The Premier League’s Top Central Midfielders of 2018/19
Central midfielders have a tough job to do. They are roughly divided equally between attack and defence, and need to dominate play around the centre of the pitch. A good centre midfielder has good awareness. He knows where he is located on the field, where his teammates are, and where the other team’s centre midfielders are. A great centre midfielder can make a huge difference in games. He can help the team retain possession and set up wingers and forwards with great passes.
That said, here is a look at some of the best central midfielders in the Premier League over the last season.
Last year Manchester City conquered the Premier League and set numerous titles along their way to victory. They dropped just 14 points, achieving the most dominant title win in English football history. At the centre of it all was Kevin de Bruyne, with eight goals and sixteen assists. It seemed that he had set a standard that would be near impossible to match.
This season his chances of matching last season’s performance were decreased due to injury. De Bruyne’s first Premier League start of the season was not until Boxing Day and he has just four combined goals and assists. However, the team are still set to drop just 16 points this season.
They have achieved this mainly with the help of two players, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva, who are the only two to have improved their league returns of both goals and assists from last season. However, while Gundogan has been good, Silva has been absolutely fantastic.
There have been a number of moments this season when Silva has shone through, such as the assist for Aguero’s goal against Liverpool in January, his penalty in the 1 – 0 win over West Ham in February, his impact on the FA Cup match against Swansea, and the opening goals in the wins over Bournemouth, Fulham and Manchester United.
At the same time, he has shown fantastic energy, skill, composure, and technique to help his team on the way to defending the title. Arguably, Silva has been the best player in the league this season.
Everton fans should feel extremely grateful towards Tim Sherwood. While Idrissa Gueye probably would have reached the Premier League without him, his time at Aston Villa definitely helped to speed up his journey.
There were clear hints of what Gueye could become during his twelve months at Villa Park and this season he has truly realised his potential. There are rumours of interest from teams such as Manchester United and PSG and it is no surprise as the 29 year old has shown that he is one of the best defensive midfielders around. The only players with more combined Premier League tackles and interceptions than his 202 are Wilfred Ndidi (208) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (206).
A quick look at Everton’s record without Gueye this season shows just how important he is to the team. Their only victory without him was a 1 – 0 win over Huddersfield in January, they lost three games without him and drew the other. Last season was much the same when a 2 – 0 win over Brighton was sandwiched by two defeats and two draws.
Gueye was absent for the team’s 6 – 2 defeat to Tottenham last December, and it made it clear what a difference he makes to the team. To put it into numbers, he has made more tackles (135) in 31 appearances than Gylfi Sigurdsson, Andre Gomes, Morgan Schneiderlin and Tom Davies combined (134) in 90 games.
Speaking in January, Graeme Souness, the retired Scottish ex-Liverpool captain, said, “Fernandinho is easily the best central midfield player in our country right now. The amount of work he gets through is overlooked by the technique he has as well.”
Fernandinho is a key member of Manchester City, despite turning 34 next month. Pep Guardiola will be looking for his successor, but Fernandinho’s impact on games is so impressive that the team’s points per game record with him starting this season is 2.63 and it is 2.33 without him. While it may not sound like much, without it City may have found themselves lower down the league table.
Many believe that Moussa Sissoko is the only reliably excellent central-midfielder that Tottenham Hotspur have at the moment. Harry Winks has impressed, but 76.4% of his overall Premier League starts were from December to March. Eric Dier has not started in a league win this year, while Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama have failed to impress.
Very few players have been given more minutes for Spurs in all competitions than Sissoko, just Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, and he really has been central to the team’s success over the last season.
Jurgen Klopp was not impressed when it was suggested that Georginio Wijnaldum’s performances had slipped under the radar of the public and Liverpool themselves. He replied, “Under your radar!” before adding that, “He’s an outstanding player. He combines a lot of things that you need.”
Together with tremendous energy, technique and versatility, Wijnaldum brings consistency to a constantly changing midfield. Both Fabinho and Naby Keita have taken some time to settle while James Milner has failed to reproduce the same form as last season.
Liverpool have a fantastic goalkeeper, excellent defence and an exciting attack, but it is arguable that the midfield has some issues. However, Wijnaldum is the exception to this rule and he has contributed a huge amount to the team’s success.
Etienne Capoue is often overlooked at Watford with the attention going to Abdoulaye Doucoure. Capoue is older and very well known by fans, while Doucoure retains an element of mystery. However, while Doucoure has been excellent and shown great potential, Capoue has been absolutely outstanding. He has made the most interceptions (85) of any player across Europe’s top five leagues. Capoue has been the star of a team that looks set to finish in the top half of the league and has reached the FA Cup final.
Declan Rice has given his career a serious boost over the last season and he has firmly established himself in a difficult position in a tough league at just 20 years old. Last season he was an excellent extra, changing between defensive midfield and centre-half under the reigns of Slaven Bilic and David Moyes. He did not start in a Premier League win until March 31, and he played less often than Pedro Obiang and Javier Hernandez.
Since starting in just one of West Ham’s four consecutive Premier League defeats at the start of the season, Rice has played almost every minute and has steadily grown in stature together with each pass, tackle and interception. He is truly a talent that the team should cherish.
While he is not without controversy, Paul Pogba has largely had a positive and productive season. He managed to score and assist three Premier League goals each in 14 appearances before he was benched at Liverpool on December 16. He then impressed against Liverpool on February 24 at Anfield in a more subdued role, which started an ongoing run of just two goals and one assist in ten games.
Pogba has played nine league matches in the 70-day interim, scoring eight goals and assisting five. Only nine players have scored more Premier League goas and just six have more assists. Many believe that there is too much hype around the Frenchman, but these numbers show that he is nowhere near as bad as some have claimed.
Many people believe that Ruben Neves is the better member of the impressive Wolverhampton Wanderers midfield. However, Neves has never had a problem with respecting his elders and he would be amongst the first to admit that Joao Moutinho, a player ten years his senior, has set the standard at Wolves.
Moutinho has made a huge impact on the team. Not only though his skills on the pitch, but also his experience and knowledge have helped his teammates with the transition from second-tier champions to top-flight threat. He also has more international caps (114) and career trophies (14) than any of his teammates.
In some ways it is a shame that he has not spent more time playing in the Premier League over the years. However, he has been a delight to watch this season and he is sure to produce plenty of impressive football next season.
Luka Milivojevic has the distinction of being one of the only two players to score both home and away against Manchester City in the same season over the past two Premier League campaigns. Christian Eriksen managed the same but in consecutive defeats while the Crystal Palace captain scored while winning the match last December.
Milivojevic has one game left in which he has the chance to match Andy Johnson’s Premier League record of 11 penalties scored in a single season. However, his ten penalties to date do nothing to reduce his importance to the club. The only other outfielders to play every single minute of this Premier League season are Ben Mee and Conor Coady.