This week the PFA team of the year was announced, as voted for by the players of themselves and while there was some very worthy members such as Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli, there were also some notable absentees that can feel a little hard done by that their brilliant efforts this season have not resulted in their selection for the team. Below are the top five players that just missed the cut.
This season has been Butland’s breakthrough year, with Asmir Begovic moving to Chelsea in the summer he had the opportunity to impress and right up until his unfortunate injury he was certainly doing just that. This season he has kept 10 clean sheets and made an impressive 102 saves, which still puts him second in the Premier League despite missing the last month with an ankle injury , an even more impressive feat when he consider he is still only 23 years old. He has kept Stoke in many games this season with one of the most memorable being when he managed to shut out Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium despite a wave of pressure to secure a 0-0 draw for his side. His performances earned him the opportunity to replace Joe Hart for England and only injury cruelly cut that short. This should not detract from Butland’s season though and he had a very strong claim to be included in that team.
There can be no doubt that picking up Fuchs on a free transfer from Schalke was an inspired piece of business from Leicester that put the rest of the Premier League to shame. They weren’t worried that he was 29 years old and instead valued his experience he gained playing in Germany and captaining Austria. He has brought a calmness to Leicester’s back four and has been a vital cog in the defence that has kept 6 clean sheets in their last 8 games. He is an old fashioned full back who proiritises defending over going over forward, a trait that has rather been lost in the modern game, this means Leicester are caught on the break far less and face far fewer balls being pumped into their box. He was snubbed in favour of Hector Bellerin despite his lack of any real outstanding performances and I fear that he has won his place on the basis of his attacking displays rather than his defending which is his job. Fuchs has always put defence first and has performed admirably and perhaps most of all can feel hard done by.
There are some that say that the team of the year should just be Leicester’s starting line-up and it is true that almost all of their players had a real claim to make team of the season. One of the best claims surely came from Danny Drinkwater. After being let go by Manchester United in 2012 Drinkwater might have thought his Premier League dream was over but he decided not to accept this and has worked his way back into the Premier League with Leicester City, who now lead United by an incredible 14 points. He has excelled this season acting as a screen for the defence and then using his expert vision and range of passing to pick out Jamie Vardy and put Leicester on the attack and he is another player whose outstanding performances have earned him a chance for his country. He even gained the unique accolade of being named man of the match on his international debut at Wembley against the Netherlands on 17th March this year and while it is so hard to squeeze everyone in, surely Drinkwater earned his place.
This omission was perhaps the most talked about, despite being named on the six man shortlist for the PFA player of the year there was no space for Ozil in the PFA team of the year. This omission becomes all the more mystifying when you delve into the statistics. Ozil is the undisputed assist king this season as he has 18 to his name so far, whereas his nearest competitor, Christian Eriksen, trails behind on 12. He can also point to a pass completion rate in the high eighties, this kind of form is undoubtedly behind Arsenal being one of the most creative sides in the league. If only they had a world class striker that then could be challenging for the league title and Ozil would certainly have more assists. Ozil now looks completely accustomed to the style of play here in England and is starting to flourish, this along with the fact that he was deemed good enough to make the player of the year shortlist makes the decision all the more strange.
Ighalo always faced an uphill struggle to dislodge Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane and maybe we can’t complain that these two supreme talents make up the strike force in the team but at the same time we mustn’t forget the performances of Odion Ighalo. This season was his first taste of Premier League action after scoring an impressive 20 goals in the Championship last season and despite playing in a team tipped to struggle and ultimately get relegated, alongside his partner Troy Deeney, Ighalo has managed to transfer his form up a division, his performances have helped Watford earn 41 points and avoid the expected relegation battle. His goals have dried up slightly in this second half of the season but for a first season in the top flight 14 in still an impressive tally and his name would surely have been mentioned when the team was being drawn up.