It’s that time of the year we all look forward to: awards season. The PFA Premier League Team of the Year has been announced and, unsurprisingly, league leaders Chelsea and second-placed Tottenham dominate the make-up of the side with four players apiece.
Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool all have a sole representative, whilst Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal misses out, along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite the move to a 3-4-3 by both Chelsea and Tottenham, the team has been voted for in the typical 4-4-2 format. The PFA Team of the Year is as follows:
David de Gea [Manchester United]
For a third consecutive season, de Gea has been selected as the goalkeeper in the Premier League team of the year. It wouldn’t be a team of the year without the customary Manchester United player, but, in my opinion, that’s all it is; a courtesy inclusion. De Gea makes it into the side ahead of the impressive Hugo Lloris and PFA Young Player of the Year nominee Jordan Pickford, who has had a phenomenal breakthrough year with Sunderland, making 109 saves, the second most in the league.
With 13 clean sheets, both Lloris and Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois have one more than de Gea (12) and they’re more deserving than the Spaniard is. De Gea has had his inconsistencies this campaign and it was telling that Jose Mourinho dropped him for the 3-0 win at Sunderland for an unspecified ‘small’ injury. However, it’s custom to include at least one Manchester United player and if they weren’t as big a club as they are, I doubt de Gea would have been included.
Kyle Walker [Tottenham]
Walker was extremely unlucky to miss out last year in place of Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, but there hasn’t been a right-back in the division that comes close to Walker this season, except, perhaps, Victor Moses. Walker has been the epitome of consistency at Tottenham this year and he’s assumed a role of far greater importance at White Hart Lane this season given Mauricio Pochettino’s change to a 3-4-3.
The England international has created the third most chances at Spurs (37), which is a testament to his attacking strength given the creativity in the Spurs ranks and his five assists are the most of any defender in the Premier League. He’s also part of the best defence in the league at present, such is his defensive improvement over the past two seasons.
Gary Cahill [Chelsea]
There are a variety of names that could have been included, such as Michael Keane, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, but Cahill is another deserving feature in the Team of the Year. Given the absence of John Terry, Cahill has adapted to the role of leader extremely well and has led Chelsea to top spot. Part of a three-man defence, Cahill conducts the defensive orchestra and hasn’t missed a single game this season.
With four goals, only Marcos Alonso has scored more goals from all of Chelsea’s defenders and only David Luiz (8) makes more defensive actions than Cahill (7) per game, but it’s what he does off the pitch, too, in terms of ensuring focus and motivating his teammates, that makes him a welcome addition to the Team of the Year.
David Luiz [Chelsea]
Chelsea’s defence, arguably, have been the best in the Premier League and it’s no surprise to see David Luiz alongside his Chelsea teammate at the heart of the defence. He was a surprise deadline day signing, a risky one at that given his propensity to error, but the curly-haired cult hero has silenced his doubters with an extremely solid season.
Luiz has adapted to Antonio Conte’s back-three extremely well and his errors have largely been stamped out by the supporting presence of Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. Luiz makes more defensive actions per game than even N’Golo Kante and he’s been a reliable last line of defence for the Blues.
Danny Rose [Tottenham]
It’s a testament to the fantastic season Danny Rose has had that he’s still included in the Team of the Year despite missing 14 games through injury, including the last nine consecutive matches. No left back has been more important to their side than Rose has for Tottenham and, like Walker, more emphasis has been placed on his role as a wing-back since Spurs moved to a 3-4-3 more consistently.
With 26 chances created and two assists, he’s been directly involved in less goals than his England teammate Walker, but Rose is an extremely influential player for Tottenham. His bursting runs down the left and eagerness to track back and defend make him a crucial asset to both club and country. For instance, Rose has won 60% of his aerial duels despite only measuring at 5’ 7”.
Sadio Mane [Liverpool]
The Senegalese winger fast became Liverpool’s most important player and his inclusion in the Team of the Year is certainly warranted. With 13 goals he’s Liverpool’s top scorer, whilst he’s also created 43 chances, the fourth most at his club. His energy and movement create constant problems for opposition defenders and such is his importance to the Reds that they’ve only won twice when Mane has been absent.
The Reds’ rough patch at the turn of the year coincided with Mane’s involvement at AFCON and doubts were raised once again over their chances of finishing in the top four when Mane picked up a season-ending knee injury in the Merseyside derby at the beginning of the month, as Liverpool are a little lacklustre without their Senegalese sensation.
N’Golo Kante [Chelsea]
A favourite for the PFA Player of the Year, no Team of the Year would be complete without this dominant midfield presence. After a stellar season for Leicester last year, Kante has arguably become even better since moving to Stamford Bridge and he’s adopted a role of greater importance at Chelsea, capable of providing a threat in the final third to complement his defensive strength.
As forceful as ever, Kante protects Chelsea’s back three with his life and the only midfielder to make more interceptions than the Frenchman (74) is Ander Herrera (78), whilst Kante, too, has made the fourth-most tackles in the Premier League. However, Kante’s improvement comes in the final third, as he’s now able to influence the game in an attacking sense with his accurate and decisive passing. He also chipped in with an important goal against Manchester United earlier in the season.
Dele Alli [Tottenham]
It’s an absolute travesty that Dele Alli wasn’t nominated for the PFA Player of the Year over the likes of Alexis Sanchez, whose season has disappointingly petered out, but there’s certainly room for him in the Team of the Year. The former MK Dons academy graduate is quickly becoming one of the highest rated young talents in the world and is a hot property after an even better season than last year.
Alli doesn’t influence the game in the same way that other playmakers do, but his movement is second to none and he’s consistently found in the right place at the right time, enabling him to score 16 league goals, the second-most at Tottenham and the seventh-best record in the league, even scoring two more than Player of the Year nominee Eden Hazard. His 42 chances created are the second-highest at Spurs and Alli’s also provided five assists. He’s adapted to his new role as a second striker with aplomb and Alli’s stock increases with every passing game.
Eden Hazard [Chelsea]
The Belgian is back with a bang after the departure of Jose Mourinho and he’s been Chelsea’s best player by far. He’s Chelsea’s second-top scorer with 14 goals and has also provided five assists, as well as creating 66 chances, the most at his club. He’s such a nuisance to play against that only Wilfried Zaha has suffered more fouls than Hazard (85). Opponents just don’t know how to cope with him.
Hazard is Chelsea’s primary creative outlet. Freed from his defensive duties, Hazard has been decisive in the final third and his 128 attempted take-ons are the second-highest in the Premier League. His fast and tricky feet are mesmerising to watch and it’s no surprise to see him in contention for the PFA Player of the Year, looking to make it two years out of three.
Harry Kane [Tottenham]
The final Spurs and England player completing their quartet is striker Harry Kane, the club’s highest goal-scorer with 20. Only Romelu Lukaku has scored more Premier League goals than Kane this season, but the fact of the matter is that Kane has missed eight games through injury, though has returned quickly each time, the mark of a world-class player.
The alleged one-season wonder has now impressed for three successive seasons and joins an illustrious list of players to score 20+ Premier League goals for three seasons on the trot. Kane has the same number of league goals than Luis Suarez had after the same number of Premier League games and that earned him a move to Barcelona. Whilst Kane doesn’t seem likely to leave Spurs any time soon, he deserves to be included in that category of striker, such is his quality.
Romelu Lukaku [Everton]
Completing the team of the year is Everton’s front man Romelu Lukaku. It’s a tough call between him and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but it would be extremely harsh to exclude the Premier League’s top goal-scorer (24), which comprises over a third of Everton’s total league goals this season (60).
What makes Lukaku so great is the fact that most of his goals have been attempts he’s created through his own sheer power and determination. He may be criticised for ghosting through matches, but his scoring record is unrivalled and his ability is enforced by the fact that he’s already become Everton’s top Premier League goal-scorer at the tender age of 23, after just three seasons. His fantastic season has put him on the radar of a host of top European clubs and Everton have a challenge on their hands to persuade him to stay at Goodison Park.
Who would you like to see in the PFA Team of the Year? Let us know in the comments section below.