The holding midfielder has become a prominent role in the majority of sides in the Premier League. In our opinion the lack of a “midfield enforcer”, effectively, cost Manchester United the title last season. I’ve heard a lot of Manchester United supporters bemoan the lack of strength (in terms of power not finesse) centrally in their midfield.
What we’re analysing here is the amount of tackles placed by these defensive midfielders and the amount they win to break up the play of the opposition. It’s important that they attempt challenges often but even more important they win them often too.
Getting quickly to the stats from our EPLIndex.com Stats Centre (Subscribe Now!) you can see the raw stats for tackling, ground duels (50-50 challenge on the ground) and aerial duels (50-50 challenge in the air) stats below.
The problem with raw stats are that you cannot judge by the highest number of challenges because the players haven’t played an equal amount of time. Therefore we’ve used the minutes played attribute and divided the number of minutes played by each statistic displayed above to give a minutes per tackle/duel won statistic.
We’ve also combined the all the challenges (tackles, ground duels & aerial duels) together to give a total figure to try to see which player makes a challenge most often and which one wins challenges the most often.
The stats are rather impressive for Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva. Playing just over 1,000 minutes last season he has come in the top 3 for each statistic and topped four out of the eight and come 2nd in 3 of them so in the top 2 for seven out of eight.
Top ‘Midfield Enforcers’
Mohamed Diame, Sandro and Fellaini also have some impressive stats with Diame attempting ground duels most often (2nd in minutes per ground duels won) whilst Sandro wins ground duels every 9.77 minutes – the best out of the midfielder enforcers covered in this comparison. Fellaini takes the aerial duel stats by topping both most often attempted aerial duels and wins them on a more regular basis than his rivals here.
Lucas tops the tackling statistics by attempting tackles every 15.37 minutes and wins a tackle every 20.1 minutes which is more often than his rivals, Sandro comes in second place for attempting and winning tackles is Sandro and Diame comes third for both too.
Top 3 ‘Midfield Enforcers’
Lucas is in 1st place attempts a challenge every 3.87 minutes and winning a challenge every 5.97 minutes. Diame attempts a challenge every 4.08 minutes coming 2nd in the attempts statistic and whilst Sandro comes second in winning challenges averaging 6.47 minutes per challenge won. Fellaini comes third in both attempting a challenge every 4.38 minutes and winning one every 7.36 minutes.
With Lucas returning to pre-season training for Liverpool could he be the key to a turnaround of their fortunes? They clearly missed his combative spirit in the midfield and his enforcing of that role.
Mohamed Diame is clearly an excellent purchase for West Ham United and should offer plenty of steel to their midfield. An article from one of our writers was written on Mohamed Diame here.
Parker – Over-rated?
Tottenham’s Sandro is very under-rated and the stats show that he’s actually better than Scott Parker at the defensive midfielder role and outshines him in every single department. I’d recommend playing Sandro (when fit) in this role and Spurs obviously have the ‘midfield enforcer’ role covered with two very capable players however Sandro, according to these stats, should be the first choice.
Everton have a star player in Marouane Fellaini. The stats shown only cover the combative nature of the midfield however Fellaini has much more to this game and Everton have a real Premier League star in their squad to build around as well as their star striker Jelavic.
Lucas Leiva best combative midfielder?
I don’t think many Liverpool fans would have expected this a few years ago but the stats show that Lucas Leiva performed at the very highest level in those 1045 minutes he played last season. If he has fully recovered from his knee injury his return will be the most welcomed at Anfield where Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing struggled last season.
There is a lot of continued hype over brand new signings at Anfield and frustration that no signings completed at the time of writing. What Liverpool fans may not realise is that the return of Lucas may be their best “signing” of the summer window.