With the curtain coming down on the Premier League last Sunday, we take a look at the top five midfielders of the season that has been.
Midfielders play a key role in the modern game as the defensive minded ones help to shield the defence, intercept or tackle, and recycle the ball to the attack minded players looking to launch a counter attack.
Some play the role of a box to box midfielder, looking to supplement the team at both ends of the field while others play closer to the opposition penalty area (“in the hole”) and look to create scoring opportunities for the players around them.
However, due to the evolution of the modern game, it is hard to assign one role to any particular player as they are expected to do a lot more than just what their position suggests. Due to these nuances, we have classified defensive as well as offensive midfielders in the same category.
Take a look at The Hard Tackle’s top five midfielders in the Premier League this season, in no particular order whatsoever. At the end, do vote for the player you thought had the most overall influence on his team in the league.
It wouldn’t be right to start this list without Chelsea’s midfield supremo N’Golo Kante who’s played a pivotal role in guiding the Blues to the Premier League title in manager Antonio Conte’s first season in charge.
After guiding underdogs Leicester City to the title last season, the Frenchman got his hands on the championship for two seasons in a row, and could easily walk into the starting elevens of most of the top European sides.
Conte opted to field Nemnja Matic along with Kante initially, and together they shielded the back three with aplomb. Even when Cesc Fabregas started in place of the Serbian, Kante took little time in adjusting to his new partner.
His willingness to put himself ahead of the team saw him win the PFA Player of the Year award, and also made it to the team of the season.
N’Golo Kante’s 2016/17:
PFA Player of the Year 🏆
FWA Player of the Year 🏆
London Player of the Year
EA Player of the Year 🏆
Clean sweep. pic.twitter.com/keDjvPyQf5
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) May 21, 2017
It was another season of being “almost there” for Tottenham Hotspur as they put the pressure on the league leaders Chelsea, one year after doing the same with former champions Leicester City.
Unfortunately for them, they ended up falling short on both occasions, but there has been significant progress in the level of football, despite having the same core group of players and a tactically astute manager in Mauricio Pochettinho.
Dele Alli, who moved to White Hart Lane from MK Dons last season, has probably enjoyed the best campaign in his footballing career playing in a number of positions. In the 3-4-3, he played as a left inside forward while he played as a number 10 in a 4-2-3-1.
As Spurs played in a 4-2-3-1 shape for the majority of the season, Alli makes our list. Despite not being an out and out striker, goals were not hard to come by for him as he scored on 18 occasions and provided another seven assists.
It was a hard choice between him and Christian Eriksen, but we went for the former as he helped his team in the defensive third on occasion as well, and had a sightly better season than the Dane.
Most Premier League goals & assists this season:
Harry Kane (33)
Alexis Sanchez (33)
Romelu Lukaku (30)
Diego Costa (26)
Dele Alli (23) pic.twitter.com/0nBAMyltov
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 19, 2017
In a team full of big name players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, it is hard to be the standout performer, but that is exactly what Ander Herrera was this season for the Red Devils.
After being one of former manager Louis van Gaal’s first signings since he took over in the summer of 2014, there were doubts whether Herrera was the right man to be a Premier League midfielder as he does not possess the strength needed.
However, two seasons on, and the Spaniard has been United’s midfielder of the season, and also was voted as the player of the season by the club fans. Despite Ibrahimovic’s impressive goal run at 35, the fans thought that Herrera contributed the most.
To be honest, he absolutely has. With Michael Carrick not featuring a great deal this season, the onus was on Herrera to pull the strings from midfield and give United’s defensive an impermeable presence in the middle of the park.
Herrera made a staggering 86 interceptions in the league this season, which was the highest of any midfielder, and also won 26 aerial duels – more than any of the other players on this list. If United were to have won the league, it could have been Herrera lifting the PFA award.
Ander Herrera has won more tackles (59) in the Premier League this season than any other Man Utd or Man City player.
Tenacious midfielder. pic.twitter.com/IuFLtMoapd
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 27, 2017
Kevin de Bruyne
Many thought Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the summer would see Manchester City challenge for the title, but that unfortunately did not happen this past season. While he brought about a change in the way the Citizens play their football, the results have not added up.
However, despite it being a trophyless season, there have been few positives for Manchester City, and one of them has been the performance of Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian has played as a number 10 for most of the season, and has contributed significantly in the final third.
He created a league high 101 chances this past campaign, and gave the likes of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus numerous clear-cut opportunities at goal. The former Chelsea midfielder also led the assists charts with 18 to his name.
Most through balls completed in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season:
De Bruyne (14)
Di Maria (13)
Pogba (12) pic.twitter.com/fa5mBq1JIh
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 20, 2017
After making two managerial changes, Swansea somehow managed to avoid the drop, and a lot of it had to with how influential Gylfi Sigurdsson was in keeping the Welsh side in the top flight.
While Paul Clement did a phenomenal job to turn around the fortunes of Swansea, he must be counting his luck for having a player of Sigurdsson’s calibre among his ranks. In fact, until the start of March, he led the assisting charts in the league.
No Premier League player has recorded more assists (10) this season than Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Superb season. pic.twitter.com/qcXVE4KDxm
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 4, 2017
He ended the campaign with 13 to his name, and created 72 chances all season. Should the Swansea forwards have been more clinical, he could have put up a solid fight for the highest assists.
Here are our five picks for the best midfielders of the season, please vote for the one you thought deserves the award. In case, there’s another player you believed deserved to win, kindly.