Shoehorned in between Christmas and New Year, the final round of Premier League matches in 2021 certainly offered up plenty of intrigue and excitement.
Unfortunately, once again, Covid-19 affected the schedules with three games – Arsenal vs Wolves, Leeds United vs Aston Villa and Everton vs Newcastle – postponed.
But seven matches did go ahead and we may reflect on this being the round of games when Manchester City put one hand on the Premier League trophy.
Phil Foden scored Manchester City’s winner at Brentford as they moved eight points clear
But there was only dejection for Liverpool as they went down to a 1-0 defeat at Leicester
LAST WEEK’S TOP 10
1. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
2. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
3. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
4. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
5. Mason Mount (Chelsea)
6. Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)
7. Lucas Moura (Tottenham Hotspur)
8. James Maddison (Leicester City)
9. Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)
10. Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United)
Pep Guardiola’s side continued their imperious form with a 1-0 win at Brentford, taking full advantage as Liverpool lost 1-0 at Leicester City and Chelsea were held 1-1 at home by Brighton.
It all means the reigning champions enter 2022 with a commanding eight-point advantage at the top of the table.
With Arsenal not in action, West Ham were able to close the gap to fourth spot with an impressive 4-1 win at Watford, while Manchester United ended the year on a high with a 3-1 win over Burnley to move sixth.
They leapfrogged Tottenham, who were held 1-1 at Southampton in a contest of two contentious disallowed goals.
At the bottom, it’s looking increasingly bleak for Norwich City, who completed a December that was not only winless but also goalless as they went down 3-0 at Crystal Palace.
Each week throughout the 2021-22 season, Sportsmail will bring you a Power Rankings table, which lists the top 10 hottest players in the Premier League.
As the stories of the campaign unravel, the rankings will provide a form guide with players moving in and out of the top 10 depending on both their performances in the previous fixtures and also in recent weeks.
So, with all of that in mind, how do Sportsmail‘s latest batch of Power Rankings look?
10. Martin Odegaard (Arsenal, down one)
There was no opportunity for Martin Odegaard or indeed any other Arsenal player to make an assault up the Power Rankings during this latest matchday.
Their home fixture against Wolves was called off because of a large number of positive Covid cases in Bruno Lage’s squad.
It will at least mean Mikel Arteta’s side are a bit fresher as they prepare to host leaders Manchester City on New Year’s Day.
Odegaard retains his spot in the top 10 by virtue of his stellar form throughout December, which included an assist in the win over Leeds United and two in the thrashing of Norwich on Boxing Day.
The Gunners are in fourth spot and looking more likely to qualify for the Champions League than they have done in recent seasons. City will provide the ultimate test this weekend, however.
Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard, pictured in the Boxing Day win at Norwich, is in stellar form
9. Lucas Moura (Tottenham, down two)
With the matches coming thick and fast at this time of year, you always expect managers to rest and rotate their players.
But even with that in mind, it was still a little surprising to see Antonio Conte start Lucas Moura on the bench at Southampton after he scored one and set up two more goals in their Boxing Day win over Crystal Palace.
In the end, the Brazilian forward did get on at St Mary’s in the second-half as Spurs tried to make their numerical superiority pay after Mohammed Salisu was sent off before half-time.
Despite seeing two goals chalked off – one for the tightest of offsides against Harry Kane, the other after Matt Doherty was adjudged to have ‘fouled’ Saints keeper Fraser Forster after he dropped the ball – Spurs couldn’t force a winner with Moura unable to make another match-winning impact.
Lucas Moura (left) attempts to break through the Southampton back line at St Mary’s
8. Jarrod Bowen (West Ham, new entry)
Making his return to the Power Rankings top 10 after a couple of weeks away is Jarrod Bowen, whose creative streak was integral to West Ham’s 4-1 win at Watford on Tuesday.
Not only did Bowen set up goals for Tomas Soucek and Nikola Vlasic, taking his assists total for the season into double figures, he won the penalty from which Mark Noble scored. He also saw a goal disallowed by VAR.
It’s little wonder he was man of the match at Vicarage Road for an all-action performance as West Ham came from behind to keep themselves in touch with the top four entering 2022.
Jarrod Bowen celebrates scoring a goal that was disallowed by VAR in West Ham’s 4-1 win
7. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal, down three)
It isn’t Saka’s fault he has slipped down the Rankings this week, with Arsenal not in action following the Covid postponement of their home fixture against Wolves.
But the England star is still positioned seventh off the back of strong recent performances. That included a brilliant two-goal display in the Boxing Day win at Norwich.
Saka has five goals contributions in his last four Premier League outings and will be key if Arsenal are to take anything from their New Year’s Day meeting with Manchester City.
Bukayo Saka pictured in training on New Year’s Eve as Arsenal prepare to face Manchester City
6. Mason Mount (Chelsea, down one)
It was a night of pure frustration for Chelsea as they conceded a stoppage time equaliser to Brighton’s Danny Welbeck as title rivals Man City won just up the road at Brentford.
The consequence is that Chelsea are eight points adrift of the leaders and must take on Liverpool this Sunday in their next game.
Mason Mount was one of their better players in an off-key performance against Brighton, setting up Romelu Lukaku’s opening goal.
Only the outcome sees him move down a place, with the England star in good form in recent weeks. This includes a four-match run of scoring, against Watford, West Ham, Leeds and Everton.
But Thomas Tuchel’s side are dropping too many points and a defeat to Liverpool and then City when they meet at the Etihad in mid-January will kill off their title ambitions.
Mason Mount can’t hide his frustration as Chelsea concede a late equaliser against Brighton
5. Joao Cancelo (Manchester City, up one)
If City go on to win another Premier League title – and there’s every chance they will now – Joao Cancelo has a decent claim to the footballer of the year prizes.
The Portuguese wing-back has been outstanding during the first half of the season, as demonstrated by a lengthy run in the Power Rankings.
Cancelo is Mr Consistent, showing equal acumen with his defensive responsibilities as with his marauding attacking qualities on the flank.
It wasn’t his finest performance of the season in the win at Brentford – a seven out of 10 – but Cancelo played his full part as another crucial win was chalked up by Guardiola’s team.
Joao Cancelo carries the ball forward during Manchester City’s 1-0 win at Brentford this week
4. James Maddison (Leicester City, up four)
The big-mover in this edition and a man very much in peak form.
After playing a role in all three of Leicester’s goals in their Boxing Day 6-3 defeat at Manchester City, James Maddison was again superb in the 1-0 win over Liverpool.
For Leicester to play so well against another title contender just 48 hours later was seriously impressive and Maddison certainly caused the Liverpool defence all manner of problems.
Eagle-eyed supporters were also convinced that he whispered something in the ear of Mohamed Salah to put him off just before his penalty that Kasper Schmeichel saved.
James Maddison takes a shot during Leicester’s win over Liverpool on Tuesday night
3. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, down one)
It wasn’t the Egyptian’s night at the King Power Stadium and Salah isn’t someone who has too many off-days.
He saw his first-half penalty kept out by Kasper Schmeichel, heading the rebound agonisingly onto the crossbar. Salah was also denied later on by the giant Dane.
Perhaps the postponement of Liverpool’s Boxing Day clash with Leeds took away some of his match sharpness.
Jurgen Klopp will need Salah to be at his best when they head to Stamford Bridge on Sunday, before he jets off to Cameroon to play for Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Quite how Liverpool fare in the absence of their leading goalscorer remains to be seen.
It was a night to forget for Mohamed Salah, who missed a penalty in Liverpool’s defeat
2. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, up one)
The Belgian surged seven places in the last Power Rankings list last time off the back of his eye-catching recent displays in goalfests against Leeds and Leicester.
And with Salah having an off-night, De Bruyne now rises another spot off the back of a good showing in the win over Brentford and an assist for Phil Foden’s winning goal.
Having taken some time to find his form this season because of injuries and Covid, De Bruyne is hitting his stride and it’s really no coincidence City look absolutely unbeatable as a result.
Kevin De Bruyne attempts an audacious overhead kick during Man City’s win over Brentford
1. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City, non-mover)
Which leaves Bernardo Silva as our Power Rankings No 1 for the sixth consecutive edition. There simply isn’t any reason for knocking down the Premier League’s most in-form player.
His consistency is remarkable, following up a quietly efficient display against Leicester on Boxing Day with another 90-minute shift in central midfield at Brentford.
While Silva hasn’t now contributed a goal or an assist in his last five Premier League outings, his performances remain at such a high level, Guardiola rarely drops him.
It’s true that his team-mate De Bruyne, Liverpool’s Salah or potentially someone else could move ahead of the Portuguese if this barren goal involvement run continues any longer.
But for the time being, Silva remains very much the one to beat in the Power Rankings.
Bernardo Silva on the ball during Manchester City’s midweek win over Brentford