Friday, December 24, 2010
Premier League Player of the Year
Top of the Premier League pile in 2010 is Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez. The Argentina international has made plenty of headlines off the field - calling Gary Neville a "sock sucker", questioning the decisions of his manager Roberto Mancini and handing in a transfer request, before taking it back less than a week later - but he has helped turn City from cash-rich wannabes to credible Premier League challengers.
• Review of the Year 2010
When considered against his peers, Tevez has been the model of consistency. Wayne Rooney was setting the Premier League alight at the turn of the year, but the player who almost single-handedly spearheaded Manchester United's title assault last season faded badly after picking up an injury while on Champions League duty against Bayern Munich and he has still not scored a goal from open play since that night in Germany in March.
Meanwhile, Tevez has enjoyed a prolific year having netted 28 goals in 38 starts for City. But while his scoring record obviously inspires the faith of his team-mates and supporters, it is his tireless workrate that really wins their hearts and minds. His raging-bull style embodies everything that a fan wants to see from one of their players and, when coupled with a ruthlessness in front of goal that was often notable by its absence during his time at Old Trafford, Tevez has become one of the league's most devastating players.
There are a number of memorable Tevez performances to recount in 2010, including match-winning doubles against Manchester United in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg and against Chelsea in the 4-2 victory at Stamford Bridge. But the City captain does not only shine against the big teams, with hat-tricks against Blackburn and Wigan, and virtuoso displays against Blackpool and Fulham this season proving he is a man for all occasions. Tevez loves to grab games by the scruff of the neck and without his goals, City would be 24 points worse off across 2010 - a discrepancy that would have amounted to a ninth-place finish last season and left them sitting in 15th place this time around.
He has certainly courted controversy, with reports of his unhappiness with both the club and the manager, Roberto Mancini, making regular headlines. However, there is no more in-form striker in the Premier League at the moment and City have already shown that they are willing to move heaven and earth to keep him at Eastlands.
Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
After a tough start to life at Tottenham, the last 12 months have seen Bale catapulted into the football spotlight. That the left-winger had played just ten games at the turn of the year, shows just how remarkable his transformation from bit-part player to one of Europe's hottest properties has been. Possessing electric pace and pinpoint delivery from open play and set-pieces, Bale became an accomplished provider for Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch. However, goals soon came for him, too, with match-winning strikes against Arsenal and Chelsea crucial in helping Spurs achieve Champions League qualification for the first time. Playing at European football's top table has brought the best out of Bale and two exceptional displays against Inter Milan - including a hat-trick at the San Siro - earned plaudits from around the continent. Making Maicon look like a Sunday League player would be hard to beat as his highlight of his year, but Bale's most impressive achievement has been making himself indispensable to Spurs - the left-winger has played all but 19 minutes of his 23 appearances this season.
Samir Nasri (Arsenal)
2010 has been a breakthrough year for the Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri and he has unquestionably been the most exciting player of the 2010-11 Premier League season so far. It was a virtuoso display against FC Porto in the Champions League quarter-final second leg that sticks out as his most memorable display, as the Gunners had lost 2-1 in the first leg, but Nasri helped mastermind a stunning 5-0 win at Emirates Stadium, scoring one of the goals of the season in the process after majestically weaving his way through Porto's stunned defence. Having filled the void left by injured skipper Cesc Fabregas with aplomb, Nasri was surprisingly overlooked by Raymond Domenech for France's World Cup squad. But Les Bleus' loss was certainly Arsenal's gain and he has successfully taken on the mantle as the Gunners' creator-in-chief. Indeed, his ability to dictate play, run with the ball at his feet and the addition of some finishing prowess and physicality have made him an early favourite for the 2010-11 PFA Player of the Year Award.
Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
Though his World Cup experience with France provided him with little to celebrate, Florent Malouda's imperious displays for Chelsea have brought smiles aplenty to the Stamford Bridge faithful and the winger has emerged as one of the Blues' key players in 2010. While it was arguably Guus Hiddink who was responsible for finally extracting some consistency from the fleet-footed Frenchman, Carlo Ancelotti has continued to get the best out of him. His contribution, both in terms of scoring goals and creating them for team-mates, was integral as Chelsea claimed the Double and his 20 goals in 2010 provide ample proof of the quality of a player who continues to terrorise Premier League defenders.
Nani (Man Utd)
This time 12 months ago, most United fans were discussing how much money the club would be able to get when Nani inevitably left the club in January. His controversial revelations about life under Sir Alex Ferguson in November, along with his failure to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo and the excellent form of Antonio Valencia, appeared to make Nani surplus to requirements. But the Portuguese winger soon proved why United shelled out £17 million for him in 2007. His Man of the Match display in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates was perhaps the best example of his ability to influence the outcome of a game and, as he became a regular starter, Nani began to ooze confidence and the tricks that had previously frustrated began to astonish in the big games. He missed the World Cup through injury but has continued to impress this season, responding to the increased pressure on his shoulders following the enforced absence of Valencia.