The English Football Association on Friday released the list of players nominated for the PFA Player of the Year Award as well as the PFA Young Player of the Year prize.
The candidates for the main award held few surprises but the Young Player of the Year award left a lot of question marks over the selection. A lot of fine young performers from other teams who have put in a lot of good work have been overlooked.
The list of players nominated are; Gareth Bale, Jack Wilshere, Eden Hazard, Danny Welbeck, Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku.
Benteke for Aston Villa and Lukaku for West Brom were sure to be chosen. The two Belgian strikers have had exemplary seasons for their clubs; without Benteke's goals, Villa would be further down in the race to stave off relegation and Lukaku has become first choice striker at the Hawthorns after Peter Odemwingie's falling out and the frequent injuries to Shane Long.
Eden Hazard has had a fantastic debut season for Chelsea as well, completing a Belgian treble. Eight goals and nine assists are the statistical part of it, but his pace and dribbling coupled with top quality strikes show why Chelsea spent a whole lot of money in getting his signature.
The remaining three on the list - Wilshere, Bale and Welbeck are not entirely convincing choices. Yes, Bale fits the age category, but he has been already nominated in the Player of the Year shortlist and is even odds-on favourite to win it; that nomination could well have been given to another player.
Wilshere has had a sizable impact; every time he plays, Arsenal look a totally different side. But, he has made only 20 appearances and his season has been ravaged by injuries. Welbeck is the most surprising choice; it's true that he is one of the most improved players in the Manchester United team; however, one would stop short of saying that he has had a year worthy of a nomination. In 29 appearances (12 starts), he has scored just one goal and provided four assists.
It doesn't matter that he has been played out wide; because when you are a striker, you cannot have a return of one goal and be nominated for a prestigious award. And it has not been for lack of scoring opportunities. By far, his was the most startling inclusion.
Here's a list of young players, some not from the big glamorous teams, but certainly deserving of recognition for their efforts this season.
Matija Nastasic | Manchester City
The 20-year-old Serbian has been one of the bright spots in the City squad this term. After Roberto Mancini seemingly fell out of love with Joleon Lescott, the young Serbian centre-back immediately became a part of the manager's first team plans, and, he hasn't disappointed.
With 19 appearances in total, all of them starts, Nastasic averages almost two tackles, two interceptions and six clearances a game. He also boasts a stupendous pass completion rate of 86% with 45 passes on average in a game; in other words, a ball-playing defender.
In those 19 league games he has won 60.1% of duels, 66.7% of aerial duels, and won 93% of 30 tackles made in total; traits of a very good defender. When the Serbian has turned out for City, the defending champions have conceded a meagre 0.65 goals per game. He has by some distance been the best defender in the City back-line.
David de Gea | Manchester United
If one had to bet on a youngster from Manchester United to be part of the list, it would be the Spanish stopper. He has made 25 appearances in all, helping his side with 75 saves, which if you do the simple math translates to three saves on average a game.
He has also kept 10 clean sheets, 40% of his games. He is the third-best keeper in the Premier League by their own index behind Petr Cech and Joe Hart.
Nathaniel Clyne | Southampton
His performances this season have shown why he was so highly sought after last summer. Clyne is one of the most used players for the Saints with 30 appearances to his credit, all of them starts.
The young English right-back has scored one goal and chipped in with three assists and is a prime focal point for a lot of the Saints attacks with his marauding runs down the right flank. His pace and crossing ability have caused a lot of problems for opposition defences and his defending has improved as the season has gone on.
Morgan Schneiderlin | Southampton
Schneiderlin plays in the deep-lying role for the Saints, between defence and midfield, like Patrick Vieira used to do for Arsenal. Schneiderlin has played every single game for Southampton and boasts a stat line that's as impressive as they come; five goals, a pass completion rate of 84%, three Man of the Match awards, 4.3 tackles on average a game and 3.8 interceptions per game. He is the lynchpin in the Southampton team and has formed a formidable partnership with Gaston Ramirez and Adam Lallana in midfield.
Ben Davies | Swansea City
When Neil Taylor, Swansea's regular left-back, fell victim to a horror broken leg against West Ham United on 25 August, 2012, Michael Laurdrup turned to 19-year-old academy graduate Ben Davies.
Since then, Davies has come in and made that place his own and even with Taylor set to return to action looks set to keep his place in the starting XI. 32 appearances in all, 29 starts and three as a sub, the Welsh teenager has been rock-solid at the back.
He has one goal and two assists to his name and has helped his team keep seven clean sheets. Davies has put in 60 successful tackles and made 54 interceptions to go with nine blocked shots.
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