Why sublime Man City star must beat Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool names to Premier League POTY award

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The Premier League announced its nominees for the Player of the Season award on Thursdsay

For Phil Foden, it has been a year of moving in from the periphery. Nobody has ever questioned the preternatural talent that the Manchester City playmaker possesses, or that he should be regarded as one of the most individually gifted creators that the English game currently has at its disposal. But there has perhaps been a feeling in the past that he has been lost a little in the shuffle for club and country, just one glittering star in a galaxy of De Bruynes and Haalands and Kanes.

Oftentimes he has benched, rotated, rested; sublime every time he is called upon, but not necessarily called upon every time. A lot of that has changed this season, though. Suddenly Foden feels vital, indispensable. He is a non-negotiable, absolute must for City these days, and you suspect that if Gareth Southgate indulges his uber-conservative tendencies and chooses to omit him from his starting XI at Euro 2024, there may well be riots on the streets of Manchester.

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Across 49 outings in all competitions, Foden has produced 24 goals and 11 assists this season, and has generally conducted himself with a kind of casual, whippet-like sorcery besides. It is, in other words, little wonder that he has been nominated for the Premier League’s Player of the Year aware. What’s more, he should very probably win it too.

Alongside Foden, nods have also been given to his Manchester City accomplice Erling Haaland, Arsenal pairing Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka, Chelsea revelation Cole Palmer, Liverpool stalwart Virgil van Dijk, Aston Villa talisman Ollie Watkins, and Newcastle United striker Alexander Isak. It is a stacked field, and one in which each nomination is richly deserved, but it is hard to make an argument for any of those players having genuinely eclipsed Foden over the past nine months.

Haaland, of course, sits atop the goalscoring charts, and is more than likely on track to secure a second consecutive Golden Boot, but there have been patchy spells within his season that have dipped beneath his usual superlative standards. Fellow Norwegian Odegaard has likewise been remarkably effective down at the Emirates, but without matching the raw heft of Foden’s material contribution in the final third. Saka has shone without ever truly feeling like an insurmountable and peerless presence in the division.

Elsewhere, Palmer has been an astounding success in an otherwise drab campaign for Chelsea, and there will be those who will maintain that his output in spite of the mediocrity surrounding him would make the 22-year-old a worthy winner. Perhaps that is true, but once again, the question remains, has he been better than Foden? And once again, the answer is, probably not.

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Then there are the likes of Van Dijk, Watkins, and Isak - all coming off the back of wonderful individual seasons but all with the distinct feeling of being also-rans in a race that is just a touch beyond them.

Because really, this year, the Premier League Player of the Season award is Foden’s to lose. Already he has been named Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year, and in truth, he might complete a clean sweep and pick up the Premier League’s Young Player of the Season accolade too.

But even if he only bags the big one, it will be a well-deserved and fitting recognition for a campaign in which he has finally cemented himself as the formidable presence that he has always promised to become.

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