My PFA alternatives
This season’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) awards seem to have ruffled fewer feathers than ever before.
You are never going to get everyone to agree with a set of awards for the Footballer(s) of the Year, but the consensus is that the players have done a decent job in recognising their most talented peers.
Few questioned Robin van Persie’s selection (indeed, the Football Writers’ Association also picked the Dutch striker) and, although Kyle Walker’s nod for Young Footballer of the Year was questioned by some, Sergio Aguero’s inclusion in the list of nominees for the main award may have ultimately counted against him.
As for the Team of the Year, well it is hard to disagree with the players’ picks but there is nothing wrong with suggesting a few alternatives. So here goes.
Joe Hart got the nod in goal and he is genuinely growing into a player of immense stature but this has been a season of superb goalkeeping and my alternative XI choice between the posts is Newcastle’s 24-year-old Dutchman, Tim Krul. He has kept 14 clean sheets and averaged over five saves a game in a remarkable season for the Magpies.
Our Premier League TV pundits have regularly questioned the defensive standards in the league this season and, with that in mind, I would be loath to look beyond the PFA’s chosen back four of Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Fabrizio Coloccini and Leighton Baines.
My alternative choices would be Newcastle’s Danny Simpson or Chelsea’s versatile Branislav Ivanovic at right-back, Benoit Assou-Ekotto or Ashely Cole at left-back, the ever-improving Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal at centre-back with either Martin Skrtel of Liverpool or Johnny Evans of Manchester United for company.
The PFA went for a four-man midfield of David Silva, Scott Parker, Yaya Toure and Gareth Bale. Again, that would take some beating but my alternative XI response would be to cheat a little by picking a 4-3-3 formation.
Arsenal’s Alex Song would be my midfield lynchpin. Still only 24, Song has developed his game to the extent that he has produced nine assists this season – most memorably in setting up Van Persie for stunning goals – and he is crucial to Arsenal’s continued development.
Alongside him in midfield would be Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye. The former Lille man has four goals and eight assists to his name and has been the driving force behind Newcastle’s concerted push for Champions League football.
Because I am desperate to have him in my team, I would ask Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia to play in a deeper right-sided midfield role. His 24 appearances this season (remember, he has come back from serious injury) have produced 14 assists and four goals and he was unlucky not to make the PFA team.
Wayne Rooney and Van Persie spearheaded the PFA XI. Between them they have an amazing 53 league goals. My front three players have “only” 49 between them but they have all had stunning seasons.
Leading the charge is Sergio Kun Aguero. The little Argentine has scored 22 goals and contributed 8 assists in 31 games. He is my choice for Young Footballer of the Year by quite some way.
Supporting him in my team would be Clint Dempsey, who is in the form of his life with 16 goals and six assists from 34 games. His form has reportedly attracted the attention of Arsenal and Manchester United and he will have a big decision to make come season’s end.
Lastly, and perhaps most controversially, I am including a player who has made just 10 Barclays Premier League appearances this season. Papisse Demba Cisse has scored 11 goals in that time, contributed two assists, broken records and threatened Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal’s Champions League qualification. He looks to be that most valued of players, the natural goal-scorer.
I would love to have found a place for the following: Blackburn’s 21-year-old Canadian Junior Hoilett (31 games, seven goals, six assists) and his teammate Yakubu (who has scored a remarkable 16 goals in 27 games); Cisse’s teammate and compatriot Demba may have lost his scoring touch of late but his 30 games have produced 16 goals. Tottenham’s mercurial Emanuel Adebayor has delivered 13 goals and 12 assists in 29 games while there are also mentions for Sunderland’s Stephane Sessegnon, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta as well as Chelsea’s Brazilian Ramires
Lastly, given the contributions of Norwich and Swansea this season, I would gladly have selected the following for my team: Swansea’s superb ‘keeper Michel Vorm and midfielders/forwards Joe “tiki-taka” Allen, Scott Sinclair (eight goals and four assists), Gylfi Sigurdsson (seven goals and three assists from 15 games) and Danny Graham (into double figures for top-flight goals).
From Norwich, my picks would be midfielder Anthony Pikington for his eight goals, several of them stunners, and the combative Grant Holt who has scored 13 goals and looks like someone you’d want to go for a drink with.