Candidate #2 - Yann M'Vila: 40 Appearances, 1 Goal
Sunderland's season was more or less defined from January onwards. Sam Allardyce finally managed to place his stamp on the team, bringing in new players, moving some out and playing in a style which seemingly carried us through until the end of the campaign. Players like Jermain Defoe, Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchhoff upped their game to a level which seen us lose only twice after the January transfer window closed, and perhaps in the future we'll look back on this season and regard that period as the most important of the campaign - and it was.
But, between August and January, we were absolutely dire. We struggled to find our best starting eleven and formation, leaked goals for fun and, above all else, we looked doomed. Yet, out of the darkness there was one shining light - the only real glimmer of quality. A rose between thorns, if you will - Yann M'Vila.
Please understand, this is a complete slight on the rest of our squad. Yann M'Vila was THE only consistently good player we had in the opening months of the season. Despite the team losing on an almost weekly basis, Yann was absolutely class, and I was often left scratching my head wondering how the hell he ever ended up here.
Recognise this, too - before Yann arrived at Sunderland he had not started a competitive game of football since December of 2014, when he played for Inter Milan in the Europa League against FC Quarabag. He didn't make his way to Wearside until the beginning of August, missing all of pre-season. Yet, despite all of this, he was far and above the best player in a Sunderland shirt, week on week. Amazing, really.
His form dipped slightly around March due to his fitness, but for the relegation run in he was absolutely sublime, dominating from midfield alongside Jan Kirchhoff.
Yann is an interception machine, and despite his defensive style he has collected just one yellow card all season from forty games. He's physically dominating, impressive in a tackle - yet only one yellow card. Make of that what you will.
He may not have scored the goals that Jermain Defoe has, but his quality has been there for all to see throughout the season and without him in the opening months of the season I feel we would most certainly have been relegated.
For me, this is why Yann M'Vila is our player of the year. The reason Sunderland survived isn't just down to Jermain Defoe's goals, or due to Vito Mannone's saves - it's because we are a very balanced and hard working team. At the hub of that has been M'Vila all season, through thick and thin.
If Lamine Kone is our strength, and if Jan Kirchhoff is our brain, then Yann M'Vila is our heart.
Stayed tuned for the rest of this week as we bring you the rest of our Player Of The Season candidates.