A midweek bonus takes in master intercepticons Man United, Arsenal's wealth of scorers, Liverpool's set-piece mastery and Eric Lamela tackling but not creating...
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With the Premier League season now six games old, players have had a chance to pick up some form, looking to progress from the previous campaign with a decent run in their respective sides. In this piece, WhoScored.com analyse the most improved players at the start of the 2013/14 season from the previous campaign, based on their unique statistical ratings.
It comes as no surprise to see Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey top the list, doing so having an accrued a, not at all average, average rating of 8.2 in his six appearances thus far. That's enough to see him rank as the best-rated Premier League player this season and is a considerable increase on the 6.92 he picked up for his efforts in 2012/13.
The Welshman is shaping up as the complete all-round midfielder, leaving boy wonder Jack Wilshere in his shadow, having made more tackles this season than any other player (33). His average of 5.5 per game is more than double that of his figure last season (2), while he's contributed to twice as many league goals this season in six games (4 goals, 2 assists) than he did in 36 league appearances last time around (1 goal, 2 assists).
The fact that Ramsey's rise to prominence has been so spectacular has masked the improvements of teammate Olivier Giroud to a degree. With an average rating of 8.13 this season and identical goal and assist tallies of 4 and 2 respectively the Frenchman is only second to the midfielder in WhoScored.com's overall player ratings. That's a significant jump from the respectable 7.08 he garnered in his first season in England's top flight.
Giroud is not just the focal point to Arsenal's attack but a key link man in the Gunners' moves in and around the box. His shots-per-game figure of 3.1 from last season is up to 4 this, while a conversion rate of 16.7% is substantially higher than his modest 10.3% in 2012/13. Meanwhile an average of 1.7 key passes per game is up from 1 last time round and the 27-year old is arguably the Londoners' most importantly player given their shortage of options up front.
Away from Arsenal, but staying in north London, many would have predicted that Gylfi Sigurdsson's days were numbered at White Hart Lane following an influx of midfield talent at Spurs this summer. While the Icelandic star may yet drop down the pecking order, if he continues to score goals that earn Tottenham points it will be hard for AVB to leave him out. With 3 in the league already this season, his average rating currently stands at an impressive 7.33.
That figure is up from a meagre 6.51 in the previous campaign having only started 12 of his 33 league appearances. He's already matched his trio of league goals from 2012/13 with his average shots (1.6 to 2.6), key passes (0.8 to 1.2) and dribbles per game (0.2 to 1.2) all on the rise. Having adapted his game to play out wide, he's reaping the rewards with a run in the first team, but with Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli breathing down his neck, Sigurdsson can't afford to allow his form to slip.
The only defender on this leaderboard is Southampton's Jose Fonte, with the Saints' start this season under Mauricio Pochettino the polar opposite from their return to the top flight last time round. The Southerners had conceded a league high of 18 goals after six matches in the previous campaign, while their success this season - sitting in 6th - can be attributed largely to the joint-best defensive record in the league, with just two goals finding the back of Artur Boruc's net.
Much of that is down to the successful forging of a partnership between Fonte and summer signing Dejan Lovren. Both have scored important goals this season, with the former's averages for aerial duels won (2.6 to 3.8), interceptions (1.4 to 2.8) and clearances per game (8.8 to 9.5) all having improved from the 2012/13 campaign, earning the Portuguese a mark up in rating from 6.87 to 7.61.
Completing our top five is another Spurs player and our fourth from either of the north London sides, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman is the second-best shot-stopper in WhoScored.com's ratings thus far with his figure of 7.33 up from a fairly lowly 6.66 in his debut season at the club. No other regular first-choice keeper made fewer saves per game last season than Lloris (1.88) who, in contrast, has averaged 2.83 this season.
That increase comes despite having kept a joint high of four clean sheets so far this term and he's been beaten just twice, in tough matches against Arsenal and Chelsea respectively. Having made a total of 17 saves from just 19 shots on target faced this season, Lloris' save success rate of 89.5% unsurprisingly leads the way of all keepers in the league and Spurs' bid for a Champions League berth may well rely on their solidity at the back, ending with their dependable last line of defence.
Martin Laurence - follow him on Twitter here
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.
@chelseablue_no1 Oh and if beating Spurs was so easy I suppose your team smashed them. Let me refresh your memory. You lot drew against Man Utd who was there for the taking, lost to Everton, could only draw against Spurs. You did all this with a team full of brilliant playmakers playing the worst football in their careers. Arsenal have had with 6-9 injured players while winning everything put in front of them (bar AV). We dominated the Spurs game and would've won by much more if it wasn't for Lloris. Oh and we did it without the best #10 in the world.- tan