Ranked! Who'd win a Premier League Old Player of the Season award? The 9 candidates...
9. Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea, 32)
One of the things that’s changed since Carlos Carvalhal arrived at Swansea is their defence. The Welsh side have the best backline among the relegation candidates, and that record would have been even better had they not been hammered by Manchester City recently: that kind of thing can happen.
Fabianski has been a huge part of that: observe, for example, the recent game against Huddersfield when Swansea had a man sent off after 10 minutes, but thanks to the Pole’s excellence managed to escape with a draw. In an understated way, away from the glare of Arsenal, he has turned into an excellent goalkeeper.
8. Nacho Monreal (Arsenal, 32)
Few Arsenal players have escaped this season with their reputations enhanced, but Monreal might be one of them. He’s nobody’s idea of a world-beating left-back, but the Spaniard has performed well nonetheless and gained something of a cult following for his (weirdly good) goalscoring.
Monreal has popped up with six this term – not bad considering he only got two last season, and one in the two-and-a-half campaigns before that. He’s been dependable in a back three or four, and while Arsenal have plenty of problems, he’s not one of them.
7. Antonio Valencia (Manchester United, 32)
The Secret Footballer once said that trying to block a clearance by Valencia was like being hit by a train. You can well believe it. When the Ecuadorian first filled in as a full-back he looked lost; a man out of place – because he was, as a winger asked to do a defender’s job. But over time he’s adapted to be one of the most reliable right-backs in the Premier League. Nothing too fussy, nothing spectacular, just steady consistency – enough to earn him Manchester United’s player-of-the-year award in 2016/17.
Jose Mourinho described him as the best right-back in the world last year, which might be a bit much, but United certainly haven’t had to worry about that position while he’s been there.
6. Stephen Ward (Burnley, 32)
When Burnley signed Charlie Taylor from Leeds last summer, he looked like another young graduate from the second tier that Sean Dyche would mould into a top-flight performer. But he’s barely had the chance, broadly thanks to the form of Stephen Ward, a doughty old soldier who has kept ploughing up and down that left flank for most of the season.
Bar a couple of months out around the turn of the year, the Irishman has been an automatic choice for Burnley. It may or may not be a coincidence that they didn’t win any of the fixtures he missed.