Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)
The biggest compliment that can be paid to the Leicester goalkeeper is that he has gone unnoticed this season. The 33-year-old has kept goal with quiet authority as Leicester’s defence has become the stingiest in the league, conceding only eight times. Ederson might have been a more obvious choice but the Brazilian has not been as assured for Manchester City this season. Schmeichel has been error-free and solid with his distribution. An honourable mention should go to Ben Foster who has made some wonderful stops while being overworked at Watford.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
He entered the Guinness Book of Records for his 12 league assists last season and has continued where he left off. He can sometimes be caught out positionally but his bravery in possession and speed of thought are what sets him apart as the most modern of right-backs. His cross-field pass with his unfavoured left foot to begin a move that led to Liverpool’s second goal against Manchester City was something you would expect from a midfield creator, not a full-back. His picture-perfect finish against Chelsea showed he now has the confidence to add goals to his game, too.
Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester)
It says something about the Turkish centre-back that the club could sell Harry Maguire to Manchester United for £80m and improve defensively. Brendan Rodgers deserves great credit for polishing a player who he said “looked like someone who would make a couple of mistakes” when he first saw the 23-year-old. Soyuncu’s panache in possession has helped give his side an added dimension and his reading of the game alongside Jonny Evans has made Leicester the hardest side in the league to break down.
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Liverpool are struggling to keep clean sheets in the way they did last season, but does this mean Virgil van Dijk is any less dominant? Not a bit of it. “He’s a beast,” said Tammy Abraham after Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat of Chelsea. Despite having had several different partners at centre-back and Adrián behind him in goal at the start of the season, he has rarely looked ruffled as Liverpool have risen to the top. His defensive leadership is second to none and his lofty standards lift those around him.
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
The other creative spark at the back for the league leaders. Never stops running up and down the Liverpool left and his deliveries into the box are a forward’s dream. He already has four assists to his name and a goal to boot. He’s a terrier defensively and not many opponents get the better of him. Ben Chilwell’s exceptional performances run Robertson close but even the Leicester left-back describes the Scotland captain as “the best full-back in the world” whose game he tries to emulate. For good reason, too.
John Lundstram (Sheffield United)
He’s in everyone’s fantasy football teams, so why can’t he be in this one? It is no fluke that a player who struggled to get into the Blades team last season is now the beating heart of Chris Wilder’s side. A formation tweak has given John Lundstram license to get forwards from midfield and the 25-year-old has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He’s scored three goals this season, timing his runs to perfection and showing lovely composure in front of goal. He has a phenomenal engine and is as happy creating chances as finishing them off. He may not be Kevin De Bruyne, Fabinho or N’Golo Kanté, but he’s been every bit as effective for the upwardly mobile Blades as any of those illustrious midfielders have been for their teams so far.
The Chelsea holding player was derided as everything that was wrong with Sarriball last season but under Frank Lampard he has flourished. With Mateo Kovacic and Kanté offering aggression in midfield, the Italian can now focus on being the metronomic string-puller who feeds Chelsea’s freewheeling pups. We may not see a better pass all season than his gorgeous assist for Tammy Abraham at Watford.
James Maddison (Leicester)
Brendan Rodgers likened the midfielder to Philippe Coutinho after Leicester’s 2-0 win over Arsenal. It’s a fair comparison. He has a wicked shot and an eye for a clever pass which have helped him score four goals and make two assists but the playmaker’s game is about more than numbers. Maddison has an insatiable workrate and is often the first to trigger the press, winning back possession and using it intelligently. He is fast becoming one of the league’s best attacking midfielders – and best of all, he’s only 22.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
The winger is emerging as a talisman in Pep Guardiola’s side. Sergio Agüero may have scored two more goals than Sterling’s seven, but without the England international’s tormenting runs down the left and creative link-up play, the Argentinian would not have been so prolific. Once derided as being flaky in front of goal, Sterling is now one of the league’s most well-rounded finishers. If City do roar back into the title race, Sterling will be the player fuelling their resurgence.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
He’s 33 in just over a month but you wouldn’t know it from his razor-sharp displays. He tops the Premier League scoring charts with 11 goals having added intelligence to his game under Rodgers, who has instructed the combative striker to stop chasing lost causes and be a fox in the box. The result is that Vardy is drifting off defenders, finishing unerringly and looking a good bet to stay ahead of Abraham in the race for the Golden Boot. Retiring from England duty has been a wise choice.
Sadio Mané (Liverpool)
It’s hard to pick apart Liverpool’s front three given that they appear to perform as one but the Senegal forward has raised his game to another level. His seven goals are impressive enough but his all-round play has improved immeasurably too. He terrifies right-backs with his rare blend of skill and aggression and it is little wonder he has drawn challenges in the box that have led to accusations of diving. Mané is still an unselfish player but his public show of annoyance with Mo Salah showed that he now sees himself as being on a par with, if not better than, his more talked about teammate.
The Guardian Sport