The players themselves vote for the PFA player of the season, which is why it is generally considered the highest individual accolade a footballer can receive. The journalists and writers who give their opinion a couple of weeks later like to think the FWA award is slightly grander and certainly more historic, though as many a PFA award-winner has noted in his acceptance speech, nothing beats gaining the admiration of fellow professionals, many of whom will have been playing for opponents or rivals.
One cannot argue with that process, so all six of the shortlisted PFA nominees should be considered for any team of the season too. The actual team of the season will be announced at the weekend, though judging by the shortlist it will be heavy on players from the two clubs currently vying for the title, while light on thoroughly deserving candidates from Tottenham downwards. What follows (in a 4-2-3-1 formation) is an attempt to redress that balance ever so slightly. This will not be the team the PFA announces, though hopefully it can be agreed that each member has had a significant season worthy of recognition.
Goalkeeper Ederson Manchester City
Goalkeeper: Ederson (Manchester City)
A toss-up between City’s No 1 and Liverpool’s Alisson. Both the Brazilians have been excellent since arriving in the country, both have helped shore up previously suspect defences, and at both clubs the daft giveaway goals have dried up. Ederson might be slightly better with the ball at his feet, that’s all.
Right-back: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)
It’s a fair cop, this is a naked attempt to shoehorn a player from a club in the lower half of the table into these proceedings. While Wilfried Zaha might be the obvious choice, places up front are limited. Wan-Bissaka is not in contention for any POTY awards, very few right-backs ever are, but his breakthrough has been so impressive Palace might struggle to keep hold of him this summer.
Photograph: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images
Centre-back: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)
Again, a selection for balance, otherwise one of the best Spurs seasons in memory would end up with no representation at all. Many expressed surprise that not only Harry Kane but also Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen did not make the PFA shortlist. Alderweireld is of a similar quality in a less glamorous position, a defender coveted by leading clubs around Europe.
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Not just on the shortlist but a likely winner of at least one individual award this season. The Dutch international has been so commanding at the back it now seems faintly ludicrous that he spent two years in Scotland before Southampton picked him up for £13m. He cost Liverpool an awful lot more but even at £75m everyone at Anfield considers his purchase money well spent.
Left-back: Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Another member of the meanest back line in the Premier League, Robertson probably thought he could never match last season’s exploits but is presently on course to do just that if not better. Reliable and energetic, Robertson is perfectly suited to Jürgen Klopp’s tactics, with a record of goal assists that would put many a winger to shame.
Midfield: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Possibly out of position in a more withdrawn role, but shortlisted for the PFA award so needs to feature somewhere. Bernardo is seen as the long-term replacement for his namesake David Silva at City, and it says everything about his close control and creative contribution this season that few doubt his suitability for such a daunting task.
Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters
Midfield: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Squeezes out Eriksen because of his ability to play a disciplined holding role, even if he is now abandoning that function to get further upfield and use his passing precision to initiate attacks. Liverpool now have a lot of midfield options behind their settled front three, though their captain is usually the most consistent.
Wide right: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Van Dijk’s main rival for the player of the season awards and undoubtedly improved since joining City. For country as well as club Sterling has looked the real deal this season, no longer an unpredictable box of tricks frequently blamed for taking the wrong option but a mature and poised attacking threat capable of causing problems for any defence.
No 10: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
There are other candidates for the role, including Eriksen (again!) and Roberto Firmino, though none are being talked up as potential players of the season. Hazard most certainly is, and though he has not always been played in his best position at Chelsea some stunning contributions reinforce the Belgian’s claim to be the best the Premier League can offer.
Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
Wide left: Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
Shortlisted for coming into his own this season after featuring as part of the Mohamed Salah support cast last time. Mané scores goals with head and feet and finds opportunities against the most determined defences. Liverpool’s front three have been worth 49 Premier League goals so far, with Mané keeping up the rate when Salah’s level dropped.
Centre-forward Sergio Agüero Manchester City
Centre-forward: Sergio Agüero (Manchester City)
Many would like to see the City striker gain recognition simply because he has been so scandalously ignored in the past. Currently the division’s joint top scorer, Agüero reliably puts the ball in the net with a minimum of fuss, especially when given a chance to use his hammer of a right foot. One of the best Premier League players bar none over the years.
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