The PFA Player of the Year award is the most prestigious individual award a player can receive in British domestic football. The likes of Eden Hazard, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ian Rush have all won it, but who will join them on this list come the end of the season?
For me, N’golo Kanté has to be right up at the top of the contenders’ list. From a glance, his statistics look abysmal for a player rated this highly, with just 1 goal and 1 assist in the league this season, but his defensive stats are next to none, with an average pass number of 61.27 passes per game, 120 accurate long balls, 104 tackles with a 67% success rate, 66 interceptions, 236 recoveries, 167 duels won, and 0 errors leading to conceding. Wow.
The French international looks set to join the short list of players to win the league back to back with different clubs, and has been instrumental in Chelsea’s success this campaign. What gets me, though, is if you look at the form of his two latest clubs, Leicester and Chelsea, before and after he arrived. Kanté arrived at Leicester from french side Caen for a fee of around £5.6m on August 3rd 2015. Before this, The Foxes had had what looked to be an awful season, but 7 wins in their last 9 games meant they finished 14th. Then, the season after, they did the seemingly impossible, defying the bookies’ 5,000-1 odds and won the premier league title, and deservedly too. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez mainly shared the plaudits, and although Kanté’s excellence didn’t go unnoticed, he was effectively a tier-2 player in their success.
However, this season, Kanté has proved to everyone that he was really the main reason Leicester won the league. Last season The Blues finished 10th and were totally lacklustre compared to their previous, title-winning, season, however this season they have been completely dominant against almost every single one of their opponents and seem to have the title wrapped up. This is because Chelsea didn’t have an energetic, box-to-box powerhouse in the midfield last season, but now, in Kanté they have fixed the missing link in their squad and found the perfect formula, which is why paying £30m for the Frenchman was a genius transfer.
But, Kanté isn’t the only contender for POTY. Belgian teammate Eden Hazard will be up there too, scoring 14 goals and getting 5 assists in 29 appearances and being Chelsea’s main catalyst going forwards. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will also be in contention, scoring 43 in 65 and single-handedly propelling United into the top 6. Without the Swede’s goals the Red Devils would be 9th.
So who will join Riyad Mahrez, Eden Hazard and Luis Suárez on the list of winners of the PFA Player of the Year? one thing’s for sure, Riyad Mahrez won’t be defending his title!
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