Josh in the Box

Five Players Who Should Have Made the PFA Team of the Year

The Premier League lumbers towards the final throes of the season, the title already sewn up and West Brom seemingly making no apparent effort to stay in the division – but, crucially, awards season is finally upon us.

Quite why the PFA elects to reveal its team of the season four matches before the curtain draws down is a bit of a puzzler, but reveal it they have and it makes for customarily divisive reading.

A quick peruse yields the usual suspects: Salah, Kane, De Bruyne, De Gea, but we couldn’t help feeling that there are a few footballers plying their trade in England’s top flight that can feel a little peeved to have been overlooked by their peers.

So, ever the fan of the underdog, we’ve drawn up our list of the nearly men; the plucky battlers who missed out on the top spots because they didn’t slip their colleagues a big enough bung.

James Tarkowski – Burnley

Mariusz Pudzianowski, Robert Kubica, and, erm, Jerzy Dudek? The list of famous Polish sports stars is as eclectic as it is impressive, and they can sort of lay claim to another in the form of Burnley centre-half James Tarkowski. Of Polish descent, the England centre-half has been a revelation for the Clarets this season as they aim to record their highest ever Premier League points tally, and their best top-flight finish since 1974.

Thanks to Sean Dyche, Tarkowski has been faithfully installed alongside the Finest Centre Half in the History of Football™, Ben Mee, where the pair have formed an impassable wall at the heart of Burnley’s back four. Averaging seven clearances a game, the 25-year-old lives for defending. Absolutely bloody loves it, he does.

A string of fine performances led to his first England cap, and one can argue his exclusion from the PFA team of the year is a little harsh. Especially when you consider arch-bungler Nicolas Otamendi has somehow snuck into the side.

Raheem Sterling – Manchester City

In a way, the PFA team of the year doesn’t need any more City players – although saying that, United did once rack up seven entrants into the 2007 edition – but Raheem is another young Englishman who has enjoyed a fruitful season.

Under Pep’s watchful eye, he’s developed from an inconsistent prodigy into a genuine goal threat who can play anywhere along the front line – from inverted winger, to number 10, to false 9. A career-best 18 league goals (more than his previous two seasons combined) is testament to the diligence he’s put into improving his effectiveness in the final third.

It’s just a shame that despite his improvements, he still runs like Velma from Scooby Doo.

Wilfried Zaha – Crystal Palace

Could’ve been the third Englishman on the list if it wasn’t for the fact he was born in the Ivory Coast and chose to play for them. Get over it, lads!

A powerful, tricky and direct runner, Zaha has been crucial to Crystal Palace’s concerted efforts to avoid the drop, despite the absolute shambles that was Frank de Boer trying to play slick possession football with Christian f*cking Benteke as his main centre-forward.

Under Hodgson, Zaha has become a lethal forward, notching seven goals, two assists and averaging over four successful dribbles a game. Desperately unlucky to miss out on a spot in the PFA team of the year, with Palace floundering in the lower echelons of the Premier League once again, next year could finally be the right time for ol’ Wilf to make the jump to a more ambitious club. (Let’s forget about the ill-fated jaunt up north, aye?)

Phil Jones – Manchester United

At the start of this campaign, if anyone were to claim that serial physio-botherer Phil Jones would materialise into Manchester United’s most consistent centre-half, you have laughed in their face and perhaps even knocked their pint out of their hand.

For all his foibles (read: borderline workplace bullying of Luke Shaw), Jose Mourinho has somehow transformed Phil Jones from a national laughingstock into a footballer who actually looks like he belongs on a pitch. He may not be pretty on the ball, but he exists solely on this material plane to stop the ball going into the net.

An average of six clearances, two tackles and a block a game are indicative of his sheer desire to throw himself in the path of literally anything. Just don’t – don’t – pair him at the back with Chris Smalling, for f*ck’s sake.

Andrew Robertson – Liverpool

If there is a god, he has the most wicked sense of humour. Scotland haven’t had a world class footballer since Kenny Dalglish, but two have popped up with enormous potential right at the same time. The only problem is they’re both left-backs.

Of the two, Andy Robertson has come on leaps and bounds at Liverpool this season, ousting the hapless Alberto Moreno (to be fair, a hat stand would fare better than the Spaniard) and certifying his status as probably the best left-back in the entire league.

Quick, hard-working and rarely caught out of position – not to mention a wicked and inventive crosser to boot – Robertson has been the remedy to Klopp’s woes. It seems even more of a shame that he misses out on a spot to Marcos Alonso, chiefly because Alonso is a) not enjoying the best season in a poor Chelsea side; b) not strictly a left-back.