As the Premier League season nears its business end, there are lots of things left to be decided. The top four race is as close as ever with West Ham United and Everton new contenders for the already over-crowded European spots. There is a cluster of teams just outside the relegation zone, scrambling to get themselves clear of the bottom three. The title looks destined for the Etihad Stadium but stranger things have happened.
Another prize left to be won is the PFA Player of the Year award. The end of April is usually when the shortlisted candidates are announced before they are voted for by their fellow professionals. Here we take a look at the four candidates most likely to win –
Fernandes has picked up where he left off last season, scoring 16 goals and assisting another 11. He has been the focal point in a Manchester United side that has played some of the most attractive football in the league.
The Portuguese has the most shot creating and goal creating actions in the league. Fernandes leads the league in passes into penalty area and key passes as well. He has also developed a gravity of his own – attracting players to create space for others – which is difficult to quantify. He has easily been the standout performer in the league’s second-best side and is a strong candidate for the award.
There were several puzzled faces when Manchester City decided to splurge 60 million GBP on a relatively under the radar centre back from the Portuguese league. Ruben Dias has been worth every penny for Pep Guardiola’s side.
— WeAreManCity (@WeAreMCFC) April 14, 2021
City have conceded just 27 goals in the league and kept the highest number of clean sheets. Dias has played his part in this transformation, filling the hole left by Vincent Kompany’s departure a season earlier. He has been an integral part of City’s title charge and it would be no surprise to see him lift the award, becoming the second defender in three years after Virgil van Dijk to do so.
The German has emerged as an unexpected talisman for Manchester City this season. He is the club’s top scorer in the league this season with 12 strikes to his name. Gundogan’s goals in Kevin de Bruyne’s injury induced absence in the winter were key to City establishing a comfortable lead over their neighbours Manchester United at the top of the table.
Gundogan’s form has given City some much needed stability. It has allowed Guardiola to continue with his experimentation further forward up the pitch knowing he can count on Gundogan and Rodri in midfield. His mobility and technical quality have always been there but adding goals to his game has made him one of the best midfielders in the league.
The England captain deserves a trophy (a real one not a League Cup). His brace against Everton made him the highest goal scorer in Premier League history to not win the title, overtaking Robbie Fowler. He leads both the scoring and assisting chart (19 and 13 respectively) and is single handedly dragging Tottenham Hotspur towards a European spot.
All-time top-scorers in Premier League history:
🏴 Alan Shearer (260)
🏴 Wayne Rooney (208)
🏴 Andy Cole (187)
🇦🇷 Sergio Agüero (181)
🏴 Frank Lampard (177)
🇫🇷 Thierry Henry (175)
🏴 Harry Kane (164)
🏴 Robbie Fowler (163)
🏴 Jermain Defoe (162)
Kane is now SEVENTH. 😱 pic.twitter.com/iiY6ySYebJ
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) April 16, 2021
If these numbers were not impressive enough, he is doing so in a Jose Mourinho side which quite frankly commits crimes against football week in week out. Kane has a decision to make this summer over his future and given his form this season, there should be no shortage of suitors. FootTheBall predicts that Harry Kane will win the Premier League PFA Player of the Year award.
PFA POTY HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Last year’s winner has not quite hit the heights he did last season but has nonetheless been among the league’s top players. He missed a few key matches due to a hamstring injury which weakens his case.
One must wonder what Harry Maguire is made of given the fact that the defender has not missed a minute of league football in nearly two seasons. He has been exceptional for Man United and can lead them to a title challenge if paired with the right partner.
Most Minutes Played for Club and Country in 2020/21 from Players¹ in the Top Five European Leagues:
1st – Harry Maguire
5th – Bruno Fernandes
12th – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
15th – Marcus Rashford
30th – Victor Lindelöf
38th – Scott McTominay
¹2630 players pic.twitter.com/ngOju3j1Xl
— UtdArena (@utdarena) March 19, 2021
The Aston Villa man has been injured for a large part of the season but still has the fourth most assists in the league. He ranks among the top four for nearly all creative statistics and an injury-free season or a big move this summer would most certainly make him a stronger contender next season.