Despite having a phenomenal season, Bukayo Saka was not included in the Premier League’s selection for the Young Player of the Year award while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also misses out on the senior gong.
When is a young player not a young player? Most would agree when he’s about to turn 25.
Bukayo Saka was superb this season and while his campaign as a whole isn’t taken into account, only his performances in the Premier League, that still seems like no reason to omit him from the selection, especially not when two 24-year-olds are in there.
I’m not getting into a debate about whether Jack Grealish and Anthony Martial deserve to win awards for their seasons, but Grealish turns 25 in four weeks. Martial will be 25 in December.
That’s not young in footballing terms. That’s very much ‘about to hit your peak’ territory.
Only Mason Greenwood, at 18, is under 21.
According to the Premier League, players need only be 23 or under at the start of the season to count. So, someone like Grealish, who was born in September, can be 23 when the season starts and almost 25 when it ends and is up against players who are 17, 18, 19, and 20.
That hardly seems fair, does it?
At the very least I’d reduce it down to ‘under 21 at the start of the season’ to give it some semblance of credibility. Besides, just because the likes of Grealish and Martial qualify due to the rules, which are stupid, they don’t have to pick them at the expense of actual youngsters.
I’m not saying Saka deserves to win the award, but he certainly deserves to be on the list, as do others. The youngest player to play in the Premier League this season was just 16 years, 8 months and 29 days. Mason Greenwood was third youngest at 17 years, 10 months and 11 days while Saka was 5th at 18 years, 17 days. What chance do they have against 24-year-olds?
Hopefully, it will come back to bite the Premier League in the arse when Saka follows Alex Iwobi’s lead and opts to play for Nigeria instead of England.
Premier League Player of the Season – Senior award
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, meanwhile, was not included in the list of senior players that included Nick Pope, who saved a smaller percentage of shots faced than Emi Martinez and only just beat out Bernd Leno, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is also on the Young Player list.
Jamie Vardy, who scored one goal more than Auba, Danny Ings, who scored the same amount as Auba (but got one assist fewer), Jordan Henderson, who will certainly win the Sports Writers Award if he doesn’t win this one, and Sadio Mane, who probably deserves to win the award but won’t because they’ll give it to Henderson, complete the list.
One could say that it was harder for Ings to score his goals given he plays for Burnley, but those people clearly didn’t watch Arsenal all season. Arsenal only finished two points above Sean Dyche’s side and had to contend with a change of manager mid-season. The only other thing Aubameyang could have done to make it on the list is get a UK passport.
If you look at both lists, four out of each five are English, which either puts to bed the lie that foreigners stop English talent coming through or highlights how biased the league is towards it’s own countrymen.
It might even do both.