Following an unrelenting fixture pileup in February, the return of Champions League football and the beginning of the World Cup qualifiers gave Premier League clubs some extra breathing room in March.
But the decrease in the number of fixtures certainly didn’t quell the entertainment factor which makes the Premier League such a universally popular competition. Sometimes less is more.
We were treated to local derbies in Manchester and north London, witnessed Newcastle United stumble into perilous decline and learned that Jesse Lingard might actually be a reincarnation of Lionel Messi after all.
Elsewhere, Leicester City continued their march towards European football as they bid to banish the demons that saw them narrowly missed out on the top-four following a late-season slump in 2019/20, while Brighton & Hove Albion finally managed to translate fine performances into points on the board to give themselves some vital breathing room in the fight to avoid relegation.
A multitude of individuals were at the pinnacle of their game and driving these narratives, but who were the standout players during the month of March?
Well, here are six of the best players from the calendar month who have played themselves into contention for March’s iteration of GIVEMESPORT Fans’ Player of the Month award.
All stats courtesy of WhoScored.
Nominee: Dean Henderson
Both Dean Henderson and Edouard Mendy s managed to keep a 100% clean sheet records in March with three shutouts in as many games, but the former gets the nod over Chelsea’s stopper on two counts.
Manchester United’s emerging star recorded two more saves (8) than Mendy and managed to keep a rampant Manchester City at bay at the Etihad Stadium, a feat that no other goalkeeper has managed all season.
It was another month of tangible progress for Henderson as he bids to simultaneously wrestle United’s number one jersey away from David De Gea and convince Gareth Southgate of his England credentials ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 competition.
There’s also an honourable mention for Leeds United’s long-limbed praying mantis Illan Meslier, who made a league-high 16 saves in just three outings.
Nominee: Cesar Azpilicueta
With Chelsea and Manchester United both boasting 100% clean sheet records in March, our nominee was always likely to come from one of those two camps.
The arrival of a new manager often brings players from the fringes of the squad and back into first-team contention. Cesar Azpilicueta was a notable victim of Frank Lampard’s preference towards youth, but now he’s a major beneficiary of Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea revolution in a table-turning change in fortunes.
The Blues are gathering pace at an ominous speed under the German, and Azpilicueta’s performances in an indomitable back line have underpinned much of their defensive prowess. Not only did the 31-year-old play a key role in helping Chelsea record three clean sheets in three games this month, he also completed 231 passes and five key passes to underline his playmaking expertise.
Elsewhere, it was another brilliant month for Luke Shaw who came agonisingly close to securing his second nomination on the bounce.
The England international did something that nobody else has managed to do this season by making Joao Cancelo look distinctly average during the Manchester derby, terrorising the Portuguese on the overlap of Marcus Rashford before scoring United’s killer second on the day.
Nominees: Martin Odegaard, Riyad Mahrez
There’s something intrinsically insatiable about left-footed wizards, and in the shape of Gareth Bale, Martin Odegaard and Riyad Mahrez we were treated to some delightful slices of genius from Premier League midfielders in March.
Bale was finally removed from the comfort of the substitutes bench and, from Crystal Palace’s perspective, turned his seemingly permanent pitch side smile into something rather more sinister by notching a brace during Spurs’ 4-1 win over the Eagles at the beginning of the month.
However, that marked the end of a flurry that started in February and his tepid display in the north London derby was juxtaposed by his Real Madrid teammate Martin Odegaard.
The Norwegian continued his captivating opening to life at Arsenal with a goal to cap off an excellent all-round performance. In three outings he racked up eight key passes in a fluid number ten role that appears key to facilitating the broader success of Mikel Arteta’s system.
Meanwhile, Mahrez continued to show that his almost iconic deft first-touch is just one of the myriad weapons in his armoury by scoring three goals in as many matches, including two sublime efforts against Southampton.
One of the nearly players of the Premier League, Leandro Trossard, finally managed to deliver some goal contributions for Brighton following a season of frustration for the Belgium international.
Trossard followed up a sumptuous 56th minute winner against Southampton with a darting, long-range strike and an assist to boot against Newcastle in the following game, and he only narrowly missed out on a nomination here.
Nominees: Kelechi Iheanacho, Harry Kane
It was a productive month for Premier League strikers as four players managed to score three goals or more, but Leicester City star Kelechi Iheanacho and, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Harry Kane are the nominees here.
Gabriel Jesus’ steady rise in form saw him find the net three times in three games during March, while Che Adams scored in three consecutive games to end a run of thirteen league outings without a goal.
Iheanacho, however, was the pick of the bunch. The Man City academy product is 25 this year and showed that he may have turned a significant corner in his development more than three and a half years after signing for the Foxes.
Amid Jamie Vardy’s uncharacteristic dry spell in front of goal, Iheanacho scored five goals in three games, including a hat-trick against Sheffield United, to help Brendan Rodgers’ side continue their march towards a top-four finish. Though it wasn’t factored into his nomination, it’s worth noting that he scored two and provided one in Leicester’s 3-1 win over Man United in the quarter-final of the FA Cup before the international break.
And what to say about Lord Kane that hasn’t already been said? Having scored three and assisted two in four league games in March, speculation over his future in north London has come to the fore once again.
Will he leave Spurs this summer? Will he win this award? The answers to those questions remain unsolved, but Kane scoring goals in the Premier League remains an eternal certainty.
Cast your vote for March’s Player of the Month now by visiting https://fan-awards.com/.