Mohamed Salah is the first Liverpool player to win FWA Footballer of the Year, but who did our writers pick? Both Manchester United and Everton players made appearances in this list.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been named the FWA Footballer of the Year, but he was not our writers’ pick. They chose Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. Read more in detail here: mo salah.
ESPN’s writers react to the news that Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been awarded the men’s Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.
Is he the best choice? Why not, if not? Which athletes, despite not being nominated, deserve to be recognized for a good season?
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Is it true that the correct player won? Who would you have voted for if you had the chance, and who did you vote for?
Mark Ogden (Mark Ogden): By the time the votes are cast, there is normally a clear favorite to win the award, but that hasn’t been the case this season. There have been a slew of top-tier performances, but no one who has stood out as the clear standout. Salah and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne (who finished second in the poll) have both had strong seasons with significant displays, while City’s Bernardo Silva has also impressed. Virgil van Dijk, on the other hand, received my vote because he has been so consistent and unflappable for Liverpool.
Let’s not forget that last season, the centre-back had a cruciate ligament injury that kept him out of professional football for ten months, but he has since returned with no negative consequences from his absence. Liverpool came close to missing out on Champions League qualifying last season without Van Dijk, but now that he’s back at the heart of the defense, they’re in with a chance of winning the Quadruple.
Salah is crucial to Liverpool’s success, but the Reds can win without him. Without Van Dijk, I’m not sure it’s the same.
Olley, James: This has been one of the most difficult seasons in recent memory to choose a clear winner. This is partially due to the fact that there are two good clubs contending for the Premier League crown, both having a roster full of key players. A significant arbitrator for me is generally recognizing the individual who makes the difference in the squad that wins the trophy, in addition to picking a player by “precept and example,” as indicated by the FWA.
For this reason, I voted as late as possible, and despite the fact that I still believe Manchester City will win the league, I couldn’t find anybody in Pep Guardiola’s squad who could beat Van Dijk or Salah. As a result, I chose Salah because his individual match-winning talent remains unrivaled.
Salah’s early-season hot run — 15 goals in his first 12 appearances (scoring in 11 of those matches) — is a devastating period of form that no one else has matched.
Laurens, Julien: It was very difficult for me to respond. First, I believed Sadio Mane, a Liverpool striker, deserved it more, particularly after the turn of the year. Then I was tempted to suggest De Bruyne for all of the Premier League leaders’ big goals and huge situations. But, in the end, I believe Salah should be crowned. There are the goals (22) and the assists (13), therefore he currently leads in both categories.
It wouldn’t be the first time (Thierry Henry, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Andy Cole, Didier Drogba, Robin van Persie, and Harry Kane have all done it), but it would be something unique.
Salah’s incredible moments of brilliance throughout the season, even when he was scoring fewer, are what win it for me (the goals against Watford and Man City; the assist against Man City; the dribbles, accelerations and swagger).
Salah has had an outstanding season for Liverpool, guiding the team to a historic Quadruple. Getty Images/John Powell/Liverpool FC
Dawson, Rob: There are solid cases to be made for a number of players, notably Salah, Mane, and De Bruyne, who have all been outstanding for the league’s top two sides. There are other players such as Van Dijk. Look at where Liverpool was last season without him and compare it to what they can accomplish this season with him in the lineup, as Mark said.
But, in the end, it’s difficult to see past the statistics. Salah’s achievement of leading the league in goals and assists is remarkable. He’s been the center of attention for a team that might complete the season with four championships, cementing their status as the best this nation has ever seen. He’d be a well-deserving winner.
Gab Marcotti: Salah is the Premier League’s top goal scorer (albeit from open play, he has as many as Son Heung-Min, whom I’m thinking nobody voted for here), so I’m guessing that’s why he won. However, he also leads the league in assists per 90 minutes (among players who have played more than 1,800 minutes) and is third in non-penalty goals per 90 minutes.
I believe he has slowed down in the second part of the season, and I’m not sure he’d make it based on a normal Player of the Year criteria (i.e. how much worse would the team be without him), but overall, I think he’s a good option.
Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool’s essential defensive cornerstone, was mentioned by many of our writers as a strong candidate for the FWA award. Getty Images/Quality Sport Images/Jose Manuel Alvarez
Which player has had a fantastic season but would never be considered for an award like this?
Ogden: Declan Rice (who finished third in the ballot), Diogo Jota, and Kai Havertz have all elevated their game this season and become key contributors for their respective teams, but Christian Eriksen is the guy who deserves to be recognized for something remarkable.
Eriksen, a Brentford midfielder, experienced a heart attack and died on the pitch while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020, but he was resuscitated and given a second shot at life owing to the incredible talents of first responders and his medical staff.
Few would have imagined the 30-year-old playing football again after collapsing in June, but he has not only miraculously returned to action after being released by Inter Milan, but he has also done so brilliantly for Brentford that he is now attracting attention from some of Europe’s top teams.
Eriksen has showed amazing physical and mental toughness in his quest to rebuild his life and career, and every time he dons a Brentford or Denmark jersey, it’s a monument to his dedication and reluctance to believe he’d never play again.
Christian Eriksen’s incredible recovery from cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 is an inspiration, and the Dane has played a key role in Brentford’s bid to remain in the Premier League next season. Getty Images/Sebastian Frej/MB Media
Cancelo’s adaptability and intellect have been crucial to City’s success this season, according to Olley. The full-back, who has the knowledge and talent to drift into midfield, assists City in creating a plethora of overloads that are crucial to their ability to overwhelm opponents.
Rice has pushed West Ham United ahead both at home and in the Europa League, while Eriksen deserves particular attention for not only returning to competitive action after a cardiac arrest, but also for playing such a crucial role in keeping Brentford out of relegation trouble. Eriksen would have been a strong contender if he had played a complete season instead of only seven games, based on his “precept and example” that serves as a motivating narrative for all of us.
Conor Gallagher, on loan from Chelsea, has also been outstanding for Crystal Palace, assisting Patrick Vieira in establishing a terrifying pressing style and putting himself in contention for a spot in England’s World Cup team.
Joao Cancelo of Manchester City is probably one of the top full-backs in the world, delivering on both ends of the game. Getty Images/Clive Mason
Laurens: Without a doubt, Cancelo would be my outside bet. Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jarrod Bowen, and Antonio Rudiger are all possible candidates. Cancelo is a right-back who can also play No. 10 and has a dribbling technique that differs from Alexander-crossing. Arnold’s
This season, his effect on Manchester City has been enormous. He adds a lot of flare, originality, and alternatives to the table. He’s also become better on defense. He no longer suffers from a lack of focus (and the resulting errors). What’s more impressive is how fit he’s been throughout the season.
Bernardo Silva, Dawson. He isn’t as well-known as Salah or De Bruyne, but he has had an outstanding season. He’s on track to have his most productive season in terms of goals, having already scored more in the Premier League than in any previous season since joining the Etihad from Monaco in 2017. More than that, he brings to Guardiola’s squad an intensity and work ethic that few players can match. He’s already played 45 games this season, and by the end of it, he’ll almost definitely have played more than 50. He’s an important gear in the City’s machine, but he’s probably not getting the credit he deserves.
Marcotti: Bowen is definitely not a realistic Player of the Year Award winner, but I’m going with him because that’s what we’re asking for. In the Premier League, nine players are in the top 20 in both non-penalty goals per 90 minutes and assists per 90 minutes. Six of them are members of the “Big Six” clubs. Emmanuel Dennis of Watford, Leicester City’s James Maddison, and West Ham striker Bowen are the other three. Except Dennis’ club will very certainly be demoted, while Maddison’s squad underperformed Bowen’s. Bowen also got more playing time than the other two.
He is the highest-ranked non-“Big Six” player in the Premier League in terms of scoring contribution. That has to be significant. Plus, unlike Mason Mount or Bukayo Saka, Bowen comes from the lower divisions (he’s just in his second season in the Premier League) and isn’t one of those individuals who was destined for success from an early age. As a youth, he was rejected by Aston Villa and Cardiff City, and he worked his way up through the ranks at Hereford United before joining Hull City. Respect.
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