Four games into the season and Manchester City are the only team to win all four matches so far.
The players have quickly taken to Pep Guardiola’s demands, with their performance in the 2-1 win over Manchester United warranting all three points.
But they aren’t the only team with players who have started the season on fire.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea (WhoScored.com rating 7.90)
It’s remarkable what a difference a prolonged rest and recuperation following injury can make in a player. Eden Hazard struggled at times in the Premier League last season, in part owing to a long-standing hip problem. Yet, now fully recovered, the Belgian has been superb under Antonio Conte, with his WhoScored.com rating (7.90) the fifth best in England’s top tier this term. While he is yet to match the heights of Chelsea’s 2014/15 title winning campaign, two goals from four starts is just two fewer than he managed in the whole of last season.
The 25-year-old also looks to have rediscovered his confidence on the ball having completed more dribbles (20) than any other Premier League player this campaign. Should Hazard replicate his form from two years ago, the same season he was named the Players’ Player of the Year, then Chelsea stand a much stronger chance of domestic success in Conte’s debut campaign at the Stamford Bridge helm.
Nicolas Otamendi – Manchester City (7.90)
With City top of the Premier League, a surprise improvement has been in the performances of Nicolas Otamendi. After missing the opening day 2-1 win over Sunderland, with Pep Guardiola calling on Aleksandar Kolarov to play centre-back, many felt the Argentine’s time at the Etihad Stadium was drawing to a close. However, he subsequently started the next three league fixtures and most recently churned out a superb outing in the Manchester Derby win last weekend. An average of five aerial duels won per game is among the best in England’s top tier this term, with the 28-year-old maximising his physical stature to dominate in the air.
He has also blocked the third most crosses (11) in the Premier League so far and with the full-backs often pushing forward to form a midfield three alongside Fernandinho, Otamendi is quick to push out wide and deny attackers from putting the ball into the box. Having underwhelmed to an extent in his debut campaign, the 28-year-old looks to be returning to his best form with John Stones by his side.
Romelu Lukaku – Everton (7.99)
The relief on Romelu Lukaku’s face was palpable when he slotted the first of three goals past Jordan Pickford on the hour mark in Everton’s 3-0 win over Sunderland on Monday, scoring his first Premier League goals since the 3-2 victory against West Ham back in March. His three-goal salvo against the Black Cats were all deemed clear-cut by Opta, with three clear-cut chances scored the joint-best return in the top division of English football. The Belgium international has also had the most shots on target (9) in the Premier League this season as he looks to return to his best.
Given he was strongly linked with a move away from high-flying Everton over the summer, the speculation clearly didn’t affect Lukaku in his bid to replicate his excellent form last season. If he can maintain his fine start, then the Toffees stand a much stronger chance of a European finish.
Sadio Mane – Liverpool (8.14)
On the other side of Stanley Park, Sadio Mane is impressing on the back of his big money move to Liverpool. Many scoffed at the substantial fee the Reds paid Saints to secure the services of Mane, who became the fifth player in recent history to tread the well worn path between St. Mary’s and Anfield. Yet Mane has starred following his arrival, with his WhoScored.com rating (8.14) the second best in the Premier League so far this campaign. The Senegal star set his intentions early with a superb solo goal in a 4-3 win over Arsenal and followed that up with a man of the match display in the 4-1 dismantling of Leicester.
The 24-year-old is averaging 3.3 dribbles per game, one of the best returns in the league to date, with his versatility and unpredictability ideal for Liverpool’s fluid attacking system under Jurgen Klopp. Provided Mane can add consistency to his game, and Liverpool’s top-four pursuit should reap the rewards come May.
Curtis Davies – Hull (8.49)
Ahead of the opening game of the season, many tipped Hull for relegation before a ball had even been kicked. The Tigers, however, are looking ahead rather than behind them having taken the same number of points as Arsenal and Liverpool (7) from four matches. A major reason behind the excellent start has been the performances of stand-in captain Curtis Davies, whose WhoScored.com rating is a whopping 8.49. The 31-year-old has been simply sensational following his and Hull’s Premier League return, with the centre-back the cornerstone for their early success.
Davies has made the most interceptions (31), clearances (41) and blocked the most shots (11) in the Premier League this term, with his reading of the game and proactivity going a long way to easing the pressure on the Hull goal. To some, he was unfairly overlooked for Sam Allardyce’s first England squad, but if he continues to churn out star performance after star performance, it won’t be long before Davies earns international recognition after what has been a stunning start to the campaign.
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