Phil Foden frontrunner for Premier League award, but teammate Rodri fails the cut

Phil Foden frontrunner for Premier League award, but teammate Rodri fails the cut
Left to right: Martin Odegaard of Arsenal. (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images) Cole Palmer of Chelsea. (Photo: Copa/Getty Images) Phil Foden of Manchester City. (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Players such as Phil Foden, Martin Ødegaard and Ollie Watkins deservedly headlined the Premier League player of the season shortlist. However, one outstanding player was surprisingly omitted.

Awards season in soccer always makes for interesting conversation. The question is always around how fair it is to compare a goalkeeper to a striker, for example, when their roles on the pitch are completely different, yet equally important to the success of a team.

What kind of criteria are used to fairly compare these individuals, with the purpose of christening one as the best of the crop? Are those criteria holistically fair?

When the English Premier League announced its players of the season shortlist for the 2023/2024 campaign — these questions were once raised. That is even before the award is handed out.

Unsurprisingly, players from Manchester City and Arsenal made up the bulk of the nominees. The two clubs have been at each other’s throats the whole season, with the winner of their closely contested battle to be crowned English champions yet to be decided,

Phil Foden (Manchester City), Erling Haaland (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal) and his teammate Martin Ødegaard took up four of the eight places on the list.

Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins was also rewarded following an incredible season in which he helped Aston Villa qualify for European competition. Alexander Isak has been just as influential for Newcastle United, hence his nomination.

Then there is Cole Palmer, who has been the brightest spark in an otherwise forgettable campaign for Chelsea. Liverpool’s Dutch defence rock Virgil van Dijk rounds off the eight-man list.

However, when it came out, the list caught more attention for one player who was not on it than the players who were: City midfield anchor Rodri.

Players such as Foden, Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva may hog the headlines for achieving the assists and goals. But Rodri is the glue that holds City together. He is the puppet master who orchestrates and initiates those final moves from deep in midfield.

He is also a vital cog in City’s defensive phases, winning the ball back regularly before it even reaches his team’s backline. All this while looking like the dictionary definition of neatness.

Not to mention that this is statistically his best season in terms of goals and assists. He has scored seven times and assisted a further nine.

Nevertheless, it was not enough to see him crack the list of being amongst the best this season. His manager, Pep Guardiola said it was unfortunate for the midfielder to miss out, but added that it would not be a big deal for his star midfielder.

“For those who are nominated and not nominated, who win and don’t win, nothing changes. Before, when I started at an early age, these awards didn’t exist,” Guardiola stated.

“But all the nominees are more than deserving. All of them played really good. Otherwise, they would not be here. And there are a lot, a lot that could be there,” said the Spaniard.

The nominees

Phil Foden (Manchester City)

While teammate Rodri lurks in the shadows for City, his teammate has been at the forefront of all things good for the Citizens.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Phil Foden is already destined for greatness, but 2024 may play a pivotal part in strengthening his legacy

The Englishman has scored just under 17 league goals this season, including two hattricks. He has also provided a further eight assists to date. He is the favourite to clinch the award.

Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal)

The Norwegian creative midfielder was thrust into the limelight back in 2015, when as a highly-rated teenager he signed for Real Madrid. After being ping-ponged on loan to various clubs by the Spanish giants, he has finally found his home in Arsenal.

His craft and guile are key features of his game. However, the Gunners’ skipper also earns plaudits for his work off the ball. Hurrying and pressing opponents, before repossessing the ball and threading an inch-perfect pass.

Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland (right) of Manchester City is challenged by Calvin Bassey of Fulham at Craven Cottage in London, England. 11 May 2024. (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Haaland won this award during his first season in England last year. In that campaign he had been peerless, snapping all kinds of records in the process.

This season he has been less dynamic, though he still leads the goal-scoring charts and will likely reclaim that award.

Declan Rice, Phil Foden

Antony of Manchester United challenges Declan Rice (left) of Arsenal. (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Declan Rice (Arsenal)

Undoubtedly one of the best signings of this season, Rice has been one of the key ingredients to Arsenal staying so close to City in the race for league honours this season.

The former West Ham United defensive midfielder has grown to become much more rounded under the tutelage of Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, directly contributing to over 15 goals for the Gunners in the ongoing campaign.

Alexander Isak, Phil Foden

Alexander Isak of Newcastle United. (Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Alexander Isak (Newcastle United)

Newcastle have hardly been consistent this season. However, Swedish forward Isak has been a constant threat for the Magpies.

The 20 league goals he has scored for his club are the highest any Newcastle player has scored since lethal striker Alan Shearer managed 17 league goals during the 2002/2003 season.

Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins of Aston Villa. (Photo: Copa/Getty Images)

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa has been the surprise package of an enthralling Premier League campaign. England’s Ollie Watkins has been a key component of this surprising onslaught.

Similar to Foden at City, Watkins has been present in key moments for his club, which is on the brink of a first top-four finish since 1996. Watkins is in the top five on the scorers’ charts with 19 strikes. He leads the assists log with 13.

Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

It’s been another poor season for Chelsea. In the midst of this inconsistency, one player has been outstanding for the Londoners: Cole Palmer.

Without his contribution of 21 goals and 10 assists in his first season with the club, Chelsea might be closer to the relegation zone.

Virgil van Dijk

Leon Bailey of Aston Villa (left) tackles Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool. (Photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

In Jurgen Klopp’s final season with Liverpool, Van Dijk has been his dominant best. Winning aerial duels for fun and making key forward passes to spark counter-attacks for Liverpool.

He also scored the winning goal as the Reds beat Chelsea in the final of the Carabao Cup.

The winner will be announced on Saturday, 18 May. DM


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