Connect in the back of the net

‌Besides the relegation dogfight, title race, and fight for Champions League football, the announcement of the Professional Footballers’ Association awards — or the debate over the surprise exclusions —always act as the foreplay to silly season, which may not commence at least until the final whistle in the Football Association Cup final.

Arsenal’s allegedly ‘poor’ campaign mustered the most attention of all the stories told this season only to Leicester’s fairytale stuff, and fittingly, it was the exclusion of their top performer Mesut Ozil that added more drama and attention to the PFA awards this season.

 

How fantastic was the German’s season?

Having notched up 18 assists in 27 games, observers expected him to break Thierry Henry’s record of 20 for most assists in a single English top-flight season with at least a handful of games to spare.

Initially touted to be enjoying a season more fruitful than that of Player of the Year winner Riyad Mahrez, the Arsenal syndrome eventually got to him, and his assists dried up even though his contribution to the overall performance of the team remained immense.

Although he would likely not be anywhere even Arsenal’s POTY award if only his statistics in the last 19 games were to be taken into account, without the in-form Ozil, Saint Totteringham’s Day, if not, Champions League football might have remained a distant dream.

Conversely, with the in-form Ozil operating in the hole, the Gunners were either atop the league table or only a win or two behind the leaders. Despite being assist-dry for 10 games at one stage, he ended his season with 19 assists — and 6 goals.

 

Was the German sensation robbed?

Only four spots allotted for midfielders in the Team of the Year, and obvious choices N’Golo Kante and Mahrez made just two available for the rest of the league. Excluding Dimitri Payet would surely have been outrageous as he single-handedly carried West Ham United on his shoulders; he netted nine goals and collected 12 assists in just 29 starts.

The only other inclusion is Dele Alli, who has been a revelation since moving to Tottenham Hotspur. Directly involved in 19 goals in 33 appearances, it is a truism that he had enjoyed a dream start to life in north London, and he should be in the TOTY if it were not for the north London’s best midfielder in the Arsenal number 11.

To put things into context, he was not even nominated for the POTY award but somehow managed to pip Ozil to the TOTY spot. Although his patrons could argue that he did lift the Young Player of the Year award, the fact his teammate Harry Kane was nominated both in general category and youth category — and he was not — paints a clear picture.

In addition, the 19-year-old played with three other TOTY players in Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, and Kane whilst the Arsenal man had just a single teammate of his — Hector Bellerin — in TOTY.

Playing alongside more in form players should undoubtedly bring the best out of players; Ozil’s contribution to a team that finished runners-up was, thus, more immense.

 

Is the PFA award credible enough?

PFA TOTY is named by the members of the organization and can be deemed opinionated rather than factual.

If performance level, finishing position of the clubs, and players’ influence on the success of the club they play for were taken into account, the Tottenham youngster might get his maiden TOTY inclusion next year, provided he worked a bit harder in his second season at White Hart Lane.

 

Written by Praveen Paramasivam

Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen

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