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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Joe Bray

Man City have three unsung Player of the Year candidates to rival Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland needs four more goals to become the top Premier League goalscorer in all competitions in a single season. He is six goals away from the league record for most goals in a single season, with 11 games left to reach that total.

Already the top Manchester City goalscorer in a single season, Haaland feels like a shoe-in to be named Player of the Year in all the various end-of-year awards that will get handed out. According to the bookmakers, Haaland is overwhelming odds-on favourite for the PFA award, with compatriot Martin Odegaard his closest rival at 9/2.

When it comes to the in-house City Player of the Season accolade, though, the race may be closer than expected.

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In that PFA Player of the Year odds list, Haaland is followed by Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and then teammate Kevin De Bruyne. At his best, De Bruyne is the best player in the Premier League, and he may still beat his own record of 20 assists in one campaign. City's No.17 has shown glimpses of his very best this season but has also been challenged by Pep Guardiola to go back to basics to address some inconsistent form.

Across the City dressing room, there are at least three other players who will feel they can claim to be the team's best performer of the season. They may not mount a strong enough challenge to deny Haaland another expected award, but should be considered nonetheless.

First up is the 'unique' Bernardo Silva, who offers City something no other player can offer in the world, according to Pep Guardiola. Bernardo has excelled in attacking midfield, on the wing, in defensive midfield and even at left-back. After years of shuttling around the midfield, honing his trade, Bernardo has become an all-round master of Guardiola's system and has this year shown his ability to play in various positions.

Bernardo has become a go-to inclusion for Guardiola in the big games, scoring important goals, and returning the Blues to form. If Haaland has regularly scored goals throughout the season, Bernardo has been just as consistent in doing the multiple roles asked of him and has played an equally important role in City's campaign.

Likewise, Nathan Ake has put in consistently solid performances across the defence. Only Rico Lewis has featured in more squads this season among City defenders, and no defender has made more appearances (32) than Ake. Manuel Akanji is the only defender with more starts (26) than Ake's 25. It's fair to say the Dutchman has been as reliable as any other defender to Guardiola, plugging the gap when Joao Cancelo wasn't playing, and then after he left.

An exit of the importance of Cancelo's would usually hurt a team, but Ake has proven himself to be as solid a left-back option as City have had for some time. Haaland will be recognised for his consistency in scoring goals, so Ake should be recognised in his integral role in stopping them.

Finally, Jack Grealish has become the player City wanted him to be when signing from Aston Villa 18 months ago. After slowly but surely learning the system, Grealish has started to combine his trademark flair with the positional discipline Guardiola demands. Now, the big goals and important assists are returning to his game and he says he finally feels like he did when captaining Villa.

Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez have both had spells of brilliance, but have also both been out of form and out of the team. Grealish has been so consistent he's now first choice on the left wing. To keep the likes of Foden, Mahrez and Bernardo out of that position is not to be underestimated, and if Grealish was to continue his current form he should definitely be in consideration for any Player of the Year vote.


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