David de Gea (Man United)
Unquestionably the Premier League’s standout goalkeeper this season, De Gea constantly rescued Manchester United when Louis van Gaal had yet to implement his methods successfully and United were often on the back foot. His shot-stopping remains outstanding, with a series of saves in a 2-1 victory at the Emirates against Arsenal particularly memorable. De Gea’s reactions have always been good, however.
The previous question about the Spaniard was whether he could cope with the physicality of the league, but he’s bulked up and now commands his box. Whereas many continental keepers prefer to punch, De Gea has caught 82% of aerial balls this season – and not dropped one.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
The Brazilian playmaker has enjoyed his most consistent season at Liverpool, and the starring role he's been given with Luis Suarez gone and Daniel Sturridge often sidelined. He suited the 3-4-3 formation perfectly with his drifts infield, and also played excellently in a forward role against Newcastle.
Capable of intelligent movement and beautiful through-balls, Coutinho needs to become more efficient in the final third: 4 goals and 4 assists isn’t bad, but not quite PFA Player of the Year standard.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
The Belgian will be in the PFA Team of the Year for the third successive season – and this has been his best yet. While his team-mates have dipped in recent weeks, Hazard has continued his excellent form and is probably the best all-round attacker in the Premier League.
He’s created more chances than Fabregas, has a better shot-conversion rate than Sergio Aguero, and has completed more dribbles than any other player in the division. His 12 goals, interestingly, have come in 12 different games – and that summarises Hazard’s solid, understated consistency.
He hasn’t scored the spectacular goals Gareth Bale managed two years ago, or managed the individual performances of Luis Suarez last year, but Hazard would be a worthy PFA Player of the Year.
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
A brilliant technician with a feisty, combative edge, Sanchez’s dynamism makes him perfect for English football. He became Arsenal’s most important attacking player almost immediately.
Capable of scoring, assisting and tracking back, Sanchez has played in a variety of positions for Arsenal – in all four forward positions in Arsenal’s regular 4-2-3-1 formation. 14 goals and 8 assists is a fine return from his first season in English football, and with a month of the season still remaining too.
A post-Christmas dip in form will count against him in terms of the voting, but it’s between him and Diego Costa for the season’s best debutant.
Diego Costa (Chelsea)
The archetypical Jose Mourinho forward, Costa is a battering ram capable of running the channels and getting on the end of crosses, leading the line with brute force as much as technical ability.
The outstanding aspect of his game, however, is his chance-conversation rate: 33% is extremely high for any player in any division, which means that while the Spain international isn’t as involved in build-up play as many other forwards, he’s the most unerring finisher. As things stand, his minutes-per-goal ratio is slightly better than Aguero or Kane. Only fitness and disciplinary problems have let him down.
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Kane is scoring goals with such regularity that you simply expect him to find the net these days, and his debut England goal came as no surprise. Yet it’s worth remembering quite what an extraordinary rise this has been – at the start of the campaign, you could get 1000/1 for him to finish top goalscorer.
No one seems entirely sure quite how good Kane is, or whether this outstanding scoring form can last. When Spurs are on the back foot, Kane is a consistent outlet, either by dropping back to help out or running the channels. But his touch is good, his positional awareness is the type of thing you can’t teach and his finishing is consistently ruthless. It will be a huge surprise if he fails to scoop the PFA’s Young Player award.
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