Sunday 22 April 2018

We assess the 20 form players in the Premier League as we head into the business end of the season

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah. Photo: PA
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah. Photo: PA

JJ Bull

1. Mohamed Salah

Is Salah the most in-form striker in world football? Probably. Four goals and two assists in three games is a phenomenal return for any player but Salah has been on fire. His movement off the ball makes him a nightmare to mark but before defenders can work out where he is, Salah has usually burned away at Formula One speed towards the goal. Salah is the leading light in Liverpool’s attacking trio and could quite easily slot into any big European club’s forward line. Beware Real Madrid!

2. Kevin De Bruyne

(Manchester City)

De Bruyne should be considered among the very best players in world football. Is there a player anywhere else capable of better delivery? His crossing from open play and set-pieces is exceptional, some of the passes he picks out beggar belief and he plays every game as though chasing a late equaliser, determined and full of energy. De Bruyne created 11 chances for team-mates to score, joint top for the month with Pascal Gross. De Bruyne played two games, Gross played three. He’s ridiculously talented and a joy to watch.

Manchester City's Fernandinho. Photo: PA
Manchester City's Fernandinho. Photo: PA

3. Harry Kane

(Spurs)

The three goals Kane scored in February secured three points against Crystal Palace, meant Spurs beat Arsenal and sent supporters giddy with delight in the last-minute-of-added-time versus Liverpool. Kane is well on track to beat the Premier League 38-game record of 31 goals in a season but that he’s able to do so while balancing performing heroics in the Champions League after an already demanding, exhausting season when so heavily looked after by defenders is a mark of his quality. The closest thing to Alan Shearer since Alan Shearer.

4. Sergio Aguero

(Manchester City)

Another four goals for Sergio Aguero last month (all four in the same game!) took him to 21 for the season, third in the top scorers’ list. For a while it seemed like just maybe Guardiola didn’t fancy him all that much but whatever or whoever has clicked, has helped bring out the goal-hungry creature in Aguero. There are very few ways to stop him getting into goalscoring positions which don’t involve mild physical assault.

5. Roberto Firmino

(Liverpool)

The key to Liverpool’s front three flowing so fluidly, Firmino has added goals and assists to his already hugely impressive attacking contribution. Most of what the Brazilian does best is off the ball, moving into space to free up others and dropping deep to link passing moves. Two goals, an assist and a guaranteed place in Brazil’s World Cup squad has made this a wonderful February for Firmino.

6. Mousa Dembele

(Spurs)

Has overcome injuries to regain his status as the most highly-rated ‘under-rated’ midfielder in the Premier League, taking Paul Scholes’ old hat and wearing it weekly with style. The Belgian is brilliant in the heart of Spurs’ midfield, carrying the ball, winning tackles and driving his team forward. Of the 186 successful passes Dembele made (third highest in the league for February), 129 were in the opposition half, putting him well clear of Nemanja Matic’s 111. For further comparison, Emre Can only managed 80 in the opposition half. Dembele’s devious ability to prevent opponents from counter-attacking makes him invaluable to Pochettino’s style of play. He committed the joint-third most fouls (seven) last month.

7. Eden Hazard

(Chelsea)

One of the finest players in Europe on his day and currently on a really strong run of form. Hazard has been the star for Chelsea in February, scoring two and assisting one goal, leaving defenders dizzy with his movement and dribbling skills.

8. Kyle Walker

(Manchester City)

Walker has been brilliant this season, stepping up a gear under Pep Guardiola’s coaching and improving his game in central areas. There are few better full-backs in world football.

9. Fernandinho

(Manchester City)

Continues to hold everything together in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side. Maintains his position, identifies danger quickly, breaks up the play when necessary and won 100 per cent of the tackles he attempted last month. Often under-rated amid a galaxy of star team-mates, City’s shape and passing just isn’t the same without the Brazilian as the anchor.

10. Jan Vertonghen

(Spurs)

Spurs’ best defender this season had another strong month, especially in the way he marshalled the defence for a 1-0 win over North London rivals Arsenal. That match seemed to signal a shift in power and Vertonghen’s determined, cultured performance in it demonstrated everything that Arsene Wenger’s team lacks.

11. Romelu Lukaku

(Manchester United)

He’s finally done it in a big game! Lukaku’s goal and assist against Chelsea is evidence that he is now operating at the level Man Utd need against the top six. Despite his amazing goalscoring record, the feeling remains that Lukaku isn’t yet making full use of that abundant potential. His performances this month tell a different story.

12. Andy Robertson

(Liverpool)

Since breaking into the first team at Liverpool, Robertson looks to have fixed a 30-year-old problem for the club. His surging runs on the left wing have added a new dimension to their forward play, while his incredible work ethic, pressing and harassing opponents has made him a crowd favourite already. Has one assist from three games in February and was praised lavishly by Klopp after the 4-1 win over West Ham.

13. Christian Eriksen

(Spurs)

Harry Kane is the star of the show at Spurs and Mousa Dembele is now being recognised widely for his sensational displays in central midfield, but Eriksen is absolutely the puller of strings. When absent it’s painfully obvious and although Eriksen only managed one assist from his eight chances created (third highest in the league last month), opposition teams have to mark him out of the game to get anything from it. He tends to find a way to escape that attention.

14. Pascal Gross

(Brighton)

This season’s best value buy, Gross created 11 chances in February, assisting two goals for Brighton, a team who should avoid relegation on current form and have done so largely on the back of Gross’ incredible production of goalscoring chances.

Only three players have created more all season: De Bruyne, Cesc Fabregas and Eriksen.

15. Virgil van Dijk

(Liverpool)

Van Dijk has added composure and power to Liverpool’s defence. They’re starting to look like what Klopp envisions and Van Dijk has immediately improved confidence at the back, playing an important part in their build-up, regularly bringing the ball into midfield. Was excellent against Southampton and West Ham in particular.

16. Emre Can

(Liverpool)

There’s nothing truly exceptional about how Can plays but he does the simple things extremely well and has anchored the midfield superbly this month, managing that balance between attack and defence that is often the cause of Liverpool’s downfall. He scored and assisted a goal in the swashbuckling victory over West Ham.

17. Joze Izquierdo

(Brighton)

The exciting Colombian star is a pacy left winger who scored two, assisted one and created seven chances in February, inspiring his team to wins over West Ham and Swansea and a draw with Stoke. Those results have almost – almost! – guaranteed Brighton’s Premier League survival and they will rather obviously be desperate to keep hold of a player who is really catching the eye after a quiet start to his career in England.

18. Nemanja Matic

(Manchester United)

Nobody in the Premier League touched the ball more in February than Matic, who has been the most consistent Man Utd player this season. Matic also made more passes than any player last month too. The midfielder has protected the defence all season and Jose Mourinho’s men have the joint-best defensive record in the league as a result, having only conceded 20 goals all season (two last month).

19. Ben Davies

(Spurs)

Always involved in attacking moves, Davies assisted one goal last and created five chances in three games, with his team earning a draw against Liverpool and solid 1-0 victories over Arsenal and Crystal Palace.

20. Trent Alexander-Arnold

(Liverpool)

Alexander-Arnold could well be a decent outside bet for an England World Cup squad place. Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier are more complete players but Alexander-Arnold’s pace, work rate and confidence on the ball have really made him stand out and Jurgen Klopp has been full of praise for the right-back after a month of impressive performances.

Telegraph.co.uk

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