Six of the best: Our alternative shortlist for Player of the Year

The Weekend Dossier

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You cannot knock the PFA shortlist for their player of the year. The six – Joe Hart, Scott Parker, Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney, David Silva and Robin van Persie – have all had outstanding seasons. It is a list of the Premier League's cream; the players pushing for personal glory have led their club side to the same. All six sit in the Premier League's top four. With the exception of Parker, they were all shoo-ins, and perhaps therein lies the reason for an alternative. When the good, the bad and the ugly of the nation's football writers chose Parker as their player of the year last season, a different debate was opened because his side, West Ham, were relegated. There was a look beyond the headlines, the goal grabbers and the big clubs to reward consistency and dedication; it was about application rather than achievement.

Sometimes it is important to look beyond the big four and their top six stars who are competing to be the PFA's top man (their estimated total cost: around £100m). The Dossier today presents six players who have proved to be crucial to their club's campaigns, from the £400,000 man Grant Holt to the free transfer that was Demba Ba.

It is impossible to quantify their importance but at the start of the season Newcastle were not expected to be challenging for a top-four finish. Newly-promoted Norwich (for the second successive season) were thought to be preparing for a relegation scrap. Everton had fans' demonstrations ahead of a campaign that has seen them reach the FA Cup semi-final. Fulham, with a new manager, would have taken a possible top-10 finish and Blackburn did not look like a football club that would have one of the division's top scorers.

This is the alternative list for a group of players who have proved invaluable to their club, their supporters and their team-mates.

Tim Krul

It was a brave decision from Alan Pardew to hand the goalkeeper's starting role at Newcastle to Tim Krul this season, and also harsh on the long-serving Steve Harper, but it is a choice that has gained increasing vindication throughout a campaign in which Krul's star has done little but rise. The Dutch keeper has turned out to be the complete package. At 6ft 4in he has the height; he naturally has confidence and agility; and shot-stopping and his all-round game have been crucial to Newcastle's meteoric rise this season. It is interesting to compare Krul with Joe Hart, who has made it to the real PFA shortlist of six. There is little between them. Hart has played one more game and recorded one more clean sheet. Krul, in a team that has not fought for the title, has made eight more saves. Hart is No 1 by some distance for his country. Krul is No 3, but that looks sure to change in the coming years.

Krul's statistics (Premier League): Played 33, Saves 98, Clean sheets 13

Leighton Baines

Baines has again shown himself to be a master of consistency but in this campaign he seems to have relished more than ever the fight to remove one of the mainstays of the England side, Ashley Cole. Baines has, as usual, let his football do the talking. As a left-back he has scored four times and assisted on two goals, which is impressive. Cole has yet to score in the Premier League but has assisted six times. Interestingly, Baines has 10 clean sheets when he has been in the Everton back four, compared with Cole's nine (and the two sides have differing ambitions). Going forward, the 27-year-old Baines is a threat, and his pace and desire make him strong at the back as well. Curiously, the PFA ignored any defenders in their list this season. The popular Baines cannot have been far away.

Baines statistics (PL): Played 32, Goals 4, Assists 2, Shots 27, Clean sheets when playing 10

Clint Dempsey

It is hard to imagine what more Clint Dempsey could have done this season. Certainly for a winger or a withdrawn forward, his output has been extremely impressive. The 29-year-old has been directly involved in 21 goals this season (scoring 16 times and assisting on five more goals). That puts even the likes of Gareth Bale in the shade, who has scored nine goals in the Premier League this season and helped create a further eight at Tottenham. Dempsey's form has been one of the major reasons for Fulham, under new manager Martin Jol, pushing for a possible top-10 finish. Dempsey picked up the Rookie of the Year award in the MLS (in his native America) in 2004 and was then turned down by PSV Eindhoven after a trial in 2006. Six years on he has become a hot property in England after an excellent season.

Dempsey statistics (PL): Played 33, Goals 16, Assists 5, Shots 131


How long ago would Blackburn have been relegated if it was not for Yakubu, the transfer deadline-day signing who slipped out of Goodison Park and walked into the storm that has been Rovers throughout this season? To date he has 16 goals from his 26 Premier League starts, which is a phenomenal return for any forward, let alone one playing in a team that has been fighting relegation and supporter unrest all season. Yakubu may not run the channels, or head off on mazy runs, and his frame is that of a big man, but he has proved time and time again that he knows where the net is. His has been a calming presence in a sea of chaos at Ewood Park, helping to bring out the huge potential in Junior Hoilett at the same time. Sergio Aguero has scored in a phenomenal 70 per cent of the Premier League games he has played in this season. Yakubu is not far behind at 62 per cent, which is testament to his importance.

Yakubu statistics (PL): Played 26, Goals 16, Assists 2, Shots 63

Demba Ba

There was a period this season when Demba Ba, the Senegalese forward at Newcastle, became almost unplayable. During that time he scored 15 goals in 16 games and there were very few tap-ins amongst them. Ba, a defensive midfielder in his formative years, showed he had the strength, the composure, the aerial ability and the finishing technique to unsettle any defender in England. That he did not cost an actual transfer fee when he moved to St James' Park from West Ham further added to his story. He led Newcastle up the Premier League table and then he headed off to the African Cup of Nations. Since then he has changed position (moving to a more wide role) to accommodate his fellow countryman Papiss Cissé (10 goals in nine games). Ba's impact, however, should not be forgotten, be it as a central striker, playing off the striker, or out wide. His part in Newcastle's rejuvenation has been huge.

Ba statistics (PL): Played 29, Goals 16, Assists 2, Shots 87

Grant Holt

If Holt's work-rate on a pitch is impressive, it is nothing compared with his fight to make it as a professional footballer. His is a story of being released by clubs, of loan spells, of moving abroad and then back and finally becoming a player at Rochdale. For the last three years, in three different divisions, he has led Norwich's front line with distinction, and the goals and the plaudits have followed. The 13 times he has hit the net in the top division this season (his first at such a level) might be less than half of the 27 Robin van Persie has managed, but like RVP he has led his team from the front, and certainly Norwich have over-achieved this season more than Arsenal. Holt has consistently been a real handful for top-flight defenders, an old-fashioned target man who has weighed in with some decent goals to such an extent that the Euros have even been mentioned.

Holt statistics (PL): Played 32, Goals 13, Assists 2, Shots 66.

PFA Player of the Year: The real shortlist

Joe Hart Manchester City

Scott Parker Tottenham

David Silva Manchester City

Sergio Aguero Manchester City

Wayne Rooney Manchester Utd

Robin van Persie Arsenal

Five Asides

1 No supporting Mourinho's refusal to meet the fans

There are those eager for Jose Mourinho to return to English football. Forgive me for spoiling the party but for the 44th time in his two seasons in Madrid he avoided the opportunity to speak to Real's supporters ahead of the most anticipated Clasico for some time this evening.

2 United dwarf Wigan but they still paid a price

It's interesting to note that Manchester United's position as the world's richest club in the Forbes list this week (estimated value is now £1.39bn) included a wage bill of £93.6m, more than twice what Wigan (they of the 1-0 victory earlier this month) managed in entire turnover in their accounts from 2010.

3 Play-off contenders have great bouncebackability

Bar a dramatic twist here or there, it looks like the three relegated teams from last year's Premier League – West Ham, Birmingham and Blackpool – will contest the Championship promotion play-offs. Given the upheaval clubs go through now when they suffer that fate, it is testament to the jobs done by Sam Allardyce, Chris Hughton and Ian Holloway that their respective football clubs are in such a position.

4 Magpies are gunning for the Gunners' third place

Newcastle have clawed bit by bit at those clubs above them in the closing stages of the season, and, having moved above Chelsea and level with Tottenham, the talk is of now keeping an eye on Arsenal and the third place that looked theirs before the Gunners' Wigan wobble.

5 Size isn't everything when it comes to pitches

Much will be said before the second leg of the Champions League semi-final at Barcelona – and I cannot see Chelsea's fortune holding out in such spectacular fashion twice – but pitch size may not quite be the crucial factor it has been predicted. The "confined" space of the pitch at Stamford Bridge is just one metre less in width and two metres less in length than the Nou Camp.

This weekend's team news...

Arsenal v Chelsea

Odds Home Evens; Draw 13-5; Away 13-5.

Kick-off Today, 12.45pm (Sky Sports 2; Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Team news Arsenal have Laurent Koscielny back from suspension, but Yossi Benayoun is ineligible and Mikel Arteta (ankle) is injured. Chelsea are without Didier Drogba (knee), while the defender David Luiz misses out with a hamstring injury and Branislav Ivanovic is suspended.

Aston Villa v Sunderland

Odds Home 11-8; Draw 9-4; Away 21-10.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Team news Aston Villa await updates on Ciaran Clark, Chris Herd (both head), Stephen Warnock (ankle) and Marc Albrighton (hamstring), who have all recently resumed training. Sunderland welcome back John O'Shea (calf), but Lee Cattermole (knee) remains out, along with Kieran Richardson (groin) and Connor Wickham (ankle).

Blackburn v Norwich

Odds Home 11-10; Draw 12-5; Away 5-2.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Team news Blackburn's Grant Hanley (ankle) is out for the season and Martin Olsson (groin) a doubt, but Yakubu and Junior Hoilett are fit and Gaël Givet returns. Norwich welcome back James Vaughan from a long-term knee injury, but Zak Whitbread (calf) is a doubt and Marc Tierney (groin) and Daniel Ayala (knee) are out for the season.

Bolton v Swansea

Odds Home 6-5; Draw 23-10; Away 12-5.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Team news Bolton have no fresh injury concerns, but manager Owen Coyle is still awaiting clearance for former Rangers midfielder Gregg Wylde. Alan Tate misses out with a calf injury for Swansea, while Brendan Rodgers has pledged to involve fringe members, with Garry Monk, Josh McEachran, Luke Moore and Leroy Lita in contention.

Fulham v Wigan Athletic

Odds Home 10-11; Draw 13-5; Away 3-1.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Team news Forwards Pavel Pogrebnyak (ankle) and Andrew Johnson (thigh) return to Martin Jol's Fulham squad but Bryan Ruiz (foot) is out for the season and Stephen Kelly (wrist) also misses out. Wigan pair Shaun Maloney and Hugo Rodallega could return from knee injuries, but midfielder Albert Crusat (calf) is out for a fortnight.

Newcastle v Stoke

Odds Home 4-6; Draw 11-4; Away 9-2.

Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Team news Newcastle are boosted by the returns of Cheick Tioté (hamstring), Danny Guthrie (calf) and Gabriel Obertan (ankle), while Leon Best (knee) and Sylvain Marveaux (groin) are also nearing comebacks. Jermaine Pennant (virus) is a doubt for Stoke, but Andy Wilkinson (groin) returns to contention for Tony Pulis's side.

QPR v Tottenham

Odds Home 3-1; Draw 13-5; Away 10-11.

Kick-off Today, 5.30pm (ESPN; Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Team news Djibril Cissé returns from his latest suspension for Queen's Park Rangers, while Heidar Helguson is also in contention for a striking berth after returning last week. For Tottenham, midfielder Niko Kranjcar (knee) has been ruled out for the remainder of the season, while centre-back Younès Kaboul again misses out with the same complaint.

Man United v Everton

Odds Home 1-3; Draw 4-1; Away 9-1.

Kick-off Tomorrow, 12.30pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 2, 10pm)

Team news Manchester United have no new concerns, although Michael Owen (thigh) could be back for the trip to City on Monday week. Everton are again without Royston Drenthe, while Leighton Baines and Jack Rodwell (both hamstring) are also out, but Steven Pienaar returns.

Liverpool v WBA

Odds Home 4-9; Draw 100-30; Away 13-2.

Kick-off Tomorrow, 4pm (Highlights BBC 2, 10pm)

Team news Liverpool goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Doni are both available again after suspension, while Andy Carroll hopes to retain his place and Jose Enrique could return. West Bromwich Albion will give late checks to Marc-Antoine Fortuné (hamstring), with Shane Long standing by. Jonas Olsson is expected to return from a slight groin injury.

Wolves v Man City

Odds Home 11-1; Draw 11-2; Away 2-9.

Kick-off Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 2, 10pm)

Team news Dorus de Vries makes his Premier League debut for Wolves as Wayne Hennessey begins a six-month absence with a knee injury. Sébastien Bassong returns from suspension. Mario Balotelli remains banned for Manchester City, but manager Roberto Mancini has no other worries.