Manchester City took over second place in the Premier League with an emphatic 6-1 beating of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.
Sergio Aguero wrote a new Premier League record with his 12th hat trick, breaking Alan Shearer’s two-decade old record. He also became the all-time leader in goals for a foreign-born player. Aguero added an assist, because why not?
City’s 47 points are 14 back of leaders Liverpool, who have a match-in-hand.
Villa is in the Bottom Three with 21 points, its minus-15 goal differential second worst in the league.
Three things we learned
1. City piling up numbers as sensational Aguero sets standard: Sergio Aguero’s two goals gave him a new Premier League record. His 175 goals are the most scored by a non-English player in league history, and it’s fitting that it came off a David Silva assist. That helped is Silva’s 137th for the club.
Then he upped the ante, scoring his 12th Premier League hat trick. No one’s done that.
2. History-chasing De Bruyne puts on show: Kevin De Bruyne’s .636 assists per league match this season have him well on his way to breaking Thierry Henry’s PL single season assist record. KDB has 14, meaning at current pace he’ll tie or break the record even if he misses four matches.
3. Nightmare debut for Drinkwater: Danny Drinkwater has a new claret shirt after his loan to Burnley changed to a loan to Aston Villa, but the Chelsea man is still in relegation form. Drinkwater was worked by Mahrez for City’s first goal and then played with lower league speed in failing to clear danger on the second. Honestly, the embattled midfielder could’ve been at fault for a third before the match was 25 minutes old.
20+ – Riyad Mahrez has 21 goals and 22 assists in all club competitions since the start of last season – he is the only Premier League player have scored both scored and assisted over 20 goals over this period. Visionary. pic.twitter.com/1IMmQBUoHD
City was ready to pounce on any mistakes from Moment No. 1, and Mahrez didn’t need much room to make it 1-0.
The Algerian danced past Danny Drinkwater and then used Kortney Hause as a screen to fire a low shot inside the near post.
Mahrez got his second after some real industry from Aguero on the left. The Argentine pushed a ball off the end line and back into the mixer. Both David Silva and Gabriel Jesus got a piece of the ball en route to Mahrez’s finish.
Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater, desperate for playing time, has joined Aston Villa on loan for the remainder of the season.
The former Leicester City title winner joined Chelsea in the summer of 2017 but has made just five Premier League starts for the Blues.
Drinkwater had joined Burnley on loan this past summer but made just two appearances for the Clarets across all competitions, with the team conceding five goals to Man City and Sunderland while he was on the field. He also struggled through a two month injury spell after hurting his ankle in a nightclub fight.
“Danny was a key member of Leicester City’s title winning team and has represented England so he is a vastly experienced player,” said Aston Villa manager Dean Smith in the official team release. “He will strengthen our squad significantly.”
We break that down below and assess the top transfer needs for each PL club between now and when the window shuts on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. ET.
Arsenal Center back, central midfielder: Linked to Jerome Boateng already, the Gunners are on the hunt for a new central defender after Calum Chambers ruptured his ACL. Any international caliber defenders Mikel Arteta can get his hands on will surely be snapped up. If Granit Xhaka leaves they could also add another central midfielders. Possibility they will add players: 90 percent
Aston Villa Goalkeeper, striker, center back: They may well be the busiest team in January, just like in the summer, as two huge injuries to Tom Heaton and Wesley have hit Villa hard.Dean Smith would have been looking to add defensive reinforcements anyway and Villa will need to do well, probably in the loan market, to cope with their lengthy injury list and stay up. They’ve added Danny Drinkwater on loan and that is a good start with John McGinn also out injured. Possibility they will add players: 100 percent
Bournemouth Central defender, striker: With so many injuries, Eddie Howe‘s hand may be forced into buying new defenders. It will also be a necessity as Bournemouth are in the bottom three and struggling to score goals. Nathan Ake could depart which would be another massive blow. All in all, Bournemouth probably need a few new faces to give them a little more squad depth as they battle against the drop. Ryan Fraser‘s contract runs out in the summer, so maybe Bournemouth will cash in?
Possibility they will add players: 70 percent
Brighton and Hove Albion Striker: The Seagulls probably don’t need to buy in January. They’ve been really good so far this season, with Trossard and Maupay making a big difference since their summer arrival. Aaron Connolly has been like a new signing after his emergence from the academy, but maybe they will try to bring in an experienced forward as they don’t score enough goals given the chances they create.
Possibility they will add players: 20 percent
Burnley Central midfielder: Having let Danny Drinkwater go back to Chelsea after his loan spell ended, you have to think Sean Dyche has something else lined up for Burnley’s midfield. Defensively they’ve been fine and going forward Wood, Barnes and Rodriguez have enough goals in them, but in midfield they’ve struggled to control games this season.
Possibility they will add players: 30 percent
Chelsea Center back, striker, winger: It is safe to say Chelsea will be busy as they aim to keep their top four hopes going and recover from a summer transfer ban as all of that money is burning a hole in Frank Lamprd’s pocket. They’ve been linked with so many players but their biggest need is in defense as Ake could return. Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and WilfriedZaha all seem more likely to arrive in the summer, but with Pedro on his way out and Willian not signing a new deal, maybe now is the right time for Zaha to arrive? Possibility they will add players: 90 percent
Crystal Palace Striker, winger, defenders: Basically, Palace need to add an extra player in each area of the pitch. Roy Hodgson has already said that and he hopes the owners back him. It all depends on whether Zaha is allowed to leave in January as to how busy the Eagles are. Adding one more striker to help Ayew manage the load seems the biggest need, as some of their defensive injuries will start to clear up. Could Batshuayi head back to Palace on loan? The Eagles always seem keen to add players later in the month and hang on for a good deal. They can afford to do that again as they are well clear of the drop zone, for now.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent
Everton Central midfield, full back: A bit of extra cover in midfield and wide area will be key for Carlo Ancelotti and previously getting a central striker in would have been their biggest need. But with Dominic Calvert-Lewin doing the business, there’s no need for that right now. Adding Rabiot in midfield would be great business.
Possibility they will add players: 50 percent
Leicester City None: Another forward option in case Vardy is fatigued would be smart but Perez and Iheanacho have stepped up superbly recently. No need for the Foxes to buy.
Possibility they will add players: 5 percent
Liverpool Winger: And they’ve already done their business. Takumi Minamino has arrived from RB Salzburg in a bargain deal and that should be Liverpool wrapped up for the window. If they suffer any more defensive injuries then Jurgen Klopp could jump into the market but they seem all set. Possibility they will add (more) players: 5 percent
Manchester City Center back: Their biggest need for about 12 months and City haven’t done anything about it. Seems crazy given their status as one of the richest teams on the planet. Nathan Ake would be a good buy, so too would Caglar Soyuncu or Jonny Evans but all three would be tough deals to do in January. Pep is unlikely to do business in the January window unless a wonderful deal presents itself. Possibility they will add players: 25 percent
Manchester United Central midfield: As injuries pile up in central midfield Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that is where he is looking. Gedson Fernandes has been linked and United need an attacking playmaker who can control the tempo of the game better. That has been their biggest need all season, especially with Pogba’s injury problems. With Harry Maguire now out injured too, maybe some extra cover in defense is needed. Possibility they will add players: 50 percent
Norwich City Defenders, striker: Someone to help out Pukki would be great and so too would some upgrades at center back but Norwich are already in that situation where they may save their money instead of spending big, as they know relegation is likely. Sad but true as they could make a lot of money on Pukki, Buendia, Aarons and Cantwell in the summer. Norwich have been like with a loan move for Hertha Berlin’s attacker Duda.
Possibility they will add players: 20 percent
Sheffield United None: They added Jack Rodwell as a free agent to provide some depth but apart from that they look set. They have options in every position and Chris Wilder has rotated the squad well this season.
Possibility they will add (more) players: 5 percent
Full backs: Ralph Hasenhuttl has already said he wants to sign some new full backs. Cedric is out of contract this summer and Ryan Bertrand has been linked with a move away. Expect some young full backs to arrive who will ease themselves in and be starters next season. Kyle Walker-Peters and Joakim Maehle have been mentioned as potential new right backs, the former on loan. Possibility they will add players: 60 percent.
Tottenham Hotspur Defenders, striker: Harry Kane’s injury may force them into buying a new striker. Vertonghen may leave, while Aurier continues to be a problem at right back. Jose Mourinho is not happy with their defensive displays and Spurs need to add quality rather than quality in defense. Daniel Levy must loosen the purse strings if Spurs are to keep their top four hopes alive. Christian Eriksen could leave before his contract runs out, so maybe Spurs will look to sell him and bring in a new playmaker. Plenty of work to be done. Piatek could arrive to help with Kane’s absence. Possibility they will add players: 70 percent.
Watford Striker: Honestly, they are pretty set. Another striker to push Deeney and Gray hard would be nice but Nigel Pearson has inherited a decent squad and now has them well organized and hungry. The Hornets don’t need to spend despite being in a relegation scrap. They always seem to buy a young players from somewhere, or at least loan someone from the Pozzo owned clubs.
Possibility they will add players: 20 percent
West Ham United Midfield, defenders: David Moyes has been linked with Gedson Fernandes and West Ham need a little something extra in midfield with Rice and Noble keeping things tight. That said, defensive improvements would be nice but Moyes has a lot of expensive new-ish signings to work with. West Ham will not want to spend much. Possibility they will add players: 50 percent
Wolverhampton Wanderers Defenders, striker: Raul Jimenez needs some help and Patrick Cutrone has done okay but hasn’t set the world alight. Getting in some decent young players should be the aim as Wolves’ relatively small squad has to cope with Europa League, FA Cup and the Premier League. If they get this right in January they could finish in the top four. Possibility they will add players: 60 percent
Leicester City sits second place in the Premier League table in mid-November, eight points back of a historic Liverpool position.
Since winning the title, Leicester City has finished 12th, 9th, and 9th and suddenly are challenging for a Champions League place yet again. The simple fact that the Foxes have managed to sustain considerable top-flight success over the course of the last six seasons might be even more impressive than their lightning-in-a-bottle title run.
While there are a few holdovers from the title-winning campaign, like goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and striker Jamie Vardy who stand out among the crowd, there has understandably been considerable turnover from that title team. Midfielders N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater were sold for significant sums of money, as was winger Riyad Mahrez. Both members of the center-back partnership Wes Morgan and Robert Huth put together are 35 years old (Morgan is still with the club but has logged just 28 Premier League minutes thus far).
So, naturally, we thought it fitting to compare the two sides. In another universe where Liverpool doesn’t dominate the Premier League landscape in record-breaking fashion, could this current Leicester challenge for a title? The only way to find out is to pit them against the squad that did. Here we go.
GOALKEEPER – Kasper Schmeichel (15/16) vs. Kasper Schmeichel (19/20)
Now 33 years old, Kasper Schmeichel has become one of the faces of Leicester City. Fans adore his leadership and calming presence, and respect his dedication to the club. But how does he stack up now against the likes of his younger self? With five clean sheets in 12 appearances under Brendan Rodgers this season, Schmeichel is up to his old tricks. Among qualifying goalkeepers, Schmeichel ranks second in the league in overall score according to SofaScore’s rating system, and has has managed to do so without facing a ton of shots – Leicester City has conceded the fourth-fewest xGA according to UnderStat.com.
So how does that stack up to the legendary title-winning season of 2015/16? That year, Schmeichel recorded 15 clean sheets in 38 league appearances, one behind Petr Cech‘s 16 for the league lead. He had the fourth-highest saves per goal conceded total in the league at 2.8, behind just Cech and a pair of goalkeepers with higher volume in Vito Mannone and Fraser Forster.
VERDICT: DRAW – Schmeichel is up to his old tricks, and has kept his level of play high through the years. Leicester City still has a rock between the sticks.
Wes Morgan and Robert Huth built an unlikely center-back partnership at Leicester City. A former Chelsea youth product, Huth was on his fourth club after spending six years at Stoke City toiling in the middle of the Premier League table. Morgan, meanwhile, had been a career Championship player, with the previous campaign his first in the top flight. Together, they logged a massive 6,570 Premier League minutes en route to a defensive performance that saw them concede just 36 goals in 38 games, one off the league’s stingiest defensive output. By April, the two led the top-four defenders in blocks, and both appeared in the WhoScored’s top 15 for center-back ratings at season’s end.
Today, an equally unlikely circumstance has led Leicester City to the league’s best defense. 23-year-old Caglar Soyuncu has developed into one of the best young center-back prospects in the league next to experienced former Manchester United defender Jonny Evans. Thanks to that pair, Leicester City is one of just two teams to have conceded a single-digit goal total through 12 matches alongside Sheffield United. Soyuncu ranks 3rd in WhoScored rating among CB’s with at least 7 appearances, while Evans is 11th, and the former is a beast in the air and pressures with accuracy. Also, he can dribble?
We were done, but this one was too weird not to do.
VERDICT: SOYUNCU/EVANS – While Wes Morgan and Robert Huth will live in club lore, the longevity potential for Soyuncu/Evans and their underlying statistics prove they are far more than a one-hit-wonder and can be a massive asset for this club moving forward.
One of the more under-heralded fan favorites of the 2015/16 title team, Christian Fuchs is another that will live on in club lore. He was energetic and a lively presence in the dressing room. Along with his full-back partner Danny Simpson, both players were seemingly on the decline before coming to Leicester – Fuchs had made 16 and 25 league appearances in his final two season at Schalke before being shipped out, while Simpson had lost his starting place at Newcastle two years prior and spent a season in the Championship with QPR before Leicester City gave him another shot at the Premier League. Somehow, things clicked under Claudio Ranieri and the two took off, providing both defensive cover and overlapping contributions moving forward.
With Fuchs a bit-part player and Simpson off at Huddersfield Town, they have been replaced by two of the best full-backs in the Premier League. Ricardo Pereira was the second-best right-back in the league behind Trent Alexander-Arnold last season according to WhoScored, while Ben Chilwell has earned a regular spot on the England national team.
VERDICT: Pereira/Chilwell – Fuchs is an absolute fan-favorite and Simpson’s revival was stunning to behold, but like the current center-back pairing Pereira and Chilwell have the longevity to serve the club for years or become valuable assets, and the two have already earned personal accolades the previous duo would not have achieved.
DEFENSIVE MID – N’Golo Kante (15/16) vs. Wilfred Ndidi (19/20)
This is one of the most fascinating player comparisons in recent soccer memory. N’Golo Kante’s rise to become one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, earning PFA Player of the Year in 2016/17 and finishing 8th on the Ballon d’Or list for 2017. Kante was the most important player on the title-winning squad – quite simply, Leicester City doesn’t win the title without Kante leading the league in tackles per 90 (4.7) and interceptions per 90 (4.2). His ability to halt opponent counters in their tracks was mind-numbing.
And yet, Leicester City’s only gone and produced his clone.
Wilfred Ndidi leads the league in interceptions per 90 minutes and is second in tackles behind tackle machine Aaron Wan-Bissaka. At just 23 years old, the Foxes are staring another N’Golo Kante in the face, a player who many believed – rightly so – was a once-in-a-generation type midfield product.
VERDICT: N’Golo Kante – while Ndidi is a massively promising player who is producing another season like Kante’s in 15/16, it will be hard to top one of the most legendary performances of the past decade, one backed up by Kante’s rise to stardom over the past few years.
CENTER MID – Danny Drinkwater (15/16) vs. Youri Tielemans (19/20)
Danny Drinkwater has flopped since his move to Chelsea, but don’t let that cloud your memory of his performance as N’Golo Kante’s midfield partner. Drinkwater was massively important to Leicester City during the title run, scoring two goals in 35 league appearances and assisting seven more, providing a dynamic presence in midfield to both calmly hold possession and provide dangerous moves forward. Still, admittedly being next to Kante made Drinkwater look better, and that proved true through the rest of his career.
Tielemans, on the other hand, is putting up numbers of his own that prove he’s his own player outside of any lift he gets from being slotted next to Ndidi and James Maddison. His passing percentage is way up from his days at Anderlecht and Monaco, and while he still struggles with turning the ball over on occasion, his heavy volume (55 passes per 90, 13th among non-defenders) and key passes (1.8 per 90, 17th in the league) suggest Tielemans has settled into an important role with the club.
VERDICT: Tielemans – While Danny Drinkwater was important to Leicester City’s run, his peripherals suggested Chelsea probably should have been more careful with its money. Tielemans has made significant strides since his disastrous time at Monaco and has become an important cog in midfield.
ATTACKING MID/WINGER – Riyad Mahrez/Marc Albrighton vs. James Maddison/Ayoze Perez (19/20)
Riyad Mahrez’s road to becoming Leicester City’s record sale was at times a bumpy tale, but there were no higher highs than he had in the 2015/16 title run. The Algerian international became a Premier League sensation with his 17 goals and 10 assists, doing it all for the Leicester City attack. He produced an xG of 11.88 for himself, with a silly goal conversion rate on top of that. In addition, he set his teammates up for a nearly equal 11.45 xA total, picking up 20 big chances created and dribbling successfully at a rate of 3.5 per 90 minutes. By contrast, Mahrez’s wing partner Marc Albrighton is a mostly forgettable player for casual fans, but he was massively important in other ways. Playing in every single Premier League match that season, Albrighton helped keep the shape and offered a more rigid foil to Mahrez’s marauding, with Fuchs overlapping on the left.
This season, James Maddison is the standout attacking player for the Foxes, with the 22-year-old developing into a key contributor up front. The youngster is eighth in the league in key passes per 90 minutes, and he himself is ripping off over three shots a game, with four league goals already to his name. Still, Maddison could be creating more – with 23 shot assists on the season so far, only two have qualified as “big chances” according to SofaScore. Ayoze Perez has not quite brought the explosiveness we saw in his Newcastle days over to the King Power Stadium, but his three-goal haul is also proving important early on.
VERDICT: Mahrez/Albrighton – while this duo was sorely one-sided, the season Riyad Mahrez had for Leicester City that title-winning campaign was an attacking display for the ages. Maddison is an extremely solid future asset contributing at a high level for such a young age, but he still has distance to cover to reach the heights of Mahrez that fateful year, who finished as the highest rated player in the entire league according to WhoScored.com.
STRIKER – Jamie Vardy (15/16) vs. Jamie Vardy (19/20)
Alongside Schmeichel, Jamie Vardy is the face of Leicester City. His out-of-nothing story makes him special to Leicester City fans, and his goalscoring prowess has been critical to the club ever since they were promoted to the Premier League. Vardy has made a career of scoring out of nothing – his top-flight career has seen him score 91 goals, a massive +11.5 differential over his 79.5 career xG.
Yet, a closer look provides a fascinating underscore of the evolution of the 32-year-old’s career. This season, in just 12 matches, Vardy has bagged 11 goals on an xG of just 5.19, meaning nearly 6 of that +11 career differential has come just this campaign. The Foxes striker is taking just two shots per 90 minutes, and yet has scored on nearly half of them – absolutely astronomical conversion numbers that are surely unsustainable, even if Vardy’s career has been built on exceptional finishing.
While those numbers are surely inflated by the relatively small sample size of 12 matches this year, they aren’t all that different from the title-winning season. That campaign, Vardy took 115 shots – 3.28 per game – and scored on 24 of them, and his 0.19 xG per shot is quite close to the 0.21 he is putting up this season. Most interesting, he scored 18 of those 24 goals with his right foot, a variance which has evened out this season as Vardy becomes more competent with his off side – four goals with his right, four with his left, and two with his head.
VERDICT: 15/16 Vardy – This season’s Jamie Vardy just isn’t shooting at the volume you’d expect from a striker of his finishing caliber, and he needs to find a higher volume if he wants to keep up the ridiculous goal conversion rate that will surely regress towards the mean.
It is impossible to discuss the epic season Leicester City had in 2015/16 without talking about Leonard Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki, who combined came off the bench 30 times in league play and were often called upon to rescue points. Andy King became a club icon as a Leicester City youth product who fans took a liking to, brought off the bench 16 times himself to close a game down.
Brendan Rodgers has Demari Gray and Harvey Barnes at his disposal to inject life into a game, while Hamza Choudhury is a talented young player who has shown flashes of being able to do the job himself should anything happen to Ndidi. Still, Grey – who was a member of that title-winning squad – has not become the star many thought he would a few years ago and Barnes is still showing his age at 21 years old. The group has yet to become true super-subs and Rodgers has been somewhat forced to run with his main group – five players have played every minute of this Premier League campaign so far (Schmeichel, Soyuncu, Evans, Vardy, Pereira) while another (Tielemans) is has seen just seven minutes of rest.
VERDICT: 2015/16 – It felt like every time Ranieri called upon the cavalry, they would deliver in the given situation. Gray has yet to develop into the player many believed he would years ago, and Barnes is still a raw product.