Tottenham’s win over Chelsea on Wednesday night not only breathed life into the title race but means that every team in the Premier League has now played 20 games.
The break for the FA Cup offers a chance for us to catch our own breath and reflect on the team of the season so far based on WhoScored.com’s unique statistical player ratings.
To feature in the line-up, players must have made more than 10 appearances. Here’s how the team looks so far…
Jordan Pickford (Sunderland) – 7.07 rating
There’s no surprise that clubs are thought to be queuing up to poach Pickford from Sunderland so as far as the Black Cats are concerned. While his injury is a big blow, it’s perhaps come at the right time over the transfer window. The 22-year-old has made the second most saves in the league (73) despite missing four matches, with a string of unbelievable stops ensuring David Moyes’ side enter 2017 with hope of survival.
Kyle Walker (Tottenham) – 7.43 rating
After an excellent season last time around, Walker has picked up where he left off and, along with Danny Rose on the opposite flank, plays a crucial role in Mauricio Pochettino’s system at Spurs. The England international has made impressive strides defensively in recent years but his attacking output is still the right-back’s greatest strength. He has created 1.5 chances per game this season, resulting in four assists thus far.
Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) – 7.66 rating
While Manchester City’s defending as a whole this season has come in for widespread criticism, Otamendi has rarely been at fault, instead having to watch on as the likes of John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov and Claudio Bravo have made costly errors. The Argentine has actually made the most tackles per game (2.6) and won the most aerial duels per game of any centre-back, while also ranking among the league’s top 10 players for interceptions per game (3.1).
Virgil van Dijk (Southampton) – 7.45 rating
It’s little wonder that Virgil van Dijk is being tipped as the next Saints star to leave the club, with the Dutch centre-back emerging as one of the league’s most commanding defenders since his move south of the border. The 25-year old has had a slight wobble of late but all in all he has won the most aerial duels of any defender, coming out on top in 90 of 118 contests, while no defender has won more man of the match awards from WhoScored.com this season (three).
Danny Rose (Tottenham) – 7.46 rating
Joining his club and international team-mate in the side, it’s little surprise that Rose and Walker have emerged as England’s first choice full-backs. The former is now widely considered as the best left-back in the league, and for good reason given his rampaging displays down that flank. The 26-year old has scored twice and registered two assists at the business end, while averaging more tackles per game than any other Spurs player (3.1).
Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – 7.57 rating
When Liverpool forked out £35m for Mane it’s fair to say eyebrows were raised at the fee, but the impact of the Senegal winger has justified the price tag so far. The former Southampton man has nine Premier League goals to his name – including the match winner on his Merseyside derby debut – as well as four assists, offering pace to complement the creativity and guile of Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho in the Reds’ fluent front three.
Paul Pogba (Manchester United) – 7.85 rating
Following a record-breaking return to Old Trafford, it’s fair to say the pressure was on Pogba to hit the ground running and when he didn’t make a telling contribution in every game, some were quick to label him an expensive flop. The Frenchman has silenced his critics of late though, and while tallies of four goals and three assists are relatively modest from a player of his calibre, the 23-year old ranks among the league’s top five players for shots (66), successful dribbles (54) and accurate passes (1188).
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) – 7.85 rating
He may have been sidelined for over a month now but Coutinho’s form prior to his injury certainly warrants a place in this team. In 13 Premier League appearances he has had a direct hand in ten goals (five goals, five assists), ranking among the top-flight elite for shots (3.8), key passes (2.5) and dribbles per game (2.5), while weighing in with 1.2 tackles per game in Jurgen Klopp’s intense pressing system.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – 7.93 rating
The highest-rated player in the Premier League after 20 rounds of matches, Hazard is very much back to his best having ended a disappointing season strongly last time out. He has flourished in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation, scoring nine goals – more than twice the tally he managed in all of 2015/16 – while completing the most dribbles (87) in the top flight. Where his defensive contribution was previously criticised by Jose Mourinho, the Belgium international has also won possession in the final third more times (22) than anyone else.
Diego Costa (Chelsea) – 7.71 rating
Joining his Blues team-mate in the line-up, it’s no shock that Costa leads the line having scored more goals than any other player this season (14). With a further five assists to his name, he’s already had a direct hand in more goals this season than last time around (18), and with a relatively modest figure of 3.1 shots per game compared to some, if he can continue a superb conversion rate of 24.1 per cent then Chelsea surely won’t be caught in their bid to regain the title.
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – 7.89 rating
Completing the line-up – and second only to Hazard in the overall ratings – Sanchez has enjoyed a sensational season for Arsenal to date. His goal against Bournemouth last time out meant the Chile international became the first player to have a direct hand in 20 Premier League goals this season (13 goals, seven assists), ranking sixth for shots per game (3.4) and fourth for chances created (2.7). His ability to play through the centre and wide has added another dimension to Arsenal, who without him would now surely be in a worrying position.