Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mount and the top 10 Premier League midfielders this season

When it comes to trying to produce your ‘top ten’ of anything, you will almost certainly upset somebody. And when you factor in the tribal nature of football supporters, it is inevitable. So I apologise for upsetting you in advance.

Before going into who I consider to be the top ten midfield players in the Premier League this season, firstly a few boundaries when it came to selection.

Firstly, I have not included players who you would consider wide midfielders or wingers and I have also not factored in those who play in positions where the line between attacking midfielder and forward become so blurred that it depends on which side of the bed you woke up.

And stating the obvious I know but I have stuck to on-the-field performances; so someone like Jordan Henderson, who has been doing some incredible work away from the pitch when it comes to issues such as racism, online bullying and the European Super League, has not been included. But the Liverpool skipper certainly deserves an honourable mention.

Also in the world of multiple data providers, it is important to state the below is Statsbomb data via the website FBRef.

So now the formalities are out of the way, here goes…

10 – Rodri

In a team full of technically excellent footballers, it is sometimes easy to take for granted a player like Rodri.

Signed for £62.8m two years ago, big things were expected of the then 22-year-old but initially it was hard to see what all the fuss was about.

But by his own admission, this season we have started to see the Spaniard produce the best football of his City career.

It won’t come as a major surprise to hear that Rodri is second in the Premier League for most touches but he is not just an extremely well-paid water carrier. He also tops the list for carrying the ball most often.

Rodri will rarely grab the headlines with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and their galaxy of stars. But don’t underestimate his value to this all-conquering City side.

9 – Yves Bissouma

When you think about the impact Yves Bissouma has had this season, it is easy to forget that he has actually been at the club since 2018.

But as Chris Hughton struggled to find his best position, trying him out as a number 10, a traditional central midfielder and as a holding player, it is Graham Potter who has helped Bissouma become one of the best defensive midfielders in the division.

Only Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg has won more tackles than Bissouma this season but he is a player who can do everything you would want from a defensive midfielder – including bagging the odd rocket.

At 24, the Mali international has even more room to improve and Brighton will find it hard to fight off the interest in their dynamic midfielder this summer, with the likes of Arsenal reportedly planning to make a move.

8 – Declan Rice

A player who might have been higher had it not been for injury, Rice has led West Ham to an unexpected Champions League qualification challenge this season and injury permitting, appears to have cemented his name in England’s Euro 2020 squad in the process.

Only Jan Bednarek has more interceptions than Rice’s 63 so far this season and that is despite the 22-year-old missing his side’s last four matches.

But Rice is so much more than just a midfield destroyer. He dictates the play for his side, has the vision to unlock defences and is a natural leader.

Rice deserves to be playing Champions League football in the coming years. West Ham fans will be hoping he will be doing so with them, as the vultures continue to circle.

7 – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

If it hadn’t been for Tottenham ’s capitulation this season under Jose Mourinho, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg would almost certainly be even higher in this list.

The Dane might not have the same creative flair or goalscoring threat as many in this list but when it comes to doing the job he was bought to do, few could argue he has delivered.

No one has made more tackles than his 1,007, no midfielder has had more touches (2736) and no one has applied more pressure on an opposing player when they are receiving, carrying or about to release the ball.

The 26-year-old has been a destructive force this season.

6 – Tomas Soucek

If most fans are honest with themselves, few would have known much about Tomas Soucek before he arrived in the Premier League in January last year.

But what an impact the 26-year-old has made and with West Ham making his loan permanent in the summer for just £19.1 million, what a bargain he has become.

Playing alongside the equally impressive Rice, Soucek is another one in this list who has done both sides of the game expertly.

Defensively solid, aggressive and physically imposing, the centre midfielder has done what he was signed to do.

But it is in attack where he has arguably exceeded expectations, chipping in with nine goals.

Soucek’s importance to the Hammers and his reliability is accentuated by the fact he has played every minute of their Premier League campaign thus far.

5 – Ilkay Gundogan

It feels a little weird to have a player who has only started three of his side’s last eight matches in the top five of this list and has featured in only two-thirds of the games. But that is testament to just how good Ilkay Gundogan was in Man City’s season-defining unbeaten run.

Between December 15 and the 3-0 victory over Spurs on February 13, Gundogan scored 11 goals in 12 games as City effectively went from title challengers to champions elect.

At the start of the campaign, he only started four of their first 11 games and as I mentioned, his influence has dwindled in the past six weeks. But in-between the 30-year-old was unplayable.

The fact he is seventh in the goals-per-90 minutes list and 10th overall, with 12 goals in just 1,864 minutes from midfield, tells you everything about his incredible two-month spell.

4 – Mason Mount

Now here is where I am expecting the most abuse. But for the sake of transparency it is important that I state I am the founder, president and primary financial investor of the Mason Mount Fan Club. So am I biased when it comes to his inclusion in the top five? You better believe it.

But in all seriousness, Mount has carried Chelsea at times this season and his level of consistency has been remarkable.

For some, Mount is still Frank Lampard’s teacher’s pet and overhyped. But you only need to speak to a Chelsea fan for five minutes to know about the impact he has on the team.

Like the man ahead of him in this list, Mount has a bit of everything. Without the ball, only Hojbjerg has won possession back (within five seconds of pressing an opponent) more than Mount this season.

And in attack, he has the most ‘shot-creating actions’ (146) after Bruno Fernandes and has chipped in with six goals as well.

Should he be in the top five? That is a topic for debate and maybe not. But is he a man Chelsea and England can rely on for the next decade? Almost certainly.

3 – Youri Tielemans

This is the one I was most unsure on when it came to his positioning in the top ten but it’s hard to think of a more complete central midfielder in the Premier League right now than Youri Tielemans.

Defensively, he has the tactical awareness and work rate to play in a deeper role. In possession, he has the vision and technical ability to create. And in attack he has shown he knows where the goal is, with six goals.

Tielemans’s talent has never been in doubt – he was 16 when he made his debut for Anderlecht. But he is finally showing why he was once regarded as one of the most highly-rated young midfielders in Europe.

Tielemans has started 33 of Leicester ’s 34 Premier League games this season and has been pivotal to their Champions League qualification challenge. And at 23, he is only likely to get even better.

2 – Kevin De Bruyne

It feels almost wrong to not have Kevin De Bruyne at the top of a list for the best midfielders. After all, Man City’s talisman would probably have a claim to be one of the world’s best, let alone the Premier League’s.

But injuries have once again played their part for the 29-year-old this season. De Bruyne has only started two-thirds of City’s Premier League matches this season and has only started five league games since mid-January.

But when fit, De Bruyne’s quality is unrivalled and the fact Harry Kane is the only man with more assists than the Belgian’s 11, despite only featuring in 24 matches, is evidence of just how influential he has been when fit, chipping in with five goals as well.

When you look at the per-90 stats, no one has created more ‘shot-creating actions’ (6.18) or has as many assists (0.52) as De Bruyne this season.

1 – Bruno Fernandes

Whilst some of De Bruyne’s performances this season have been out-of-this-world good, when it comes to consistently driving his team forward, you can’t look past Bruno Fernandes.

It is said that often statistics can lie but with 16 goals and 11 assists in 33 outings, it pretty much tells you all you need to know.

And it isn’t like he is just saving his performances for the Premier League: the 26-year-old is averaging a goal a game in all competitions this season, with 26 to his name already.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves a lot of credit for transforming Manchester United. But he would not have been able to do it without Fernandes.

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