PFA Team of the Year: Will Salah miss out to Sterling?

It’s that time of the year again, and after some tactical voting was revealed for the individual PFA award in the Premier League, it has got us wondering who will make the Team of the Year.

Virgil van Dijk and Raheem Sterling are the frontrunners to be named PFA Player of the Year, but while Van Dijk admitted he voted for Sterling, the favour was not returned as the Manchester City winger opted for Harry Kane.

Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) vies with Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk during the UEFA Champions League second leg quarter-final football match between Manchester City and Liverpool, at the Etihad Stadium in Manchest

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) vies with Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk during the UEFA Champions League second leg quarter-final football match between Manchester City and Liverpool, at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester–Getty Images

Both will be expected to feature in the Team of the Year for the first time, but who will join them? We look at the near-certainties, and the names with a chance of making the final XI…

The goalkeeper

A straight shoot-out between Liverpool’s Alisson Becker and Manchester City’s Ederson? The Brazilian duo have been instrumental figures for their respective clubs this season, with Alisson keeping 17 clean sheets to Ederson’s 16 so far, although the former’s integral role in transforming Liverpool into title contenders means he will be the overwhelming favourite.

Alisson of Liverpool

Alisson of Liverpool–Eurosport

West Ham shotstopper Lukasz Fabianski has made a league-high 126 saves, while Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea – a five-time PFA Team of the Year-er – joins Fabianski as two of only four goalkeepers to have made more than 100 saves. De Gea’s 106 is the same as Ben Foster of Watford, while Cardiff’s Neil Etheridge has made 114 stops.

The defenders

With Van Dijk’s place all-but assured at centre-back, that leaves three defensive spots, and it is difficult to look past his Liverpool team-mate Andrew Robertson for the left-back position, given the Scot has recorded nine assists in the Premier League this season. Everton’s Lucas Digne has enjoyed a fine season at Goodison Park, but he would do well to win more votes than Robertson.

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool celebrates with team-mate Andrew Robertson

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool celebrates with team-mate Andrew Robertson–Getty Images

At right-back, there is every chance Trent Alexander-Arnold could join the Liverpool pair, but he faces stiff competition from Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with the Crystal Palace defender one of the breakout stars of the 2018-19 campaign, as well as Matt Doherty, one of many Wolves players to have shone for the Midlands club.

Meanwhile, the leading candidate to feature as Van Dijk’s centre-back partner is Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte, though a host of players outside the top six deserve a mention – even if they are all outsiders to beat Laporte.

Christian Eriksen is denied by the flailing leg from Aymeric Laporte

Christian Eriksen is denied by the flailing leg from America Laporte–Getty Images

Brighton’s Shane Duffy has scored a league-high five goals for a defender, plus a league-high 132 headed clearances, while Cardiff’s Sol Bamba has four goals to go with his 32 clearances (fifth overall).

Burnley pair James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have been typically busy. Tarkowski has made a league-high 45 blocks, is third for head clearances (112), and is joint-third with Mee for clearances (194), while Mee is also second for blocks (39) and third for headed clearances 107).

  • The certainties: Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson
  • The contenders: Aymeric Laporte, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Lucas Digne
  • The outsiders: Matt Doherty, Cesar Azpilicueta, Shane Duffy, Sol Bamba, James Tarkowski

The midfielders

Fernandinho has been City’s rock once more this season, and should be included so long as the more defensive-minded midfielders are not overlooked.

Meanwhile, Paul Pogba’s resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes him a leading contender to join Fernandinho, and with 11 goals and nine assists in the league this season, he looks set to feature in the XI for the first time in his career. 

Paul Pogba, Manchester United

Paul Pogba, Manchester United–Getty Images

That could well mean there is just one midfield place left. Will Bernardo Silva’s efforts be recognised for Manchester City? Will players have taken notice of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s impressive haul of 12 goals and four assists for Everton? Or will Spurs’ Christian Eriksen or City’s Silva get the nod and retain their place from last year?

With N’Golo Kante pushed further upfield, it is unlikely the Frenchman will feature for a third time, despite his admirable efforts in an advanced role.

  • The certainties: Fernandinho
  • The contenders: Paul Pogba, Bernardo Silva, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Christian Eriksen
  • The outsiders: David Silva, N’Golo Kante

The forwards

Now this is where it gets tricky.

As far as out-and-out strikers go, Sergio Aguero appears the most likely to take the centre-forward role ahead of Harry Kane, while Wolves’ Raul Jimenez and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy both deserve honourable mentions. Meanwhile, with Arsenal pair Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sharing the load at the Emirates, their team-work won’t make the dream work here, with both likely to miss out.

Bernardo Silva of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team's first goal with Sergio Aguero of Manchester City

Bernardo Silva of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal with Sergio Aguero of Manchester City–Getty Images

And while Sterling has been deemed a shoo-in, he faces tough competition to make the XI.

When it comes to the two wide positions, Sterling could well get the better of Mohamed Salah at right wing, though the Egyptian could yet feature on the left, should he trump Eden Hazard, Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane, and Spurs’ Heung-min Son.

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage on March 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage on March 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom–Getty Images

What appears certain therefore is that some huge attacking names will miss out. A reversion to 4-4-2 could open the door for Kane to join Aguero up front, but that still means Sterling, Salah, Hazard, Mane and Son will fight it out for two positions. 

  • The certainties: Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling
  • The contenders: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Eden Hazard, Heung-min Son
  • The outsiders: Harry Kane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Raul Jimenez

Let us know your XI in the comments below. Here’s a look at a variety of possible XIs based on the stats…

The Assists/Goals XI

  • Ederson (0 goals/1 assist)
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold (1/7), Shane Duffy (5/1), Sol Bamba (4/1), Andrew Robertson (0/9)
  • Paul Pogba (11/9), Christian Eriksen (6/11), Gylfi Sigurdsson (12/4)
  • Mohamed Salah (18/7), Sergio Aguero (19/7), Eden Hazard (16/12)

The Who Scored XI (Rating)

  • Lukasz Fabianski (7.0)
  • Ricardo Pereira (7.3), Virgil van Dijk (7.4), Fabian Schar (7.3), Lucas Digne (7.3)
  • Raheem Sterling (7.7), Paul Pogba (7.4), Fernandinho (7.4), Eden Hazard (7.8)
  • Mohamed Salah (7.5), Sergio Aguero (7.6)

The Fantasy Premier League XI

With a whole host of forwards counting as midfielders in the FPL world, we’ll make this 4-4-2 too…

  • Alisson Becker (149pts)
  • Cesar Azpilicueta (140pts), Virgil van Dijk (169pts), David Luiz (139pts), Andrew Robertson (180pts)
  • Mohamed Salah (216pts), Gylfi Sigurdsson (155pts), Paul Pogba (155pts), Eden Hazard (215pts)
  • Sergio Aguero (175pts), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (169pts)

Source: Eurosport

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