Alexis Sanchez’s fine form this season means Arsenal are officially a one-man team, but which other teams make Europe’s top five?
There’s no denying that a number of teams rely heavily on one player to help drag them to victory, regardless of their stature. It could well be that a side is performing well, but an individual gives them the necessary push to turn one point into three.
Here, WhoScored.com look at the five teams whose first and second highest rated players have the biggest gap across Europe’s top five leagues of players to have made five or more appearances this season.
Southampton – Gap in WhoScored.com Rating 0.38
Southampton’s recent form has certainly left a lot to be desired. A forgettable festive period culminated in a 2-2 draw with Norwich in the FA Cup, forcing Claude Puel’s side into a replay in the process. They lack the attacking nous they boasted last season, noted in that only Middlesbrough and Hull (both 17) have scored fewer Premier League goals than Saints (19) this season, though much of that is down to Charlie Austin’s injury.
The Englishman has six league goals to his name this term, but is sidelined for the foreseesable future with a shoulder injury, yet he has gained a WhoScored.com rating of 7.07, the second highest of all Saints players.
That return, though, is 0.38 behind the club’s top rated player. The imposing Virgil van Dijk boasts a WhoScored.com rating of 7.45, which is enough to feature in the Premier League team of the season.
Interest in the 25-year-old remains high, even if executive director Les Reed recently insisted: “Virgil is not for sale.” Nevertheless, the rating between Van Dijk and Austin in first and second, respectively, is the fifth largest in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Roma – 0.40
A former Premier League pair have formed an effective partnership in Rome. Starting first with Mohamed Salah, it’s evident the Egyptian wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip during his time with Chelsea, though Roma are the happy recipients of the Blues’ decision to cash in on the winger.
Salah hasn’t struggled for form for Roma either, with eight goals and four assists contributing to a WhoScored.com rating of 7.47 in Serie A this season. Here though, the 24-year-old’s WhoScored.com rating is 0.40 behind Roma’s highest rated player.
The Serie A side took up the option to sign Edin Dzeko permanently over the summer, despite his slow start to life in the Italian capital. Dzeko is the highest rated player in Serie A this season (7.87), while only Mauro Icardi (14) has scored more league goals than the Bosnian (13) in Italy’s top tier this term.
The Salah-to-Dzeko assist-to-goalscorer combination has returned a joint-league high of three goals this campaign and while it’s not the case that Roma are overly relying on Dzeko, but rather he’s been the star man in Luciano Spalletti’s side.
Bayern Munich – 0.47
Bayern entered the Winterpause atop of Germany’s top tier having dispatched of top-table rivals RB Leipzig 3-0 at the end of 2016. As they go in hunt of their fifth successive Bundesliga title, Carlo Ancelotti’s reign at the Allianz Arena didn’t start out as planned as FC Hollywood laboured in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Now three points clear at the summit, Ancelotti must be counting his blessings that he is able to call on a fully fit again Thiago Alcantara in the middle of the park. The 25-year-old’s WhoScored.com rating is a superb 8.06 this season, the third highest in Europe’s top five leagues.
4.4 interceptions per league match – the joint-best on the continent – has contributed to Thiago’s fine form and it’s feasible that his team-mates are perhaps struggling to match the heights of the Spain international. Arjen Robben (7.59), with three goals and five assists to his name, is Bayern’s second highest rated player this term, with the gap between first a second currently 0.47, that in turn the third largest of its kind in Europe’s top five leagues this term.
As is the case with Dzeko and Salah, it’s not that Thiago is carrying the team, but rather he’s exceeding expectations to open such a significant chasm.
Arsenal – 0.51
If ever a six-second clip summed up a player, it was Alexis Sanchez venting his frustration as Arsenal drew 3-3 at Bournemouth. The Gunners fought back from 3-0 down to draw with the Cherries, yet the failure to win the game after such a spirited comeback evidently irked Alexis.
The Chilean has comfortably been Arsenal’s best player this season, with a WhoScored.com rating of 7.89 second only to Eden Hazard (7.93) in the Premier League. The 28-year-old has been directly involved in more goals (20 – 13 goals, 7 assists) than any other Premier League player this term highlighting his stunning first half to the campaign.
His fine form means (7.38) lingers a whopping 0.51 behind Alexis as Arsenal’s top rated players, the second biggest gap in Europe’s top five leagues. The 31-year-old’s WhoScored.com rating is not to be scoffed at, but in the final third, it goes without saying that Arsenal would be significantly weaker without Alexis.
It’s no wonder then that Arsene Wenger is keen to tie him down to a new deal with the Chile international one of the Premier League’s best players.
Lazio – 0.53
Venturing back to Rome and it’s Roma’s fierce rivals Lazio whose WhoScored.com rating between the first and second highest rated players is the largest (0.53) in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Felipe Anderson has been far and away their best player under Simone Inzaghi with the Rome side currently fourth in Serie A.
Only Jose Callejon (8) has registered more assists than Felipe Anderson (7) in Italy’s top tier this term, with the Brazilian’s six WhoScored.com man of the match awards the joint-best in the league. His WhoScored.com rating (7.84) is currently the second best in Serie A, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (7.31) closest to matching that for Lazio.
The 21-year-old Serbian midfielder is enjoying a more prominent role for the Italian side this season with three goals and three assists a respectable return for the youngster.
However, his performances have been dwarfed by Felipe Anderson, who is once again living up to expectations for Lazio. After a so-so campaign last time out, the Brazilian has starred for the Biancocelesti this term and it’s clear to see he is the key man under Inzaghi.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with the new free-to-download WhoScored iOS app.