Yesterday, the writing staff at Cartilage Free Captain got together in Slack and asked what was couched as a relatively simple question: Who is Tottenham Hotspur’s 2016-17 Player of the Season?
Much like last year, we couldn’t come to a consensus. In fact, at one point in our discussion, we had a “short list” of nine different players, all of whom had a legitimate argument for Player of the Season.
Tough choices had to be made, and we were able to eventually narrow the list down to the players you see below. Here are our candidates for Tottenham’s Player of the Season. We can’t decide, but maybe you can? Vote in the poll at the bottom and let us know your thoughts.
What more can we say about the man wearing the number 10 kit that hasn't been said? Kane came into the season having won the Golden Boot in the 2015-16 campaign, but it felt like even he still had to prove doubters wrong. All he did was score 29 goals in the league, 35 in all competitions, and chip in six assists. He did all of this even missing three months of the season. It looked as though Romelu Lukaku was going to beat him out for the boot until he took it by sheer force in the final week of the season, scoring seven goals in the final two matches.
It's hard to believe that the kid who had loan spells at Millwall and Leicester City before joining the senior squad has turned into the proverbial destroyer of worlds. He has come at the right time for a club that desperately needed THE striker. We've watched him generate powerful strikes out of the most awkward of positions and create goals out of nothing other than amazing technique. While there are players in this squad that certainly deserve the consideration for POTY, I find it hard to give it to anyone other than the man who leads the charge.
Christian Eriksen has to be the player of the year for Spurs. There isn't another player in England who combines his passing ability, creativity, and positional intelligence. That last quality is perhaps his most under-appreciated. He is always in the right place on the field. Going forward, he is a master at finding pockets of space for himself in order to maximize his time to pick out the next pass. Both of his assists to Dele Alli in Tottenham's 2-0 win against Chelsea are examples of this quality. Defensively, he holds the press together even though he is not as obviously active as Harry Kane or the late Erik Lamela. He simply doesn't need to run as much because he anticipates how the play will develop and gets to the right position early. Amongst the elite passing midfielders in the top flight--players like Mesut Ozil, Cesc Fabregas, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, or Juan Mata--Eriksen is the only one who is both an elite creator and elite defensive player.
Much like Luka Modric before him, Eriksen is the passing maestro in midfield who is easy to miss because he doesn't score a ton of goals. Eriksen contributes more assists than Modric, but is somehow neglected in much the same way as the Croat. As the season wound down, most of the accolades were reserved for Tottenham's three 20 goal men--Kane, Dele, and Son Heung-Min. But the man who makes Tottenham tick is Christian Eriksen.
The case for Dele Alli as Tottenham’s Player of the Season is obvious on the surface. He’s an incredibly talented and hardworking player. Out of possession, he harries and chases the opposition like a ball-wining midfielder. With the ball, he’s creative, involves his teammates and most importantly, scores goals. Despite the threat he poses in the opposition’s box, he’s not the tidiest of players (though he’s improved in that regard this season) – but he tries shit. And in his second season in the Premier League, those audacious scoop passes, curling efforts and fancy flicks were performed with more purpose and direction than ever before. This campaign, he’s looked more assertive in his decisions and physically more capable of sustaining his performances for 90 minutes.
Alli has nearly doubled his goal tally, racking up more than double the amount in all competitions. Granted, some of this can be chalked up to a tactical shift that lessened his defensive responsibilities, but he undoubtedly increased his overall reliability and impact on the game this season. For all the talk of him playing more as a second striker this season, compared to last season he attempted nearly the same amount of shots, completed more passes at a higher rate, and fouled significantly less.
But all of this ignores a key piece of Alli’s nomination, which is that he helped keep the team afloat when things seemed to be going off the rails in the fall. Tottenham lost Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela to significant injuries within the span of about a month, all while Christian Eriksen was struggling to find form. Without the performances of Alli during this crucial period of the season, things really could’ve gone tits up for Tottenham. Instead, Alli showed his maturity and played a key role in guiding the team through those treacherous weeks. For his consistency and potency, Alli deserves Player of the Season.
If we’re honest with each other, by talent Jan Vertonghen is still the second best Belgian center back on Tottenham Hotspur’s roster. But that shouldn’t take away anything from the remarkable season he’s had as part of Spurs’ back line. He’s low-key been Spurs’ best and most consistent defender this season, and he just finished his best ever campaign in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt. That’s pretty impressive considering that he’s just one component in the best back line in English football and he’s been a fixture in Spurs’ defense since 2012. That’s a remarkable achievement, and he deserves consideration for Spurs’ Player of the Season because of it.
Jan and Toby have worked so well together that we have frequently lumped them together in player ratings (as “Janby Alderweirtonghen”), but while Toby has seemingly gotten more praise from observers he’s also had a couple of rare costly defensive mistakes. In actuality, it’s Jan who has been more consistent and truthfully had the better year. Not only has he rarely put a foot wrong defensively, but the stability of Spurs’ defense and the periodic switch to a back three has allowed Jan to push forward and make some mazy runs into the offensive third. He didn’t score this season, but he came awfully close, and those line-busting runs have stretched opposition defenses and given Spurs’ opponents one more thing to think about.
At age 30, Jan still has a few more years left in the tank as a top flight defender, and he deserves recognition for what he has accomplished this season. Without him, Spurs concede more goals, probably lose more matches, and don’t finish second in the table.
There's one reason, and one reason only, why Victor Wanyama should be Tottenham's player of the season. It's simple really. In 2015-16, without Wanyama, Spurs accumulated 70 points and finished third. This season, with Wanyama, Spurs won a record-breaking 86 points and finished second. Ipso facto, etc. etc.
If I have to make an actual argument for why Wanyama deserves the player of the season, it's this. Wanyama's particular skillset provided the team with more options to do more things and allowed Mauricio Pochettino to put his more creative, attacking players in more advantageous positions. Early in the season, when Spurs were without Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld, and Mousa Dembele, it was Wanyama who served as a one-man wrecking crew in midfield, while Pochettino rolled out four attacking midfielders and a Vincent Janssen-shaped mannequin ahead of the Kenyan. Later in the season, Wanyama's ability to cover and tackle all across the center of the park, allowed the team to make the switch to three at the back.
I'll be first to admit that Wanyama has his limitations but he was impressive for the entire season despite those limitations. He maybe didn't have all the goals and assists that some of the guys on this list have, though he did manage four goals and one really really awesome assist, but he was, to me, Spurs' most consistent performer throughout the entirety of the season. Also, he somehow avoided getting sent off all season, which, after 3 red cards last season at Southampton, seems a bit like a miracle.
All this and, his spaghetti bit is pretty great.
I admit that I think that Christian Eriksen is Spurs' player of the year, and in true masthead groupthink style, I share most of Jake's reasoning. But Eric Dier's performances have gone overlooked as everyone else does flashier things.
Despite the horrible rumors that he might be tempted to pitch a fit to get to Manchester United in order to play defensive midfield full time, there's no denying that Dier's best attribute is his versatility, and it's why I think he deserves some consideration as Spurs' player of the year. Whether asked to play in a three or four man defense, right, left or center, as a lone holding midfielder or as part of a double pivot, starting or off the bench, Dier excels. He keeps it simple when next to a playmaker or takes the responsibility to get the attack moving if no one else will. Other players have been more important on a game-by-game basis, but over the course of the entire season, Dier has kept the team together when his teammates were injured or off form.
Toby and Jan are the foundation of Mauricio Pochettino's house, Eriksen and Kane are the bricks, and Dier is the mortar.
Who should be Spurs’ Player of the Season this year?
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Other (list in comments)