The 2018-19 PFA Player of the Year shortlist will be announced in the coming days, and it’s not hard to guess the likely names. Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Agüero; Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané; Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Tottenham’s Son Heung-min. But what if we looked a little lower down, below the giants of English football. Who would make the shortlist for the ‘Not The Top Six’ Premier League Player of the Year?
Abdoulaye Doucouré, Watford
In an ideal world, this would be a joint nomination for Doucouré and his central midfield partner, Étienne Capoue. Together, the Frenchmen act as the anchor for Javi Gracia’s Watford team, combining size and strength with energy and skill. Doucouré is the more explosive and attack-minded of the two, especially this season. He’s capable of wondergoals, as he showed against Fulham, but also defence-splitting passes, as he showed against Burnley. Doucouré will be in high demand this summer.
James Maddison, Leicester City
£20million for a Championship player? That seemed like a lot of money last summer, but now, Maddison looks like a steal at that price. The former Coventry and Norwich star took to Premier League life like a duck to water. In an often-underwhelming Leicester team, Maddison has emerged as the most creative player in Europe’s Top Five leagues. He’s on 7 goals and 6 assists, with 5 games still to go.
Ryan Fraser, Bournemouth
If the ‘Not The Top Six’ Player of the Year award had been given at Christmas, Fraser would surely have been the favourite. The speedy Scot racked up 4 goals and 8 assists as Bournemouth ran riot at the start of the season. 2019, however, has been a trickier year for Fraser so far. His form has dipped, in part due to injuries to key teammates Callum Wilson and David Brooks.
Matt Doherty, Wolves
Raúl Jiménez, Conor Coady, João Moutinho, Diogo Jota…You could pick a whole ‘Not The Top Six’ Player of the Year shortlist just from Wolves. Doherty, however, would be my pick of the bunch. The Irish left wing-back has been sensational in his first Premier League season, playing a crucial role in the team’s quick, counter-attacking style.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Crystal Palace
If it wasn’t for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Wan-Bissaka would surely be in the England senior squad by now. The right-back has been outstanding for Palace this season, showing amazing consistency and composure for a 21-year-old. Most importantly, Wan-Bissaka has added bite to the team’s defence and attack. Only one Premier League player has averaged more tackles per game…
Idrissa Gueye, Everton
Gueye has been the shining light in another topsy-turvy season for Everton. Like N’Golo Kanté, he’s a little whirlwind of perfectly-timed action. Tackles, interceptions, blocks, recoveries – you name it, Gueye does it. He’s forming a great midfield partnership with André Gomes, but both men look destined for bigger clubs.