As the Premier League season reaches the halfway point, Adam Lanigan outlines his 10 players of the season so far.
Why not start with the division’s top goalscorer? Sergio Aguero has not played since December 6 because of injury, but he still leads the way with 14 from 15 appearances.
The pocket Argentine was in sensational form before he was injured and was carrying most of Manchester City’s attacking threat when others were off colour.
The fact that City have carried on scoring in his absence reveals the quality of players at their disposal, and they will be even sharper when Aguero returns.
Some of his performances in October and November were outstanding. It was striking at its absolute best.
Little more than five years ago, Charlie Austin was a prolific scorer in non-league football for Poole Town.
The level of football may have altered, but the goalscoring ability hasn’t, with Austin already having 12 to his name this season. Those goals are threatening to keep QPR in the Premier League almost single-handedly.
For a newly promoted side, scoring goals and home form are absolutely vital, so take a bow Charlie as in each of their five home wins, Austin has scored.
That is keeping them out of the bottom three for now, but he’ll have to keep on doing that to ensure survival for the Hoops.
David De Gea
A quick glance at Manchester United’s record at halfway W10 D6 L3 would suggest Louis van Gaal’s team is ticking along nicely.
But for anyone watching their matches, it’s a different story, as David De Gea has been the saviour on so many occasions.
United have been good going forward but vulnerable in defence, and the Spanish goalkeeper has bailed them out with a string of fantastic saves.
Those performances have probably already given his team an extra eight to ten points, which will make the difference at the end of the season for the Reds regaining a spot in the Champions League.
No one encapsulates the change at West Ham this season better than Stewart Downing. Last year, he was stuck out on the right wing under the instruction to cut back onto his left foot and cross the ball.
It was predictable and Downing’s confidence levels dropped. This campaign, a subtle change infield has brought the best out of him, where he has helped West Ham almost completely change their image.
His running with the ball and good passing has been pleasing to see, while better strikers ahead of him in Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho and a fit Andy Carroll have given him more options.
Downing has always had talent, but the difference when his confidence is up, like this season, is stark.
Sometimes statistics can hide the truth, but in the case of Cesc Fabregas, they underline it. 13 assists and 61 chances created for Chelsea tells its own story.
Last season, Steven Gerrard created the most goals in the Premier League with 13 and Fabregas has already equalled that.
Back in the summer, manager Jose Mourinho knew he needed a creative fulcrum and he has certainly found that in Fabregas.
The impact has been instantaneous and his link-up with Diego Costa and Eden Hazard has given the Londoners so much more penetration. Such is Fabregas’ importance, that his absence could be decisive in the outcome of the title.
Harry Kane has been the breakthrough act of this season so far with 17 goals for Tottenham and England Under-21s.
He began as third choice at Tottenham, but his own performances, coupled with the continued inadequacies of Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor, mean he is now a regular starter up front.
Every time he has scored in the Premier League, Tottenham have won. He has netted in every round of the Capital One Cup, helping them reach the semi-finals.
And he has also contributed to help them progress in the Europa League. Kane is a welcome success story of a young English player breaking through at a big club.
Football has often been about double acts Bruce and Pallister, Keegan and Toshack, Vieira and Petit, to name a few.
And while Cesc Fabregas has created the goals for Chelsea, midfield partner Nemanja Matic has provided the steel to Fabregas’ silk.
The Serbian is a giant barrier to anyone who wants to get at Chelsea’s defence, and it is no coincidence that their only league defeat came away to Newcastle when Matic was suspended.
He may be the enforcer but he is also a fine footballer and he is creating a partnership with the Spaniard that could be together for years at Stamford Bridge.
The arrival of Louis van Gaal at Manchester United and his close relationship with fellow Dutchman Robin van Persie could have pushed Wayne Rooney down the pecking order at Old Trafford.
But Van Gaal’s decision to make Rooney captain has been repaid with a series of buccaneering performances from United’s No.10.
He has been both setting the example and cajoling his team-mates as the Reds look to bounce back under Van Gaal whether up front or recently in midfield,
Rooney has given everything to help his team and he has demonstrated that street-footballer instinct of winning at all costs that is loved by the fans.
The Premier League lost one of its South American stars when Luis Suarez swapped Liverpool for Barcelona. But in Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal have found the nearest thing to a direct replacement.
Sanchez has that same eye for goal, incredible work ethic and desire not to be beaten, forged from a tough upbringing in Chile.
And those qualities have stood out for Arsenal where he has been his side’s top performer in an up-and-down first 19 games.
South Americans have often taken a long time to settle in England, but Sanchez has hit the ground running and has emerged as one of the best players to watch, with 15 goals in all competitions.
He partners England’s first choice centre-half Gary Cahill, but make no mistake, John Terry remains the best defender in England.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho certainly made that point when he said Terry was as good now as in 2004/05, the season Chelsea first won the league under the Portuguese.
There is more creativity going forward thanks to Fabregas, but with Matic in front of him and Thibaut Courtois behind him in goal, Terry is part of a strong defensive operation.
His know-how and leadership qualities will come to the fore even more over the run-in as he tries to guide some of Chelsea’s new players to their first league title in England.