksman, Mo Salah.
Salah’s record in front of goal this season has been phenomenal. In fact, the Egyptian has failed to score in only 10 games in the league all season.
Playing in a front three that have reacted, perhaps surprisingly, very well to the loss of playmaker Philippe Coutinho, Salah has been in unstoppable form.
Much like Manchester City, Liverpool have been playing very attractive and pacy attacking football this season, and it’s no wonder he has been relishing his role in the fluid, interchanging system. His link-up play with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane has been a joy to watch.
Liverpool’s goal tally in the league is bettered only by Manchester City. Salah though, has had a direct hand in 34 of their 67 strikes.
As well as lifting spirits around Anfield and helping Liverpool solidify a top-four spot, Salah has become a national hero by securing a World Cup spot for Egypt for the first time since 1990.
After moving from AS Roma in the summer for £38 million, a value that has now surely at least doubled, manager Jurgen Klopp will claim the bargain of the season.
Kane has won the Premier League’s golden boot award for the last two years and is in a strong position to make it three on the trot.
Having scored 24 goals this season already, Kane is well on the way to breaking the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career (having come up one goal short last season).
If he is to retain his seat on the goal-scoring throne, though, he must try to pull away from the aforementioned Salah who is sticking with him every step of the way.
Kane may arguably have a slightly harder job on his hands; Tottenham’s style of play isn’t as free-flowing as the likes of Liverpool, and as the focal point he has to do a lot of the work up front on his own.
Mauricio Pochettino’s preference of playing 4-2-3-1 as opposed to the 4-3-3 shape deployed by his peers in Klopp and Pep Guardiola has left Kane slightly isolated at times, as Spurs have looked laboured in patches.
That being said, Kane’s exploits haven’t gone unnoticed in a season that has seen him pick up slack from a under-performing Dele Alli and hot-and-cold Christian Eriksen.
He’s led the line for his club domestically and on the continent, in addition to carrying the can for England, he’ll be shortlisted, surely?
The ever-reliable Argentinian maestro has been at it once again for Manchester City this season.
While perhaps not as consistent in the goal scoring sense as the likes of Salah and Kane, Aguero has been an integral part of the Manchester City revolution.
As a striker, you don’t want to be splitting time and playing musical chairs with others in the number 9 role, especially in a one up top system.
But as Guardiola began his second season at the helm, Aguero found himself in that exact situation as the Spaniard shuffled his pack on a game-by-game basis, sharing playing time with Brazilian youngster Gabriel Jesus.
An injury to Jesus at the end of last year though opened the door for Aguero to re-assume his role as the club’s first-choice striker.
Four goals against Leicester City ensured he would finish another season with at least 20 goals for the fourth season in a row.
There have been rumours that Guardiola isn’t Aguero’s biggest fan, (and that he may move on in the summer) but for now he looks to keep his automatic starting berth locked down as he chases his second golden boot.
David de Gea
Awards such as these are generally scarce for goalkeepers as the football world usually leans towards rewarding those in attacking roles.
An in-his-prime Manuel Neuer was perhaps the last ‘keeper to be as highly regarded as De Gea is in the current day, and he only got to third in a Balon d’Or vote.
Regardless, De Gea is going about his business rather nicely. In fact, most Manchester United fans will probably agree with the feeling that De Gea has been critical to their league positions in recent seasons.
The Spaniard has claimed his fair share of points this season, and he’s often been praised with ‘winning the game’ or ‘keeping United in it’.
De Gea played his part in an impressive start to the season for the Red Devils, as they kept eight clean sheets in the opening 10 games, conceding only three goals.
Only Manchester City have conceded fewer than United’s count of 22 this season, and they are numbers that will no doubt put De Gea into the shop window once more this summer.
Which player will win the Player of the Year award this season? None of the above? Let us know below!