As we enter the business end of the Premier League season, clubs are looking to their key men now more than ever.
Whether the objective is fighting for a league title, claiming a European spot or simply keeping heads above water in the top flight, certain players are more important than others to achieving these goals.
The following 10 will be crucial to their team's hopes of finishing the season with a smile...
Salomon Rondon (Newcastle)
Newcastle surprised everyone by actually being active in the January transfer window, signing Miguel Almiron for a club-record £21 million.
But whatever the Paraguayan's impact, Rondon will still be the difference between whether they play their football in the Premier League or the Championship next season. He isn’t the most gifted or prolific striker around, but he offers the broadest range of assets of all the forwards involved in a relegation scrap, with an eye for goal and physical presence that causes serious problems.
Almiron’s ability to skip past his marker should offer the Magpies a new threat going forward – and could help Rondon’s strike rate too.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool)
Manchester City’s superior squad depth is one of the biggest differences between them and Liverpool, and the Reds’ lead at the top feels slender as a result.
But Shaqiri, despite his flaws, is perhaps the most effective substitute in either team; a player who can help unlock even games with his shots from range or inventive passing.
Consistency is always an issue with the Switzerland international, but Klopp doesn’t need regular productivity from the winger; rather a fresh, dangerous option from the bench who can make the difference – as he did against Manchester United earlier this season.
Gonzalo Higuain (Chelsea)
An obvious one, but with Maurizio Sarri not keen on giving Olivier Giroud a chance, the Argentine could solve his biggest issue by slotting into his system better.
Higuain is a better footballer than the Frenchman: he can receive the ball in many areas of the pitch and drive forward with it, rather than simply holding it up, as well as providing goals.
The former Milan front man’s aggression is much-needed after Chelsea’s passive performances of late and he adds much-needed quality that will be key to their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Diogo Jota (Wolves)
Wolves’s core group of players have been key to their success this season, but Jota offers something a bit different; he’s not quite a midfielder or a forward, but has become more and more important as the season has gone on.
Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho can dictate the play, but Jota’s driving presence helps to move the team vertically into the final third. He remains more of an embellishment to the team than a key cog, but his talent should not be underestimated. If Wolves are to reach Europe this season, he will be partly to thank.
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
The pressure is on for Liverpool to protect their lead at the top of the table, and the defence will be crucial to achieving that – not least with trips to Old Trafford and Goodison Park coming up.
When the Reds are in trouble they will look at Van Dijk to keep things tight at the back, exuding the calm and composure he almost always does.
One way of underlining his importance to their title bid is to suggest, not hyperbolically, that any injury to the Dutchman would immediately make Manchester City comfortable favourites for the championship.
It doesn’t matter whether Jorginho deserves to be starting for Chelsea right now or not, because the stubborn Sarri will continue to pick him regardless.
The Italy international is not a secret any more and opposition managers know to target him with man-marking, as Tottenham, Arsenal and Bournemouth did to great effect.
If Chelsea are to finish in the top four, they must solve the problem of their pivot not functioning effectively when put under pressure.
Callum Paterson (Cardiff)
Paterson has shown incredible versatility this season, playing as a striker, midfielder, winger and full-back for Cardiff, and his character and spirit will be crucial in the Bluebirds' survival fight.
His infectious enthusiasm will be even more important now in the wake of the Emiliano Sala tragedy, which must have had a devastating effect on the Cardiff dressing room. Paterson now has a key role to play on and off the pitch in these tough times for the club.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Spurs fans must have celebrated Qatar’s Asian Cup win over South Korea, as it ended Son’s involvement in the tournament earlier than expected. He quickly reminded them what they’d been missing with an energetic performance against Watford, following by a winning goal late on to sink Newcastle.
With Harry Kane and Dele Alli sidelined, Tottenham might have to rely on Son for some time. His ability to be deployed in a range of roles, combined with his goal threat and searing pace, could give his side the forward threat they need to stay in the top four and Champions League over the next six weeks.
Calum Chambers (Fulham)
While a case can be made for Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goals deciding Fulham’s fate, it's their defence that must show the biggest improvement.
Sorting that area out would improve Claudio Ranieri’s side’s chances of survival hugely and Chambers is key to that, having impressed since being moved into midfield.
His centre-back instincts and technique have made Fulham a tougher outfit, but that must continue along with their goalkeeping, improvements from signings like Luciano Vietto and Andre Schurrle, and more consistency from Jean-Michel Seri. Chambers is the foundation upon which this recovery can be built.
Fernandinho (Manchester City)
The defensive midfield position remains worryingly under-staffed at Manchester City and Fernandinho continues to carry a large burden of responsibility, making it a surprise that they didn’t invest during the January transfer window.
This month, City will face Chelsea twice, Arsenal and Everton, as well as beginning the Champions League knockout stages against Schalke. The 33-year-old has a lot of games ahead of him and it begs the question of what would happen were he to suffer an injury or struggle with form.
There isn’t anyone else to readily step in; Fabian Delph is a possible option, but not one of equivalent ability. It’s therefore bizarre that this key role lacks depth when others are so well-stocked. City’s ageing midfielder remains absolutely pivotal.
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