Well done Gareth Bale, but who’s in line for Team of the Season next year?

by Jake Evans

Few would have contested the decision to award Gareth Bale a double victory at The 2013 Professional Footballers’ Awards (PFA), as he claimed the prize for Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year. The Spurs midfielder became only the third player ever to win both awards in the same season, joining ex Sky Sports pundit Andy Gray and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.

This automatically meant that he was first name on the team sheet for the PFA Premier League Team of the Year, as voted for by fellow professionals.

Here’s the team in full: De Gea (Manchester United), Zabaleta (Manchester City), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Baines (Everton), Carrick (Manchester United), Mata (Chelsea), Bale (Tottenham Hotspur), Hazard (Chelsea), Suarez (Liverpool) and Van Persie (Manchester United.

Congratulations to all of those players, it’s hard to argue with any of their selections. However, I’ve decided to look ahead to next season, and line up the potential candidates for next year’s PFA Premier League Team of the Season, based on their potential and performances so far this term.

GK – Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)

Hugo Lloris has made several saves during the early stages of his Spurs career that demonstrate why he is France’s number one goalkeeper. Andre Villas-Boas has decided to rotate him and Brad Friedel throughout the season, due to Tottenham’s involvement in the Europa League. However, with Friedel almost set for retirement, there will be no doubting the first choice goalkeeper at White Hart Lane come the first game of next season. If AVB can decide on a settled centre-back pairing and choose who will play alongisde Jan Vertoghen (who made the PFA team this year), Spurs will again challenge for the Champions League with Lloris set to shine.

RB – Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Azpilicueta was signed by Chelsea during the summer transfer window. Many believed he would play a secondary role to the already established Branislav Ivanovic at right-back, but the appointment of fellow countryman Rafa Benitez saw him become first choice full back at the club. He is strong, agile and quick and has adapted to the Premier League in a very short space of time following his move from Ligue 1. If Benitez’s successor at Stamford Bridge shows similar faith in the 23-year-old, he will continue to grow as a player and could even displace Alvaro Arbeloa in the Spanish national side.

CB – Phil Jones (Manchester United)

One of Phil Jones’s greatest strengths is his ability to be utilised anywhere on the pitch. The fact he can play a holding midfield role, full-back on either side or centre-half means that he is consistently picked by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United and by Roy Hodgson for England. Sooner or later, he is going to revert back to his strongest position at the centre of defence. That’s where he was playing for Blackburn when Ferguson decided to spend £16.5m on the then teenager. Rio Ferdinand has played well through a series of reoccurring back injuries this season, but is unlikely to play as many games next year. Whether Jones plays alongside Ferdinand or instead of him, he could be influential to any success Manchester United might have in the future as they aim to retain their Premier League title.

CB – Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

Class is permanent, and Vincent Kompany is up there with the most complete centre-backs in world football. He has struggled this campaign with injuries and suspensions and his Manchester City side have not coped well with the pressure that comes from winning a Premier League title. They will be out for revenge next season, and if the Belgian can get fully fit over the pre-season period, he could form a formidable partnership alongside youngster Matija Nastasic for years to come.

LB – Luke Shaw (Southampton)

Luke Shaw is frighteningly young at 17-years-old. Despite this, he has started 19 games for Southampton in the Premier League this season, and has rarely looked out of his depth. It may be a long shot to predict him featuring in next year’s Team of the Season, but Southampton are only going to improve when Mauricio Pochettino gets a full pre-season with his side and is able to reinforce the high pressing style of play he has managed to introduce so far. Even if Shaw doesn’t quite make the grade next season, he will be an integral part of whatever Southampton manage to achieve, as they do not look as solid or as threatening without him, even now.

RM – Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United)

Shinji Kagawa is widely regarded as one of the linchpins of Borussia Dortmund’s recent success. Before German wonder duo Mario Gotze and Marco Reus dominated the attacking midfield positions for the Champions League semi finalists, Kagawa was influential in his role just off central striker Robert Lewandowski. Kagawa showed early promise during his first few games for Manchester United, scoring on his home debut before a knee injury halted his progress at the club. If the Japanese midfielder can get back to full fitness in the closed season, he should be guaranteed a spot in Sir Alex Ferguson’s line-up ahead of the inconsistent Nani and Antonio Valencia. Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney will benefit hugely from Kagawa’s vision and passing range.

CM – Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)

Many Inter Milan fans must be scratching their heads as to why the club allowed Philippe Coutinho to leave for just £8.5m, a price that can only be described as an absolute steal in today’s transfer market. Since arriving at Anfield in January, the young Brazilian has lit up the Premier League, with an exciting flurry of goals and assists for Brendan Rodgers’ side and produced a Man of the Match performance during Liverpool’s 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle. Provided he stays clear of injury and continues to enjoy living in England, Coutinho is also my tip to win the Young Player of the Year award next time round.

CM – David Luiz (Chelsea)

Rafa Benitez has received nothing but stick from the majority of Chelsea fans, despite making many positive changes at the club, including the shocking transformation of David Luiz. Luiz had struggled in the past at Chelsea and was regarded by most as an error-prone centre-back, before Benitez pushed him forward into midfield. Since the Brazilian has lined up alongside Frank Lampard or Ramires, he has performed exceptionally well, making important challenges, dictating the tempo of matches and has even scored several sublime goals. Chelsea’s new manager must keep him in this position, as he could grow to become one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League, starting next season.

CM – Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

It must surely be time for Jack Wilshere to fulfil his potential. The young Arsenal midfielder has been described as the future of English football for as long as most of us can remember, but it is still yet to materialise. Fitness is the key for Wilshere, as it is for many of next season’s potential candidates. If he can go a whole campaign unhurt at the centre of Arsenal’s midfield, he will dominate teams both domestically and Internationally, as he has shown all too briefly recently against the likes of Bayern Munich and Brazil.

LM – Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

It is impossible to look beyond Gareth Bale. Provided he stays in England and isn’t tempted by the likes of Real Madrid, there is little doubt that he will cement his place in next year’s Team of the Season too. Whether he is deployed in a central role behind the striker or wide on the left, his combination of pace and fiercely accurate long-distance shooting means he has the ability to stand out, hence his double award this year.

ST – Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea)

Admittedly, this position will probably be filled by an already established Premier League striker such as Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie or Sergio Aguero. Whilst it is hugely unlikely that Romelu Lukaku will feature in next year’s Team of the Season, I don’t doubt that he has the necessary ability. If Chelsea weren’t too bust trying to justify spending £50m on Fernando Torres, the young Belgian wouldn’t have even been loaned out this season. If however the striker was to be kept on by the new Chelsea manager, he could stake a claim for the lead role in Chelsea’s attack. Lukaku has proved this season at West Brom that he is more than capable of scoring goals and playing up front by himself. If he has the magical trio of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard behind him next year, who knows how many goals he could score in a young and exciting Chelsea team.

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