Premier League Player Rankings: Mahrez Dethroned, Lukaku and Ighalo Up

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 31, 2015

Premier League Player Rankings: Mahrez Dethroned, Lukaku and Ighalo Up

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    A remarkable flurry of festive fixtures has finally drawn to a close, with Arsenal top of the Premier League table heading into 2016 and Aston Villa rooted firmly to the bottom.

    With each team playing two games inside five days, we've had a lot of film to chew over and plenty of performances to judge. Player movements will be based on the two games played, so expect lots of shifting and shaking.

    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

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    Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Dropping Out

    Eric Dier, Tottenham Hotspur

    Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal

    Chris Smalling, Manchester United

    Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal

    Honourable Mentions 

    Marko Arnautovic, Stoke City

    Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

    Simon Francis, Bournemouth

    Scott Dann, Crystal Palace

    Troy Deeney, Watford

20. Olivier Giroud, Arsenal

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    JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

    Last Week: 15

    Differential: -5

    Olivier Giroud's performance against Southampton on Boxing Day was terrible, but he wasn't alone: every single other Arsenal player (bar Petr Cech, perhaps) failed to show up and were duly punished.

    Only a lovely flicked assist for Mesut Ozil's goal against Bournemouth two days later keeps him inside the top 20.

    Had it not been for that Ozil-like moment of genius, Giroud would have dropped out of the rankings just a week after coming in.

19. Jack Butland, Stoke City

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    Dave Thompson/Getty Images

    Last Week: 20

    Differential: +1

    Jack Butland continues to refuse to put in consecutive great showings, making things a little harder at our end when it comes to judgement. 

    He was brilliant against Manchester United, making a few key stops at vital times to prevent a budding Red Devils comeback, with two saves on Marouane Fellaini from point-blank range the picks.

    He conceded three against Everton—that's never a good look for a goalkeeper—though it's tempting to absolve him when Romelu Lukaku is in such fine form.

18. Bojan Krkic, Stoke City

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Week: Unranked

    Differential: New!

    Bojan Krkic is very quietly putting together a superb season, recovering from his ACL tear to dictate Stoke City's attack and trouble defences up and down the country.

    Many will praise the strong showings of Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiriand rightly sobut the one knitting these impressive performances together is a diminutive Spaniard of Calatan descent.

    Two goals and one assist from three games doesn't paint the picture; his through balls and clever linked passes are decimating opponents and setting up colleagues on a platter.

17. Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Alex Broadway/Getty Images

    Last Week: Unranked

    Differential: New!

    Harry Kane is back with a bang.

    He went three Premier League matches without scoring across late November and early December, forcing us to drop him from the rankings, but a strong Christmas haul brings him home.

    Three goals and one assist in three games kept the fans happy, and his two strikes against Norwich City were part of a dominant display.

    He struggled a little against Watford, isolated in a 3-4-2-1 system, but still managed to lay on some good chances.

16. Marc Albrighton, Leicester City

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    ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

    Last Week: 14

    Differential: -2

    Industrious is the word to describe Marc Albrighton this Christmas, with plenty of good work and hard yards put in to try and drag Leicester City through.

    The final quality, though, was a little lacking, with a few cheap giveaways undermining his Liverpool performance and a lack of end product haunting the Manchester City one.

    He'll run and run then run some more, and that's key to Claudio Ranieri's approach, but the Foxes looked a little blunted on Tuesday—it's not often you say that.

15. Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Last Week: Unranked

    Differential: New!

    Nineteen-year-old Dele Alli re-enters our rankings after a brilliant patch of play late in December. His last three straight performances have been excellent.

    Ahead of Christmas, he picked up a goal and an assist against Southampton, having a hand in a quickfire double that sunk the Saints. More recently, he's been forcing mistakes and turnovers that have led to goals.

    His performance against Norwich was absolutely excellent, and it was he and Tom Carrollpressuring and harryingthat created the first goal against Watford.

14. James Collins, West Ham United

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    Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Last Week: Unranked

    Differential: New!

    James Collins has been absolutely monstrous of late, collecting clean sheet after clean sheet and marshalling West Ham's defensive line.

    Winston Reid's absence is usually cause for concern, but this season the depth is there; and while the Hammers have struggled from an attacking perspective, they've been able to rely on Collins heading every ball into the box clear.

    He's put in a number of eight-out-of-10 showings in December and makes our top 20 as a result.

13. Bacary Sagna, Manchester City

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Last Week: 16

    Differential: +3

    Bacary Sagna is proving remarkably durable of late, continuing to shoulder the entire load at right-back in the absence of Pablo Zabaleta.

    He didn't need to do too much defensively in his first outing against Sunderland but supported Kevin De Bruyne in attack well, and he then played strongly against Leicester City on Tuesday night.

    Sagna sparked some good phases of play with quick passing and made some good runs.

12. Fernandinho, Manchester City

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Last Week: 8

    Differential: -4

    An iffy night at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday sees Fernandinho drop down in our rankings and slide out of the top 10.

    A horrendous giveaway in front of his own back four could easily have proved costly as Jamie Vardy latched onto the ball, but fortunately for Manchester City, he fired over under pressure.

    It wasn't his first misplaced pass and it wasn't his last; it was far from his usual steady night's work.

11. Gerard Deulofeu, Everton

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 9

    Differential: -2

    Gerard Deulofeu converted a wonderful Ross Barkley run and cross to give Everton a 3-2 lead after 70 minutes against Stoke City. Unfortunately, the Toffees wouldn't hold on.

    Deulofeu's influence over the festive period wasn't always positive, with some dives creeping into a frustrating performance against the Potters, and a late cameo against Newcastle United procuring very little.

10. Ross Barkley, Everton

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 13

    Differential: +3

    Ross Barkley impressed greatly over the festive fixtures, turning in very good performances against both Newcastle United and Stoke City.

    He was substituted against the Magpies but perhaps didn't deserve to be after linking play well throughout the game. He also grabbed an assist against the Potters with a darting run and superb low cross to Gerard Deulofeu.

    Barkley is still working out the kinks in his game and can sometimes frustrate, but it's performances like these that reinforce the feeling he's going to be a top player. Roberto Martinez rarely misses the chance to label him "special," and it's easy to see why.

9. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    Last Week: 12

    Differential: +3

    Toby Alderweireld has been solid and effective for Tottenham Hotspur this past week, helping the club record two wins and (temporarily) reach the lofty heights of third in the table.

    A clean sheet is a currency defenders love to deal in and he earned one against Norwich City, even forcing a couple of headers wide/at Declan Rudd. His impact on the ball against Watford was tangible from the very start.

    Pushed into a RCB role in a back three, he roamed and passed at will, sending some trademark diagonals across the pitch to find runs.

8. N'Golo Kante, Leicester City

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    ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

    Last Week: 11

    Differential: +3

    Leicester City's goalscoring may have hit the rocks this Christmas, but N'Golo Kante continued to impress in midfield and put in stellar displays against both Liverpool and Manchester City.

    It was the City game where he was particularly effective, doing a good job of closing out the space in midfield and nipping the ball off the visitors' vaunted playmakers.

    David Silva, who was withdrawn in the second half due to ineffectiveness, never really got going because of the attention paid to him.

7. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City

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    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    Last Week: 10

    Differential: +3

    Kevin De Bruyne's excellent festive showings see him move upward in stark fashion.

    His outrageous display against Sunderland, garnering a goal and two assists and inclusive of plenty of tricks and flicks—worth the price of admission alone, according to the Manchester Evening News' Stuart Brennan—meant he was the finest performer across every Boxing Day fixture.

    Production slipped in the 0-0 draw against Leicester City, but the Belgian was forever attempting to find the breakthrough, stretching the pitch, playing clever passes and delivering the odd dangerous cross.

6. Mousa Dembele, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Alex Broadway/Getty Images

    Last Week: 4

    Differential: -2

    Mousa Dembele also endured contrasting fortunes in his two games, but his circumstances are far more excusable.

    He dominated the midfield with ease against Norwich City, holding Alex Neil's men at arm's length while cruising between the lines in typical Dembele fashion. Against Watford, though, he had a much tougher day, partly because of the enhanced opposition quality, but mostly because of a remarkable formation switch.

    Playing in a lot of space as a CM in a 3-4-2-1, he just about got by.

5. Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Last Week: 3

    Differential: -2

    No goals in three for Jamie Vardy, who is certainly cooling off in the statistics column. He still leads the Premier League with 15 strikes, but that won't last for long at this rate.

    Liverpool shut Leicester City out and, as uMAXit Football's Jack Lusby detailed, the Reds may just have shown the division how best to do it.

    Manchester City defended against him superbly with Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi, restricting him to only one good chance—and that was because of a ridiculous Fernandinho error.

    An unfamiliar sight, this: Vardy trending down.

4. Odion Ighalo, Watford

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Last Week: 6

    Differential: +2

    Odion Ighalo spent the festive period doing what he does best: procuring goals from nothing after fighting tooth and nail for every inch of grass available against two tough opponents.

    His strike against Chelsea reeked of fortune, taking a heavy deflection to wrong-foot Thibaut Courtois, but his goal against Tottenham Hotspur was all perseverance, strength, control and composure. It was so entirely his, the arbitrary assist given to Troy Deeney should be taken away.

    He's up to 14 for the season and is just one behind Jamie Vardy now.

3. Romelu Lukaku, Everton

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 5

    Differential: +2

    Romelu Lukaku had two thoroughly contrasting fixtures over the Christmas period, perfectly encapsulating his Jekyll and Hyde-esque nature. 

    Against Newcastle United, he missed several excellent chances and could have cost his side a result had it not been for Tom Cleverley's late heroics, but he was on fire against Stoke City.

    Two goals in the 4-3 loss—one of which was genuinely outstanding—outweigh the St. James' Park disappointment and see him move upward.

2. Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

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    ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

    Last Week: 1

    Differential: -1

    Riyad Mahrez's reign at the top is over after two ineffectual performances in four days. He failed to produce anything—no goals, no assists—against defences anchored by Eliaquim Mangala and Dejan Lovren.

    In both matches, he could be seen flitting about off the ball and delivered a few cutting through balls to pick out Jamie Vardy's runs. But whether it was extra attention or understandable festive fatigue, he never really got going in either match.

1. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

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    ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2

    Differential: +1

    Mesut Ozil is lucky Riyad Mahrez failed to produce in both his games; had he conjured a sliver of decisiveness in either, he'd still be No. 1.

    That's because, although Ozil dominated against Bournemouth and had a big hand in both goals his team scored, he was completely anonymous at Southampton on Boxing Day due to the marking job Victor Wanyama and Jordy Clasie did.

    Still, he has 16 assists for the season with a final fixture before the halfway mark is reached. Astonishing.

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