The PFA have announced their nominees for Player of the Year.
Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Eden Hazard, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk make up the six-man shortlist.
All worthy nominees, but who deserves it?
Raheem Sterling’s goalscoring form has prompted a deserved swell of appreciation for his merits.
Few would begrudge the England international after another impressive campaign – 17 goals and nine assists in the league at this stage – but for me it has to be Van Dijk.
I think Player of the Year (be it PFA Players’ Player or FWA Footballer of the Year) should be the most dominant in their position.
Sterling has been excellent but supremacy in his position is debatable, with Eden Hazard also enjoying a prosperous season individually.
Van Dijk has no equal at centre-back in the Premier League this season — no debate.
Incredibly, he is yet to be dribbled past by any opponent this season, something no other player in Europe’s top five leagues has achieved (minimum 2,000 minutes).
He is the undisputed leader of Liverpool’s defence who have conceded just 20 goals so far — the fewest in the Premier League this campaign.
I also believe Player of the Year should go to someone who has made a significant difference to their team.
Despite a rampant front three, Liverpool finished fourth last season because of sub-par defending and error-prone goalkeepers.
Van Dijk and Alisson have rectified the Reds’ most glaring problem with the Dutchman sustaining unflappable form for months.
I literally can’t remember a mistake he’s made — anyone?
His elegant technical ability allows him to snuff out danger before it materialises while his physicality means he relishes war.
Take Burnley’s visit to Anfield in March for example.
Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Peter Crouch made up a triple threat of sizeable proportions.
Van Dijk won seven aerial duels out of seven in an imperious performance.
If Van Dijk doesn’t win at least one of the Player of the Year awards then defenders may as well be discounted entirely.
What more can he do as a centre-back?
The last defender to win PFA Players’ Player of the Year was John Terry in 2004/05 — Chelsea broke the Premier League record for fewest goals conceded that season.
Steve Nicol was the last defender to win FWA Footballer of the Year — the Liverpool full-back prevailed in 1988/89.
Defenders are often overlooked when it comes to individual awards with free-scoring forwards often favoured.
But surely Van Dijk has done enough to buck the trend?
If he doesn’t win, no defender ever will again.
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