Alternate Team of the Year

In a season where the points record is set to be comfortably beaten by the team in second place, it is almost inevitable that the annual Professional Footballers Association Team of the Year will be dominated by the two forces likely to be duelling for the league title until the final day, Liverpool and Manchester City. 

The line-up, which was voted for by fellow professionals, did not deviate from the expected, but it did throw in the surprise inclusion of Paul Pogba.

The 2018 World Cup winner has suffered seesawing form throughout the campaign, and his presence in the PFA team has been questioned.

lack of representation from clubs outside of the top six has necessitated the need for an alternate XI to provide a fairer celebration of talent across the league. 

Goalkeeper

Lukasz Fabianksi:

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Signed from relegated Swansea City for £7m last summer, it is fair to say that the 34-year-old’s arrival at the London Stadium was rather more understated than the likes of record-breaking £35m signing Felipe Anderson. 

However, the former Arsenal stopper has been one of the few outstanding players for West Ham. The Hammers have had a wildly inconsistent season but at no point has it been due to indifferent form from their new No 1. He is an impressive shot-stopper and has great positional awareness, despite being frequently let down by an unstable back four. Outside of the top six teams, you would be hard pushed to identify a more safe and reliable goalkeeper this season. 

Right-Back

Aaron Wan-Bissaka:

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The 21-year-old has hugely impressed for Crystal Palace in his first full season, and has  established himself in the first team as a result. 

The Croydon-born youngster has missed just three league games so far, having such an impact that many pundits have bemoaned the inclusion of established stars like Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva on the PFA Young Player of the Year shortlist at Bissaka’s expense. 

Maintaining such form next season will inevitably lead to questions over an international call-up and will undoubtedly trigger interest from top-six outfits. 

Centre-Back

Conor Coady:

The Wolves captain has been a key figure in the three-man defence that Nuno Espírito Santo has deployed since the start of their 2017/18 promotion campaign. He has shown excellent leadership qualities alongside teammates Ryan Bennett and Willy Boly and has been a big part of ensuring Wolves boast the fifth best defensive record in the league. 

Coady’s wide passing range, combined with his physical robustness in the tackle and aerial prowess has contributed much to Wolves’ season and has made him one of the most intimidating and awkward defenders to face. 

Centre-Back

Toby Alderweireld:

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One of the Premier League’s most underrated defenders. The Belgian suffered a season blighted by injuries and contract issues last term but, following an excellent World Cup showing, has rediscovered his solidity and dependableness. He has put in  match-winning performances on numerous occasions for Mauricio Pochettino’s side  – not least in their recent heroic quarter-Final defeat of Manchester City in the Champions League. 

A strong reader of the game, adept at dealing with aerial threats and more than competent at building play from the back, the 29-year-old can count himself unfortunate to have not been included in the season’s TOTY. 

Left-Back

Jose Holebas:

The 34-year-old had an early impact in Watford’s early form, scoring once and contributing four assists from the same number of opening games. His form has not  dipped, proving to be a key player in the Hornets’ run to the FA Cup final and quest for seventh place in the league

What the Greek full-back lacks in pace is compensated for by quality of his crossing. Now, boasting three goals and six assists, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the only defenders to have set up more goals in the league. 

Right-wing

Ryan Fraser:

The 25-year-old Scotsman is enjoying the finest season of his career and has admitted that talk of strong interest from Arsenal – Fraser is entering the final year of his contract on the south coast – is a testament to the form he has been showing for Bournemouth. 

The diminutive and robust winger, who can operate on either flank, has scored more league goals than either Mesut Ozil or Dele Alli this season and, perhaps more impressively, boasts the most league assists bar Eden Hazard and Christian Eriksen. 

Fraser’s unyielding and relentless style has played a huge part in Bournemouth’s success since their promotion to the top tier in 2015 and only underlines why he would be such a colossal lose to a club with limited finances. 

Centre-midfield

Ruben Neves: 

The 21-year-old Portuguese prodigy became one of Nuno Espírito Santo’s key men when he was signed for a record £15.8m from Porto last season when Wolves were not a Premier League team. He quickly established himself as one of figureheads of  their promotion chase. 

Neves has benefitted from being entrusted with consistent first team football by his manager and has only matured by playing better quality of opposition this season. He has contributed two goals and four assists – the pick of which was the exquisite dipping free-kick in their 3-1 home victory over Arsenal on Wednesday night. 

Centre-midfield

Declan Rice:

West Ham’s recently converted England midfielder has enjoyed a superb season under Manuel Pellegrini, who has had him playing a deep-lying role for the Hammers. 

The 20-year-old has looked by far the most composed outfield player in a claret and blue, making 35 appearances in his first full season. He scored his first professional goal and receive a first senior international call-up. 

Having principally been a centre-back before his transition under Pellegrini in the early part of the season, he possesses a level of technical assuredness on the ball that is sure to blossom as he gains more top-level experience. 

Left-wing

Eden Hazard:

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The Belgian superstar is arguably enjoying his finest season in a Chelsea shirt, in what could well be his last for the Blues and in the Premier League. 

He is currently one goal short – with three games remaining  – of surpassing his previous best tally of 16 goals scored in the league, in 2016/17, while his 13 assists is already two greater than his previous Premier League best, achieved in 2012/13. 

Hazard’s omission from the PFA TOTY is all the more remarkable considering only days earlier the 28-year-old was announced on the  shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year. 

Such an honour would be deserved recognition for some stirring performances this season, including vital goals against Cardiff, Liverpool and Tottenham (League Cup), as well crucial strikes to keep Chelsea in touching distance of the Champions League places (namely against Waford, Brighton and an utterly mesmerising goal and man-of-the-match performance in April at home to West Ham). 

A widely expected move to Real Madrid may be on the horizon but Chelsea’s dependency on Hazard only underlines further why they should do everything in their power to resist selling their most prized asset. 

Striker

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The Gabon striker is currently the joint-highest Premier League goal-scorer this season – tied with Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah  vindicating the £56m Arsenal lavished on the now-29-year-old in January of 2018. 

Aubameyang’s goals have been directly responsible for winning the Gunners 16 points, highlighting his value to Unai Emery’s side. 

His partnership with Alexandre Lacazette has also been a growing influence, with the dynamic duo clocking up 31 goals in the league this season between them. 

Striker

Son Heung-Min:

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When Son Heung-Min fired Tottenham’s first ever goal at their new stadium earlier this month, the arena festooned with the flags of his own country South Korea served as testament to a stunning campaign for the forward, who has now reached the 20-goal mark. 

For a player who has admitted he was close to leaving North London in 2016 due to lack of playing time, Son made the most of his cameo appearances and has become one of Tottenham’s most potent attacking weapons. 

Following on from leading his nation to a gold medal at the Asia Games in August, his goals, positional awareness and outstanding work-rate have played a pivotal role in Tottenham’s annual chase for the top four and their first European semi-final since 1962.

Follow Hal on Twitter @HalWalker

 

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