Should Baines have been picked ahead of Shaw in PFA Team of the Year?

Alex Livesey

Seamus Coleman was deservedly named in the 2013/14 PFA Team of the Season after a superb year, but was his fellow full back Leighton Baines unlucky to miss out to Luke Shaw?

I think it is important to start by stressing this isn’t a dig at Shaw, who is a fine player and one who looks set for the very top.

Nor is it a case of sour grapes because an Everton player missed out.  After all, Baines has been included in the past two seasons, reflecting his emergence as one of the division’s finest attacking full-backs.

During that time he was still very much understudy to Ashley Cole at international level, though he was slowly starting to force his way into Roy Hodgson’s thinking.

Ironically in the year he does not make it into team of the year he has finally established himself as England first-choice left-back ahead of this summer’s World Cup. He has effectively stepped up into Cole’s place with Shaw shunting up behind him in the junior understudy role.

But should Shaw have been named in team of the year? Is it a case of footballers buying into the hype?

After all Baines has scored more goals, has more assists, created more chances and has a greater pass completion than Shaw, despite playing three fewer games. He has also helped his side concede 10 fewer goals than Shaw in those appearances this season.

The stats over at Squawka also rank Baines higher than Shaw in every performance category, with Baines coming out with a higher overall score of 794 to 448.

The stats therefore certainly suggest that Baines should have been given the nod and quite convincingly so – why go for Shaw?

Well, you have to consider that the team is compiled from a shortlist made by a vote from professional footballers across all four divisions, with Premier League players then deciding on the final XI. Not all of them will watch certain players each week and I can guarantee virtually none of them will be paying much attention to statistics and percentages.

The team of the year therefore will always be subjective and open to debate.

What they will have seen is Baines continuing fine form of recent years, but in a side that no longer relies on him so heavily.

Under David Moyes the Baines-Pienaar axis was central to our attacking play, setting up 11 goals between them last year as well as scoring a further 11.

This season, with Martinez implementing his favoured passing style, the assists have been more evenly squad across the team, with Baines and Pienaar setting up just five between them so far.

That’s not to say Baines has played badly, far from it, it’s just that he no longer stands out given the team no longer rely on him so much.

Shaw, on the other hand, has stood out in a young exciting Southampton team set for their best ever Premier League points tally.

This is also his first full season as a first-team regular; he is new, young, exciting and the latest player to be in the sights of the media hype machine.

Footballers will pay attention to such things and will vote accordingly. You also have to remember that voting took place between January and March, which does often skew the results in favour of those who start a season well.

Did the five weeks out with a foot injury in November and December count against Baines? You never know.

The conclusion to all this is to not get too worked up about it. Baines isn’t the only player who can consider himself unlucky to miss out on what is a vote based on personal opinion rather than any scientific or statistical analysis.

As an Everton fan I would have loved to have seen Baines in there, as two representatives in the team would be a nice reflection of the progress the side has made this season.

But I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

I’m used to Everton being overlooked in situations like this and I’m sure Baines feels that team success if priority over any personal recognition.

The most important thing to me is that he is playing well and signed up to a new long-term contract, meaning can form the bedrock of a team that appears to be going places under Roberto Martinez.

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