Did Sterling Deserve the PFA Young Player of the Year?

By | April 28, 2019

It was recently announced that Raheem Sterling of Manchester City was named the PFA Young Player of the Year for his outstanding season under Pep Guardiola. In 32 league games thus far the Englishman has 17 goals and 10 assists to go with 5 goals in 10 Champions League matches (although those don’t technically count for this award). Sterling has blossomed this year and become one of the most dangerous attackers in the Premier League at the age of 24, quite the accomplishment for a player so often criticized for his finishing earlier in his career. Despite the presence of Leroy Sane and former Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez on the roster, Sterling managed to take control of his spot in the starting XI and is one of the main reasons City are in control of their title aspirations.

Bernardo Silva (23), David Brooks (21), Marcus Rashford (21), Declan Rice (19), and Trent Alexander-Arnold (20) were the other finalists for the award and while it was close, none of them had quite the statistical season as Raheem Sterling.

Bernardo SilvaManchester City

7 goals and 7 assists in 34 appearances

Silva played deeper than Sterling did in the City attack but was instrumental in pulling the strings in their lethal build-up play. He was frequently playing the pass before the assist as City steamrolled opponents and was critical in covering for the injured Kevin De Bruyne who missed a large portion of the season. While Silva is incredibly valuable he does not quite get the nod over Sterling in my eyes.

David BrooksBournemouth

7 goals and 5 assists in 30 appearances

Brooks is a promising cog in the Bournemouth attacking midfield with 7 goals in his inaugural Premier League season. The youngster had undoubtedly a positive year but Bournemouth’s bottom half finish is too much to put him in the same conversation as Sterling or Silva.

One major boost to Brooks’ campaign is that it is truly his first year in the Prem and therefore more deserving of the spirit of the YPOY award that looks to reward not yet-established talent.

Marcus RashfordManchester United

10 goals and 6 assists in 31 appearances

Rashford was a major benefactor of Solskjaer’s energy and has put up a solid season while competing with Romelu Lukaku for attacking focus. He has built well on his honeymoon season last year, which saw the 19-year old burst onto the world-wide scene while still in school.  United have fallen out of form in recent weeks, however, and their challenge for Champions League football next year will be heavily reliant on how the young Englishman finishes out the season.

Declan RiceWest Ham

2 goals and 5 clean sheets in 33 appearances

Rice has been a revelation for West Ham who sorely needed some consistency at the back during what has been a rough couple of years for the Hammers. Rice was exactly that, appearing 33 times this season while still under the age of 20 without a single direct error leading to goal. Rice will be a calming force at the back for years to come with West Ham and is another player who burst onto the scene only this year. Like Brooks, however, West Ham’s bottom of the table finish hurts his YPOY case.

Trent Alexander-ArnoldLiverpool

9 assists and 11 clean sheets in 27 appearances

For me, Alexander-Arnold is the most deserving player of YPOY honors as he was instrumental in the incredible defensive strides made by Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side. His fellow defender Virgil Van Dijk was recognized as the PFA Player of the Year and a Liverpool clean sweep would not have felt out of place.

Alexander-Arnold has locked down the right back position for a side with the stingiest defense in the Premier League while also helping his side to a berth in the Champions League semi-final, which is more than can be said for Sterling. While technically European competitions don’t count towards this domestic award, I feel it prudent to paint the entire picture. Additionally, while Alexander-Arnold was a rotational piece last year for Liverpool he increased his appearances by 150% making him more deserving from a most-improved perspective.

Regardless, since Alexander-Arnold still has three more seasons of eligibility to win the YPOY award I would not be shocked to see him add the trophy to his trophy case sooner rather than later. Sterling was certainly a deserving winner, especially if City maintain their title pace but if they slip up then I feel Alexander-Arnold should have taken home the silverware. It might be worth it, as players enter the world stage at younger and younger ages, that the FA reduce the age restriction on this award to 21 to better recognize the true newcomers to the Premier League.

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