Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are caught up in a three-way fight for the Premier League title. The Gunners are just edged out in front on 55 points, two ahead of the chasing pair. After City and Chelsea had a Monday night tussle, and Branislav Ivanovic won the points for the Londoners, the title race has stepped into a new stage. We are now in the final sprint with the three best sides in the league evenly matched and poised—it could go any way.
To sustain a title challenge, a team must have outstanding performers through the whole squad and City, Arsenal and Chelsea have that in abundance. Here are the best players, based on their stats from Squawka, from each team.
The basis for Arsenal's fantastic results this season is their defence and it wouldn't be as strong as it is without the formidable partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Arsenal have not lost a league game for two years while Koscielny and Mertesacker have partnered each other for the full 90 minutes—a stunning stat. It is the German, Mertesacker, who shines above the rest at Arsenal, though.
As good as Koscielny is, Mertesacker is just as good, if not more so. With a Squawka Performance Score of 792, the huge German is the Gunners' top performer. Mertesacker is an imperious figure at the back for Arsenal and gives everyone in the side a sense of confidence.
He has won 71 percent of his headed duels (59/83) and 52 percent of his tackles (24/46). Unusually, Mertesacker has also completed his only attempted take-on this season. Another asset he brings to the side is his passing, which is phenomenal. Mertesacker, along with Koscielny, is consistently the most accurate of passers in the Arsenal side. He has completed 93 percent of his passes (984) in 22 Premier League matches, proving his essential presence in Arsenal's defensive line.
Another of Arsenal's key performers is also a German. Mesut Ozil was signed for a club-record fee of £42.4 million and gave the team the belief that they could challenge for the top honours. For years, Arsene Wenger has struggled to make a talented team challenge for trophies and higher league positions, but the addition of Ozil to his first team lifted the club and there was a huge buzz amongst fans and players.
When you pay record transfer fees, you expect fantastic performances and Ozil provides just that. Often criticised for "poor displays," many people just don't understand what Ozil brings to a side, especially at Arsenal. His 55 created-chances ratio is one of the highest in the Premier League—only Eden Hazard (62) has more. His eight assists place him second, too, just behind Wayne Rooney (9).
Ozil isn't in the side to score the winning goals, he's there to provide the winning goals with cutting passes. His incredible vision and ability to complete his pass—even in the tightest of areas—is what separates him from the normal attacking midfielder. With four goals to his name, he's also chipping in on that front.
Also, for a player that plays a lot of risky passes, to have an 88 percent pass completion rate is incredible. Without Ozil in their attack, it may have been difficult for Arsenal to dominate as they have done all season. He is vital in their chase for the title.
Chelsea struggled under Jose Mourinho for the first few months this season. Well, struggled in their own usually high standards. The Blues have been inside the top four for the majority of the season and have had to grind out many results under Mourinho. It is only in the last month or so that we have begun to see what they're capable of. The 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night showed how good they can be and how much of a threat they are in the title race.
A key performer—and their best player this season—is Eden Hazard. The Belgian winger has been in stunning form all season and is easily their most effective player.
Mourinho has always had one player to focus on and build his teams around throughout his career. In his first spell at Chelsea, he had Frank Lampard driving from midfield; at Inter, he had Diego Milito in the form of his life and at Real Madrid he used Cristiano Ronaldo to devastating effect.
Now, in his second spell at Chelsea, he has Hazard and by building the team around the Belgian, they're reaping the benefits. With a Performance Score of 882, only Luis Suarez (1180) has more in the whole league.
Hazard has created the most chances (62) in the league and has scored the most goals at Chelsea (9). Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, combined, have scored just 11, proving Hazard's importance and effectiveness in the final third.
Hazard has also completed 92 take-ons which is no surprise given how comfortable he is on the ball and when attacking the opposition. Nobody else has completed as many as him in the league. In fact, just two players in Europe's top-five leagues have completed more - Raffael of Borussia Monchengladbach (99) and Yacine Brahimi of Granada (104).
If Mourinho can keep Hazard at his current level of performance, or even higher, then he will be on course for his third Premier League title.
City have been incredible this season. If it wasn't for their awful away form at the start of the season, they'd be clear at the top of the table now. One reason for their astonishing goal-scoring form is Yaya Toure's impact in midfield. His control of the play and decisiveness in the final third are key to how they've performed this season.
Toure has scored 12 league goals—the fourth-highest in the division—and assisted four other. He's completed 26 key passes but the most impressive figure is the number of passes he's completed.
With an accuracy of 91 percent—one of the best at City—Toure has completed 1483 passes, 329 more than anybody else in the league. His Performance Score of 786 ranks him fourth, too. What has been most impressive from Toure this season is his set-piece ability. Of his 12 goals, four have been directly from a free-kick, which is the most in the Premier League.
If City are to regain the title, Toure must keep his consistency and continue to dominate matches.
Another of their star performers is Sergio Aguero. Despite missing seven games altogether and another month ahead on the sidelines, Aguero has been superb. Scoring 685 in the Performance Score rating system places him high up overall.
Only Suarez (23) has scored more than Aguero (15) despite his lack of matches. His shot accuracy of 60 percent and conversion rate of 25.9 percent are fantastic. Aguero has had 62 shots inside the penalty area, too, which is the most in the division proving how threatening he has been all season.
If he had not sustained his injuries, City would surely be top of the pile by now. His importance to the team is huge and City need to keep him fit if they are to win the title.