The dash to win the PFA Player of the Year award is a six-way affair on paper, but in reality it might be a one-horse race.
Though he had a difficult time against Manchester United on Sunday, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard looks to be the standout candidate to claim the honour of the Premier League’s finest player of the season.
In a relentless outfit, the Belgian has been a consistent source of excellence. In 30 starts, he has struck 14 goals and tallied five assists while terrorising defences from the left side of the attack.
Four of those goals and two of the assists have come in his last six Premier League matches as Chelsea have edged toward the title.
Such a run has left Hazard as the leader among the nominees for the PFA Player of the Year award in the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure and powered by Opta data, which provides the first ever system to measure and rate a team and player’s performance under pressure.
The Goal Pressure Index uses more than 750,000 data points as well as factors including league position, point in the season and the opposition to calculate a rating out of 100 for every Premier League player every week.
Hazard’s season score of 82/100 is well clear of the other five candidates for the award.
The closest member of the chasing pack is the Belgian’s Chelsea team-mate, N’Golo Kante. After inspiring Leicester City to the title last season, the France international has been at it again with a season score of 76, and for many is a strong rival to Hazard for being the most important player at Stamford Bridge.
No outfield player has recovered possession more than Kante's total of 243, while he ranks in the top six in the league for interceptions (72) and the top three for tackles won (76).
Trailing Kante is Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, with a season score of 74. The Chilean has been the bright spot in a frustrating season for the Gunners and came to their rescue again on Monday, netting in his side’s win at Middlesbrough.
The dynamic forward has scored more away goals in the Premier League this season than any other player, with 13.
He now has 19 goals overall this season and nine assists – more than anyone else in the top 20 Premier League goal scorers.
Tied behind Alexis with season scores of 73 apiece are Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku.
The Tottenham Hotspur striker found the net against Bournemouth in his return from injury on a weekend that saw him earn the highest Pressure Index score of the six in contention.
Kane also became only the fourth player to hit 20 or more goals in three successive Premier League seasons, joining league greats Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy in an illustrious list of EPL marksmen.
The 23-year-old has been breaking record after record this season. His three hat-tricks in 2017 took him to four overall, the highest total of hat-tricks from any single player in Premier League history.
Kane is hoping to become the first Englishman to be officially named as the league’s best player in over a decade.
He will face stiff competition from Everton’s Lukaku, however. The league’s top scorer with 24 goals this campaign, Lukaku is neck and neck with Kane in the Goal Pressure Index and has the edge in the goal column if the award were to go to one of the league’s true strikers.
The Belgian is now the fourth player in Premier League history to score 80-plus goals in the competition before turning 24 years old, and this season became the first Everton player to reach 20-plus league goals in a single campaign since Gary Lineker in 1985-86.
Rounding out the PFA Player of the Year nominees is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The 35-year-old has been in such remarkable form for Manchester United that he admitted last week that he felt like Benjamin Button, securing a Pressure Index seasonal score of 71. Zlatan has now hit a staggering 250 goals since celebrating his 30th birthday.
Moreover, he has been involved in 18 goals in his last 18 Premier League appearances (13 goals and five assists) as United have made a strong push for the top four.