With the EPL title race sewn up and the relegation spots too confusing to contemplate due to mathematical permutations of Hawkings (too soon?) proportions, I figured the sane thing would be to focus on the player of the season debate.
The Matty Lawrence Column: Who Is The EPL Player Of The Year 2017-18?
So, let’s get cracking and work out who has been the best player in the EPL this season. I mean what else are we going to discuss, the England squad for the forthcoming, meaningless friendlies against Holland and Italy?
Please don’t make me discuss the cons and cons of recalling Joe ‘Teflon’ Hart to the squad: pass me a fork and I’ll have a crack at my retinas. So before I tumble into a pit of despair thinking of the limited nature of the afore-mentioned squad, and the car crash that is going to be Russia 2018, let’s get those candidates.
There are only three names, so please don’t debate me on that. Yes, football generally tends to be subjective, but this can’t even be considered an argument: Kevin de Bruyne, Harry Kane and Mo Salah are the only three players who can be considered in the running for English Premier League player of the season. I listed them in alphabetical order, before anyone accuses me of bias.
We’ll work from latter to former to negate that criticism and begin our little discussion with the incredible form of Mohammed Salah. You couldn’t put this guy out with a thousand gallons of water: he’s incendiary.
With 28 goals in 30 appearances and a decidedly tasty nine assists to his name, Salah is almost single-handedly keeping Liverpool FC in the hunt for second place. His four goals with four shots against Watford last weekend was undeniably a feat of sheer class. Salah has opposition players and managers running for the hills.
Blimey, Javi Gracia the Watford manager decided to play without any full backs to spare the blushes of whoever grabbed the No.3 slot. Salah has had so many left backs spinning into the ground this season, that giving him the freedom of the Anfield pitch unopposed seemed like a good idea….even if just to prolong the career of one poor soul dressed in yellow.
Salah has scored a whopping 0.93 goals per game and is surely on target for at least 30 goals in his debut season. He’s breaking more records along the way than even The Rolling Stones have made.
Torres has been left in the rear-view: Salah has surpassed the 33 goals that Fernando notched in his debut LFC season in 2007/08. Give Salah another game, or two, and he will have switched gear and overtaken Robbie Fowler’s 36 goals (53 games) in a Liverpool shirt in the Premier League era. We can only sit back and admire the grace and panache of Salah and herald him an absolute bargain at a fee of just over £35m.
You have to feel for Harry Kane who will struggle to reach the heady heights of Mo Salah’s 28 goals, and counting, now that he has injured his glass, right ankle. Kane is, without doubt, absolutely world class and let’s hope that right ankle of his doesn’t stifle his ability to jettison his career into the stratosphere: three injuries on the same ankle before the age of 25 does have me slightly concerned, though.
24 goals in 29 games would normally have any self-respecting football fan salivating over their plasma screen, but Salah’s 0.93 goals per game has thoroughly eclipsed Kane’s 0.83 goals per game.
This doesn’t mean that Kane isn’t having a great season, or that he can’t be considered for EPL player of the season, it just means that he won’t be winning any personal awards at this juncture…a bit like his team, Tottenham Hotspur. A low blow, I know, but come on, Spurs fans, you’re totally used to it by now.
The last time you won anything of any note (don’t tell me you include the bloody League Cup?), the bloke with the fishing rod and the fella promoting crisps lifted the trophy. And that was before football was even invented on 20 February, 1992.
Kevin de Bruyne
Lastly, we need to move onto a player that the rest of the EPL is looking up to: Kevin de Bruyne. Without getting all mushy and doe-eyed, this guy has been a sight to behold this season. De Bruyne’s game has just gone from strength-to-strength. In 30 appearances he’s hit 7 goals and 14 assists, but that’s really just the icing on the cake.
Add to that production his range of passing: short to long, left or right, inside/outside of the foot and the odd laces pass, here or there. That doesn’t even begin to cover the full repertoire, but I think you catch my drift.
De Bruyne averages 74 of these delightful passes per game and has a very solid 45% shooting accuracy. Surprisingly, as he doesn’t really strike you as such a player, he also has a tackle success of 73%.
Enough of these bloody stats, because what I am really trying to say is that KDB is the all-round player: dictating games from start to finish, the ultimate professional on and off the pitch and with rarely a yellow card to his name.
To be considered anywhere near the level of Messi and Ronaldo he has to produce in the latter stages of the Champions League and on the world stage with Belgium. There also, of course, has to be a longevity that proves consistency isn’t an issue.
I have no doubt in my mind that KDB has the mental strength and aptitude to replicate this season’s quality over a number of years. His single-minded approach is one that all young players should strive for.
My Pick For EPL Player Of The Year 2017..Drum Roll, Please
For me, the title of EPL player of the season is a no contest. Yes, Harry Kane has been at his usual consistent best. Yes, Mo Salah has surprised us all (I assume) with his stunning debut season for Liverpool and his magnificent 28 goals haul so far. But, neither of them has dictated a game as consistently as Kevin De Bruyne.
Ultimately, he is the only player of the three that sits atop the EPL by 16 points with a massive goal difference, better than any other club by a massive 26 goals. KDB has had a majestic season so far and I’m sure he’ll be adding some team honours to the inevitable personal haul that he will rake in at the end of the season.