We’re nearing the halfway point of the Premier League season, and while it’s a bit early to start handing out the awards for player of the season, that’s not to say there aren’t a few contenders starting to emerge as the favorites. So far, there are two, to me, that have meant more to their teams this season than any other.
That’s not to say that there isn’t more than two that have had tremendous success in the first half of the season. Two obvious candidates ply their trade in West London.
For Chelsea, Jose Mourinho bemoaned a lack of a proper striker last season when he had Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o, and Fernando Torres in his front line. This season, that can’t be said any longer, and Diego Costa has slotted seamlessly into the Premier League in terms of scoring goals, though not getting booked every two matches would be a nice change. And while striker was an issue last season, for all the creative talent in Willian, Oscar, and Eden Hazard, a midfielder to provide chances was on short supply, but the purchase of Cesc Fabregas, the Premier League assists leader, has given the Blues the man to supply the bullets for the hitman, Costa.
While I can’t argue against anyone for Chelsea, I do have to look at the players who have made the biggest impact, I feel, for their respective teams. The two that have stood out the most this season, and possibly the two that mean the most to their teams this season, are Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez. These two are so close for different reasons that I really can’t choose just one. For Aguero, there’s no argument that he’s been the standout performer of the first half, scoring goals for fun before his injury two weeks ago. As far as Alexis, his arrival brought much fanfare to Arsenal, and it’s hard to see where their attack would be without him scoring goals and creating chances.
Even in the case of Aguero, it’s hard to imagine where Manchester City would be in the league if it weren’t for Aguero’s goals. While City are actually 4 points ahead of where they were after 16 matches last season, a lot of that has to be credited to Aguero’s goals in the league this season. So far this season, Aguero has found the net 14 times. However, that’s nearly half of his team’s goal total, as City have scored a total of 33 goals. Even more telling, no one else in City’s side have scored more than 4 goals, with Frank Lampard, Yaya Toure, and Stevan Jovetic sharing that total. Aguero has scored 42% of his side’s goal total so far showing just how valuable he is to the City attack and how much they may miss him over this holiday period.
As for Alexis, the fact that Barcelona let him go was a mystery at the time, until, of course, the arrival of one Luis Suarez. Regardless, Alexis was always a bit of a square peg in a round hole with the Catalan club. His strength is his ability to not only create chances for himself and others, but also to finish chances when he’s in position to do so. With Barcelona, he never really was able to express himself, as he was overshadowed by a certain Argentinian with a similar style of play, but for Arsenal this season, he’s been a shot in the arm for a team that lacked a bit of pace and guile up front last season. It’s been a huge bonus for the Gunners this season, as Alexis is Arsenal’s leading goal scorer with 9 goals in the league so far, which looks even more impressive when you consider that their second-leading goal scorer is Olivier Giroud who has just returned from three months out due to injury.
Not only is Alexis scoring, but he’s also chipped in with 5 assists. While that doesn’t put him in the top 5 in assists in the Premier League and off the pace of the 11 assists recorded by Fabregas, he has created 42 chances, good for fourth in the league to this point in the season. Not only that, but he’s given that Arsenal that one dangerman that defences really have to account for that they haven’t had since the departure of Robin Van Persie.
Those are my choices for the top players in the Premier League, and while there are others who have been just as important in their team’s attack (Charlie Austin, I’m talking about you), and the two Blues who have filled the gaps of Jose Mourinho’s team, these two have been vital to their team’s ability to sustain a title challenge, in the case of City, and a legitimate shot at perennial Champions League qualification, in the case of Arsenal. Since those are part of the ambitions for both sides, take those two out of those sides, and you do wonder if they’d be struggling a bit to maintain those ambitions.