Premier League Player Rankings: Costa Rises, Ozil Falls, Alli Breaches Top 10

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJanuary 27, 2016

Premier League Player Rankings: Costa Rises, Ozil Falls, Alli Breaches Top 10

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    Liverpool's 5-4 victory over Norwich City headlined another momentous and rewarding weekend of Premier League action, with goals flowing in every quarterbar the Hawthorns. It shapes a much-changed player ranking which includes four new entries and plenty of movement throughout the order.

    The rankings are based on players' last four to 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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    Dropping Out

    Muhamed Besic, Everton: A hamstring injury 10 minutes into Everton's loss to Swansea City curtails his involvement for at least a few weeks.

    Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City: Schoolboy defending leading to a West Ham United goal sees him drop straight out. Unforgivable.

    Fernandinho, Manchester City: Has missed four straight games and will need to rebuild his form to re-enter the rankings.

    Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City: His Midas touch has been distinctly absent for several weeks.

    Honourable Mentions

    Shinji Okazaki, Leicester City

    Petr Cech, Arsenal

    Willian, Chelsea

    Patrick van Aanholt, Sunderland

    Enner Valencia, West Ham

    Ashley Williams, Swansea City

20. Erik Lamela, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

    Last Week: 16

    Differential: -4

    Erik Lamela was an unused substitute as Tottenham Hotspur beat Crystal Palace 3-1 this weekend.

    The fact Nacer Chadli was picked to come on in an attempt to change the game likely isn't too much of a concern for the Argentinian—even if the Belgium international did indeed turn the match on its head—for Lamela remains a favoured Mauricio Pochettino son and played midweek in the FA Cup.

    But his recent form has not been outstanding, and given the competition for places in this top 20, he's hanging on by a thread.

19. Yaya Toure, Manchester City

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    Last Week: 14

    Differential: -5

    Yaya Toure was outright embarrassed in the opening 70 seconds of Manchester City's 2-2 draw with West Ham on Saturday, as Cheikhou Kouyate pushed past him as if he were a turnstile on the way to assisting Enner Valencia's opener.

    The Manchester Evening News' Stuart Brennan admitted he did "little to redeem himself further forward" en route to awarding him five out of 10 in his player ratings, as the Ivorian left it all up to Sergio Aguero to haul City back into the tie.

    As a result of his lethargic, ineffectual display, he drops five spots to 19th.

18. Virgil Van Dijk, Southampton

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    Last Week: Unranked!

    Differential: New!

    Virgil van Dijk returns to the Premier League player rankings after putting in three straight masterful displays in the Southampton defensive line.

    Ronald Koeman's 3-5-2 is finally clicking, and they're playing sound, reactive football out of it; defending in numbers has been a key feature, and Van Dijk is the dominant force at the back.

    Three clean sheets in a row, earned against Watford, West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United, have shown Van Dijk at his best: besting everyone aerially, timing his challenges superbly and stepping up to make vital interceptions.

17. Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Last Week: Unranked

    Differential: New!

    Despite an eerily slow start to this Premier League season, Harry Kane has now crept past the 10-goal mark and stands at 13, per WhoScored.com. He's done that in 23 games, making for a better than one-in-two ratio—a mark all top strikers target.

    That means his form over the last 10-15 games or so has been sublime, and the tape certainly backs that notion up. After a short break from the top 20, he comes roaring backscoring five in his last seven appearances.

    As ever, his approach and hold-up play is stellar, and he's meshing brilliantly with his midfield colleagues. He went through a jaded patch in early January, but that seems to be nothing but a past concern now.

16. Christian Fuchs, Leicester City

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    Last Week: Unranked

    Differential: New!

    Leicester City's Christian Fuchs enters the rankings on the back of a wave of good form. It's his first time inside the top 20, and it's richly earned.

    Barring their most recent resulta 3-0 win over Stoke Citythe Foxes have dialled things back a little and produced some strong defensive displays in order to win points. Fuchs' excellence from the left-back position has been vital to this resilience.

    Offensively he's strong too—a good crosser, and calm on the ball—while his long throws have been a welcome addition to the attacking output at the King Power Stadium.

15. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

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    Last Week: Unranked

    Differential: New!

    Sergio Aguero enters the rankings this week and is instated in the lofty position of 15th. It's a just reward for what has been a remarkable burst of form post-injury.

    Two things are guaranteed with the Argentinian: He'll score you at hatful of goals, but balance those out with an irritating number of ailments, strains and knocks. He's either bagging a brace in ferocious style or the subject of a five-week injury announcement.

    He has scored five in the Premier League since the turn of the year and is in devastating form. And if he can steer clear of injuries...well, it's the age-old argument, isn't it?

14. Romelu Lukaku, Everton

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    Last Week: 8

    Differential: -6

    Romelu Lukaku comes tumbling down the rankings, dropping a whopping six spots, after putting in his third successive poor performance against Swansea City on Sunday.

    The games have represented an example of how badly it can go for the Belgian when his touch is off. There are days when everything he touches breaks down, resulting in missed opportunities, botched passes or poor hold-up play.

    He was non-existent against Chelsea, iffy against Manchester City and poor against the Swans. A fourth consecutive bad showing might just see him drop out of the top 20 altogether.

13. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea

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    Last Week: 18

    Differential: +5

    There are few more satisfying feelings for a footballer than silencing a hostile away crowd, and Cesc Fabregas managed just that at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.

    His stellar recent form continued as he excelled against his former club Arsenal, dictating play, dribbling well on the counter and providing a lesson in clock management.

    He should have earned a penalty, too, when Laurent Koscielny smashed into him in the penalty area, but referee Mark Clattenburg somehow failed to award one.

    His willingness to breach the space behind Arsenal's midfield pivot was key to Chelsea's success.

12. Diego Costa, Chelsea

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    Last Week: 17

    Differential: +5

    Diego Costa had himself quite the day on Sunday. His 68-minute performance—curtailed only due to injury—put a dent in Arsenal's title hopes whilst simultaneously securing Chelsea a big London derby win. 

    He put himself about, ran the channels, spearheaded attacks and, crucially, scored the only goal of the game by stealing in at the near post and steering a lovely finish home. That happened five minutes after an excellent run of his got Per Mertesacker sent off for a last-man challenge.

    A knock to his knee cut his day short, with Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink telling reporters after the game: "I don’t know if it is slight or more severe but we will check on it," per London24.com.

    The Dutchman will hope it's not serious; Costa is vital to any resurgence the Blues may enjoy.

11. Bacary Sagna, Manchester City

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    Last Week: 10

    Differential: -1

    Bacary Sagna endured a difficult evening on Saturday and drops out of the top 10—just—as a result.

    To be fair, few full-backs have been successful when coming up against Dimitri Payet, so we've tempered his fall in the rankings accordingly.

    However, with Pablo Zabaleta returning to fitness, this really isn't the ideal time to be shown the door by a winger.

10. Ross Barkley, Everton

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    Last Week: 6

    Differential: -4

    Ross Barkley tried and tried, then tried some more, but nothing he put his foot to seemed to come off during Everton's loss to Swansea City.

    You cannot fault his effort—he plays at full speed and tries his utmost to make things happen wherever possible—but his impact diminished more and more as, strangely, the Goodison Park crowd huffed and puffed at his mistakes far more loudly than those of others.

9. Gerard Deulofeu, Everton

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Last Week: 12

    Differential: +3

    Gerard Deulofeu soars back into the top 10 after an extremely impressive performance against Swansea City this weekend. Everton may have lost 2-1 and been booed off by the home fans, but this Spaniard's individual showing was mouth-watering.

    Swans left-back Neil Taylor, usually so solid, was taken to the cleaners by Deulofeu. A combination of speed, burst, dribbling and crossing meant the Toffees' right flank was a constant source of creation and danger.

    He swung in two scintillating crosses in particular that Romelu Lukaku failed to connect with; they were the sort of balls into the box you'd consider undefendable.

8. Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Last Week: 11

    Differential: +3

    The question now is not whether Dele Alli will make the England squad for Euro 2016, it's whether Roy Hodgson is feeling brave enough to start him.

    The bravery trait has been one of Alli's most trusted friends during his quick rise to stardom, and it was bravery that made his incredible, Goal of the Season-worthy strike this weekend viable. Flicking it up over an onrushing Mile Jedinak and spinning on the spot, the Englishman arrowed a volley from outside the box into the bottom corner. Phenomenal.

    He also grabbed an arbitrary assist for Nacer Chadli's strike late on, padding out his afternoon's haul.

7. Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

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    Last Week: 9

    Differential: +2

    Riyad Mahrez bounces back!

    After two consecutive poor showings he was left languishing in ninth place—the lowest he's been all season in our rankings—but a brilliant display against Stoke City restores his stock.

    He threatened off the right flank all game long and was eventually rewarded for his efforts, collecting an (accidental?) assist for Leonardo Ulloa's goal to make it 3-0. The elastico trick he performed just before the pass was absolutely scintillating.

6. N'Golo Kante, Leicester City

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    Last Week: 7

    Differential: +1

    The N'Golo Kante train continues to roll on. Most who obstruct its path fall foul.

    He put in an all-round performance against Stoke City packed with energy, poise and determination. Driving forward with the ball, beating players, creating chances and impacting defensively too, it's the sort of showing Claudio Ranieri will have been watching with a wide smirk.

    Sixth is the highest Kante has ever been in our player rankings, and the way he's trending, it's not inconceivable that he could be crowned No. 1 in the next few weeks.

5. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

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    Last Week: 2

    Differential: -3

    Mesut Ozil did not play well against Chelsea. He missed the draw last week at Stoke City in an attempt to heal a nagging injury and preserve him for a London derby, but that gamble did not pay off. Arsenal collected just one point from the two games combined.

    Nothing Ozil tried came off, he struggled to get on the ball as often as usual, and once Alexis Sanchez had entered the fray from the bench, the German became an afterthought.

4. Odion Ighalo, Watford

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    Last Week: 5

    Differential: +1

    Odion Ighalo halted a personal slump this weekend, netting for the first time in 2016. 

    Watford suffered a mini-collapse to begin the year, and Ighalo was badly affected by it, but they snapped back into life with a win against Newcastle United, with the Nigerian bagging a goal and an assist.

    He was all power, flicks and tricks as he bustled his way forward early and often. Oh, how the Hornets have missed that over the last few weeks.

3. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Last Week: 3

    Differential: None

    A clean sheet continues to elude Toby Alderweireld, but that doesn't make his individual performances any less impressive. Once again, he was in good form at the weekend.

    Several key interventions and clearances at Selhurst Park kept Crystal Palace at bay, providing a platform for Tottenham Hotspur to launch themselves back into the game and claim a vital victory.

    Alderweireld has started every single Premier League game this season alongside compatriot Jan Vertonghen, but now the latter is injured, hurting his medial knee ligament in a fall following Connor Wickham's elbow to the head, per BBC Sport.

    Will Alderweireld be as impressive alongside stand-in Kevin Wimmer?

2. Mousa Dembele, Tottenham Hotspur

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    Last Week: 4

    Differential: +2

    What a remarkable story. For all of Mauricio Pochettino's successes this season with Tottenham Hotspur, unlocking the beast inside Mousa Dembele has to be the most impressive feat managed.

    Once again, the Belgian dominated in midfield for Spurs as they ran out 3-1 winners at Selhurst Park. Dele Alli's wonder goal, Nacer Chadli's impact off the bench and Connor Wickham's pointy elbow are the three storylines from the game likely to draw focus, but Dembele was the most impactful over the course of 90 footballing minutes.

    Silky smooth on the ball and an expert in controlling tempo, he is the key cog in this Tottenham team right now.

1. Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

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    Last Week: 1

    Differential: None

    Last week Jamie Vardy was rather fortunate to move to the top of the rankings, but this week, he fully deserves to stay there.

    Leicester City more or less wiped the floor with a Stoke City side shorn of Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic from their starting XI. Vardy ran riot up top, creating chances, troubling the defence and netting one of the three goals scored.

    Surging in behind, he rounded the onrushing Jack Butland and guided an acute-angled finish home with delicacy. It was a sequence that belied the fact he's been struggling for goals of late.

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