Now, we all know that a player from the team which wins the title is usually named the player of the season (except for last season when Salah pipped Kevin De Bruyne to the accolade) but there have been some wonderful individual campaigns from stars across the league in 2018-19.
With that in mind, below we take a quick look at the top 10 contenders with nine games of the season to go. Can anybody challenge VVD?
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – The Dutch defender has been a colossus at the back for Liverpool, as they’ve conceded just 15 times so far this season. He leads the defense and his belief spreads throughout the team with his incredible passing ability. A true “Rolls Royce” of a defender. The front three for Liverpool are very important, but VVD is probably more important. A defender hasn’t won the POTY accolade since John Terry in 2005…
Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – After two breaks during the season for the Asian Games and the Asian Cup, Son has returned and played superbly for Tottenham. He stepped up big time when Harry Kane was out injured and the South Korean forward has been a menace all season. He has looked a little jaded in recent weeks, but this has been his best season in the PL by far.
Sergio Aguero (Man City) – He leads the PL with 18 goals and Aguero’s all-round game has improved drastically under Pep Guardiola. We all know he’s a predator in the box, but his work rate, link-up play and hunger is through the roof. If City win the title, Aguero will be one of the main reasons why.
Harry Kane (Tottenham) – To miss the games he has through injury and still have 16 PL goals this season is remarkable and Kane has been Tottenham’s talisman once again. He always delivers and even though Spurs are out of the title race, Kane has kept them in it for most of this season. In a world he is relentless.
Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Last season will have been tough for Sterling to replicate, but in many ways he has got even better in 2018-19. With 12 goals and nine assists only Salah, Aguero and Hazard have been involved in more PL goals than Sterling this season. He continues to refine his game under Guardiola, and Sterling’s impact off-the-pitch is inspirational.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Yes, he’s blown hot and cold for most of this season but when he’s been good, he’s been very, very good. Hazard is the main reason Chelsea are still well in the top four hunt, and even though his future is unclear you can hardly accuse him of coasting through games. Playing as a false nine whenever asked he has still caused problems, but Hazard is much better on the wing. This could well be his final season in the PL.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – The Egyptian forward has struggled for consistency this season, but he still has 17 goals and seven assists to his name. So if this a below-par campaign for Salah, it’s still very decent… His form has dipped over the past few months but Salah’s importance to Liverpool is clear and the reigning POTY will no doubt kick on in the final months of the season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Arsenal’s main man up top has scored 16 goals and he could have scored quite a few more. His partnership with Alexandre Lacazette has been building, but the duo aren’t always selected alongside one another by Unai Emery. Aubameyang’s strike rate since he arrived in the PL is remarkable, as he’s now scored 26 goals in 40 outings. His slick finishes have kept Arsenal in the top four battle.
Ben Foster (Watford) – Watford are having a wonderful season and Foster is rolling back the years in goal. The 35-year-old has produced some memorable saves and displays to keep the Hornets’ European hopes alive. Not a player many would expect to see on this list, but one that truly deserves it.
Fernandinho (Man City) – So often the unsung hero for Man City, they do not operate in the same ruthless manner when the Brazilian midfielder is missing. Fernandinho’s absence has coincided with some of City’s worst displays of the season and his incredible range of passing compliments his tough-tackling and exceptional reading of the game. A key cog in Guardiola’s well-oiled machine.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Pochettino believed his side were superior to Arsenal “in all aspects” and should have taken the victory.
“If we assess the game I think we were better than Arsenal in all the aspects,” Pochettino said. “It was a fantastic game, exciting game with great atmosphere with two teams that wanted to play and win the game. It’s tough to play Arsenal, conceding after 15 minutes was tough for us. But I am so happy with the character and personality that we played with. Our performance was not great, but it was really good to draw and maybe deserve to win. After two defeats it was important today to start to build our positive run.”
Pochettino is maybe heaping a little too much praise on his team here.
In the first half they really struggled to control Arsenal’s counter attacks as Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan wrecked havoc supporting Alexandre Lacazette. There’s no doubt Spurs were the better team in the second half, so from a simplistic standpoint a draw was a fair result in this game.
As for the controversy which dominated the game, Pochettino has previously revealed his disdain towards VAR but seemed less critical of the technology on Saturday.
When asked about whether Kane should have been awarded a penalty kick (replays show he was clearly offside when the cross came in) and if Aubameyang’s missed PK should have been retaken due to encroachment, his answer was clear.
“Football was never fair and it is never going to be fair,” Pochettino said.
Although he argues that Spurs should have won the game, they are showing signs of fatigue and mental mistakes which are costing them dear at a pivotal stage of the season.
With Tottenham in the title race one week ago, they are now in a real battle to finish in the top four as Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United have made up considerable ground amid Spurs’ two defeats and a draw in the past seven days.
Let’s see if Pochettino’s positivity has the desired impact and gives his players a boost for the tough games ahead.
Here’s what we learned from a pulsating clash at Wembely, as Spurs stay four points ahead of Arsenal in the table.
VAR CONTROVERSY REIGNS SUPREME
VAR is once again a talking point in the Premier League. Tottenham’s penalty kick came after Harry Kane was legitimately bundled over by Skhodran Mustafi, but he was clearly offside when the free kick was swung in. The linesman couldn’t see around the defenders as he wasn’t in the correct position, and if VAR had been used the penalty decision would have been overturned. Simple as that. The incident for Spurs’ penalty kick is exactly why VAR is arriving in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, and highlights that it was a mistake to not introduce it this season. Once again we are talking about a mistake being a game-changing one, and Arsenal’s top four chances have taken a hit due to VAR not being used this season. Throughout the game there were other moments of controversy as Granit Xhaka hit Kane hard early on, Danny Rose could have seen red for a challenge on Bernd Leno, then on the penalty kick Arsenal missed in stoppage time there was clear encroachment from Jan Vertonghen who eventually cleared the ball on the rebound. Officials need help and VAR can’t come soon enough to help eradicate these major mistakes in huge games.
ARSENAL’S TWEAKED LINEUP LOST MOMENTUM
Emery surprised many by leaving the likes of Lucas Torreira, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil on the bench, but his lineup choice and tactics were spot on. At least in the first half…
The Spanish coach set up his team to sit back and launch counters, with Alexandre Lacazette popping the ball back and some incisive one touch football opening Spurs up easily. The way Aaron Ramsey and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ran riot with their midfield runs in the first half set Arsenal up for victory. The former scored the first goal and will be sorely missed when he heads to Juventus in the summer. His clever runs allow Arsenal’s entire side to push higher up the pitch quickly and quite how Ramsey has been allowed to leave for Juve boggles the mind. Yet when Aubameyang, Ozil and Torreira came on in the second half, Arsenal lost the momentum and danger they had on the break and bringing on Ozil at 1-0 up was a strange decision. Maybe Ozil’s arrival subconsciously impacted the Arsenal players, as he is not the ‘closer’ you need in these type of games just as Tottenham were building a head of steam. Emery got his tactics right in the first half but in the second half they couldn’t cope with Spurs’ extra attacking player.
TOTTENHAM’S TOP FOUR CHANCES IN TROUBLE
Tottenham avoided a third-straight defeat in the Premier League for the first time since November 2012, but it was not pretty. Pochettino’s men are struggling at precisely the moment everyone thought they had cracked it. Last week they were genuinely in the title race despite having several injury problems to contend with. One of those who has returned recently, Harry Kane, looked shattered once again and in the first half he failed to control the ball on several occasions and he lost the ball in the box in the build up to Arsenal’s first goal. A lot has been made about Kane’s return to the team coinciding with a string of defeats for Spurs and if he’s fit enough to start, but the issues run a lot deeper than that.
Kane rallied in the second half and bullied Arsenal’s defense, and even though he may not be at his sharpest, he is still a menace. In truth, in the four Premier League games Kane missed, Spurs snatched victory against Fulham, Newcastle, Watford and Leicester, both they were poor for large spells of those games and got out of jail on several occasions. Their good luck has run out and just a week after they were supposed to be in the title race, their top four chances are in serious trouble with Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United hunting them down and all three have greater momentum than Spurs. The latter have trips to Liverpool and Man City coming up and even though they nicked a point against Arsenal, the cracks are showing. Big time. Spurs look shattered.
Arsenal had the first big chance of the game as Alex Iwobi‘s deflected shot looped into the air and found Alexandre Lacazette who scuffed the difficult chance wide.
Spurs then did plenty of pressing but just as they got on top, Arsenal took the lead. Harry Kane lost the ball in Arsenal’s box and a long ball forward caught out Davinson Sanchez. Lacazette slotted the ball into Ramsey who raced free, rounded Lloris and tapped the ball home to give the Gunners the lead.
Kane had the ball it the net soon after but his brilliant header from a free kick was correctly ruled offside, while Son continued to run at Arsenal’s defense which held firm despite Eriksen firing an effort wide of the box.
On the counter Arsenal looked dangerous throughout the first half and Alex Iwobi’s curling short was brilliantly pushed away by Lloris. Right on half time Spurs thought they had equalized but Leno made a wonderful double stop to deny Eriksen and then Moussa Sissoko as the home side pushed hard to get level.
At half time Lucas Torreira came on for Matteo Guendouzi as the youngster was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply on several occasions.
In the second half the same pattern continued, as Spurs got into some great positions but Arsenal launched another great attack which saw Lacazette skew his effort off target from a glorious position inside the box.
Toby Alderweireld then smashed wide at the back post after another dangerous Spurs free kick, with Arsenal bringing on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and stretch Tottenham further on the counter.