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Star turns: Seven Premier League players that shone bright this weekend

Each week we pick out some of the Premier League’s leading performers from the weekend’s action, the latest round of fixtures headlined by Arsenal’s comeback victory over Tottenham in the north London derby.

Manchester City continued their march towards the title by winning at Fulham, whilst both Manchester United and Leicester strengthened their positions in the top four as the chasing pack faltered behind them.

Down at the bottom both Burnley and Brighton secured breathing space with vital victories, whilst Newcastle kept themselves just above the danger zone following a dramatic late equaliser at St James’ Park.

Here are seven Premier League players who shone this weekend:

Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho continued his fine recent form with a clinic in finishing this weekend, the forward netting a superb hat-trick as Leicester thrashed Sheffield United 5-0 at the King Power Stadium.

The Nigeria international has been afforded more regular opportunities in recent weeks given the injury problems facing Brendan Rodgers’ side, and has stepped up impressively to keep the Foxes firmly in the hunt for Champions League football.

After netting against both Burnley and Brighton in recent weeks, Iheanacho took his tally to five goals in just three games with a brilliant individual display, opening the scoring from Jamie Vardy’s low cross before scoring twice more in the second half for his first ever Premier League treble.

Iheanacho has played second fiddle for much of his career with the club following a Β£25m move from Manchester City in 2017, but this performance was encouraging for Leicester with the forward showing he can be an able deputy or partner for Vardy.

The two showed signs of a burgeoning understanding with Vardy’s movement stretching the Sheffield United defence and providing space for his partner, who took his goals in excellent fashion to become just the fifth Nigerian to notch a Premier League hat-trick.

Iheanacho has now scored six goals in just eight league starts this season and the shirt appears his to lose, whilst his impressive form in the Europa League also offers Rodgers with food for thought.

Leicester have been linked with the signing of Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard as they seek a long-term replacement for Vardy, though Iheanacho will prompt his manager into a rethink if he can maintain this form over the remainder of the season.

Dwight McNeil

Burnley are now seven points clear of the Premier League’s relegation places following a crucial win this weekend, a hugely impressive performance seeing the Clarets win 2-1 at Champions League chasing Everton.

The architect of the win was Dwight McNeil who capped an all-action performance with a stunning goal to secure all three points, ghosting past the challenge of Allan before bending a sensational finish into the top corner.

McNeil’s goal was the highlight in an impressive performance from the winger, who continues to flourish on the flanks for Burnley and attract interest from clubs further up the division.

McNeil combines technical quality with a willingness to run himself into the ground for the cause, with the youngster starring in advanced areas in the first half before working hard defensively as Burnley held on for the three points at Goodison Park.

It can be easy to forget the star remains just 21-years-old give he is fast approaching 100 top-flight appearances for the Clarets, and adding more regular end product will be key to his hopes of forcing his way into international contention.

His wonderful effort this weekend was evidence of the quality he can provide when at his very best.

Emile Smith Rowe

Mikel Arteta’s revolution at Arsenal has endured mixed periods but the manager’s faith in young players has been admirable throughout, the introduction of Emile Smith Rowe to the side on Boxing Day having been an inspired decision.

Smith Rowe has largely been a fixture in the side since an outstanding display in the win over Chelsea on December 26, and the boyhood Gunner will no doubt have enjoyed his first taste of the north London derby this weekend.

The 20-year-old was superb with his performance described as ‘magnificent’ by Arteta post-match, starting on the left-hand side and linking brilliantly with Kieran Tierney to provide Spurs with all sorts of problems out wide.

Arsenal’s winter window signing of Martin Odegaard had threatened Smith Rowe’s place in the team but he has continued to thrive despite being forced wide, his infectious energy and creative quality adding a new dynamic to the north London side.

Smith Rowe was unfortunate not to score with a stunning effort which crashed off the crossbar, threatening throughout and creating four chances – more than the entire Spurs side combined.

The midfielder was withdrawn with 20 minutes remaining following another impressive display and the future looks bright for the academy graduate who has seized his chance in the senior side this season.

Luke Shaw

Once more Manchester United’s best player, Luke Shaw’s fantastic form continued as the Red Devils edged past West Ham at Old Trafford.

Shaw continues to set the standards for consistency in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this season and was once more a stand-out figure against the Hammers, providing his side with an outlet and often looking the club’s most creative threat.

The 25-year-old finished the clash with the most final third passes (35), most ball recoveries (9), most crosses (7) and most tackles (3), the sort of performance which has become just another day at the office for a player playing the best football of his career at present.

The Premier League is currently home to an abundance of quality left-backs including the likes of Kieran Tierney – outstanding against Tottenham this weekend – and Andy Robertson, though Shaw’s recent form has placed him into the conversation as to who is the division’s best.

March’s international break will now provide the full-back with an opportunity to stake his claim as England’s starting option ahead of this summer’s European Championships.

Gabriel Jesus

Manchester City’s abundance of talent means even a heavily rotated side can make light work of Premier League opposition, the league leaders overcoming a slow start to win 3-0 at Fulham.

Pep Guardiola’s side’s goals came through defensive mistakes, but it was a willingness to press the home side that led to errors, the Cottagers desire to play from the back commendable but taken advantage of by City’s pressing play.

Jesus won the free-kick that led to John Stones’ opener before scoring the second himself, capitalising on a defensive mix-up involving Ivan Cavaleiro and Joachim Andersen before rounding the goalkeeper to fire home.

Sergio Aguero’s return to the side saw Jesus spend large periods out on the left and it is a role that has he has thrived in previously, bringing energy and drive to a position which alleviates some of the goalscoring pressure upon his shoulders.

City continue to pick up results as a third title in just four seasons edges closer and it would take a monumental collapse for the league leaders not to be crowned champions, one few – if any – believe is a possibility.

Ashley Westwood

Just when it appeared a lack of investment could come back to haunt Burnley this season, Sean Dyche’s side find just enough form to pull themselves clear of the relegation places.

Dyche’s recruitment at the club has centred around reliable professionals and the signing of Ashley Westwood has proven the archetypal signing of the manager’s time with the Clarets.

The midfielder was recruited from the Championship and has been a mainstay in the side ever since, bringing energy and a combative edge to Burnley’s engine room over the past four seasons.

Those attributes were in full evidence during the club’s 2-1 win at Everton this weekend, as the midfield axis of Westwood and Josh Brownhill dominated on Merseyside with tigerish pressing play.

The duo pushed high and aggressively to force errors from the home side and regain possession for Burnley, who dominated the opening exchanges on their way to an invaluable three points at Goodison Park.

Westwood’s pressing and probing passing helped set the tempo for the Clarets and Dyche will have no doubt been pleased with the performance of a midfielder who rarely performs below the expected level.

Edouard Mendy

Chelsea’s problem position in goal was addressed during the summer with the signing of Edouard Mendy from Rennes, the Senegal international having enjoyed a strong debut season at Stamford Bridge.

Mendy started the season brilliant before a dip in form, though has responded well to cement his position as number one following the arrival of Thomas Tuchel as head coach in January.

Chelsea have enjoyed an excellent defensive record under the German and have now kept eight clean sheets in their past 10 league games, though the west London side were made to work for another shut-out in the goalless draw with Leeds this weekend.

Leeds found themselves thwarted by the imposing frame of Mendy when offered a shooting sight on goal, the 29-year-old tipping a Tyler Roberts effort onto the crossbar at full stretch and making another strong save to deny Raphinha in the second half.

Chelsea remain fourth in the race to secure Champions League football and the presence of a reliable goalkeeper behind a strong defence could yet prove the difference in getting the Blues over the line.

Read –Β Premier League Team of the Week

Read Also –Β Premier League Weekly Awards: Lamela’s Rabona, five-star Iheanacho, and Zaha’s stand

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