EPL: Ranking the PFA Nominees for Premier League Young Player of the Year
The 21-year-old full-back enjoyed an impressive first season in Tottenham’s first team, but he came up against some formidable opposition for the award.
Let’s look back at the nominees and see how they justified their nominations—and here I provide my own rankings for the six young Premier League stars.
As usual, feel free to have your say in the comments below.
6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
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It’s been a meteoric rise for Arsenal’s midfield prodigy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain this season, and the nomination was rightly justified by a series of scintillating performances for the Gunners, but the award came perhaps too soon for him.
Sure, he’s made a big enough splash in the Premier League to make the continent sit up and take notice—he might just make the England squad for this summer's European Championships—but at the end of the day, he’s only made 15 appearances in the Premier League.
Perhaps a tad premature, but given what we’ve seen this season, don’t be surprised if he shows up again.
5. Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea)
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Early in the season, Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge had one of the highest goals-to-shots ratios in the Premier League.
Over the course of the season, Sturridge has gained an unwanted reputation as one of the most selfish players in the Chelsea squad—and perhaps in the entire league—but he has still given Chelsea 10 goals in 26 appearances.
With an impressive turn of pace, great vision and nimble footwork, he’s made a strong case for a place on the trip to Poland and Ukraine this summer, and will be a fantastic asset for both Chelsea and England for years to come.
4. Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
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This is where the ranking really gets hard.
So in fourth place comes Tottenham’s Welsh wing wizard Gareth Bale—if only because he’s already been here and done this before. His PFA Player of the Year award last season was perhaps a surprise, but it was on the back of a season that really put him on the footballing map.
It was always going to be hard measuring up to such a strong breakthrough season.
But he’s on the verge of notching football’s version of a double-double—in 32 appearances this season, he’s scored nine goals and collected eight assists, a tidy achievement for a 22-year-old still in the beginning stages of his career at the top level.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has given Bale a free role at times this season—at the expense of his devastating form on the wing, where he might have to return to if he is to win the Player of the Year award again.
3. Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
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This has been a coming-of-age season for Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck.
Taking Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez’s place in the starting 11 was never going to be an easy task, but he took his opportunity with both hands and has handsomely repaid Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in him with nine goals and four assists in 29 league appearances.
His forceful presence up front, coupled with great athleticism and pace, has made him a wonderful complement to Wayne Rooney—and their blossoming partnership has been key to United’s recent resurgence.
Regardless of whether United do end up winning the Premier League this season, Welbeck will rest assured that his contributions have been massive, and that he has put himself firmly in the plans of both United and England’s managers.
There is still room for improvement, of course—his goalscoring, among several other facets of his game, could be better—but Danny Welbeck still has years to come leading the line at Old Trafford.
2. Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
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For all of his achievements this season, Tottenham’s Kyle Walker will at best have to place second in this list.
But it’s been a wonderful season for the full-back, who was still on loan with Aston Villa this time last year.
In a year’s time, he’s established himself as first choice at a club that just a few months ago was within a few whiskers of topping the Premier League, and has been capped by the full England team.
And rightly so—pace, energy, physical presence, dribbling and overall attacking prowess are often mentioned in conjunction with Walker’s name, but his defensive abilities are equally impressive for someone so raw.
Kyle Walker has become the poster boy for young English talent, but even he can’t be sure of a first-team place in the England setup just yet, with Manchester City’s Micah Richards and Liverpool’s Glen Johnson still strong contenders for the Euros—and with prospects like Liverpool’s Martin Kelly lurking.
But Walker won the Young Player of the Year award for a reason, and it is because he has truly shone in the 2011-2012 season.
1. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
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Unfortunately for Walker, Manchester City’s strike phenom Sergio Aguero will have to take first place in this list.
Perhaps it’s a tad unfair on the other competitors, because Aguero has had ample experience on both the European and international stage—his name has been around for quite a while—but Aguero’s age makes him eligible for this list, and his performances this season mean that he should have taken the title.
Slightly under the radar is the fact that Aguero is currently a solitary goal away from equaling Fernando Torres’ goals record for a foreign player in a debut Premier League season, and just two goals away from being the new record-holder.
And that statistic only begins to scratch at the surface of Aguero’s fine all-around play, which has brought 22 goals and seven assists in only 31 appearances.
It might not be enough to land him the Golden Boot in his first season in English football, but it should have earned him a Young Player of the Year—and expect to see him winning the PFA Player of the Year award in the coming seasons.
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So that’s my ranking for this year’s outstanding young Premier League stars.
Did you agree? If not, who should’ve placed first? Or did anyone miss out on the nomination outright?
Have your say in the comments below.
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in my Premier League Team of the Year. Please also check out my writer’s profile, where you can find more of my work, and my blog, The Red Armchair, for Liverpool match reactions and opinions.