PFA Player of the Year 2016 Contenders
By Greg Lea.
In an ideal world, the vote for the PFA Player of the Year would not take place until after the denouement of the season, when the full fixture list has been fulfilled and the team honours handed out. The current arrangement means ballots have probably already been completed, however: in recent years, players have had to submit their votes by mid-March, when there is usually around a quarter of the campaign remaining.
Given that the voting is likely to have already taken place, then, here are the likely contenders for the 2015/16 PFA Player of the Year crown:
Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
With 16 strikes and 11 assists to his name, Mahrez has been directly involved in more goals than anyone else in the Premier League. The Algeria international is Leicester’s primary creative force, with his direct dribbling, fine footwork and much-improved end product causing problems for almost every defender he has come up against.
Jamie Vardy, Leicester City
Vardy turned in some good performances during Leicester’s miraculous escape act under Nigel Pearson last term, but nobody could have expected him to enjoy such an incredible season this time around. His 19 goals have helped propel Claudio Ranieri’s charges to the top of the table, while his lightening pace is essential to a game plan that is based on sitting deep and counter-attacking at speed.
N’Golo Kante, Leicester City
Kante has been outstanding in the Leicester engine room after a £5.6 million move from Caen last summer. No player has made more tackles than the 24-year-old, who has also demonstrated plenty of ability on the ball with his driving runs forward. Vardy and Mahrez have captured the majority of the headlines, but there is an argument to be made that Kante has been even more integral to the Foxes’ championship challenge.
Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
A slow start to the campaign – Kane did not find the back of the net in his first six appearances, belatedly opening his account in the 4-1 win over Manchester City in late September – saw some label the England international a one-season wonder. The 22-year-old has come roaring back since then, plundering a total of 21 goals as the spearhead of Tottenham’s unlikely title tilt.
Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur
Alderweireld has played a key role in Spurs’ excellent defensive record, with Mauricio Pochettino’s men having conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League. A fine reader of the game with an excellent range of passing, the Belgian has both stopped and started attacks this term.
Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
Arsenal would have fallen out of the title race even earlier than they did were it not for Ozil, who is on course to beat Thierry Henry’s Premier League record of 20 assists in a single campaign (the former Real Madrid playmaker is currently on 18). The 27-year-old’s displays since August have silenced the critics who doubted whether he would ever excel in England.
Dimitri Payet, West Ham United
Payet has probably been the best player to watch in 2015/16, with his sublime touch and dazzling trickery making him a favourite of the Upton Park faithful already. Eight goals and eight assists is an excellent return for someone who was sidelined for two months through injury, but Payet’s contribution to West Ham’s terrific season cannot really be measured in numbers alone.
Romelu Lukaku, Everton
While Everton have been one of the biggest underachievers in the division this term, Lukaku does not bear any responsibility for their struggles. The Belgium international has struck 18 times in 29 appearances and become a much more rounded centre-forward, with his link-up play now far better than it was in previous years.
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