It is often said that a football match is won or lost in midfield. So who are the Premier League’s best midfielders right now?
That’s a difficult question to answer as no other category of position has more sub-categories. So here we are narrowing the focus to the No.8 role — responsible for everything from joining in or starting attacking moves, tracking central runs, protecting the defence and, when required, aggressively counter-pressing.
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To come up with a list, we fed various statistical categories into Twenty3’s discovery tool and weighted them (i.e. ‘big chances’ created or ball recoveries are worth more than passes completed). This produces the Squawka Score you’ll see expressed as a percentage in each player entry.
6. Dominik Szoboszlai
- Team: Liverpool
- Minutes played: 900
- Squawka Score: 70%
Long linked with a Premier League move, Dominik Szoboszlai has settled into life at Liverpool and to date is the club’s most creative performer. A recent win over Nottingham Forest saw him register his first two assists. During a period with RB Leipzig the Hungarian international showcased tenacity coupled with technique. Wearing the number eight jersey, he’s already drawn comparisons with legendary skipper Steven Gerrard, which he’s welcomed to an extent. “I want to do my own way but of course it feels good if they say I am the new Steven Gerrard,” he said.
- Team: Chelsea
- Minutes played: 857
- Squawka Score: 71%
A brief loan spell at Crystal Palace heightened expectations surrounding Conor Gallagher, now a regular starter for his boyhood club. It’s yet to click for Chelsea this season but no one can say Gallagher isn’t putting in a shift. He is one of five Premier League midfielders this season to record 10+ for tackles won, dribbles completed and chances created (Szoboszlai is also in this exclusive club).
This season, we’re not seeing the fruits of Chelsea’s labours; they have a higher xG than league-leaders Tottenham, for instance (and a lower xG against). But there’s enough to suggest it will not be too far away. In recent positive outings against Burnley and London rivals Arsenal the 10-time capped England international got his name in the assist column.
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- Team: Brighton
- Minutes played: 710
- Squawka Score: 72%
Years of effort were rewarded when Groß earned his first three international caps (each coming under a different German national team manager). Brighton’s lynchpin remains a key cog in their machine even if his playing time has been reduced. That said, he’s adapted himself from a play-making attacking midfielder to a tempo-setting deep-lying midfielder. It’s also worth noting that only Kevin De Bruyne has created more chances than Groß since he joined Brighton at the start of the 2017/18 season – an even more impressive feat when you consider the number of different positions he’s played.
- Team: Newcastle
- Minutes played: 865
- Squawka Score: 74%
Perhaps the most important signing Newcastle have made in years. Guimarães is unquestionably Eddie Howe’s most valuable player and it shows with several European super clubs reportedly keeping tabs on him. His immediate future seems to be at St. James’ Park, where he continues to show verve and dynamism. Capable of being deployed as Newcastle’s deep-lying midfielder or higher up in central-midfield, the Brazilian stands out through his forward-thinking, creative passing.
- Team: Chelsea
- Minutes played: 778
- Squawka Score: 74%
You can make the argument Enzo Fernandez’s introduction to Lionel Scaloni’s starting lineup was the catalyst behind Argentina’s successful World Cup campaign last winter. Chelsea were hoping for a similar impact and though it’s still a struggle the Blues can still be excited by his performances.
The Chelsea no.8 has played nearly every midfield position in his Premier League career so far and the glimmers we have seen are enough to be ranked this high. Can you imagine where he’ll be once everything starts coming his way?
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- Team: Aston Villa
- Minutes played: 851
- Squawka Score: 74%
The last thing Aston Villa expected to have on their hands was a goalscoring midfielder who is matching Ollie Watkins for Premier League strikes this season so far (5). But here we are. Douglas Luiz was reportedly on Arsenal’s wishlist a while ago, but obviously, nothing came to fruition. That could soon change given the way he’s been playing this season. At one point he couldn’t stop netting at home subsequently establishing a new Aston Villa record. Luiz isn’t getting carried away, though, instead remaining steadfast to his duties as a direct ball-carrying midfielder under Unai Emery.