The Hard Tackle takes a look at some of the best performing midfielders from the recently concluded 2018/19 edition of the Premier League.
The 2018/19 edition of the Premier League offered us the opportunity to witness many of the talented individuals throughout the season. And here at the Hard Tackle, we will be taking a look some of the noteworthy performers as part of our End of the Season Awards.
In this edition, we will be taking a look at the midfielders. But before you proceed, please make sure you have already checked out our Top 5 Goalkeepers, Centre-backs, Fullbacks, Wingers and Strikers in this THT Awards series.
Midfielders are considered as the heart of any football team – they are the ones who run the show in the middle of the park and dictate the tempo of the game, both offensive and defensively. And with the emergence of modern football, midfielders have become essential to a team’s tactical philosophy now more than ever.
And here, we will take a look at five of the best midfielders, who have impressed us the most during the 2018/19 Premier League campaign.
Christian Eriksen [Tottenham Hotspur]
It isn’t always when you get to witness a player, who seems to influence the game from any position of the pitch and can adapt to any situation, both tactically and mentally. Such is the temerity of this Tottenham Hotspur superstar and our first feature of this list – Christian Eriksen.
Eriksen arrived at Tottenham in the summer of 2013. He was a gem in FIFA 14, and some fans really needed no introduction. Like really. He was matured and ready. And running. Running as if he’d already been playing in what some people call the most competitive league in the world for years!
Sometimes this happens. And this has happened again.
Eriksen was involved in a whopping 20 Premier League goals for Tottenham this season – a feat bested by only one other midfielder. But hey, you know that, right? So let’s dig a little deep into it.
Eriksen hasn’t really been influential when it comes to providing productivity in attack, despite averaging 2.4 shots per game. He also has an xG (expected goals) sum of 5.66, which is above average but has been bettered (and do bear with me on this one) by Michail Antonio.
But, his statistics take a huge bump when we tweak the metrics, and I mean huge. According to xA sum provided by Understat, which essentially focuses on the sum of xG of shots taken from a player’s key passes, Eriksen has mustered a score of 7.88. That is tenth highest in the league and third by any midfielder (two of which play for Champions Manchester City).
And that’s just shots and productivity of shots. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Eriksen’s performance this season has been his versatility.
The Dane, according to Transfermarkt, had covered four different positions in midfield, including the central midfield, which became crucial when Tottenham were struggling with injuries to Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks. So much, so that poor Pochettino had to rely on Moussa Sissoko to deputise those injured midfielders.
Hence, it can be concluded that Eriksen’s tactical versatility, creativity and chance creation played a critical role in yet another impressive season for Tottenham. And the ex-Ajax prodigy will undoubtedly play a key role when the Lilywhites face Liverpool in the Champions League final next month.
James Maddison [Leicester City]
Leicester City are often considered as the “best of the rest” team in the Premier League. Well, they haven’t quite been the best following the departure of Riyad Mahrez last summer. Fortunately for the Foxes, however, the emergence of James Maddison has somewhat overshadowed their attacking shortcomings this season.
A €25 million signing from Norwich City last summer, Maddison ended the campaign as the Premier League’s best chance creator. He was the only player to have delivered 100 key passes – more than some of the league’s biggest stars in Eden Hazard, Bernardo Silva and Christian Eriksen.
But, that doesn’t precisely stress as to how important Maddison really was for his team. However, Maddison’s xG score of 7.37 is significantly better than Eriksen’s 5.66.
The ex-Norwich star also scored 7.94 in terms of xA ratings, which is remarkable given Leicester City as a whole managed only 52.11 this season.
That being said, most of Maddison’s chances came from either crosses(46) or corners(41), which signifies Leicester’s reliance from set-pieces. But one thing is for sure – the presence of Maddison played a critical role in Leicester’s excellent campaign that saw them make a remarkable comeback under Brendon Rodgers to finish ninth in the league table.
Luka Milivojevic [Crystal Palace]
This one might be tricky.
Unlike most of our features on this list, Crystal Palace defensive midfielder Luka Milivojevic has impressed more in terms of his work ethic and leadership, which, of course, is hard to signify via stats. But, the Serbian international finished the campaign as the club’s top scorer with 12 goals (which proves just how shocking Crystal Palace really are in attack).
Milivojevic has ticked all boxes this campaign. The fact that Roy Hodgson arguably has the most direct and uncomplicated tactical systems in the Premier League is actually tailor-made for someone like Milivojevic, who is proficient in set-pieces.
In fact, he has created 59 chances for Palace this season – a tally bettered only by Andros Townsend. But, about 56 of them have come from corners or crosses and that really becomes useful when you have someone like Christian Benteke or Michy Batshuayi lurking inside the box.
And that’s just chance creation. Milivojevic still has a lot to offer!
The 28-year-old is known for his aggression and tenacity in midfield. Hence, it comes as no surprise that he has completed the second most number of tackles(90) in the team this season. It is also ninth highest in the league and sixth highest by any midfielder.
His ability to read the game has also played its part, with the midfielder completing 72 interceptions – also ninth highest in the league and seventh by any midfielder. And it gets even better.
Milivojevic has mustered a total of 10.49 xG, which is more than 20% of what Crystal Palace(50.64) have managed as a whole. So, is he the most influential midfielder in the Premier League? Well, we still have a couple more candidates!
Gylfi Sigurdsson [Everton]
After a disastrous debut campaign at the Goodison Park last season, Gylfi Sigurdsson has been a revelation under Marco Silva this term. The Icelandic international has played a central role in Silva’s promising debut campaign in charge of Everton, But, what magic did the Portuguese mastermind conjure to spring Sigurdsson’s form back into life?
Well for starters, all of Sigurdsson’s key metrics this season have taken a colossal bump when compared to last season. He has been averaging 2.3 shots per game(1.5 last season), 0.7 interceptions(0.3), 1.8 dribbles(1.1), 1.9 key passes(1.4) and a pass completion rate of 76% (74%).
The ex-Tottenham star was involved in 19 goals this season – making him the most productive Everton player. It also makes him the third most productive midfielder in the Premier League; behind Eriksen and Paul Pogba. In addition, he is the joint most prolific midfielder in the league, along with Pogba. Both have scored 13 goals each. And that speaks a lot already.
Most impressively, however, Sigurdsson has managed to outscore someone like Richarlison, who averages 0.67 passes before leading up to a shot per 90 minutes. He has totalled 12.12 xG this season, which is second highest by any midfielder in the league this season and slightly better than Richarlison’s tally of 11.33, though the Brazilian has had far fewer touches on the ball.
Consistency has also been a key factor in Sigurdsson’s game this season, and that is mainly the reason why we have chosen the Everton star over Pogba. But, without further ado, let’s move on to our final candidate on this list.
Bernardo Silva [Manchester City]
Arguably the best player for Manchester City this season, Bernardo Silva’s role in his club’s sheer dominance over English football has been immense. Following the injury of Kevin de Bruyne earlier in the campaign, Silva did exceptionally well to step up to the plate and ended the season as one Premier League’s best midfielders.
From a statistical perspective, Silva’s numbers are not over the top by any means and the Portuguese international doesn’t top any aspect of the game either.
But, he has definitely been the most consistent player on this list. And his technical prowess and quick-passing have sparked new life to Manchester City this season.
Tactical versatility has also been a factor, with the ex-Benfica star featuring in an astonishing five different roles under Pep Guardiola this campaign. Indeed, his versatility has allowed the Catalan to tinker with his plethora of attacking options ranging from Riyad Mahrez to Raheem Sterling.
It will be interesting to see how Guardiola manages to juggle between de Bruyne and Silva next season, when both the players will hopefully be fit throughout the entirety of the campaign.
And there we have it! Five of our best performing midfielders of the 2018/19 campaign. Who do you think was the best? Let us know in the poll below.