EPL: Ranking the Frontrunners for Player of the Year

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Aug 4, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Portugal midfield Fernandes Bruno (10) celebrates after beating Argentina in a first round men's football match at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The EPL Player of the Year race is full of stars putting up outstanding performances this season. The league table is the closest it’s been (at this point in the season) in a long time, with the top six teams separated by around 10 points. In such a tightly contested race, will the likes of Kevin De Bruyne or Mohamed Salah earn a second POTY to their name? Or will there be a new winner altogether?

The criteria for the ranking:

Firstly, primary statistics per position (goals and assist for forwards and midfielders, clean sheets for defenders).

Secondly, the team record (points and table positioning).

Finally, team statistics relevant to the position (total goals scored for forwards and midfielders, least goals conceded for defenders).

As mentioned earlier, the EPL season has been tightly contested. Players across the league have been putting up great performances.

So, starting with a few honorable mentions:

1. Ruben Dias

The Manchester City defender who signed in the summer has been consistently good at the back. Manchester City conceded 35 goals throughout 38 games last year. They suffered several injuries to their center-backs, which made getting a reliable one this summer quite important.

This season the team has conceded 13 goals in 20 games (five of which were in one game) and has the best defensive record. The 23-year old who has regularly started has hugely impacted their performance.

2. Emiliano Mart�nez

Last season, the failure of goal-line technology stopped Aston Villa from being relegated to the EFL Championship. Villa was very poor defensively, conceding 67 goals in total. Martinez put up stellar performances at Arsenal to close out the year, which played a huge factor in Villa signing him. This season, Martinez leads the league with 10 clean sheets, and Villa has conceded only 21 goals in total. While signing new defenders certainly helped, Martinez has been their biggest difference at the back.

3. Jamie Vardy and Patrick Bamford

Vardy has established himself as one of the league’s best forwards for a couple of years now. This season, the 34-year old has already scored 11 goals in 18 games, a pace which one has come to expect from him. What makes him eligible to be on this list is that he’s also led Leicester City to a top 4 spot in the table while successfully performing at a very high level.

Patrick Bamford, on the other hand, is a huge surprise. He has been an integral part of the recently promoted Leeds United team, scoring 11 goals this season. The team is back in the EPL for the first time in almost 20 years but is almost in the top 10 teams in the league. While his stats are similar to Vardy’s, Bamford’s place on this list is deserved due to the comparative success (to most other newly promoted clubs) his team has enjoyed.

The Top 5 contenders for Player of the Year

5. Kevin De Bruyne

July 6, 2018; Kazan, Russia; Belgium player Kevin De Bruyne scores a goal against Brazil in the quarterfinals during the FIFA World Cup 2018 at Kazan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: PA Images/Sipa USA via USA TODAY Sports
De Bruyne was last year’s winner and looked set to repeat as his team top the table

The 2020 winner continues to be in the race with great performances in fewer games than any other candidates on this list. In 17 games, De Bruyne has 10 assists, one shy of the league leader. He’s been City’s key playmaker on the pitch so far, and his influence shows each game. As a result of this, City is currently at the top of the EPL, which helps his argument for POTY

However, De Bruyne has struggled with staying healthy. He missed a couple of games earlier in the season due to injury and is currently set to miss at least a couple of weeks more. His team continues to fire on all cylinders. Their performance without their playmaker certainly raises the question of exactly just how integral De Bruyne is to the team.

If De Bruyne can keep performing at a high level once he returns, he’ll certainly make a stronger case for going back-to-back.

4. Son Heung-min

Jul 28, 2018; Pasadena, CA, USA; Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-Min against FC Barcelona during an International Champions Cup soccer match at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Son has had a breakout year, even scoring 4 goals in a single match

Heung-Min Son has had a great season so far. In 20 games, he has produced 12 goals and 6 assists. The Tottenham Hotspurs winger has been thriving so far and has already surpassed his goal haul from any previous year. He even won Player of the Month for his performances in October. However, Son has been disappointing in recent games. He is heavily reliant on his strike partner, Harry Kane, to be consistent.

While they’re set to be the most productive duo in EPL history, Kane appears to be more important, earning him a higher rank on this list.

3. Harry Kane

July 11, 2018; Moscow, Russia; England forward Harry Kane (9) controls the ball against Croatia during the first half in the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup 2018 at Saint Petersburg Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports
Kane has the highest total goal contribution in the league with 12G and 11A

Exactly why is Kane more important to Tottenham? It’s simply because he’s been more productive and not just statistically. Kane leads the league in assists with 11 and is second in scoring with 12. However, his change in play style has led Tottenham to the success it’s enjoying. Kane has been a goal-scoring machine throughout his time in the league. What he is not: a playmaker � never having crossed 6 assists before this season. It’s his ability to play the ball into other attackers that gives Tottenham its potent offense

While Kane and Son seem to be having fantastic individual seasons, team success is what prevents them from having a higher ranking. Tottenham has been struggling to find a constant source of goals and currently sit seventh in the table. Freezing out one of their promising playmakers hasn’t seemed to help either. Their goal total is lower than several teams in the league, including those whose players top this list.

Unfortunately for Kane, he’s out with an injury for a couple of weeks, further hurting his chances for winning the POTY.

2. Mohamed Salah

Jul 25, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (11) celebrates his goal against Manchester City during the second half of an International Champions Cup soccer match at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Salah won the award for the 2017-18 season, scoring 32 goals and providing 10 assists

Salah began the season on fire. After starting his EPL campaign with a hat-trick, the Egyptian forward went on to score 13 goals in 14 games. He’s currently the league’s leading scorer with 15 goals. However, since his scorching hot start, Salah had been unable to find the back of the net for 6 consecutive games. Although he did end up scoring after that, Liverpool has been delivering underwhelming performances and are currently fourth.

In a more usual situation, if Liverpool were on top of the table and leading the league in goals, Salah would no doubt top this list. That being said, the team has struggled defensively this season due to injuries. This leaves their opposition with an opportunity to pull off a ‘smash-and-grab’ by scoring a goal and sitting deep, defending for the rest of the game. As a result, it prevents Salah from finding attacking opportunities, harming his performance.

If Liverpool can pick up its form in the league, there’s a good chance Salah would top this list.

1. Bruno Fernandes

Aug 4, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Argentina midfield Santiago Ascacibar (8) and Portugal midfield Fernandes Bruno (10) go for the ball during the first half at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Fernandes has been in the league for slightly over a year but has quickly become one of the best

Bruno Fernandes is arguably one of the best mid-season transfers the EPL has ever seen. This year, the Portuguese is joint-second in scoring with 12 goals and has produced 9 assists. Fernandes has been crucial to Manchester United’s offense. Bruno has started all but one game this season, in which he came off the bench to provide an assist and completely change the momentum of the game.

He’s led the team to a league-high 46 goals, which is a factor in his high ranking despite being individually outperformed by Salah and Kane. Also, assist numbers don’t tell the entire story here. While Bruno isn’t being credited with the final pass leading to a goal, he’s often been the second last. Bruno has also won two out of the four Player of the Month awards so far, a factor that is heavily considered when awarding the POTY.

United currently sit second in the league, and Fernandes has been the biggest factor in their recovery from a dismal start to what could now be a potential league-winning season.

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