Ah, January. The month of greyness, the month of the FA Cup, and the month of the transfer window.
Although both the magic of the FA cup and the identification of the Carabao cup finalists may have grabbed the headlines, there was still much Premier League action to keep us all entertained last month. Any notion of a title race now seems like a distant dream in spite of Manchester City’s bid for an unbeaten season being ended by Liverpool, but all of the usual drama in the league can still be found in abundance at the other end of the table. As many as half of the teams in the league could be embroiled in a relegation battle, and some huge surprises in this territory leaves the relegation battle looking different almost every week. In this month of twists and turns, which players have stood out in the English top flight?
GK: David De Gea (Manchester United)
Three clean sheets out of four, some top drawer saves, and the ability to rescue his team almost single handedly embody some recent performances that have been impressive even for De Gea’s standards. He has been aided by a relatively strong defence, but reminded everyone of his individual qualities when said defence had a meltdown against Tottenham. Has been by some way United’s best player for several years now.
CB: Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
By now one of Tottenham’s more senior defenders, Vertonghen has expertly marshalled a defence that has shipped only two goals in five January matches. His solid performances are helping Tottenham to return to the defensive solidity last season, but most importantly of all, the big Belgian is proving that he doesn’t need Alderweireld next to him in order to thrive.
CB: Alfie Mawson (Swansea City)
Hands up who saw this revival coming? Having been rock bottom all season, Swansea are giving themselves a fighting chance of escaping a relegation fate that had looked certain for months. Alfie Mawson has played a central role in this revival, scoring the winner in the incredible victory over Liverpool and chipping in with an assist during the battering of Arsenal. If Swansea do somehow survive, they will have a lot to thank him for.
CB: Steve Cook (Bournemouth)
Moving away from Swansea, a lot of credit should go to Bournemouth too. Their Premier League story so far has been characterised by sharp bursts of form in the second half of the season, and their run of six games unbeaten since Christmas suggests that history is repeating itself. Steve Cook has been somewhat of a star in this run, from his rock solid performance at Stamford Bridge to his important goal against Brighton. Great Player.
LM: Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)
It has not been a good month for Arsenal, who are leaking goals left right and centre. However, one thing for them to be positive about is the recent form of Nacho Monreal. Despite being a part of this weak defence, the Spaniard has made a telling contribution going forward, with two goals and two assists in just two games. A surprise replacement for Sanchez perhaps? probably not, but still impressive.
CM: Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)
One of the truly key players in United’s recent defensive upturn. Ever reliable and Ever solid, the Serb has continued to shield his defence expertly, bringing calmness, intelligence in possession, and a hard tackling style to the centre of the field. Couldn’t really have done much in the defeat at Tottenham with his midfield partner Pogba deserting him, and whilst he may not always be the most exciting player to watch, he certainly gets the job done.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Although Manchester City’s unbeaten hopes may now be gone, the form of the poetic Kevin De Bruyne hasn’t dropped one bit. By now surely the overwhelming favourite for the player of the year award, the Belgian genius has contributed another goal and two assists to his seasonal tally in January. His attitude and defensive work rate remain equally impressive, and he is firmly laying down a marker for attacking midfielders to follow both within England and across Europe.
RM: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
Staying in Manchester, it has also been another impressive month for United’s Antonio Valencia. At 32, the evergreen wingback continues to excel for United in the departments of defending, attacking, and leadership. Another player who can be earmarked as crucial to this ever changing United team, the Ecuador international capped off the month with a rare and brilliant goal in the victory against Stoke.
LF: Calum Wilson (Bournemouth)
Although often plagued by injuries, Callum Wilson’s recent fitness has allowed him to remind fans across the country of his goalscoring prowess. A talisman in the Cherries’ attack and a proper goal poacher, the English forward has chipped in with three goals and two assists to aid Bournemouth’s unbeaten run and help steer them increasingly far away from the drop zone. If he keeps up this kind of form and fitness, could a World Cup spot be on the cards?
ST: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) (C)
Another month, another game, another hat trick against Newcastle. The brilliant Argentine forward is still as important to Manchester City as he ever was, scoring in three out of four games and grabbing an assist in his apparent no show against Liverpool. Overall, his January tally of five goals and an assist is enough for Sergio Aguero to captain our team. Finished? Nonsense.
RF: Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
The fourth Manchester United player to make our XI, and certainly the most spectacular from an attacking point of view. The young Frenchman has brushed off questions over the arrival off Alexis Sanchez by scoring three goals and grabbing one assist in January to get United back on track in second place. The arrival of Sanchez will most likely only motivate him more, and this impressive month means that Martial completes our XI.
Manager: Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)
Four matches, two wins, two draws. A statistic that sets Bournemouth five points clear of the drop zone, extends their league unbeaten run to six games, and continues to enhance the reputation of the impressive Eddie Howe. Bournemouth have been punching above their weight for a few seasons now and much of that is owed to the manager. The win over Arsenal was impressive enough, but Howe cited the 3-0 battering of Chelsea as his finest day in management so far, and that is saying something. Bournemouth are lucky to have him.