Premier League Player Rankings: De Bruyne Up, Kane Down, Vardy King
Manchester City returned to the top of the table this weekend after another scintillating round of Premier League action, while Jamie Vardy made history by scoring in 11 consecutive divisional games, breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy's record.
How will these feats—in addition to the myriad other storylines emerging from the league this weekend—effect our player form rankings?
The rankings are based on players' last six games, with slightly more emphasis placed on their most recent outing. Only Premier League performances are counted, and typically, one-week wonders do not find their way in.
We look beyond the statistical measures and into the performance, reviewing tape and gauging impact.
It's not just goals, assists and heroic clearances that impress. It's about how a player contributes to the tactical plan at hand and what impact he has over a 90-minute period.
Take a look and see if you agree with our selections, and if you feel like we've missed anyone, let us know in the comments section below.
Dropping out / Honourable Mentions
Jack Butland, Stoke City: Left a little helpless in Stoke City's disappointing loss to Sunderland, but drops due to increased competition for places.
Yann M'Vila, Sunderland
Sebastian Coates, Sunderland
Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur
Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
N'Golo Kante, Leicester City
Jonny Evans, West Bromwich Albion
20. Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City
Last Week: 15
Nicolas Otamendi was far from his usual dominant self against Southampton last weekend. The only thing that saved him? Martin Demichelis progressively got even worse as the afternoon wore on and stole the spotlight of shame.
The Argentinian was rested the week before due to the travelling he did during the international break, and perhaps a little rustiness invaded his game here. The bearded wonder will certainly have better days.
19. Odion Ighalo, Watford
Last Week: 20
Odion Ighalo put in a strong performance (in every sense of the word) on Saturday as Watford beat Aston Villa 3-2. The Nigerian scored the opening goal by prodding home a nice, calm finish, presented a threat in the channels all day and held the ball up well.
It wasn't his most impressive game of the year, but he put enough pressure on the Villa defence to worry them. He got the all-important opener, and he worried Ciaran Clark and Kieran Richardson with his movement.
18. Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool
Last Week: 17
Philippe Coutinho missed the win over Swansea City with a hamstring problem, but he looks set to be fit for next week, according to the Liverpool Echo.
17. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur
Last Week: Unranked
Toby Alderweireld's short stay outside the top 20 lasted just two weeks. Another strong performance, this time against Chelsea on Sunday, elevates him back among the elite.
His excellent positional skills allowed him to intercept one or two dangerous-looking balls during the 0-0 stalemate. He dominated aerially and provided a threat pushing forward for set pieces.
Sky Sports gave him their official man-of-the-match award, and while sometimes those fly well wide of the mark, this week they were spot on.
16. Ross Barkley, Everton
Last Week: 18
Ross Barkley didn't have a brilliant game at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday, though the stats sheet shows yet another goal, taking his tally for the season to six for the season.
His passing was a little sloppy at times, and he gave the ball away unnecessarily on a few occasions. He thought he'd scored the winner deep into stoppage time, but Bournemouth bit straight back via Junior Stanislas to seal an epic draw.
Barkley was by no means poor, but he couldn't replicate the dominant performance we saw last week at Aston Villa.
15. Gerard Deulofeu, Everton
Last Week: 16
Gerard Deulofeu continues to produce on the football field, and he's in the middle of arguably his best spell for any club since bursting onto the scene with Barcelona.
A jinking, direct performance from the Spaniard at the Vitality Stadium put Bournemouth on the back foot for long periods, and he picked up another assist for another Romelu Lukaku goal.
"As a natural talent, he's as good as it gets," Roberto Martinez said this week (h/t TalkSPORT).
14. Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Last Week: 12
Harry Kane toiled away all afternoon against Chelsea but couldn't make the breakthrough. He saw some firm shots saved well by Asmir Begovic and used his body well to help create chances, but ultimately came up short.
Gary Cahill and Co. put in a pretty stout defensive performance to deny him—one desperate lunging challenge from the former Aston Villa man denied Kane but hurt his goalkeeper in the process—and there were perhaps a few lingering after-effects of a midweek trip to Azerbaijan haunting his finesse and touch toward the end.
13. Virgil Van Dijk, Southampton
Last Week: 13
Despite Southampton incurring a loss to Manchester City this weekend, Virgil van Dijk again found a way to impress.
He brought the ball out of defence very well, smacked the bar with a long-range effort when trying to force his team back into the game, and dealt with a change in central-defensive partner midway through as if nothing had happened.
12. Chris Smalling, Manchester United
Last Week: 11
Chris Smalling had a very quiet Saturday evening.
Manchester United accumulated 67 percent possession during their 1-1 draw with Leicester City, per WhoScored.com, limiting the home side to just seven shots, meaning the defensive line did very little actual defending and simply recycled the ball a lot.
Jamie Vardy did escape in behind to score once, ruining the chances of a clean sheet, but he beat Ashley Young one-on-one in tracking; there wasn't much Smalling could do to stop it.
11. Anthony Martial, Manchester United
Last Week: 5
Anthony Martial has been Manchester United's sole bright spark in recent weeks, but even his performances are starting to fade now.
He missed last week's game due to an injury picked up during the international break so we mustn't be too hard on him, but it's undeniable his influence is waning.
Finally released in a No. 9 role courtesy of Louis van Gaal's 3-5-2, he failed to impress.
10. Graziano Pelle, Southampton
Last Week: 9
Graziano Pelle was suspended for Southampton's loss to Manchester City due to an accumulation of yellow cards. He slides a little as a result, but has Aston Villa to sink his teeth into next week.
9. Bacary Sagna, Manchester City
Last Week: 10
Bacary Sagna was pretty decent on Saturday. If that sounds non-committal, it's because it is.
He largely kept a lid on Southampton's Ryan Bertrand-Sadio Mane combination and passed the ball cleanly, though he didn't influence the attack much outside of one good early run and cross.
He really was the epitome of "OK."
8. Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Last Week: 14
Romelu Lukaku put in another fine performance on Saturday and is trending the right way in our rankings. The improvement he shows week on week is astounding.
His goal against Bournemouth was superbly taken, lashing a firm shot into the corner with venom, leaving the goalkeeper no chance. His overall showing screamed confidence and certainty; he's brimming with belief and is enjoying pulling defenders round in circles with his movement.
The Belgian launches himself into the top 10 and looks very much at home there.
7. Mousa Dembele, Tottenham Hotspur
Last Week: 8
Mousa Dembele's been absolutely on fire over the past few weeks, but he cooled off a little on Sunday. He was by no means a bad performer, but he wasn't the dominant presence we've perhaps come to expect.
Tottenham Hotspur's 0-0 draw with Chelsea featured a fairly intense midfield battle that neither side won for a full 90 minutes. The first half was all Spurs, but the Blues found a rebuttal late on.
Dembele was smooth and economic on the ball, but not decisive.
6. Eric Dier, Tottenham Hotspur
Last Week: 4
Eric Dier turned in a good performance against reigning champions Chelsea on Sunday, but he did let one or two errors creep into his game. That necessitates a short drop in the rankings.
There's no doubting who won the battle for midfield at White Hart Lane, with Dier's steely presence more than a match for the Blues' underperforming central contingent. But his passing was a tiny bit more wayward than usual, and at times, he struggled with the movement of an interchanging four-four.
5. Fernandinho, Manchester City
Last Week: 7
Fernandinho re-entered the Manchester City starting XI this weekend and made his presence felt. The setup looked much more assured with him back in the fold, and although he didn't directly contribute to the goals, the confidence flowing through the side can be attributed partially to him.
In the second half when Southampton started to fight back, he made a vital block to deny an equalising goal—a block Willy Caballero clapped him on the back appreciatively for.
Typically speaking, when Fernandinho starts, City win.
4. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City
Last Week: 6
Kevin De Bruyne tore into Southampton on Saturday, having a big hand in all three goals scored in the 3-1 win.
He slotted the first home by skipping in front of Ryan Bertrand and converting a low Raheem Sterling cross, while his decisive passes freed up both Fabian Delph and Aleksandar Kolarov to add one each.
"He is a mix of a creative player and also a goalscorer. It's important he keeps playing the way he has so far," Manuel Pellegrini enthused to journalists after the game (h/t ESPN).
UMAXit Football's Rob Pollard labelled his £55 million transfer fee a bargain back in October, and while that might be stretching it a little, he's certainly made the required short-term impact that justifies the fee.
3. Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Last Week: 3
Much of the reaction to Leicester City's 1-1 draw with Manchester United understandably centred on Jamie Vardy's record-breaking day, but Riyad Mahrez was the hosts' best player.
His jinking, rapid runs on the counter gave the Foxes a veritable threat playing out from the back, forcing fouls high up from Manchester United's defenders just desperate to keep a lid on him any way possible.
The Daily Mail reported in November that United were considering a January move for him; this was a pretty timely reminder of his talents.
2. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
Last Week: 2
Mesut Ozil retains second place in the form rankings after another strong display. For the first time in seven weeks, he didn't assist a goal, but he did score one, latching onto a good through ball and finishing with aplomb.
With Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Francis Coquelin and Laurent Koscielny all injured, he's the man Arsenal fans will look to to drag their team through the mud.
The Gunners are winless in three attempts, and Ozil may have to get even better in order to turn this ship around.
1. Jamie Vardy, Leicester City
Last Week: 1
Nothing to see here, just Jamie Vardy breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy's consecutive games with a goal record. That's 11 straight Premier League matches he's scored in.
This week represents the England international's sixth week in a row he's topped our form rankings; he is officially in Eden Hazard 2014-15 territory when it comes to measuring individual dominance.
He did quieten down a little after his first-half goal—as did the entire Leicester City team, in fact—but his run and finish was vintage Vardy.