Alexis Sanchez everything Arsenal hoped; Harry Kane proves Spurs’ happy surprise: PL season’s best

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With the 2014/15 Premier League season come and gone, English football columnist Richard Jolly names his best player from each team this season, including Alexis Sanchez delivering star power to Arsenal and Harry Kane breaking out for Tottenham Hotspur.

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Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

The Chilean has scored only six times since early January and has not been the biggest contributor as Arsenal have found their best form of the campaign. But his excellence when it mattered most, when others were underperforming or injured and when Arsenal were struggling to win games, has proved crucial. He prevented a slow start to the season from being far worse and made their winter surge possible. His speed and hunger made him a natural fit for English football and Sanchez acclimatised within a matter of weeks. His finishing is outstanding, his work ethic infectious and his versatility an added bonus. Even at £35 million (Dh198.1m), Arsenal got a bargain. How Liverpool must wish he had opted to go to Anfield instead.

Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

Second only to Aguero in the battle for the Golden Boot and second only to Hazard in the voting for both the PFA Player of the Year and the Footballer of the Year awards, Kane’s rise has been meteoric. He did not even start a league game until November and ended the campaign as one of the season’s defining players. It was fitting that Kane scored the final-day winner at Everton which took Tottenham up to fifth. He became their main man, the destroyer of Chelsea on New Year’s Day and the man who scored a match-winning double in the North London derby. Given the struggles of Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor, Spurs’ season would have been wretched without Kane. With him, it had distinct benefits.

David De Gea, Manchester United

It is 37 years since a goalkeeper was named the PFA Player of the Year. That should offer an indication of what an achievement it was for David de Gea to finish third in the voting. Another is that, while Manchester United imported a European Cup-winning manager and spent £152 million on six new players, De Gea is much the major reason why they will return to the Champions League. His brilliance was worth at least a dozen points. He made magnificent saves in autumn wins over Everton, West Ham United, Stoke City and Arsenal, repelled Liverpool time and again in December and clinched a top-four finish with his defiance against Crystal Palace. If De Gea joins Real Madrid this summer, replacing him will be an unenviable job.

Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea

There are plenty of candidates: Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic, John Terry, Thibaut Courtois, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, but Ivanovic epitomised much of what made Chelsea champions. He is physically powerful and so consistent he started every league game. He is a defender who, time and again, showed he could either score or create, and whose contributions were especially important when goals dried up elsewhere in the team. He is a big-match player in a team that did not lose to any of their immediate rivals. He is part of the best defence in the division. Chelsea were not the top scorers in the Premier League but, with warriors like Ivanovic in the back four, they did not need to be.

David Silva, Manchester City

It came down to a choice of two men who both enjoyed their most prolific season in a City shirt. Yet if Sergio Aguero’s goals can be taken for granted, David Silva made a step forward. The supplier-in-chief became a scorer with unexpected regularity. In the process, he enabled City to make a necessary switch in system from 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1. When granted a central role, Silva made the most of it. Unlike most, even Aguero, Silva managed to sustain his form throughout a campaign when City’s performances were uneven. The sense he was taking more responsibility was highlighted when all the strikers were injured and he chipped in with goals with greater regularity. He may be overlooked when it comes to individual honours, but he remains a gem.

Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool

Deservedly shortlisted for the PFA Player-of-the-Year award. Besides illustrating his creative gifts, Coutinho scored against Arsenal, Manchester City and Southampton, as well as delivering two vital winners and a semi-final goal in Liverpool’s FA Cup run. In a year when too many others regressed, one man progressed.

Charlie Austin, Queens Park Rangers

Chosen from a one-man shortlist, just as QPR could appear a one-man team. Without Austin’s 18 goals, they would have been relegated even earlier. The former non-league striker proved he is a Premier League player, unlike some of his supposedly more illustrious colleagues, and will surely get a move to keep him in the division.

Morgan Schneiderlin, Southampton

When Schneiderlin was agitating for a move last summer, it was hard to envisage him not just staying but taking his game to greater heights. The Frenchman now ranks among the division’s best midfielders. He allies energy and quality in a way that equips him to play for virtually anyone.

Yannick Bolasie, Crystal Palace

A defender’s nightmare. Pace, skill and unpredictability amount to a dangerous combination and Bolasie had a capacity to wreak havoc. He ruined Steven Gerrard’s Anfield farewell and his counter-attacking prowess is a reason Palace had an excellent away record, especially under Alan Pardew. Bolasie prospered either as a winger or an unconventional striker.

Lukasz Fabianski, Swansea City

One of the lower-profile signings last summer has quietly been one of the best. Arsenal’s long-time reserve Fabianski has flourished now he is finally enjoying first-team football. Garry Monk prioritised making Swansea harder to beat and, with the Pole in goal, they have had a formidable last line of the defence.

Joleon Lescott, West Bromwich Albion

Saido Berahino’s 20-goal haul made him the headline act but West Brom owed their survival to solidity. Tony Pulis drills his defences well but Lescott was excelling even before his appointment. Albion kept 16 clean sheets with the former Manchester City man in the team. He provided a platform for safety.

Aaron Cresswell, West Ham United

The club’s Young Player of the Year rarely looked a man in his first season in the top flight. Former Ipswich Town left-back Cresswell proved a dependable addition to the back four while attacking with abandon. A set-piece specialist also proved capable of scoring and creating goals as he attracted the attention of bigger clubs.

Steven Nzonzi, Stoke City

Stoke’s best Premier League season has been a campaign of quiet progress. Nzonzi exemplifies that. There is very little that is spectacular about the Frenchman’s game but he has been consistently effective, a physical presence at the base of the midfield who invariably uses the ball intelligently.

Ahmed Elmohamady, Hull City

In a year when virtually every Hull player spent spells on the sidelines, the ever-present Elmohamady was an exception. The Egyptian’s excellent crossing made him Hull’s most creative player and also enabled manager Steve Bruce to play his favourite 3-5-2 formation. Others’ failings accounted for Hull’s demotion. He deserved to stay up.

Patrick van Aanholt, Sunderland

In the final reckoning, Sunderland stayed up because they could keep clean sheets. Van Aanholt was a contributor but he was much more than that. The Dutchman proved a vibrant attacking presence from left-back and a rare example of a player who has got better at the Stadium of Light.

Jack Colback, Newcastle United

Ayoze Perez showed promise and Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko’s best proved very good, but Colback deserves plaudits for performing well when all around him were a shambles. The former Sunderland midfielder may have been alone in emerging with credit from Newcastle’s dreadful end to the season. He was a tiger in a side of lambs.

Esteban Cambiasso, Leicester City

The sight of Inter Milan’s Uefa Champions League winner in a side of unglamorous escapees from the Championship was incongruous but Cambiasso showed class and commitment in equal measure. He excelled long before Leicester started staging their great escape. It took time for the Argentine to come to England, but he was worth the wait.

James McCarthy, Everton

Many an Everton player has struggled to replicate his form last season. McCarthy is an exception and it is no coincidence their results were far better when the Republic of Ireland international was fit to provide a driving force in the midfield. His finest game was also Everton’s, when he scored in the 3-0 defeat of Manchester United.

Fabian Delph, Aston Villa

Like many a Villa player, Delph has looked a better footballer when allowed to attack by Tim Sherwood. Yet he showed his mettle by signing a new contract during the dark days under Paul Lambert, when he had the option of leaving on a free transfer. Loyalty, pace and drive have made him a fine captain.

George Boyd, Burnley

The division’s running machine dominated one list: time and again, he covered more miles per match than anyone else. He swept the boards at Burnley’s player-of-the-year awards, but also because of his quality – think of his wonderful winner against Manchester City – and fine combination with Kieran Trippier on the right flank.