Ranking Chelsea's Top 5 Players for February 2016

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 29, 2016

Ranking Chelsea's Top 5 Players for February 2016

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    February will go down as the month when Chelsea's season changed for the better in 2015/16.

    Guus Hiddink may have lost the first game since his return to the club—a 2-1 loss away to Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League—but the Blues ticked off some major boxes on their road to recovery.

    At the top of that list was recording back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time all season after they defeated Newcastle United and Southampton.

    It was against Southampton that Chelsea also came from behind to pick up three points for the first time in the entire campaign. That victory has moved them closer to a top-10 place and a potential late run for European qualification.

    Chelsea also progressed in the FA Cup, dumping out rivals Manchester City with a 5-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

    So which players got Chelsea there? Who scored the important goals and who outperformed their teammates in the process?

    Join Bleacher Report as we rank Chelsea's top five stars from February.

5. Bertrand Traore

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    We were considering John Obi Mikel for our top five, but looking at what Bertrand Traore has achieved this past month, the youngster deserved to nudge out his more experienced teammate and get some recognition of his own.

    Traore hasn't won Chelsea any matches, nor has he clawed them back from the brink in the same way Diego Costa has. What he has done, though, is lay down a real marker for the future.

    Traore is a player we expect to be hearing plenty from in the coming seasons.

    After scoring his first Chelsea goal against MK Dons in late January, he followed that up with strikes against Newcastle United and Manchester City in February.

    Chelsea fans are probably hoping it's an omen, as whenever Traore scores, the Blues win 5-1.

    Those three goals in three appearances say plenty about Traore. He's applying himself and making big noise as he attempts to force his way into the reckoning at Stamford Bridge.

    His goals couldn't have come at a better time given that Alexandre Pato has joined on loan from Corinthians until the end of the season, meaning that Traore's goals have given Guus Hiddink something to consider with his strikers.

    February was a positive month for Traore, and putting him at No. 5 on our list is a small way of acknowledging that.

4. Branislav Ivanovic

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    When you score a dramatic late winner in any month like Branislav Ivanovic did against Southampton, you're always going to be up for consideration as being a key player for your team.

    Truth be told, Ivanovic would have probably made this list even without that goal to deliver a much-needed three points for his side.

    Having filled in at centre-back for the injured John Terry since mid-February, Ivanovic has looked a player transformed. He's not getting found out like he had been on the right side of defence and is now showing why Chelsea rewarded him with a one-year contract extension in the late part of 2015.

    Chelsea have some big questions to ask ahead of the summer when Terry is expected to leave. If Ivanovic continues to perform like he has in central defence, we might just be witnessing the dawn of a new partnership between him and Gary Cahill.

    Chelsea have had a different dynamic with Ivanovic in the middle, and the Serb has flourished.

3. Cesc Fabregas

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    When Cesc Fabregas plays, Chelsea play, so it comes as no surprise that the Blues have looked more like their old selves now that the Spanish midfielder is back on form.

    The key to it has been John Obi Mikel. Somehow the Nigerian has helped Fabregas find more space in the middle of the pitch, and in so doing, he's rediscovered his Midas touch.

    A big part of that is also that Chelsea aren't playing on the back foot. They're asking more questions of opponents in the final third, which is exactly where Fabregas is at his most dangerous.

    With Nemanja Matic dramatically off form in the first part of the campaign, Fabregas was being asked to defend much more than he would have liked. He was being isolated and outmuscled by midfielders who targeted him for that very reason.

    That's all changed. Chelsea fans are back singing about Fabregas and his magic hat, which is a sign of just how good he has been in recent weeks.

    He clawed Chelsea back into their game with Southampton thanks to a rather fortuitous goal. The most encouraging thing about that was Fabregas found himself in the sort of position where he needs to be, which led to the goal.

2. Willian

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    The Brazilian has been pipped to the post as Chelsea's No. 1 for February, but it doesn't mean he wasn't impressive. Looking at the bigger picture, he's already the runaway favourite to take Chelsea's Player of the Year award.

    Willian has been exceptional all season. The fact that Chelsea's struggles haven't impacted his form says a lot about him.

    Willian has boundless energy and this term we have seen him turn that into something constructive. He's found an end product from set pieces, either scoring from free-kicks or assisting teammates.

    Indeed, in Chelsea's last game of February, it was Willian's corner that set up Branislav Ivanovic to score an 89th-minute winner against Southampton.

    Willian has maintained that sort of form all season, and February proved another good month for him.

1. Diego Costa

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    For the first time all season, we're talking about one of Chelsea's match-winners being the side's in-form player.

    None of his teammates matched Diego Costa in February, with his goals being a big reason for Chelsea looking more like the team we know.

    He's scored nine goals in 14 games under Guus Hiddink, with three of those coming in February.

    It's not just that Costa's back scoring goals. It's more about when he is scoring them.

    Against Manchester United, he rescued a point in injury time. A week later, he opened the scoring against Newcastle United in a 5-1 rout. Seven days after that, it was Costa who got Chelsea started as they recorded the same scoreline against a weakened Manchester City in the FA Cup.

    He's scoring goals that matter, and it's having a profound effect.

    Costa looks a different player now. He's back running the channels, focusing on what he does best, which is finding the back of the net.

    When he's in this sort of form, there are few better than him in the Premier League, as he is showing right now.

     

    Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.