May 9, 2016

LINSEY | Choosing the Premier League’s “Second Team of the Season”

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With just one week remaining in the English Premier League season, thoughts turn to recapping the year. The Professional Footballers’ Association has already announced the PFA Team of the Season, which contains the best player at each position, in its opinion. Due to the size of the Premier League, however, a number of outstanding performers are not recognized for their stellar seasons. This column will contain my “Second Team of the Season,” or those who deserve recognition for a solid year and just missed out on the PFA’s team.

Goalkeeper: Heurelho Gomes, Watford

A number of goalkeepers merit consideration for this team. Arsenal’s Petr Cech, Stoke City’s Jack Butland and Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel are all solid candidates, yet Gomes has earned it. He has bailed out Watford on numerous occasions and saved an impressive three penalty kicks during their 2015-16 campaign. The step-up on Gomes was Manchester United’s David De Gea, who was far and away the league’s best goalkeeper deserves the PFA award.

Right-back: Craig Dawson, West Bromwich Albion

The Baggies right-back has scored four goals this season and kept ten clean sheets, starting every league match in the process. Dawson has helped West Brom maintain a mid-table position through a resolute defense.

Center-back: Chris Smalling, Manchester United

For years, Smalling was never able to live up to his long-recognized potential. This year, however, he has matured and turned into a defensive leader. Without him, Manchester United would surely have conceded many more goals this season.

Center-back: Robert Huth, Leicester City

Huth, a tough German defender, has been an integral part of Leicester’s back line. He has even contributed unexpected goals at key moments, including two against their key title rival, Tottenham. Spurs’ Toby Alderweireld and Huth’s Leicester teammate Wes Morgan have been awardedt the center-back spots in the PFA Team of the Season.

Left-back: Aaron Cresswell, West Ham United

Cresswell, largely unknown when purchased from Ipswich Town a few seasons ago, has grown into the Premier League. He defends his side capably and takes a mean free kick. Danny Rose of Tottenham won the PFA’s left-back position, but I would disagree and suggest Cresswell had the better campaign and deserved the first team slot.

Right midfield: Marko Arnautovic, Stoke City

The giant Austrian put together the best goalscoring campaign in Stoke history this season, scoring 11 goals and chipping in five assists. While enemy defenses have focused in on Stoke’s more well-known players like Xherdan Shaqiri or Bojan Krkic, Arnautovic has been able to shine. Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez, the PFA Player of the Year, was selected for the Team of the Season at right midfield.

Defensive midfield: Mark Noble, West Ham United

Noble is rarely recognized as a top player in the league, but the Englishman plays an essential defensive midfield role for West Ham. Constantly making accurate passes, the club captain has tallied seven goals and four assists. N’Golo Kante of Leicester City made the PFA team at defensive midfield.

Attacking midfield: Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

The Gunners’ talisman Ozil has a frustrating habit of disappearing when his team need him to produce a moment of quality. Still, the ex-Real Madrid midfielder has assisted on a stunning 18 goals this season, so many were surprised when he lost out on a PFA first team spot to Tottenham’s teenage rookie Dele Alli.

Left midfield: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea City

Sigurdsson does it all for Swansea. He takes corner kicks, free kicks and penalties, serving as the team’s chief playmaker. He scored 11 goals this season along with four assists. West Ham’s free-kick expert Dimitri Payet won the PFA spot at left midfield.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

In a disappointing season for the club, Lukaku still managed to score 18 goals through his unique combination of size and technique. The Belgian continues to score goals in double-digits year after year.

Striker: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

The Argentinian marksman has been lethal this season, scoring 23 goals, including five in one game alone. He remains the best player in the league and a terror for opposing defenses. The PFA team’s forwards were Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane of Leicester and Tottenham, respectively.