·25 September 2023
·25 September 2023
Erling Haaland nets another hat-trick for Man City.
The PFA Player of the Year is the individual award Premier League players covet most, voted as it is by their peers, who are almost certainly going to give a second straight gong to Erling Haaland aren’t they? Can’t really grumble with it, but let’s at least go through the motions of looking at who rounds out the top 10 in the latest odds…
1) Erling Haaland (Manchester City) Yeah, it’s probably going to be him again, isn’t it? The goals are bound to start flowing now that he’s got that traditional difficult first season adapting to Pep Guardiola’s methods out of the way. Eight goals in six Premier League games is an on-brand start to the season for the big fella, who’s already scored his fifth Premier League hat-trick to ease clear of some pretty decent names.
2) Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) There’s certainly logic to Saka’s (distant) second-favouritism. He’s dead good at football, obviously, and dead good in an eye-catching and exciting fashion that attracts attention. In the unlikely event that anyone other than Manchester City win the league Arsenal for now still seem the likeliest of the assorted unlikely options, and if they do pull it off it’s hard to imagine it hasn’t been in large part down to the brilliance of their Starboy.
3) Rodri (Manchester City) Fascinating if largely moot to ponder what Rodri might actually cost to buy in what is now the era of the £100m defensive midfielder. There still isn’t a better one knocking around the Premier League, but whoever they are and however good they are they don’t tend to snaffle this type of award. Especially playing in a team with a conspicuous goal-grabbing absurdity up front.
Roy Keane and N’Golo Kante are the only players who could really be described as defensive or orthodox central midfielders to have won the award in the Premier League era, with John Terry and Virgil van Dijk the only centre-backs to do so since Paul McGrath in 1993. Everyone else on the list is a forward (whether central or wide) or playmaker type.
4) Mo Salah (Liverpool) We’d give the 2018 and 2022 winner a better chance than Rodri for the same reason as Saka. Liverpool could do something unlikely to Manchester City, and if they do it’s almost certainly going to have involved an enormous amount of Mo Salah doing Mo Salah things.
5) Phil Foden (Manchester City) Brilliant, obviously, and on early evidence the main beneficiary in the City ranks from Kevin De Bruyne’s injury misfortune. But the problem here is that the only possible way he wins this award is if City have won the league and in that case it has almost certainly gone to Haaland anyway. The quirk here is that he may well prove to be the fifth-best player in the league this season but that doesn’t mean he has the fifth best chance of winning this thing.
6) Martin Odegaard (Arsenal) Extremely watchable playmaker in extremely watchable team and one who now pretty reliably stacks up the hard numbers in the G and A columns to back up the aesthetic pleasantness of it all.
7) Declan Rice (Arsenal) A third Arsenal player inside the top seven tells you where the bookies think any threat to City exists this season. As do the Premier League title odds in a more straightforward manner, to be fair. But see Rodri above for reasons to be cautious.
8=) Son Heung-min (Tottenham) The Spurs captain is neck and neck with Spurs vice-captain James Maddison, and it’s pretty easy to make the case for either/both given that Spurs are going to be absurdly watchable this season with Son and Maddison the two most high-profile cogs in that attacking machine. Our suspicion is that the general noise around Maddison’s transformative effect on Spurs should perhaps put him ahead of the skipper – that and his ability to alpha a roast dinner – but they like pretty much everyone else here still fall under the category of ‘value loser’ unless a misfortune befalls Haaland.
10) Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) Manchester United are going to need to be a lot less rubbish for this to have any kind of chance. They managed something like it last season, mind, and Rashford himself seems in decent nick.