It hasn’t taken long for the Premier League to get back to its dramatic best after the World Cup break, with the weekend’s games providing plenty of twists, turns and talking points.
The English top flight returned in style over the Christmas period, and the round of New Year fixtures also failed to disappoint as we saw 23 goals fly in across 10 matches.
Arsenal got four of them in a significant win away at Brighton, which moved them seven points clear at the top of the table after Manchester City were held to a shock 1-1 draw against Everton.
Arsenal strengthened their grip on Premier League top spot by winning 4-2 away at Brighton
The Gunners opened up a seven-point lead after Man City were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton
It proved an unhappy New Year’s Day for Tottenham and Chelsea, as Antonio Conte’s men were first beaten 2-0 by Aston Villa before the Blues slumped to a 1-1 draw away at Nottingham Forest, while Newcastle’s winning run came to an end in a 0-0 stalemate with Leeds the day before.
After the latest matches, Sportsmail has produced its latest set of power rankings by picking out the best-performing Premier League stars – and there are several changes.
10. Eddie Nketiah – NEW ENTRY
When Gabriel Jesus suffered a serious knee injury at the World Cup, many questioned whether Arsenal would be able to maintain the relentless pace they’ve been setting in the Premier League title race without their star forward.
Nketiah has quickly banished those fears by stepping up in Jesus’ absence over the Christmas and New Year period.
He provided the finish to a sensational attacking move against West Ham last week, before continuing his fine goalscoring form by netting in the 4-2 win at Brighton on New Year’s Eve.
The 23-year-old was in the right place at the right time when Robert Sanchez failed to keep hold of Gabriel Martinelli’s shot, which allowed him to tap into the net from close distance and make it 3-0 on the night.
At the minute, Nketiah’s form means it’s no Jesus no problem for Arsenal.
Eddie Nketiah’s strong form is ensuring it’s no Gabriel Jesus no problem for Arsenal right now
9. Casemiro – NEW ENTRY
Marcus Rashford may be taking all the plaudits but Casemiro is proving the glue that holds everything together for Manchester United.
The Brazilian midfielder pulled the strings in their win over Nottingham Forest last week and did so again to help them see off Wolves on New Year’s Eve.
His efficient work off the ball, which saw him make the most tackles on the pitch at Molineux (4), provided a platform for the likes of Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen to go forward, while his own passing quality was also on show in the victory.
Ten Hag recently said about Casemiro: ‘In pre-season, we had a lot of discussions but you need the right player and we definitely have the right player. I am really happy for Manchester United, for this team to have him because he is really raising the limits for Manchester United.’
Casemiro justified Ten Hag’s faith once again as United held on for a hard-fought 1-0 win at Wolves and it’s fair to conclude the former Real Madrid man is at the top of his game right now.
Casemiro is proving to be the glue that holds everything together for Manchester United
8. Douglas Luiz – NEW ENTRY
Another Brazilian midfielder who impressed over the weekend, Luiz played a key part in Villa’s opening goal at Tottenham before later going on to double their lead.
It was the 24-year-old’s long-range effort which caused Hugo Lloris problems five minutes into the second half, with Ollie Watkins pouncing on the Spurs goalkeeper’s spilled effort and teeing up Emi Buendia to stroke home the opener.
And with 17 minutes remaining, he latched onto John McGinn’s inch-perfect pass and lofted the ball past Lloris from close range to seal a 2-0 victory.
It was a dominant performance from Luiz in north London, which inspired Unai Emery’s men to a commanding victory over a crestfallen Spurs.
Douglas Luiz played a key part in Aston Villa’s shock 2-0 win at Tottenham on New Year’s Day
7. Gabriel Martinelli – NEW ENTRY
Arsenal are flexing their muscles as the team to beat in the Premier League this season, which explains why Martinelli is one of four Gunners men in our power rankings this week.
After scoring in their 3-1 win over West Ham last week, the Brazilian was at his best once more as Mikel Arteta’s men brushed aside Brighton to move seven points clear at the top.
Bukayo Saka and Nketiah both found the back of the net by tapping home rebounds from one of his shots, before Martinelli got in on the act himself by latching onto Martin Odegaard’s outstanding pass and poking the ball past Robert Sanchez.
Martinelli was a constant threat on the left flank for Arsenal again and, at 21, the frightening part is he probably has several years to go before reaching his peak.
Gabriel Martinelli was a constant threat in Arsenal’s significant 4-2 victory away at Brighton
6. Demarai Gray – NEW ENTRY
Haaland and City’s New Year party was completely ruined by Gray, who rifled home a spectacular equaliser to earn Everton a surprise point at the Etihad.
The 26-year-old has struggled for form this season and only had one league goal before Saturday’s trip to Manchester, but that soon changed courtesy of the wonderstrike which stole the show against City.
After picking up the ball just past the halfway line, Gray burst into City’s area, cut back onto his right foot and unleashed a fierce effort into the top-right corner – which Arsenal fans may have celebrated just as much as the travelling Everton support.
It was a breathtaking effort which will surely make it onto the Goal of the Season shortlist, and Gray’s moment of magic earns him a place on our latest power rankings chart.
Demarai Gray produced a genuine Goal of the Season contender away at Manchester City
Gray’s terrific strike earned Everton a shock point away at the Premier League title challengers
5. Ivan Toney – NEW ENTRY
Toney has certainly picked up where he left off prior to the break, with the Brentford striker’s goal against West Ham his second in as many games after the restart.
Overall, however, it is four goals in as many games given he signed off before the World Cup with a superb brace away at Man City.
His latest strike came at West Ham, where he reacted quickly to a loose ball in the box and poked it into the back of the net from close range to give Thomas Frank’s side the lead.
It was a poacher’s finish from Toney, who now has 12 goals under his belt in just 16 Premier League outings this season, leaving him behind only Haaland and Harry Kane in the Golden Boot standings.
He also registered an assist later in the game, flicking the ball on for team-mate Josh Dasilva to race through and seal a solid 2-0 win for the Bees.
Ivan Toney has picked up where he left off after scoring his second goal in as many games
4. Bukayo Saka – UP TWO
Another Arsenal player in red-hot form, Saka needed just one minute and six seconds to open the scoring in Saturday’s latest victory at the Amex.
An early effort from Martinelli was deflected to the England winger at the back post and after taking a touch he coolly stuck the ball past Sanchez to make it 1-0.
It was another strong performance which demonstrated exactly why he has long been one of the first names on Mikel Arteta’s team sheet in north London.
Saka’s opener on the south coast means he now has six goals and as many assists to show for his 16 Premier League appearances this season.
Saka needed just one minute and six seconds to open the scoring in Arsenal’s latest victory
3. Erling Haaland – DOWN ONE
Man City’s goalscoring machine did find the back of the net once more against Everton, yet on the whole it proved a frustrating afternoon for him and his team-mates as they dropped two crucial points.
Haaland gave City liftoff after 24 minutes, sweeping home from Riyad Mahrez’s cross to bag his 21st Premier League goal of the season so far.
Nevertheless, the Norwegian powerhouse found opportunities few and far between for the rest of the game, with Everton’s Ben Godfrey doing well to contain him and even appearing to get under his skin at one stage.
By Haaland’s lofty standards this was a disappointing afternoon’s work, although his own performance was not to blame for City dropping points.
He therefore keeps his place in the power rankings after improving his freakish goal tally, but drops down to third this week.
Erling Haaland was on the scoresheet again but it was a tough outing for him against Everton
2. Marcus Rashford – UP THREE
Heading into their clash with Wolves, Rashford was United’s man of the moment after inspiring their 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest with another goal and assist.
At Molineux, though, the reborn forward went from hero, to zero, and back to hero as he came off the bench to net the only goal of the game against Wolves.
Erik ten Hag dropped his in-form star to the bench and claimed he had done so for internal disciplinary reasons – which Rashford later revealed was a punishment for oversleeping and missing a team meeting.
Rashford ensured his stock was high again by the time he left the West Midlands after making the difference from the bench.
His winner at Wolves continued his own hot streak, with four goal contributions coming in five games, and strengthened United’s grip on fourth place.
Marcus Rashford went from hero, to zero and back to hero in Man United’s win away at Wolves
1. Martin Odegaard – UP TWO
Arsenal’s midfield master is the most in-form player in the Premier League right now, which he proved once more in their New Year’s Eve triumph at Brighton.
The classy Norwegian boasted a return of five goal contributions in four games heading into that game, before adding another goal and assist to his collection in a dominant victory for Arteta’s men.
He first doubled their lead six minutes before half time, pouncing on the rebound from a corner and smashing the ball home from just inside the box.
After Brighton pulled a goal back, Odegaard then showcased his tremendous vision by slotting Martinelli through on goal with a mouthwatering pass from deep in his own half.
The 24-year-old has been the driving force behind Arsenal’s unlikely emergence as Premier League title favourites this season, and if he stays fit it would take a brave man to bet against him lifting the title come May.
Arsenal ace Martin Odegaard is the most in-form player in the Premier League right now