There’s no denying that a number of teams rely heavily on one player to help drag them to victory, or to rescue them from the clutches of defeat. 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 take a 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 of 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, with the reward a replay and another fixture in an already busy schedule. Claude Puel’s side lack the attacking nous of last season – only Middlesbrough and Hull (both 17) have scored fewer Premier League goals (19) this season. Charlie Austin‘s absence is perhaps one of the reasons behind such profligacy. The injured Englishman has six league goals to his name this term, and has gained a WhoScored.com rating of 7.07, the second highest of all Saints players.
That return is 0.38 behind the club’s top-rated player, however. And you’ll never guess who that is. The imposing Virgil van Dijk boasts a rating of 7.45, which is enough to feature in the Premier League team of the season so far. Interest in the 25-year-old remains high, even if executive director Les Reed recently insisted that “Virgil is not for sale”.
Roma – 0.40
A former Premier League pair have formed an effective partnership in Rome. It’s evident that Mohamed Salah wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip during his time with Chelsea, though Roma are the happy beneficiaries of the Blues’ decision to cash in on the winger. Salah hasn’t struggled for form in Italy, with eight goals and four assists contributing to a WhoScored.com rating of 7.47 in Serie A this season.
The 24-year-old has been excellent, but is not even the best performer in Luciano Spalletti’s side. They 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). The Salah-to-Dzeko assist-to-goalscorer combination has returned a joint-league high of three goals this campaign.
Bayern Munich – 0.47
Bayern entered the Winterpause atop of the Bundesliga, having dispatched unexpected title rivals RB Leipzig 3-0 at the end of 2016. They go in hunt of their fifth successive German title, but Carlo Ancelotti’s reign at the Allianz Arena didn’t start out as planned, the club labouring at the start of his campaign. Now three points clear at the summit, Ancelotti must be counting his blessings that he is able to call on a fully fit Thiago Alcantara in midfield. The 25-year-old’s WhoScored.com rating is a superb 8.06 this season, the third highest in Europe’s top five leagues.
The joint-best rate of interceptions per league match – 4.4 – has contributed to Thiago’s fine form and it’s understandable that his teammates are perhaps struggling to match his excellence. Arjen Robben (7.59), with three goals and five assists to his name, is Bayern’s second highest rated player this term.
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 earlier this month. The Gunners fought back from 3-0 down to salvage a point in the final minute, yet the Chilean made no attempt to hide his vexation with teammates who celebrated a late equaliser instead of seeking a winner.
The 28-year-old has been comfortably 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. Sanchez has been directly involved in more goals (20 – 13 goals, 7 assists) than any other Premier League player this term. He’s been pretty damn good.
Laurent Koscielny (7.38) lingers a whopping 0.51 behind Sanchez as Arsenal’s top-rated players, the second biggest gap between the highest and next highest rating of two teammates in Europe’s top five leagues.
Lazio – 0.53 difference
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. Only Jose Callejon (8) has registered more assists than Felipe Anderson (7) in the Serie A this term. 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 the fourth-placed side. 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.