As is often the case with teams of the year, the best team in the league will dominate. This year, both Liverpool and Manchester City dominated the PFA Team of the Year, an honor voted on by the Profession Footballers’ Association, a soccer trade union. These two teams combined to take 10 of the 11 slots, essentially making this team a combined best eleven of the title chasers. This left only one spot for a non-title chasing representative, meaning players on less successful teams didn’t have much of a chance.
This year saw six players representing Manchester City make the team, while four players from Liverpool made the squad. These two teams dominating team makes sense, as they have similarly dominated the league this season. Over the course of the 2018-19 season, Manchester City and Liverpool have combined to drop 33 points all season. To put that into perspective, the next four teams have combined to drop 30 points in the last 3 games. The gap between the top two and the rest of the league is greater this year than any other in recent memory. Liverpool, currently in second place (and only a point back of City) is ahead of fourth place (Chelsea) by a whopping 23 points with two games left. In the past five years, the fourth place finisher in the EPL has not finished more than 10 points back of the runner up. Despite their dominance, and deserved selections on the Team of the Year, it isn’t as much fun to see this Team of the Year composed almost entirely of two teams, as it will overlook wonderful campaigns from other deserving players.
The biggest overachievers this term have been the Wolves of Wolverhampton. They are sitting in seventh place, with a chance to qualify for Europe a year after being promoted from the Championship. While no individual player may warrant a position on the team over those selected, we still miss out on a chance to highlight spectacular seasons from less heralded squads.
Regardless of spots available as a result of dominance of the top two teams, this year, as is tradition, many of the best players in the league were snubbed. However, unlike many previous years, one player who many felt was largely undeserving found their way into the coveted 11. Paul Pogba, who has had an up and down season, having been benched early in the season as a result of a row with his now fired manager before finding scintillating form after Mourinho’s dismissal, was the final player names to the PFA team of the year, and only non-Liverpool or Manchester City representative.
As soon as the team was announced, the twitterverse exploded with tweet, memes, and comments panning Pogba’s inclusion in the team ahead of the likes of Harry Kane, Mo Salah, and Eden Hazard. While Pogba turned his season around in a big way, Mo Salah is currently leading the golden boot race, Harry Kane has bagged 17 goals in only 28 appearances, and Eden Hazard leads the league in goal contributions (goals + assists) and has accounted for over 60% of his teams goals. Stats do not mean everything when it comes to player selection for the team, but the other players who were snubbed have all not only had outstanding statistical seasons, they have also helped their teams to finish in the top 4. Pogba’s United is on the outside looking in for Champions League qualification, and he has certainly played an immense role in them being within a shout of the top, but his accomplishments are in line with the others, leading to cries about his inclusion at the expense of the others,
No Team of the Year will be perfect, or without controversy, but this year saw a significant uptick in concentrated rejection. One way to potentially alleviate this debate in the future is to wait to the end of the season to announce the team of the year, as is customary with many major awards around the world. Arsene Wenger, former manager of Arsenal, argued that picking the team prior to the conclusion of the season is premature, and leaves the possibility that deserving players are left out of the team. He specifically pointed to Mo Salah having the potential to have a league altering impact in the title race over the final two games.
As is true every year, not everyone is happy with Team of the Year selection, but the team has ultimately served its purpose by highlighting some of the best talents of the season, while generating conversation and debate as the league heads into the final stretch.