The final chapter of 2018 has seen a frenetic rush of festive fixtures come to an end, delivering high-octane entertainment at both the top and bottom of the Premier League. But as we plough into the second half of the season, Maryam Naz predicts which five players could get a mention in the build-up to the final Player of the Month award of the year.
1) Felipe Anderson
Leading the charge is one of the most in-form players in the Premier League: Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian netted twice for the Hammers to secure his side three points in Thursday’s victory over the Saints, adding to his tally of eight goals for the season. Going forward, the 25-year-old has seamlessly linked up with both Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez, clinching two vital assists in the process. But aside from his adept goal-scoring abilities, Anderson has impressed this month with his set-piece execution and defensive contribution – both crucial skills to West Ham’s bid to claim a Europa League spot.
2) Xherdan Shaqiri
The Swiss international is taking the league by storm with six goals and two assists in his opening 14 games. While each and every goal has displayed the 27-year-old’s skill with the ball at his feet, Shaqiri’s majestic brace against rivals Manchester United exposed his forte for clinical finishing. Against the Red Devils, the ‘Alpine Messi’ proved that his crossing abilities and positional play can be just as accurate on the right-hand side of the pitch. He’ll need to channel this similar attacking flair going forward into the New Year.
3) Son Heung-min
Tottenham’s attacking resurgence has been down to the combined efforts of many players, but Son Heung-min has played the biggest role in turning this Spurs attack into a more cohesive and clinical offensive unit. While the South Korean international has seven goals to his name, his three assists and general goal-scoring involvements have made him a crucial playmaker to the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli. Given that Mauricio Pochettino’s men are now second in the table, Spurs will need Son if they are to be considered genuine title contenders.
4) Virgil Van Dijk
The Dutchman may have been unwell in the last few weeks, but his performances have been anything but under the weather. Despite nursing a cold, Van Dijk has produced two man-of-the-match performances in consecutive weeks against Wolves and Newcastle; this involved two clean sheets, 100% of aerial duels won and his first Premier League goal in a Reds shirt. Given his stellar form across this month and the season, the 27-year-old is currently trading as one of the best centre-backs in the world.
5) Lucas Torreira
The 22-year-old’s bicycle-kick against Huddersfield might be the most memorable thing about his December contribution, but Lucas Torreira’s defensive input has been his standout quality. The Uruguayan has averaged over two tackles per game, breaking up opposition play and intercepting pin-point through balls that would have otherwise led to goal scoring chances. Considering that the Gunners play the Premier League leaders – Liverpool – in their final game of the year, they will need him to be operating at peak efficiency if they are to shatter the Reds unbeaten run.
Follow Maryam on Twitter @MNaz98