Power Ranking the PFA Young Player of the Year Shortlist
The Premier League season is coming to a close, and decisions will need to be made on which players are deserving of acclaim for impressing during this campaign for their respective clubs.
One of the awards which will be greatly coveted is the PFA (Professional Football Association) Young Player of the Year award, issued only for players who were 23 or under at the start of the season. The winner is voted by members of the players’ trade union deemed to have outshone the rest of their respective age field over the course of the season.
Past winners include Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, Arsenal's Jack Wilshere, Tottenham's Kyle Walker and most recently Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, formerly of Tottenham, per Wikipedia.
So who is in the running for the 2013/14 campaign?
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey
The Arsenal midfielder is a surprise name on the shortlist considering he’s missed three months of the season with a thigh injury at the end of December. But there’s no doubt prior to the setback that the 23-year-old was a shoo-in to make the shortlist after scoring eight goals and making seven assists in the Premier League before January.
Ramsey has been in phenomenal form this campaign when fit. According to WhoScored, only five Premier League players have made more tackles per game than the Welsh international this season (3.4), and only six Premier League players have made more passes per game on average than the former Cardiff man (65.4).
Despite being out for a third of the campaign, Ramsey is still the fifth highest-scoring midfielder in the league (eight).
Southampton: Luke Shaw
Southampton have a real gem in left-back Luke Shaw. The 18-year-old has been a regular in the Saints defence since their promotion back to the Premier League in 2012, but this season he’s come on leaps and bounds.
According to WhoScored, Shaw has made more successful dribbles per game than the likes of Manchester United‘s Wayne Rooney, Manchester City’s Samir Nasri and Everton’s Leighton Baines (1.5). He also boasts more tackles per game than Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and Arsenal duo Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna (two).
His form has been so impressive this campaign England manager Roy Hodgson gave the defender his first cap for the national team, and he’s a shoo-in to make the final 23-man World Cup squad ahead of Chelsea’s Ashley Cole, according to former England manager Graham Taylor via BBC Sport.
Everton: Ross Barkley
According to Oddschecker, Everton’s talented midfielder, Ross Barkley, is an outside favourite to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award, but the 20-year-old has enjoyed a dream breakthrough season with the Toffees that deserves recognition.
Under new manger Roberto Martinez, the young midfielder has been a regular playing as the advanced playmaker in the hole— making 31 Premier League appearances. His fine form has even seen him linked to a number of big-name clubs for astronomical transfer fees throughout the season, according to Transfermarkt.
Barkley, a product of the Everton academy, has scored five league goals this campaign and is eighth in the Premier League for most successful dribbles per game (2.3) as per WhoScored. He made three caps for the England national team in 2013/14 and is on course to make the World Cup squad this summer, with Oddschecker backing the 20-year-old.
Liverpool: Raheem Sterling
Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling came on the radar last season for a series of impressive performances, but this campaign has seen the 19-year-old force his way into Liverpool first-team on a more regular basis— making 29 Premier League appearances.
Sterling has scored seven goals and made three assists for the Reds in the league as per WhoScored, while boasting 2.6 successful dribbles per game and showing his creativity with 1.4 key passes made on average in each league game he plays.
Despite his young age, the winger seems unfazed with any challenge put in front of him— evident with the composure shown when scoring the opening goal in Liverpool’s 3-2 win against Manchester City. Sterling plays with a maturity that belies his young age and looks nailed on to make England’s World Cup squad according to Oddschecker.
Liverpool: Daniel Sturridge
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up from where he left off last season with the Reds but now looks even more of an absolute steal at £12M (from Chelsea, via Transfermarkt, in January 2013).
According to WhoScored, the 24-year-old has scored 20 goals and made seven assists in 26 league games this season. He’s the second-highest scorer in the Premier League while boasting a staggering goal ratio of 1 in every 1.3 games since joining Liverpool (compiled from Transfermarkt).
Sturridge scored the winning goal in England’s friendly against Denmark and is expected to lead the line in attack for this summer’s World Cup, according to Oddschecker.
WhoScored has the Liverpool striker as the sixth top scorer in Europe’s top divisions— ahead of such heavyweights as Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic and Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski.
Chelsea: Eden Hazard
Chelsea winger Eden Hazard enjoyed a superb debut season with the Blues in 2012/13, but the Belgian international’s stock has continued to rise after evolving into one of the best young players in the world this campaign, says his manager Jose Mourinho via BBC Sport.
According to WhoScored, the 23-year-old has scored 14 goals and made seven assists for Chelsea while having made an impressive 2.6 key passes per game— bettered only by three players in the Premier League this season. Hazard boasts the most successful dribbles made per game in the EPL (3.7) and is the bookmakers’ favourite to be named PFA Young Player of the Year, according to Oddschecker.