PST Premier League Awards

ProSoccerTalk’s Premier League Best XI: Suarez and Yaya Toure headline

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Certain players just stick out when crafting a Best XI from the 2013/14 Premier League.

Luis Suarez, Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard — no right-minded journo would argue that these men don’t deserve a place in the Best XI. This season we can even throw Southampton’s talismanic captain, Adam Lallana, into that mix after the 26-year-old attacking midfielder swerved and slipped his way through nearly every defense he faced.

Yet the deeper one delves into a Best XI, the more controversial the picks become. Many would argue Steven Gerrard should be guaranteed a spot, while others will tell you that the love for Stevie G is the result of a heavy-handed media and too many conversions from the penalty spot.

Mile Jedinak in his place? Don’t be ridiculous. But the fact is, Jedinak was a bull in the Crystal Palace midfield this season and arguably just as important to his team as Gerrard was to Liverpool. Plus, Jedinak didn’t slip up when everything was on the line.

Too soon?

Point being, one of the best things about the beautiful game is it truly is in the eye of the beholder. Below, we the writers of ProSoccerTalk set forth our Best XI of the Premier League season.

Disagree? Consider the comments your friend space.

GOALKEEPER: DAVID MARSHALL

source: Getty ImagesBesides the greatest villain/owner the Premier League has ever known (Vincent Tan), the best thing to come out of Cardiff City this season was undoubtedly David Marshall.

In his first Premier League season, the 29-year-old Scot wowed audiences with his plastic-like extensions and finger-tip saves, 153 of them to be exact. Proving why, despite the Bluebirds being relegated, Marshall is a prime candidate for a summer transfer back to the Premier League.

PST’s Goalkeeper Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Wojciech Szczesny
Kyle Bonn: David Marshall
Joe Prince-Wright: David Marshall
Richard Farley: David Marshal
Mike Prindiville: David Marshall

DEFENDERS: SEAMUS COLEMAN, JOHN TERRY, GARY CAHILL, LEIGHTON BAINES

source: APThe best center-back duo joins the best full-back duo in our team of the year. It was a glorious season for the Chelsea defense, conceding a league best 27 goals, with Terry and Cahill forming a formidable partnership along the way. Both men possess the bulk, aerial and tackling ability to frustrate any striker and remain persistent threats on set pieces.

The partnership of Baines and Coleman frustrated many a side by playing more like wingers who recover defensively than full-backs who get forward. In past seasons, Everton’s pitch was tilted left towards Baines but this season things evened out and perhaps even tilted in the opposite direction when the tireless Coleman bombed forward to score six goals.

PST’s Defender Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Skrtel, Curtis Davies, Leighton Baines
Kyle Bonn: Pablo Zabaleta, John Terry, Vincent Kompany, Leighton Baines
Joe Prince-Wright: Seamus Coleman, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Luke Shaw
Richard Farley: Seamus Coleman, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Leighton Baines
Mike Prindiville: Seamus Coleman, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Leighton Baines

MIDFIELDERS: YAYA TOURE, ADAM LALLANA, EDEN HAZARD, STEVEN GERRARD

source:  No shocks here as all four of these players enjoyed incredible seasons. At 31-years-old, Yaya Toure beasted his way towards his best season ever, scoring 20 league goals, more than double his tally from any previous season. That effort was nearly mimicked by Gerrard, who at 33-years-old ripped off 13 goals and 13 seasons in a redefining season for the Liverpool captain.

Perhaps no player busted out this season like Lallana, who notched nine goals and six assists for the Saints earning him an undisputed spot on the plane to Brazil. Joining the playmaker is Hazard, who lit up the Chelsea wing, scorching defenders for 14 goals and 7 assists all the while infuriating manager Jose Mourinho for a lack of defensive grit. Go figure.

PST’s Midfielder Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Mile Jedinak
Kyle Bonn: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Steven Gerrard
Joe Prince-Wright: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Steven Gerrard
Richard Farley: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Fernandinho
Mike Prindiville: Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana, Eden Hazard, Ross Barkley

FORWARDS: LUIS SUAREZ, DANIEL STURRIDGE

source: Getty ImagesArguably the most competitive spot to earn a Best XI accolade was up top where, besides the Premier League record tying goals feat of Luis Suarez (31), it was a free for all.

Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko both enjoyed fantastic seasons, the former slightly derailed by injury and the latter by a lack of early season playing time, while Wilfried Bony (16 goals) basically put the entire Swansea City side on his back and dragged them to relegation safety.

But at the end of the day, Daniel Sturridge was fantastic putting home 21 goals and seven assists in just 29 appearances. Alongside Suarez, the duo known as SAS was the most formidable strike partnership in the world but even more impressive was the class Sturridge displayed when the Uruguayan was out – scoring worldies from all over the pitch. Late season injuries dulled him down a bit but it mattered little because in the 2013/14 season, Sturridge announced himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the world.

PST’s Forward Nominees
Nicholas Mendola: Luis Suarez, Wilfried Bony
Kyle Bonn: Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney
Joe Prince-Wright: Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero
Richard Farley: Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge
Mike Prindiville: Luis Suarez, Edin Dzeko

Top 10 Strikers of the Premier League season

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As we roll through our postseason awards, it’s time to focus on the meat of every attack.

What do spectators want to see? Goals! Right?

Ok, well maybe not everyone, but there’s no doubt goals are exciting, and parked buses are not. Just ask Brendan Rodgers, I bet he has some choice words on the topic.

MORE: Latest Premier League reviews

While goals are certainly what every manager looks for when they pick a striker, that’s not the only way they can contribute and get themselves on this list.  Assists, work rate, and passing ability can all land a striker minutes even when he’s not scoring goals.

But ultimately, the goals will be required sooner or later for a frontman.  If they dry up, often players lose their place.

Look no further than Norwich City’s Ricky van Wolfswinkel.  The Dutch striker scored on his debut for the Canaries, and put in shift after shift of hard work and energy up top.  However, that debut goal would be his only in the Premier League across 25 appearances, and he’d find himself on the bench in nine of the club’s final 15 matches.

The top of the list may be somewhat obvious, but the bottom half will be intriguing to see. Let’s take a look at the top 10 strikers from the 2013/14 Premier League season:

10. Loic Remy – Newcastle (on loan from QPR)

Newcastle struggled mightily down the stretch thanks to turmoil in the front office, and Remy was (not coincidentally) on the sidelines for much of it with injury.  But when he saw the field, the Frenchman was a force, grabbing 14 goals on the season.

The Magpies won 15 matches in total this season – Remy scored in nine of them, including their final five.  He was a spark plug for the club, and if they can’t secure him on a permanent transfer from Queens Park Rangers, Remy could be headed to other clubs like Arsenal or Atletico Madrid, to name a few that have already been thrown around.

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Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez was an electric player at St. Mary’s this season, only to have it cut short by injury.

9. Jay Rodriguez – Southampton

A mentally and physically devastating injury ended his season – and World Cup hopes – prematurely, but that should not take away from what the young England international accomplished this year.  The 24-year-old academy product hit for 15 goals and three assists while playing in all 33 of his club’s Premier League matches before his injury.

His form earned him his England debut along with teammate Adam Lallana, and the two shone on the international stage as well. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing him in Brazil this year, but Rodriguez is on the big stage to stay and his name should pop up on plenty more of these lists throughout the years if he can make a full recovery from his ACL tear.

8. Edin Dzeko – Manchester City

He remains in the shadows of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo at Manchester City, but he continues to provide goals up front. Dzeko is a striker in the true sense of the word, and doesn’t have a whole lot of other strengths, but 16 goals and a championship medal to his name this year earns him a place on the top 10 list.

The Bosnian picked up some enormous goals this season for Manchester City, including a winner over Crystal Palace in December when his team was struggling, and a brace in the penultimate match against Everton to keep them on top in the title race heading into the final weekend.

7. Wilfried Bony – Swansea

A Premier League debutant, Bony was bought from Vitesse with the intention of lightening the load of last season’s star Michu.  Bony did more than that, as he essentially took over for the Spaniard who struggled mightily with injuries all year.

While Michu scored just two goals in 17 matches, Bony shrugged off a slow start to the season to finish with 16 goals and earn Swansea’s player of the year honors.  With a healthy Michu next season, the two should be a force if they can both be utilized in the lineup properly by Garry Monk.

6. Olivier Giroud – Arsenal

While he may have had too much to do as the only capable striker in the Arsenal ranks, Giroud is still one of the best in the league at scoring goals and playing the attractive brand Arsene Wenger asks of his players. The Frenchman struck 16 times this Premier League season and set his teammates up eight for eight more.

Giroud benefited heavily from the arrival of Mesut Ozil at the end of the summer transfer window, but the striker still remains a great litmus test for how Arsenal will finish – all but two of his goals this season came in Arsenal wins.  If he can figure out how to shorten the doldrums he sometimes seems to disappear into at times, he can be one of the best three in the league and lead Arsenal to heights of old.

5. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

While his sole importance to the Championship-winning Manchester City attack isn’t that of those below on this list thanks to a deep squad, Aguero still leads Pellegrini’s squad up front.

Aguero posted 17 goals and six assists this year in a season where he only saw the pitch 23 times due to a serious battle with a hamstring and knee problems that lasted nearly five months.  Despite the lack of time, Aguero is a dangerous force when he is on the field, and he’s only a bigger threat still thanks to the additions Pellegrini made this season up front.

If he can keep that pace throughout a 38-match season (which would give him about 28 goals this season), Aguero could challenge the numbers Luis Suarez put up this year and earn himself even higher individual honors.

4. Romelu Lukaku – Everton

Lukaku’s loan spell at Everton did its job – it made many Chelsea fans furious with Jose Mourinho’s decision to let him go in the first place. While the manager blamed Lukaku for his departure to Goodison Park, it was ultimately Chelsea’s final call to send him away.

source: Getty Images
Thanks to his incredible form, Lukaku’s future is in question, having made Jose Mourinho regret sending him away.

No matter who’s fault it was, the decision will no doubt net Lukaku a lot of money in the future.  At only 21 years old, the towering Belgian scooped up 15 goals and six assists, including a strong finish where he scored six times in the club’s last 11 matches fresh off a serious ankle injury.

The talisman of the Belgian national team’s attack in Christian Benteke’s absence, Lukaku has a lot on his shoulders at such a young age.  And with Diego Costa’s imminent arrival at Stamford Bridge, there will be plenty of Lukaku’s name sprinkled throughout the papers this summer.

3. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool

The Robin to Suarez’s Batman, the 24-year-old picked up 21 goals for himself while assisting another seven, meaning the SaS pair picked up 52 of Liverpool’s 101 goals this year – over half.  Add Gerrard’s 13, and the trio had a whopping 64% of Liverpool’s goals this season.

Sturridge’s statement came early on, when Suarez began the season on the bench, scoring in eight of Liverpool’s first nine games.  Injuries slowed him down at times, or forced him out of the lineup altogether, but he still finished with three goalscoring streaks of four or more matches, including one seven-match stretch where he scored nine times.

Even with Suarez’s PoY performance, the Reds wouldn’t be close to what they accomplished without Sturridge’s contributions.

2. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United

Despite his inferior goals tally to Sturridge, Rooney gets the nod in the second position because of how he was far and away the best player on the pitch for Manchester United all season.  Rooney bagged 17 goals and 12 assists while the Red Devils struggled under enormous media scrutiny all season.

Rooney doesn’t just provide goals and assists, either. He was successful in 64% of his take-ons this season, according to Squawka statistics, and created 58 chances for teammates, tops on the team and third in the Premier League among strikers.

The English international is a leader on the field, and it’s no wonder the club threw every resource they had at him to get him to sign back on for next season, despite the lack of European play.

1. Luis Suarez – Liverpool

This was a relatively obvious top choice. Having already received the PFA Player of the Year award, in addition to our very own ProSoccerTalk Player of the Year award.

Suarez matched the Premier League record for goals in a 38-match season with 31 goals, and he missed the first six matches of the season, making the feat that much more incredible.  Add to it the media and fan pressure he faced from his negative image stemming from the previous year, and the stars had to align for him to have an outstanding season – and they did.

Oh, and he also bagged 12 assists (which is an objective statistic, with transfermarkt totaling 21 assists for the Uruguayan), meaning if soccer did points like hockey or lacrosse does, Suarez would have the most in the Premier League by fourteen. Yea, this one’s an easy choice.

Top 10 goalkeepers of the Premier League season

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Some would like you to believe goalkeeping is all about how many goals you allow which, at its essence, makes a heck of a lot of sense, doesn’t it? But when to rank the best performances over the course of a season, looking at a stat line could be a pretty big mistake.

For one thing, is Simon Mignolet a horrible keeper because Liverpool pushed forward and sometimes lost the defensive plot? Is Petr Cech a wizard simply because Chelsea didn’t allow a ton of shots?

MORE: Latest Premier League reviews

Advanced stats can only tell us so much, too. Take a look at this season’s Squawka goalkeeper stats for players who appeared in 20 or more Premier League contests:

source:

Now does that mean we’re going to stick with that list? Heck no. There are defensive and attacking philosophies, jaw-dropping saves and plain-old, splendid performances to consider. Let’s find a happy medium.

10. Joe Hart, Manchester City
England’s No. 1 backstopped his club to a Premier League title, but not without some mid-season questions as to whether his backup should get the No. 1 seat. Not many players on this list had their job status questioned this year.

9. Hugo Lloris, Tottenham
The Frenchman is very, very good. Appears poised to make the move to a great keeper soon, but needs to eliminate the baffling performances

8. Vito Mannone, Sunderland
Of all the “great keeper on a bad team” arguments, Mannone’s leaps above David Marshall of Cardiff and John Ruddy of Norwich. Much like his Northeast counterpart, Tim Krul, there have been so many matches where Sunderland could’ve conceded many more goals with an inferior keeper.

7. Petr Cech, Chelsea
Classic game orchestrator. Not taking slots away from the team in front of him, but his reputation would place him higher than his game at this point. Still a fantastic netminder.

source: Getty Images6. David De Gea, Manchester United
Once he eliminated the excessive taco eating — this was a story, folks — De Gea found his place as perhaps the most effective player on his underachieving team. Making the Spain roster is sign enough he’s announced his arrival.

5. Tim Krul, Newcastle United
Watch this team for more than 10 minutes and you might think Krul deserves to be No. 1. His early season was incredible, but his form dipped with his team’s late in the year. Krul rarely gives up a bad goal, and that happened a few times in the final couple months.

4. Simon Mignolet, Liverpool
Left out to dry on many occasions, Mignolet can play with the best of them. Get him an average defense and you might just see that next year.

3. Tim Howard, Everton
Tied with our No. 1 for clean sheets, the American backstop was phenomenal in completing Everton’s rise. Under-appreciated for distribution, especially lengthy kicks.

2. Asmir Begovic, Stoke City
He’s very, very good… a complete keeper already at the age of just 26.

1. Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal
He’s brilliant in all aspects of the game, from shot-stopping to positioning a defense to distribution. And despite what his almost impossibly-awkward lack of sideburns (read: dad haircut) might tell you, he’s only 24. And in our book, already the best.

Two players share PST’s Premier League Young Player of the Year award

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ProSoccerTalk’s Premier League Young Player of the Year award was a hotly-contested vote amongst our writers, with plenty of debate as to who was the best-performing player to be 23 or younger to start the season.

Four players received votes, with others getting tipped for “If I had more votes”  status (Ross Barkley, Steven Caulker and Christian Benteke fall into this category).

To the runners-up: Luke Shaw was tipped for his skill in the back for Southampton, while Adnan Januzaj earned a vote for being “one of the few rays of sunshine in a dark, dreary, dismal United season.”

Two others players received multiple votes and will share our honor: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.

A vaunted half of the SAS combo at Anfield, Sturridge scored 21 times and added 7 assists for Liverpool despite missing nine games. Before and after his injury, he put together a streak of seven-straight matches with a goal.

Hazard’s season was not shortened at Chelsea, where he netted 14 goals and 7 assists for the Blues. It’s frightening to think what he would’ve been able to do with a better-functioning group of forwards, as Samuel Eto’o (nine goals), Demba Ba (five) and Fernando Torres (five) didn’t finish as expected (Well, maybe some expected it).

PST’s Young Player of the Year votes

Mike Prindiville: Daniel Sturridge

Kyle Bonn: Daniel Sturridge

Richard Farley: Eden Hazard

Nick Mendola: Eden Hazard

Joe Prince-Wright: Luke Shaw

Kirsten Schlewitz: Adnan Januzaj