Welcome to the most difficult part of our selection for best players thus far this season, the midfield. As we use a 4-4-2 for our overall team, we will list here the two best defensive midfielders and two best attacking midfielders from the first nine games of Premier League action. Feel free to comment on who you would like to have seen make the list.
Idrissa Gueye – Everton
The former Aston Villa man was never going to take the spotlight away from the big-name signings in the league like Paul Pogba or Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he signed for Everton at the start of the season, but his output has not only exceeded those two, but a large majority of the league. With more successful tackles and blocked passes than anyone else in the league (44 tackles and 18 blocked passes from nine games), the Senegalese international has provided a balance to Ronald Koeman’s midfield, effectively shielding his back four to allow the more creative midfielders in the side to get forward. Hugely important to Everton’s strong start to the season, currently sitting in sixth place.
Several players were considered for the second holding role in midfield, but it’s the overall contribution that Matic has made across the park for Chelsea that places him above his rivals. Four assists stand out for a player more known for his defensive abilities, which he has still provided as he is sits 10th in the league for interceptions (17 in total), while his midfield partner N’Golo Kante ranks in at 2nd (24 in total), showing how well the two are reading the game in Antonio Conte’s midfield. The pair are more closely placed together in passing statistics, earning a spot in the top 10 for accurate short and long passes. Matic is 7th in the league for accurate short passes (449), while Kante ranks in at 3rd (504). For long passes, Matic has the slight edge over Kante with 40 accurate long passes to Kante’s 39, placing him 8th in the league and his French teammate at 10th. Just like with Tottenham’s centre half pairing in the last article, both have a legitimate claim to this spot with similar numbers, but Matic gets the nod for his contributions in the final third of the pitch.
Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City
The linchpin to Pep Guardiola’s blueprint at Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne’s inclusion into this list was an absolute certainty. Versatile, technical and possessing a keen eye for goal, De Bruyne has already accumulated two goals and ranks equal first in the league for assists, with four from his eight Premier League outings. He averages three key passes per game, ranking him sixth overall for that statistic with a total of 24 in the league this year. It’s the length of those key passes that displays Guardiola’s desire for a short, precise passing game, as just two of those key passes were long balls.
The silky Brazilian has been at it again this season, winning games off his own thunderous right boot, like when he swung the opening game of the season against Arsenal completely in Liverpool’s favour by scoring an outrageous free-kick past Petr Cech. He went on to score a brace that day, and has since added a further two goals and two assists to aid Liverpool’s pursuit of a first league title in 26 years.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOxodG8qLtU
Coutinho registers amongst the top 10 of all the attacking areas that an advanced midfielder should be, such as key passes, ranking 7th in the league for midfielders in that area with 21 in total, and 2.6 per game. His dribbling stats are also impressive, ranking 9th in the league for successful dribbles by midfielders at 2.8 per game. But it’s his goal-scoring which has made the Brazilian one of the league’s most feared players, even though his decision making can sometimes be erratic when in and around the 18 yard area, as he is 2nd in the league for shots taken outside the box, averaging 2.7 attempts per game.