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England's players of the year


It has been a strange season in the Barclays Premier League, as it usually is when one team seems to be running away with then title.

Last time it was like this was the 2006 season when Mourinho's blue machine could not be down in the march to a second successive title.

Usually, when this is the case, the candidates for the Player of the Year tend to come from the team at the top. Last year's double winner, Robin van Persie, was an early candidate as he led the Man United forward line with goals and assists to justify the perceived wisdom that his decision to choose United over City swung the title race.

No one has ever proven or heard the striker himself say that City was an option for him. City meeting Arsenal's asking price was never going to be enough for all footballers. But that is another story. Van Persie seems to have cooled off in terms of goals and assists as United continue their relentless assault to win back the title that was dramatically snatched away from them in the last minutes of last season.

Nevertheless, what cannot be denied is how crucial the Dutchman's early season form was for United as they registered their intent for the season. His hat-trick at Southampton even allowed for a penalty miss as United came from behind to win 3-2.

There were also the two goals in that fractious but very entertaining match at Stamford Bridge in which the visitors also won 3-2.

Gareth Bale won it in 2011 and I have to confess that I had actually forgotten he did. That was the season he really started to be in everyone's consciousness with barn storming performances at home and in Europe. I am really happy that Bale is fulfilling all his potential and early predictions about his career.

I first saw Bale play as a 17-year-old with Southampton in a LIVE Championship game where he started as left-back. I don't really recall the opponents but I remember clearly the spectacular free kick Bale scored. I was stunned at the quality and it reminded me so much of David Beckham in his days for Man United. His range of passing from that full-back position was very impressive and he actually did not look out of place as a left-back as he was not shy in the tackle.

This season Bale has added consistency and ability to play all over the front line into his quite awesome armoury. In a Spurs side carelessly short on numbers in the striker department, Bale has bailed the team out on numerous occasions and will continue to do that till the end of the season.

Spurs need him in top shape if they are to finish in a Champions League spot and have a go at Europe's top competition. There seems to be no weakness in his game currently as he is incredibly quick, dribbles the ball brilliantly, has a kick like a mule and is fantastic in the air. One of the most eye catching goals of the season was his goal at Old Trafford. His change of pace made Carrick and later Rio Ferdinand look like amateurs.

It says a lot about Bale's game now that teams make plans to counter him. It will not be outrageous for him to win it again.

In previous columns I have written about Luis Suarez of Liverpool so I can only add that he has upped his game and, with Daniel Sturridge in tandem, has a proper foil to play off. He does not carry all of Liverpool's goal scoring burden again yet he is now the Premier League's top scorer as we go into the last six weeks of the season.

Suarez is like no other striker in the Premier League and will walk into all the top sides in England and most of Europe, such is his ability. His hat-trick at Wigan was him at his impudent best. Most of the contenders for the award might have better press but none of them play for a club in such lowly position as Liverpool. No matter what happens at the end of the season, Liverpool have to keep hold of the Uruguayan as the Premier League will be a much poorer league without him.

It has been one dramatic season at Stamford Bridge and it is not even over yet. Oscar, Marin and Hazard were the new signings with the responsibility of moving the team in the direction of playing more expansive football. At least that is what we are led to believe. Oscar and Hazard have shone brilliantly in parts of the season. However, in the maelstrom, one player's quality has remained constant: the Spaniard, Juan Mata. Last season, David Silva up north in Manchester drove City on with his prompting and probings and goals. This season it has been Mata at the hub of everything good Chelsea do on the pitch.

No matter who you support you cannot help but enjoy watching Mata play if you love good football. Unlike many, he rarely dives - to be honest I can't remember any dives - but he is always available for a pass and that left foot is like a wand. For such a silky footballer he is always moving all across the last attacking third of the pitch. In tandem with Oscar and Hazard he is harder to play against. One-touch passing? Easy. Unlocking a defence for a striker? No problem. How about a free-kick into the top corner? Will do. It will crown a fine personal season should he win the award.

There have been other fine players for their clubs, notably Leighton Baines at Everton. Baines is at the hub of everything good Everton do offensively and in his day job as a defender he has been very good too. Is says a lot about a full-back that teams playing Everton make plans to counter the Toffees left side where Baines and the South African, Steven Pienaar, run riot.

While Van Persie has grabbed the headlines, Michael Carrick has been the most influential player on the pitch for run-away leaders Man United. When the Geordie has been on the pitch, United have played better and controlled matches better. He is disgracefully underrated by many.

Agree or disagree? Please do let me know your views. You can follow me on Twitter @CalvinEmeka


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