The 40th annual Professional Footballers Awards take place on April 28 2013, but the nominations from players start as early as February.
Why the PFA feel the need to start nominations with a third of the season to go doesn’t seem to make much sense. It’s lead to plenty of criticism over the years with many arguing that nominations shouldn’t start until May, with the winners of the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards announced just after the season has ended.
This season has to be considered one of the most competitive for the prestigious award voted by their fellow peers, and as there are so many players still in with a chance of winning, it makes you think why the need to decide so early. Fair enough, it can be a time consuming process but surely two or three weeks at the end of the season is sufficient time to find the winners.
Looking at some of the players who have had fantastic seasons so far, there's not much between them. Until recently Robin van Persie was the bookies' favourite to win Player of the Year as he has spearheaded a Manchester United attack contributing 19 goals – with many of them match winning strikes that have helped United restore a 12-point lead at the top.
Van Persie, who was last year’s winner, was top scorer in the league when players started casting their votes - yet he has since been overtaken.
Luis Suarez – the current top scorer - has also single handedly won matches for Liverpool and his 21 goals have seen them make a late push for a top-four spot. Scoring nearly half his clubs goals this season, if Liverpool can somehow qualify for the Champions League then surely Suarez should be a frontrunner.
Gareth Bale’s fantastic recent form has seen the player increase his tally to 16 goals as Tottenham Hotspur look to cement a Champions League place. Then there's the bargain of the season: Swansea City’s £2m signing Michu, who has scored 15 goals to put Swansea into the top ten - while also helping his side lift the Capital One Cup.
Other candidates include Chelsea’s Juan Mata and Everton duo Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines.
But what are the benefits to nominating players in February/March? A lot could happen by the end of the season. For example, if Van Persie gets injured and is out for the rest of the season and Suarez ends up scoring over 30 goals, or vice-versa, after the nominations have been received.
Or if Bale keeps up his recent form for the rest of the season he too could still finish with the Golden Boot - and a midfielder winning this award would’ve had to make him the favourite.
Looking to Young Player of the Year and some of the favourites mentioned could still make the difference regarding their club's fate. Christian Benteke, with 12 goals, has been a powerhouse and his vital goals have seen Aston Villa climb out of the relegation zone at present. With crucial games against fellow relegation candidates Queens Park Rangers and Wigan still to play, his form could prove key for Villa’s survival hopes.
Romelu Lukaku is another youngster who deserves credit for West Brom’s excellent season. Currently in eight position, if he can add to his tally of 13 goals he could help the Baggies qualify for Europe next season - making him a genuine contender.
A relatively injury-free season for Jack Wilshere has also seen him included as a candidate, as he has been instrumental in trying to help Arsenal get back on track for a Champions League spot. At the time of nominations Arsenal sat fifth, yet if Wilshere can inspire his side to a top-four finish then surely he would have been considered a contender come end of season.
Also, Rafael’s form for Manchester United has seen him make the right-back position his own, and hopefully it’s not too late for him to make a late surge in votes.
Looking back to last season, Van Persie claimed the prize for a magnificent campaign at Arsenal. However, many argued that if the awards were handed out after the season had finished then maybe Sergio Aguero could have taken either that or the Young Player of the Year award from Kyle Walker for his injury-time title winner to cap off a fantastic debut season for the Argentine.
So why the PFA feel the need to hold the ceremony so early is debatable - and maybe it’s something they should look to change in the future.
In order to have a credible assessment of which player is the best over the course of the whole campaign, players must be given their chance to assess it as a whole.
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