All the domestic leagues and the UEFA Champions League have returned! Let’s go over the top performers with this week fresh in our minds.
Note: As usual, this week’s UEFA Europa League performances will be factored into next week due to time constraints.
10. André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (New)
André-Frank Zambo Anguissa has been Napoli’s lynchpin in midfield, holding the centre down while Piotr Zielinski operates between the lines, but his late runs have resulted in him getting on the scoresheet pretty consistently.
Anguissa exploded into the game against Torino at the weekend, timing a run past the defense to perfection just six minutes into the game and meeting a Mário Rui cross beautifully with his head. Another six minutes later and not even fifteen minutes into the game, Anguissa made a run past the out of position Valentino Lazaro and Ricardo Rodríguez on the left side of defense and received the ball over the top from Matteo Politano, running down the wing with the ball and forcing a two versus one in the box, a situation which Anguissa played to perfection by forcing defender Koffi Djidji to be stuck halfway between Anguissa and Giacomo Raspadori in the middle, giving Anguissa the space to shoot and double his tally for the day.
Napoli demolished Ajax in the Champions League 6-1 at the Johan Cruijff Arena, cementing themselves as the best team in their group, and once again Anguissa was a stand-out performer, setting up the third goal intercepting a loose ball and playing a quick one-two with Giacomo Raspadori before playing Piotr Zielinski in on goal through the middle. He assisted another goal just after half-time, racing to recover a slightly under-powered pass from Remko Pasveer, beating Calvin Bassey with a beautiful piece of skill and playing it across the face of the defense to Giacomo Raspadori who shot it first time and curled it into the bottom corner. Anguissa has been a monster in the middle of the pitch and has added goals and assists to his play as of late which has added yet another dimension to the already unpredictable Napoli attack.
9. Neymar Jr. (Last week: 6)
Guys, we jinxed it, and I don’t know how to feel about it. Neymar Jr. has lost his god-like form.
Neymar failed to score or assist as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 2-1 victory against Nice at the weekend, failing to even get a shot on target or play a teammate into a dangerous area. His only real redeeming factor was his tracking back and pressing, winning the ball back multiple times. In the Champions League, Benfica and PSG halted to a 1-1 draw, with PSG failing to create anything major the whole game. In the 22nd minute, ‘MNM’ combined beautifully again. Lionel Messi drove infield and played it to Kylian Mbappé, who pivoted and played it to Neymar, who in turn cut it back to Messi — who had never stopped his trajectory. Messi shot from the edge of the box first time and the ball curved beautifully into the side netting, bagging Neymar an assist. However, nothing else would come from the attack — though it must be noted that Neymar came painfully close to scoring a worldie when he attempted a bicycle kick from a rebound, only to see the ball cannon off the crossbar.
Can Neymar recover in time for Brazil to lay their hopes on him for the World Cup in Qatar? It doesn’t seem likely.
8. Jamal Musiala (Last appearance: September 15th)
Jamal Musiala returns to the power rankings after two stellar performances this week.
Against Bayer Leverkusen, Musiala put on a masterclass, playing a lovely pin-point driven cross to Leroy Sané just two and a half minutes in who smashed it in with his right foot. Musiala then managed to head down a long ball from Dayot Upamecano to Thomas Müller, and the two Germans combined when Müller returned the ball to Musiala who had run past Edmond Tapsoba, and Musiala volleyed it first time past Lukás Hrádecky in goal, who admittedly should have saved it, but it was a sweet strike nonetheless. Musiala got a second assist with a great pass across the face of the defense to Sadio Mané, who released a wonderful shot on his weaker left foot into the bottom corner, a slight deflection forbidding. Musiala nearly bagged himself a third assist when he got the ball at the edge of the box and dribbled past no less than FIVE Bayer Leverkusen players (!!!!!) and laid it off for Mané, who scored, but the goal was disallowed for a prior foul.
In the Champions League against Viktoria Plzeň, Musiala was given only 45 minutes but he made the most of them, playing a great one-two with Sané who then scored a worldie from 25 yards out. Musiala also very nearly got his name on the scoresheet from a wonderfully worked team move, but the goal was called back for... you guessed it, Sadio Mané being offside. Sigh.
Musiala is on a tear right now and it seems the only thing holding him back from having Messi-like figures is Sadio Mané’s positioning.
7. Kim Min-Jae (Last week: 7)
Kim Min-Jae put in another set of great performances further solidifying his position in my mind as the best centre back in the world.
Kim put in a masterclass against Torino, and could not be blamed for the goal as he charged the shot down with everything but Alex Meret failed to hold it after getting his gloves on it. His ability to vocally lead the backline and general his full backs both off and on the ball was key to Napoli’s play on the wings. The ability to read the game not just for yourself but be able to tell other players when they should hold back and push effectively is a vital skill that Kim has mastered.
He may have failed to keep a clean sheet against Ajax but after the first Mohammed Kudus goal, Ajax barely created anything through the middle and it was down to Kim’s amazing performance alongside centre back partner Amir Rrahmani. With Stanislav Lobotka exploring more advanced spaces, the task of ball progression from deep fell to Kim Min-Jae and he took it upon his shoulders wonderfully, having the perfect range of passes and knowing exactly when to use his full backs and when to look to play through the middle.
Kim looks like a true leader and tempo-setter; you could honestly stick him in as a defensive midfielder and he’d do just fine, but no sane manager would want a player with his kind of defensive technique to be anywhere but at the back.
6. Leroy Sané (Last appearance: two weeks ago)
Leroy Sané is a dream of a footballer.
Against Leverkusen, he opened the scoring with a wonderfully connected shot on his weaker foot in the box from a Musiala cross. Sané did not assist or score again that night but he was perennially dangerous, changing the very texture of the game every time he got the ball with his one-twos and pace.
Against Plzeň, Sané scored the opening goal, a one-two with Musiala before he drove into the middle and flew past three defenders while doing so, and shot from well outside the box. It lacked the usual venom of a Sané long shot but had the placement and movement to land itself right in the net. Not content with just one mind-blowing goal, Sané ran between the centre backs and was found with a peach of a ball over the top from Sadio Mané. The touch with which Sané took it down was so beautiful that I could write heroic medieval tales about it and request artistic depictions for years to come... oh, and he scored after that too. Great finish into the bottom corner.
Sané looks to be playing chess while the other twenty players on the pitch are playing checkers. He has ascended to a higher plane of being.
5. Lionel Messi (Last week: 5)
Lionel Messi put in another pair of stellar performances for PSG, controlling the right half-space throughout the 90 in both games he played over the week, but other players also put in similarly stellar performances.
Against Nice at the weekend, Messi came painfully close to opening the scoring with a free kick from 25 yards out. Not to be finished there, he would get a second attempt from a free kick a few minutes later, this time from about 20 yards out. Messi would take the free kick fantastically, nailing it so far in the top corner Kasper Schmeichel didn’t even bother diving to attempt to reach it. Later in the week against Benfica, Messi would score the aforementioned curling goal from a Neymar pass, but PSG’s attack would fail to really create anything else on the night. Messi was great, beating his men consistently on the dribble and playing his teammates in multiple times, but he had no real help.
The only thing really holding Messi back from an upgrade is the fact that he isn’t getting the kind of returns his quality and style of play would indicate he should be hitting.
4. Sergej Milinković-Savić (Last week: 4)
Lazio are in top form right now and Sergej Milinković-Savić continues to prove why he is one of the best in the world while being at the heart of Lazio’s play, returning to his more advanced role after being forced into a midfield enforcer role for Serbia due to the lack of a defensive-minded midfielder.
Honourable mentions must go to Felipe Anderson, Ivan Provedel and especially Mattia Zaccagni. Zaccagni has been simply brilliant throughout the season, including scoring an unreal goal at the weekend against Spezia, where he scraped past three players in the build-up and then ran to get on the end of the move. Milinković-Savić hit the bar with a floating header in the first half, coming painfully close as he had Bartłomiej Dragowski beat. However, he still got his goal in the second half. Luis Alberto played a piercing through-ball to Ciro Immobile, who beat the rushing Dragowski, who cut it back to Mattia Zaccagni, who squared the ball to Milinković-Savić...who found the net. Milinković-Savić doubled his tally for the day with a fantastic chipped effort from the right side. He had been played in on goal by Elseid Hysaj, timing his run to perfection in conjunction with centre back Dimitrios Nikolaou’s breaking of the defensive line to rush down Hysaj.
What a player Sergej Milinković-Savić has become. No matter the role given to him, he has shown up with world class performances.
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Last week: 3)
Kevin De Bruyne did not play in the Champions League game against FC Copenhagen but did play in the Manchester derby.
It was a corner from De Bruyne at the stroke of the half hour mark that Erling Haaland got on the end of with his head, and after a few seconds as goal line technology confirmed the goal, the team broke away celebrating the second goal of the game for Manchester City. The second Haaland goal of the day was once again a De Bruyne assist. This one was gorgeous to watch — a beautiful curled through-ball that split the centre backs and found a sliding Haaland who managed to slip it in. De Bruyne was key to the fourth and fifth City goals too, playing the assister in behind the defensive line.
A massive performance in a massive game. Kevin De Bruyne is that guy.
2. Robert Lewandowski (Last week: 1)
Robert Lewandowski scores goals.
Lewandowski scored the only goal of the game against RCD Mallorca in the league this weekend, a fantastic goal where Lewandowski picked up the ball out wide on the left, drove towards the byline before turning back, cutting in and letting fly with a wonderful shot that curled and nestled itself into the bottom right corner. Against Internazionale in the Champions League, Lewandowski had his first-ever ‘ghost game’ for Barcelona, something he has become notorious for. He was unable to string the attack together, failing to create chances for himself or for others. He would drop deep in a desperate bid to get on the ball more, but without any players making runs into the space behind him it was ineffective. All it really did was create a gap in front of Inter’s three man defense, further freeing them to mark the wingers.
Xavi’s Barcelona have fumbled for the first time since the season properly started, and Lewandowski has fumbled along with them.
1. Erling Haaland (Last week: 2)
Erling Braut Haaland scores goals.
The Manchester derby beckoned Haaland, and Haaland walked to the challenge with open arms, scoring a hat-trick. The first two were the aforementioned goals set up by Kevin De Bruyne, while the third was a beautifully taken first time volley from a low and driven Sergio Gómez cross. Haaland also netted himself two assists, both to Phil Foden. The first was a great ball across the face of goal past the defensive line to which Foden arrived first, beating Tyrell Malacia and David de Gea. The second was a through-ball between three defenders that was perfectly timed, causing United’s entire midfield to freeze in appeals of offside to no avail. Thus completed Foden’s hat-trick.
Against Copenhagen in the Champions League, Haaland showed his tactical versatility with a seamless transition into a two-man striker partnership with Julián Álvarez. He opened the scoring in the seventh minute when a cross from João Cancelo deflected and fell loose in the box in front of the defensive line; it fell to Haaland and he slammed it in with his right. Haaland got his second when a (gorgeous) volley from 30 yards out was saved by Kamil Grabara but the keeper failed to hold onto it. The ball fell kindly to the Norwegian goal machine who wasted no time flicking it in for his 19th goal of the season for City. If you count international competitions, Haaland has already crossed twenty for the season, and I should remind you that October has just begun.
Foden and Haaland have combined beautifully so far this season, and are only making each other better. City look like the best team in the world and honestly the only team I would trust to take them to a draw or a loss right now would be a fully fit Bayern Munich — and that’s only because Haaland just never got the better of Lucas Hernández, no matter how much he tried over the years.
What do you think of our rankings this week? Will Erling Haaland break the Premier League goal-scoring record set by Mohamed Salah? (Of course he will) Let us know in the forum below.