Pace isn’t everything in football, but it certainly helps if you have it.
There are some players who are so good at manipulating space to their advantage that they don’t need pace, like Sergio Busquets or Luka Modric. Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with that ethereal perception of time and space. Some need the burners to survive in the game.
The Premier League is no different. For every Joao Moutinho who looks like he’s trudging through treacle but can set the pace of a game just from his vision and awareness, there’s an Adama Traore, a Road Runner who pings it past defenders and shows them a clean pair of heels.
His blurry-eyed acceleration has made him a deadly proposition in the Premier League. But he isn’t the only speedster. Looking at the highest ‘top speeds’ data — kindly provided by Opta — covering the Premier League this season, we’ve had a look at the 10 fastest players.
Incredibly, Traore doesn’t actually make the cut…
10. Reiss Nelson
Top speed: 36.07km/h
Arsenal’s super-sub this season, the academy graduate only featured 11 times in the Premier League — all of which came from the bench — but he provided some key moments. Five direct scoring contributions certainly isn’t bad given his fleeting opportunities, with that famous last-minute goal against Bournemouth the pick of the bunch. His recorded ‘top speed’ of 36.07km/h also adds another string to his bow, and may explain why the club are looking to tie him down long-term.
9. Denis Zakaria
Top speed: 36.09km/h
Things didn’t exactly work out for Denis Zakaria at Cobham but his ‘top speed’ of 36.09km/h certainly shouldn’t be ignored. Of the 551 players who appeared in the Premier League this term, only 10 recorded ‘top speeds’ of 36km/h or over. Zakaria was one of those. For someone who embraces such a high-intensity system, you would have thought Graham Potter would have given the Juventus loanee more of a look in, before he was completely frozen out by Frank Lampard, failing to make any of the last seven matchday squads.
8. Erling Haaland
Club: Man City
Top speed: 36.22km/h
There are probably few sights more terrifying in football if you’re a defender than Erling Haaland rampaging directly into your path. The Norwegian is built like a proverbial brick outhouse and has the scoring devastation to match. Chuck in his blistering pace, and you have the perfect centre-forward. Good luck Inter!
7. Matheus Nunes
Top speed: 36.32km/h
An elegant yet tenacious tempo-setter, Matheus Nunes oozes class on the ball, but he’s also deceptively rapid. With a ‘top speed’ of 36.32km/h, the Portugal international was the third-fastest midfielder in the Premier League this season and the fastest central midfielder. Jurgen Klopp has reportedly been an admirer for a few seasons now, and you can’t help but think that Nunes’ Rolls Royce engine would thrive in such a high-octane system.
6. Arnaut Danjuma
Top speed: 36.34km/h
Another who scarcely featured, but appears on this list. Arnaut Danjuma genuinely looked like a very astute capture by Spurs in January, but he made just one Premier League start. That came in their penultimate match to Brentford — which they lost 3-1 — before he was overlooked on the final day against Leeds altogether. Still, he managed to record the sixth-best ‘top speed’ in the Premier League this term during his time in north London, so there’s that.
5. Darwin Nunez
Top speed: 36.53km/h
It was a bit of a mixed season for Darwin Nunez, who looked world class and unstoppable some games, but anonymous in others (shudders in early Andy Carroll comparisons). Fans will be hoping he can reach consistent, elite-level heights under Jurgen Klopp next term, and with a ‘top speed’ of 36.53km/h from 2022/23, the Uruguayan hot rod clearly has the burners to match his manager’s pressing demands.
4. Anthony Gordon
Top speed: 36.61km/h
Not really a surprise this one, Anthony Gordon is as nimble and sprightly as they come. Two Newcastle players actually made it into the top 10 for ‘forwards’, with Allan Saint-Maximin (35.73km/h) joining Gordon, which mirrors the club’s rapid acceleration up the table. It’s quite the armoury at Eddie Howe’s disposal — and they will be testing Champions League full-backs next term.
3. Mykhailo Mudryk
Top speed: 36.63km/h
Another one that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Mykhailo Mudryk has the Super Saiyan barnet to match his speed, and Chelsea have already seen that in full motion. The end product will probably come with time, but for now just try to keep up with the flying winger when he bombs hither and thither down the flank.
2. Brennan Johnson
Club: Nottingham Forest
Top speed: 36.7km/h
Officially the second-fastest player this season, Nottingham Forest’s turbo-charged forward was the catalyst — alongside Taiwo Awoniyi — behind the club’s resurgence and eventual safety. Despite Steve Cooper bringing in an army of new recruits, both in the summer, and January, it’s a player who was with him in the Championship that ultimately proved his top-flight talisman and difference-maker. Brennan Johnson is Nottingham born and bred, a Tricky Tree through and through, and he was the only Forest player to appear in all 38 of their games.
1. Kyle Walker
Club: Man City
Top speed: 37.31km/h
Vinicius Junior didn’t stand a chance, did he? The Brazilian is one of the game’s greatest current players, but Kyle Walker neutralised his attacking threats when Man City met Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final. Now 33, the England international has put his still flourishing pace down to “genetics” and hard work off the field.
Earlier this month before his 33rd birthday, Walker said: “I’m 32 but I’m not old, I still feel great, fit, bar the injury with my groin before the World Cup. I’ve kept myself in good shape, I look after myself off the field. I work in the gym. I have to thank my parents and their genetics, some players start to slow down. One of the sports science lads said I hit 37.5km/h, I’m not getting any slower.”
A combined XI of 2022/23’s fastest players
The above list is the definitive fastest players in the 2022/23 Premier League season, but how would a combined XI look when considering every position? In a standard 4-4-2, Gavin Bazunu would be our No. 1 with a recorded ‘top speed’ of 32.62km/h making him the quickest ‘keeper, ahead of David Raya (31.14km/h) and Jordan Pickford (31.03km/h)
Walker, of course, takes the right-back berth, with Kieran Tierney occupying the opposite flank as the second-fastest defender (35.99km/h). Our centre-backs come in the form of Kristoffer Ajer (35.53km/h) and Lloyd Kelly (35.42km/h), though Kalidou Koulibaly wasn’t too far off (35.23km/h).
On the right of midfield, partnering Walker is Anthony Gordon (36.34km/h), with Mykhailo Mudryk (36.63km/h) providing pace in front of Tierney. Matheus Nunes (36.32km/h) and Denis Zakaria (36.09km/h) are our central midfield partnership looking to bring balance to this rapid concoction.
Then up front, it’s a combination of Brennan Johnson (36.70km/h) and Darwin Nunez (36.53km/h), a truly frightening prospect for any opposition defence.