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Why there should be a separate PFA award for goalkeepers and defenders

Friday 14th April 2017
Towards the end of the every season, players up and down the country vote for the PFA Player's Player of the Year but goalkeepers and defenders are almost always overlooked.

This week the shortlist for the award was announced and the six nominees include Eden Hazard, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Harry Kane, N'golo Kanté, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sánchez. It was no surprise that no defensive players made the cut and the last player to win the award was John Terry back in 2005.

My argument is that goalkeepers and defenders are not being shown the same recognition as offensive players and this needs to be rectified by a change in format of the award. The best any defensive player can hope for at the moment is a spot in the PFA Team of the Year and whilst this is an honour, it is not on the same level as an individual award.
Goalkeepers have the most difficult job of all because they are remembered for the mistakes they make, rather than the amazing saves they pull off. With the increasing quality of attackers in the Premier League, more and more is being expected of keepers and blunders are common because of the pace of the game. Although keepers can battle it out for the Premier League Golden Glove, a separate PFA award would be something that all goalkeepers could be considered for, not just the ones at the top clubs.

Similarly, defenders do not receive enough praise and are unlikely to ever be shortlisted for the award.  David Luiz and Toby Alderweireld are two of the best defenders in the league and I firmly believe that a lot of Chelsea and Tottenham's success is down to them. Both may feature in the PFA Team of the Year but an individual award would be a more significant way of rewarding their accomplishments this season.

I am pleased to see goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford and defender Michael Keane, nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award but they are likely to lose out to last year's winner, Dele Alli. Pickford has been the only outstanding player for Sunderland and has shown a real degree of maturity despite being just 23-years-old. Similarly, Michael Keane has been one of the top performers for Burnley and his superb defensive contributions led to his first caps for England.

Certain fans, pundits and players have also accused the Ballon d'Or of solely favouring the attacking players. The last defender to win the award was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 but a goalkeeper has never won it. Last year, Bayern Munich veteran, Philipp Lahm claimed that “the Ballon d'Or has become a vote for the world's best striker.” In terms of a suggestion for a change in format, Lahm believes “there shouldn't be an individual award but four single awards for best goalkeeper, best defender, best midfielder and best striker.”

It is hard to argue with this logic because it would recognise the efforts all players on the pitch. Currently, people vote for the attacking players because they are more popular and excite us more as football fans. This is not to say that midfielders or forwards who win these types of awards do not deserve them, it is a mere reminder that football is a team game and a lot of quality keepers and defenders do not receive the same adulation as their offensive teammates.

It is literally impossible to compare statistics like tackles with shots or clean sheets with goals and therefore it seems bizarre that both defensive and offensive players are thrown into the same category. As their jobs are completely different, they should be judged separately and organisations like the PFA and FIFA should consider re-structuring their awards.
Robert Wiltshire
I am a Creative Writing MA graduate with a love for playing, watching and writing about football.

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