Premier League player rankings: Van Dijk typifies Liverpool success

The Soccer Central panel discuss Raheem Sterling speaking out against racial abuse and if soccer can actually make any real changes.

Welcome to the Premier League player power rankings after Matchday 16. After each weekend of play in the English Premier League, Sportsnet will rank the top 20 players for the 2018-19 season. Regardless of reputation, everyone starts from scratch at Matchday 1, and will steadily move up, down, or out of the rankings as the games progress.

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1. Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool (Previous matchday: 3)

Liverpool are atop the league table and remain the only undefeated side in the Premier League. It’s only fitting that one of their own sits atop the rankings here as well.

Van Dijk continued his stellar 2018-19 campaign by winning 12 aerial duels against a Burnley side that loves to play the long ball and picked up an assist on Roberto Firmino’s winning goal. The 4-0 result against Bournemouth on Saturday was all the more impressive considering the Poppies have been a top 10 side all season, but it must be noted that the Dutchman didn’t have to cope with the in-form Callum Wilson due to a hamstring injury.

2. David Silva, Manchester City (Previous matchday: 1)

After resting up during Matchday 14, Silva resumed usual service against Watford on Tuesday but was uncharacteristically off colour against Chelsea on Saturday. Despite a dominant first half, City failed to capitalize and then faded in the second.

More of a worry though, their Spanish playmaker limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury.

3. Eden Hazard, Chelsea (Previous matchday: 4)

Chelsea needed this. The Belgian was a threat over the course of both matches, and beyond the three assists, they will be most encouraged by the fact Hazard was able to play 269 of the 270 minutes the Blues were on the pitch for over the past six days.

It’s a surprise that Sarri ran him out there for so long, but it speaks to the blip his team suffered through before hitting their stride in the second half of their match against Manchester City.

One way to set yourself apart as a great player is to do it against the best teams, and Hazard has done just that this season.

4. Raheem Sterling, Manchester City (Previous matchday: 2)

Received a much needed rest day against Watford but that seemed to do little to aid his performance against Chelsea. He had his moments going at Marcos Alonso but also struggled at times.

Obviously, all the talk now surrounds the one moment when he earned his side a corner and was racially abused by fans in the area. The incident is nothing short of disgraceful and banning these fans is not enough. There have to be serious consequences for the club if these “fans” are going to get the message.

5. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal (Previous matchday: 6)

He was terrific on the ball all match against Manchester United and his first touch spoke volumes of the form he’s in. The game has just slowed for him now and you can see it, just at ease and able to pick the right option regardless of the pressure applied.

That patience is what was rewarded against Huddersfield as the Terriers defended ruggedly for 80-plus minutes before Aubameyang crossed perfectly for Lucas Torreira to find the back of the net for the winner.

6. Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City (Previous matchday: 5)

It had to end some time, didn’t it? After 24 matches unbeaten in a Manchester City uniform in the Premier League, the Frenchman’s streak finally came to an end at Stamford Bridge.

This is the type of adversity you want to see City deal with as a neutral, and this is where the best players usually stand up and be counted.

7. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool (Previous matchday: 8)

Twenty-five minutes against Burnley was all he needed to pick up an assist but his performance against Bournemouth is of course what all the fuss is about this weekend.

A hat trick against a tricky opponent, and although his first goal was arguably offside, the manner in which he took his second and third goals showed he couldn’t care less about those making comparisons about whether or not he’s playing at the level of last season.

The second goal was a perfectly placed finish into the far corner from the left side of the box despite being fouled while on the move, and the hat trick goal saw him embarrass Poppies veteran goalkeeper Asmir Begovic twice before smashing the ball home.

Despite tying for the league lead in scoring with the man who’s next on this list, you can’t say he’s had a better season than Laporte or Aubameyang yet.

8. Ryan Fraser, Bournemouth (Previous matchday: 9)

Punish him for the struggles against Liverpool or reward him for the goal and assist in a win over Huddersfield?

Frankly, you have to accept that Bournemouth don’t have the depth required to sustain a high level during this fixture period and so having to deal with a legitimate title contender in Liverpool was a nightmare waiting to happen. On a positive note, there’s this:

9. Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal (Previous matchday: 10)

Should have been credited with the goal that gave Arsenal a 2-1 lead against Manchester United and no one was more adamant than his Gabonese partner in crime.

The Gunners are marching along with 21 matches unbeaten now and, outside of Unai Emery, Lacazette and Aubameyang have been as big a factor as any in transforming this side from last year.

10. Callum Wilson, Bournemouth (Previous matchday: 11)

Oft criticized for his finishing in seasons past, it appears only injury can stop the England international now. After picking up a goal and an assist against Huddersfield, he missed out on the Liverpool match with a hamstring injury.

The Poppies certainly can’t afford to miss him for too long.

11. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City (Previous matchday: 7)

No matches in Matchweek 15 and 16 as he continues his recovery from an abductor muscle injury, and he was certainly missed against Chelsea as Gabriel Jesus failed to supplement the City midfield adequately.

12. Andrew Robertson, Liverpool (Previous matchday: 13)

Rested against Burnley but was extremely effective against Bournemouth. It’s incredible to see how much players can thrive when given the ideal platform to maximize their strengths and that’s exactly what Jurgen Klopp has done for Robertson.

13. Richarlison, Everton (Previous matchday: 18)

Scored the equalizer against Newcastle and then banged in another against Watford, his former side. There were no lingering feelings, though, as the Brazilian went about celebrating the goal with a knee slide Eden Hazard would have been proud of.

14. Jorginho, Chelsea (Previous matchday: 15)

Has finally been dethroned from his seat as the league leader in passes by Laporte, in part due to sitting out the match against Wolverhampton. His absence was clearly felt, as Chelsea slipped to a defeat and left many wondering what N’Golo Kante’s role on the team should be.

Those quarrels were hushed against City as after a dour first half performance, Jorginho helped stymie the City attack when playing behind the ball and sprung Chelsea and Kante forward when he had it.

15. Sadio Mané, Liverpool (Previous matchday: 12)

Only saw the pitch for 25 out of a possible 180 minutes over the two Matchdays and Liverpool will be encouraged they didn’t miss a beat.

16. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham (Previous matchday: 16)

Two convincing wins against Southampton and Leicester City and Mauricio Pochettino will be most encouraged by is the manner in which the Belgian orchestrated snuffing out any threat the Foxes presented.

James Maddison was exceptional in defeat but couldn’t quite find the cutting edge to bring his side a goal and Alderweireld was a big reason why.

17. Harry Kane, Tottenham (Previous matchday: 20)

Didn’t have a part to play in the win over Leicester until appearing as a sub late on but he’s in a rich vein of form right now and displayed that with a goal and assist in the win over Southampton.

He’s got four goals and two assists in his last five starts, and with a comfortable fixture list ahead, the England captain is looking good to maintain his scoring spree.

18. Marcos Alonso, Chelsea (Previous matchday: 17)

He’s not playing well and the result against City should do nothing to hide that from Sarri. The form he showed through the first quarter of the season is but a distant memory.

You have to wonder, Sarri has asked Kante to play a different role this season and it hasn’t really brought the best out of the Frenchman while Alonso’s form has also taken a hit after Sarri has made him cut down on his forward runs.

19. Matt Doherty, Wolverhampton Wanderers (Previous matchday: N/A)

Two goals and an assist over his last three matches and a huge six points for Wolves at home to Chelsea and away to Newcastle.

Doherty has had an excellent season at right-back for Wolves and the team will need him to maintain his form with Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City to come in the next few weeks.

20. Felipe Anderson, West Ham United (Previous matchday: N/A)

With five goals in six matches to become his club’s leading scorer this season, Anderson has usurped Marko Arnautovic as the Hammers’ main man.

His technical ability is excellent, and his goal against Crystal Palace was a clear example of it.

Honourable mentions:

Lucas Torreira (Arsenal). Leroy Sane (Manchester City). James Maddison, Harry Maguire (Leicester City). Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea). Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton). Sol Bamba (Cardiff City). Mathew Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion). Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace). Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson (Liverpool). Lucas Moura (Tottenham).

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