In a season where the points record for second place is on course to be comfortably beaten, it is almost predictable that the annual Professional Footballers Association Team of the Year be largely dominated by the two supreme 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 overly defer from most expectation, but it did throw a surprise inclusion for Paul Pogba. The 2018 World Cup winner has suffered see-sawing form throughout the campaign, and his presence in the PFA’s official announcement has met with collective doubt.
A certain lack of representation from clubs outside of the top 6 has also prevailed in fans’ feedback of the team award compilation, necessitating in an alternate eleven to reflect a fairer celebration of talent across the league.
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 individuals for West Ham – who have suffered a wildly inconsistent season but at no point due to any indifferent form from their new no. 1 – displaying his highly impressive shot-stopping ability and positional awareness throughout, 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.
The 21-year-old has hugely impressed for Crystal Palace in his first full maiden season, delivering a host of standout displays for Roy Hodgson’s side, and establishing himself as an established first team full-back as a result.
The Croydon-born youngster has missed just three league games so far this season, making such an impact that many pundits have bemoaned the inclusion of established stars like Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva in the PFA Young Player of the Year nominations at Bissaka’s expense.
Maintaining such form next season will inevitably pose questions about an international call-up to the England senior side and will undoubtedly trigger interest from top 6 outfits.
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, showing excellent leadership qualities alongside teammates Ryan Bennett and Willy Boly that ensure Wolves boast the fifth best defensive record in the league.
Coady’s wide-ranging passing range, combined with his physical robustness in the tackle and aerial prowess has not only contributed so much to Wolves’ season, but has made him one of the most intimidating and awkward defenders for attackers to face in the league.
One of the Premier League’s most underrated defenders. The Belgian suffered last season in a campaign blighted by injuries and contract issues but following an excellent World Cup showing, he has rediscovered his solidity and dependableness this season, delivering match-winning performances on numerous occasions for Mauricio Pochettino’s men – not least in their recent heroic Quarter-Final beating of Manchester City in the Champions League.
Possessing a proficient reading of the game, adept at dealing with aerial threats as well as being more than competent at building play from the back and, the 29-year-old can count himself unfortunate to have not been included in the season’s PFA TOTY.
The 34-year-old made an early impact in Watford’s early pace-setting form this season, scoring once and contributing four assists from the same number of opening games and has not let his form dip since, proving one of the Hornet’s key players in their run to the FA Cup Final and quest for 7th.
What the Greek full-back lacks in pace is compensated in the quality of his crossing from the left wing. Now boasting three goals and 6 six assists to his name, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the only defenders to have set up more goals in the entire League this season.
The 25-year-old Scotsman is enjoying the finest season of his career to date and has admitted that recent talk of strong interest in his services from Arsenal – with Fraser entering the final year of his contract on the South Coast – is only testament to the form he has been showing for Bournemouth.
The diminutive and robust winger, who can operate on either flank, has notched more league goals than either Mesut Ozil or Dele Alli this season, and 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 story since their promotion to the top tier in 2015, and only underlines why he would be such a colossal lose to a club with such limited financial means.
The 21-year-old Portuguese prodigy became one of Nuno Espírito Santo’s first key men when he was signed for a record £15.8m from Porto last season when Wolves were not even a Premier League team, quickly establishing himself as one of figureheads behind their promotion to the top tier last season, displaying a vision and passing ability that appeared so marked in the Championship.
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, contributing two goals and 4 assists; the pick of which being the exquisite dipping free-kick converted in the 3-1 home victory over Arsenal on Wednesday night.
West Ham’s recently converted England midfielder has enjoyed a superb season under Manuel Pellegrini, who has utilised him to his full potential in a deep-lying role for the Hammers.
The 20-year-old has looked by far the most composed player throughout the campaign in a Claret and Blue shirt, making 35 appearances in his first full season that has seen him score his first professional goal and receive an England senior call-up.
Having primarily been a centre-back before his conversion under Pellegrini in the early part of the season, he possesses a level of technical assuredness on the ball that is sure to blossom in the future as he gains more top-level experience.
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.
For goals and assists combined, he is enjoying his finest campaign since his arrival on English shores in 2012. 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, whilst his 13 assists is already two greater than his previous Premier League best, achieved in 2012/13.
Hazard’s omission from the PFA TOTY makes for all the more remarkable reasoning considering only days earlier to the announcement, the 28-year-old had been shortlisted as a nominee for the PFA Player of the year.
Such an honour would be deserved recognition for some stirring performances for the Blues this season, including vital goals against Cardiff, Liverpool and Tottenham (League Cup), as well crucial domestic 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 speculated 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.
The Gabonese striker is currently the joint-highest Premier League goal-scorer this season – tied with Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah – and in his first full season at the Gunners he is beginning to prove vindication why Arsenal lavished £56m on the now-29-year-old in January of 2018.
Aubameyang’s goals have been directly responsible for winning the Gunners 16 more points than they would have done without him in the side, underling his value to Unai Emery’s side.
His partnership with Alexandre Lacazette has also been a growing influence on Aubameyang’s form, with the dynamic duo contributing to 31 goals in the league this season between the two.
When Son Heung-Min fired Tottenham’s first ever goal at their new stadium in their earlier this month, it not only confirmed his 21st goal of the season but, with the arena festooned with not only Tottenham but flags of his own country, embodied the meteoric rise to new heights as a global South Korean superstar.
For a player who has admitted he was closing to leaving North London in 2016 due to lack of first team opportunities, Son has used his cameo appearances to become one of Tottenham’s most potent attacking weapons.
Following on from leading his team out 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 domestic spot and reward for their first European Semi-Final since 1962.