As the Premier League season approaches its climax it’s time to reflect on what has been a truly memorable season thus far, with much yet to be decided with two weeks of the campaign still remaining. Last week the Professional Footballers Association awards were held, where the Team of the Year, Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year were all revealed after the Premier League players cast their ballots a few weeks ago. In response to that here is ‘Fred Stanley Sport’s’ choices for Team of the Year, in addition to awards for Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year.
First, lets run down some of the rules of the selection process. With regards to young player of the year, the age limit we’re imposing is 23. So anyone over the age of 22, which includes PFA Young Player of the Year winner Eden Hazard, is out of luck. As far as the Team of the Year is concerned there are few restrictions. However although the formation of the players can be fluid because almost every team in the Premier League plays a flat back four that is what this ‘team’ will shape up like in front of the ‘keeper. So without further ado, let’s get started.
Team of the Year
David De Gea – Manchester United
The Spanish stopper has been one of very few bright spots at Old Trafford this season, and there have been many occasions where things would’ve been even worse for United had they not had one of the game’s top young ‘keepers between the sticks. De Gea’s shot stopping has always been excellent but it’s the strides he’s made when it comes to dealing with crosses that have impressed the most, as this perceived ‘weakness’ has been almost totally eradicated from his game. The save De Gea made from Luis Suarez at Old Trafford in March was truly breathtaking, although the game had already gone by that point. Honourable mention: Petr Cech – Chelsea
Pablo Zabaleta – Manchester City
Zabaleta has, for a few years now, been one of the premier right backs in world football. Defensively he’s solid and his work often goes unnoticed in a team where he’s surrounded by world-class talent. Yet the Argentinian has once again stepped up to the mark during the 2013/14 campaign and it’s often the sign of a good full back when his work is under appreciated, much like Ashley Cole has been for the best part of a decade now. Another part of Zabaleta’s game that slides under the radar is his attacking prowess. He often pops up in the right place at the right time, and his delivery from wide is of a very good standard for a full back. Honourable mention: Seamus Coleman – Everton
Gary Cahill – Chelsea
At £7 million Cahill has proved value for money for Chelsea, a wise investment just over two years ago when a host of top sides had been circling round the then-Bolton centre half. Cahill has been fortunate with the circumstances he’s been in, coached by the defensive wizard Jose Mourinho and paired alongside club legend John Terry, but this season he has truly come into his own as a top class player in his own right. Relatively fleet of foot for a centre back, Cahill has improved his reading of the game immeasurably and he is rarely defeated in aerial battles. If England are to succeed at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil they’ll need Cahill to replicate his club form for his country and lead from the front, or more appropriately, back.
Vincent Kompany – Manchester City
While Kompany has been injured at times this season he has been as important as ever to the City defense when he’s in the starting eleven. Despite being forced to partner the likes of Joleon Lescott and Martin Demichelis, Kompany has marshalled City’s defense to a League Cup victory and potentially a second Premier League crown, with his value to the team perhaps best exemplified when he is unavailable for selection. If City fans could identify one player who they can least afford to lose then it almost certainly would be their captain, who so often leads from the front. Yes, he had a torrid time of it against Liverpool at Anfield a few weeks ago but Kompany was clearly unfit and questions need to be asked of Manuel Pellegrini for risking his skipper when he was so blatantly off the pace. Honourable mentions: John Terry – Chelsea, Jose Fonte – Southampton
Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea
Thrust into the left back position at the expense of the vastly experienced Ashley Cole, Azpilicueta has excelled under Jose Mourinho’s guidance and his performance last weekend against Raheem Sterling at Anfield was exceptional. Azpilicueta has pace to burn and his positional sense is well-developed for a player so young, which could lead him to be at the top of his profession for a long, long time. Whether or not he remains at left back or shifts back to the right side is up for debate, but unless Chelsea sign a left-sided player in the summer it’s likely that Azpilicueta will continue to roam the left back position at Stamford Bridge for at least another season. Honourable mention: Luke Shaw – Southampton
David Silva – Manchester City
Silva has returned to the heights he scaled during Manchester City’s title-winning season of 2011/12, when he almost single-handedly ripped open Manchester United at Old Trafford during City’s famous 6-1 drubbing of their neighbours. Despite his lack of size, of perhaps because of it, Silva is almost impossible to win the ball off and his low centre of gravity enables him to twist and turn with frightening agility. His passing is pinpoint to the level of Paul Scholes in his prime, and the fact that he pops up on the score sheet every so often is another string to his bow. When Silva is on his game City score goals, and lots of them. It’s that simple. Honourable mention: Adam Lallana – Southampton
Yaya Toure – Manchester City
One of the luxuries of having the kind of money to spend that Manchester City do is that you can build a team containing so many talented players, such as Silva and Toure. While Silva provides the guile to break teams down with, Toure is pure power and his combination of size and speed is unmatched almost across world football. Of course, he’s fairly handy with the ball at his feet too and his goal tally speaks of his ability to test the goalkeeper from anywhere within 25-yards of the goal. His goal in the League Cup final against Sunderland was an incredible demonstration of technique, while his solo effort last weekend against Crystal Palace also sticks in the memory as he breezed past more than a couple of players before curling the ball into the top corner from 12 yards out – with his weaker left foot.
Steven Gerrard – Liverpool
Despite his potentially costly slip against Chelsea, Gerrard has enjoyed his finest Premier League season for at least four years. Having re-invented himself in a deep-lying role, the Liverpool captain has seemingly mastered the ‘quarterback’ position despite having to curb his natural box-to-box instincts. While he hasn’t been as much of a goal threat as in the past Gerrard remains an elite penalty taker, and his importance to Liverpool has perhaps not been as high since his 2004-2009 peak. Even if Liverpool fail to lift the Premier League trophy it should be Gerrard’s fantastic season as a whole, not one unfortunate slip, that people remember from this campaign. Honourable mentions: Aaron Ramsey – Arsenal, Christian Eriksen – Tottenham
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Former Lille playmaker Hazard has enjoyed a breakout season for the Blues, finding his goalscoring touch and creating plenty of opportunities for his teammates to boot. His quick feet and incredible balance make him a tricky proposition for any full back, but it’s Hazard’s work rate that sees him stand out from other similarly talented players. It’s primarily because of Hazard that Chelsea’s player of the year from last season, Juan Mata, was deemed expendable by Jose Mourinho and the ‘Special One’ has seen his decision justified by a string of impressive showings from the Belgian winger. Hazard may not be one of the top five players in world football at the moment but make no mistake about it – he’s not far off becoming one. Honourable mention: Raheem Sterling – Liverpool
Luis Suarez – Liverpool
There’s little left to say about Suarez that hasn’t already been said after his best year yet on Merseyside. His goals and assists have enabled Liverpool to challenge for the title, and his four goal haul against Norwich back in November was simply breathtaking. The diminutive Uruguayan has the ability to literally make something of nothing and without him there is no question Liverpool would not be in the title hunt this far into the season.
Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool
The other half of Liverpool’s famed ‘SAS’ duo, Sturridge has finally matured into a top-level Premier League striker after bouncing around from Manchester City to Chelsea, before finally finding his comfort level under Brendan Rodgers at Anfield. Sturridge has demonstrated a natural ability to find the back of the net and his left foot is as deadly as any other in the top flight. In addition to his silky skills Sturridge is also blessed with immense raw pace, making him the perfect foil for Suarez as defence’s have failed to deal with Liverpool’s double-edged attacking sword. Honourable mentions: Romelu Lukaku – Everton, Wayne Rooney – Manchester United, Carlton Cole – West Ham
Player of the Year
Luis Suarez – Liverpool
Again, what can you say about Suarez? He’s eclipsed the 30 goal mark this campaign, the first time that’s been done since Cristiano Ronaldo did so five years ago, with the achievement being made all the more remarkable by the fact he’s not a selfish, goal crazed striker in the mould of Ruud Van Nistlerooy. Suarez may rub some people up the wrong way (with good reason) but he is unquestionably the stand out talent in the Premier League at present. Runner-Up: Yaya Toure – Manchester City
Young Player of the Year
Raheem Sterling – Liverpool
Even if he might not be the best young player in Europe as Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers claimed, Sterling isn’t far off that level and his play in the second half of the season has been nothing short of exceptional. Much like Sturridge, Sterling has raw pace in abundance and he has also immeasurably improved his on-field intelligence since he began working with Rodgers. Now no longer strictly a winger, Sterling has been played centrally more often than not of late and on current form he deserves not only a place on the plane to Brazil this summer but a place in Roy Hodgson’s starting eleven when England face Italy on June 14. Runner-Up: Luke Shaw – Southampton
That’s how ‘Fred Stanley Sport’ sees the 2013/14 season and its standout performers, but you can have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley. Let us know if there’s anyone you think we’ve missed out!