By 90Min
October 18, 2019

A strong midfield is essential for success in the Premier League. 

It links the defence to the attack, with the men in the middle of the park dictating the tempo of matches and, therefore, controlling how a contest plays out. Of course, money speaks in football, so the wealthiest clubs often have the best midfields.

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Nevertheless, some of the Premier League's richest competitors have been struggling to forge a strong unit in the heart of their lineup - it seems intelligence is also required for making worthwhile investments. 

Likewise, some of the poorest have effective operators in their midfield, having made shrewd signings in the transfer market or developed a promising talent from a young age.

Here, 90min ranks the midfields of each club currently battling it out in the top-flight.


20. Norwich City

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Norwich have been a welcome addition to the Premier League following a three-year absence, but their stay will be as brief as can possibly be unless things improve at Carrow Road.

Alexander Tettey, Kenny McLean, Moritz Leitner and Marco Stiepermann are all hard-working players and Todd Cantwell can provide a bit of magic on occasion. However, those occasions have been too few and far between this season.


19. Brighton

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With Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk as two of his three centre-backs, Graham Potter has a marvellous defence that will frustrate opponents. Unfortunately for the Brighton boss, his midfield is a slight cause for concern. 


Dale Stephens' lack of mobility means the skipper has to have protection around him, yet the likes of Davy Propper and Pascal Gross have - a number of times - shown themselves to be rather suspect when defending.


18. Sheffield United

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Sheffield United supporters may be a bit miffed to see their side so low down on the list. Don't worry Blades fans, Chris Wilder's squad have shown themselves to be greater than the sum of their individual parts in 2019/20.

Though Johns Fleck and Lundstram began the campaign with almost zero Premier League experience between them, they and Oliver Norwood have been immaculate as they screen the backline. 

Supposedly-better opponents have been rocked by this midfield trio, who could well be climbing up the rankings as the season progresses.


17. Southampton

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James Ward-Prowse is a delightful set-piece specialist, but has a tendency to cough up possession for Southampton.

Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are ferocious forces in the centre of the field, but both lack discipline and that has proved very costly at times for the Saints. 

There's a solid foundation from which to work, but my goodness there's a lot of work for Ralph Hasenhuttl to do.


16. Crystal Palace

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If Luka Milivojevic was the entire midfield, Crystal Palace would be amongst the clubs at the very top of these standings. Sadly, he is not.

After hitting a combined 22 goals in the previous two league campaigns, the Serbian is the true poster boy of Selhurst Park, not wing sensation Wilfried Zaha. 

He is surrounded by powerful players, such as Cheikhou Kouyate, and tidy playmakers, like Victor Camarasa. However, none are on the technical level of Milivojevic - he oozes class.


15. Newcastle United

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Let's all hop on the Longstaff brothers bandwagon! The Geordie duo have each had their moment in the sun, with eldest Sean the first to break onto the scene in a standout showing last term.

Matty's time to shine came as autumn started to bite, the 19-year-old rifling home the winner versus Manchester United to once again put the family name up in lights.

People think Steve Bruce has limited options at Newcastle, but the Longstaffs can form the spine of this Magpies outfit, whilst Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden have also been impressive since they were reintegrated at St James' Park. 


14. Aston Villa

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Villa look to have a nice balance to their midfield. The flair and creativity is provided by Jack Grealish, who is given the freedom to strut his stuff by the selfless work of Douglas Luiz, Conor Hourihane and the aptly-named Marvelous Nakamba.

Additionally, Scotland international John McGinn has a taste for goals - he's struck three in eight this year - which is always beneficial. It's healthy to have an attacking threat that stretches beyond just the forward line, and that should see the Villans avoid the drop.


13. Watford

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Watford may be propping up the Premier League table at present, but their performance this season is not a fair reflection of the talent within the Hornets side.

Anyone who doubts the abilities of fearsome double act Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure doesn't understand football. 

They're one of the finest pairings in the top-flight; it's just a shame Will Hughes has been wayward of late, with the same true of Tom Cleverley for the last few years.


12. Bournemouth

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After nearly 300 days on the treatment table for torn knee ligaments, Lewis Cook is back for Bournemouth. He's still easing himself into the swing of things, yet the Cherries know their midfield will receive a sizeable boost once the England man is firing on all cylinders again.

Philip Billing hasn't looked at all out of place following his arrival from Huddersfield Town, while the highly-physical, surprisingly-dexterous Jefferson Lerma continues to thrive on these shores. Cook's addition will only strengthen a midfield that is already imposing.


11. Burnley

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For the most part, Burnley aren't about that attacking life. Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood are devilish strikers and cause mayhem for opposing defences, though the Clarets' success in recent years has no doubt come as a result of their solidity and organisation.

The midfield is the epitome of Burnley-ball. Industrious, well-marshalled and athletic, Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Westwood are reliable rocks for Sean Dyche. 

They first and foremost make sure the backline is protected, before picking their moments to venture up-field in search of the odd goal. It's simply beautiful to watch.


10. Everton

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It's incredible to think Marco Silva can't get this Everton side to function properly, especially when he has one of the league's greatest attacking midfielders at his disposal.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is nothing short of brilliant when he's in the mood. Unfortunately, he is rarely in the mood, though that's likely due to the shambles of a team he has around him. 

Aside from Fabian Delph, none of his fellow midfielders have been worthy of wearing the Toffees shirt this term. They've all appeared short on skill or wholly disinterested.


9. West Ham United

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Declan Rice, Jack Wilshere, Mark Noble, Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson and Carlos Sanchez - West Ham are well-stocked in midfield.

It's no real surprise to see Manuel Pellegrini's recruits enjoy a sound beginning to 2019/20 now the Chilean has had time to implement his philosophy. 

As the squad continues to gel, the Hammers should continue to improve, with the likes of Rice and Anderson seemingly ready for European football, whether that be at the London Stadium or elsewhere.


8. Manchester United

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The less said about Manchester United, the better. It's easy to kick a dog while it's down and the Red Devils' woes are well-documented, so we'll be brief with how each player has fared of late.

Paul Pogba causes frustration. Scott McTominay is ever-improving and constantly impressive. Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata look past it. Fred and Andreas Perieira just aren't good enough. Jesse Lingard has hit the worst form of his career. 

Saying all that, there's considerable pedigree in Ole Gunnar Solsjaer's squad - if only he were a more accomplished manager...


7. Arsenal

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Sure, Granit Xhaka does some outrageous things on the regular, but usually not in a good way. 

Nevertheless, the Swiss is an understated passer of the ball and clearly has authority in the changing rooms...which is something.

Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira are arguably better all-round players than Xhaka, with Dani Ceballos certainly above him in terms of playmaking ability. Throw in up-and-coming starlet Joe Willock and you have a fine assortment of midfielders to select from.


6. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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Nuno Espirito Santo has a cracking midfield unit to play with at Molineux. Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho are all fabulous footballers, capable of challenging for a place in nearly any Premier League squad.

The fact that towering centre-back Romain Saiss can likewise operate in midfield is just overkill for Wolves. That collection of players - bolstered by the rise of Morgan Gibbs-White - was the launchpad for their stellar performance as top-flight newbies in 2018/19.


5. Tottenham Hotspur

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When Christian Eriksen departs north London, Tottenham's midfield will simply not be the same. The Dane has been a delicious playmaker for Spurs, his consistent displays leaving him 19th in the Premier League's all-time assist charts.

While Eriksen provides the inch-perfect through-balls, Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele are the raw power that gets the Tottenham machine rumbling, with Harry Winks keeping things ticking over. Surely, they will be back to their best in the near future, given the quality in the side.


4. Leicester City

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Brendan Rodgers inherited a good midfield and - with the help of two smart purchases and one recalled loanee - made it a great midfield.

Dennis Praet and Youri Tielemans have been tremendous with their slick passing and intelligent reading of play, as has young gun Harvey Barnes. Then there's Hamza Choudhury and Wilfred Ndidi who do the less glamorous, but equally important jobs for the Foxes.

However, we all know who the star of the show is for Leicester - James Maddison, take a bow.


3. Chelsea

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Jorginho isn't the fastest across the turf and Mateo Kovacic ghosted through matches last season. Both men may have thought their time at Stamford Bridge was up, but that is not the case at all.

Frank Lampard seems to have got the Chelsea midfield motoring, finding a system that brings the best out of N'Golo Kante and Mason Mount, without making Jorginho surplus to requirements.

The Italian continues to distribute from deep, Kante has become a genuine attacking threat and Ross Barkley is proving his £15m was a bargain. On top of that, Kovacic finally looks motivated, Mount is dazzling his way through defences and we haven't even mentioned Ruben Loftus-Cheek.


2. Liverpool

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Jurgen Klopp has settled on his starting midfield trio and Liverpool are reaping the rewards. Having been made to wait for a chance at Anfield, Fabinho has grown into the league's top defensive midfielder, with his coach choosing two partners who complement the Brazilian.

Jordan Henderson's harassing of opponents and ceaseless running are integral to the pressing game Klopp likes to employ, whilst Giorginio Wijnaldum is not far off becoming a truly complete midfielder. 

That Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita can't get a look in tells you all you need to know about the fluidity, stability and proficiency of the aforementioned three.


1. Manchester City

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Manchester City are spoiled in every department. However, they are particularly gluttonous when it comes to signing midfielders.

Rodri makes a splendid pivot at the base of Pep Guardiola's midfield; the Spaniard evidently the right man to replace Fernandinho. 

He gets involved with the attacking play, though the undisputed playmaking king is Kevin De Bruyne. The Premier League record for most assist in a season is 12, with the Belgian only four short of that with 30 games left to go. 

Oh, there's also two nifty little Silvas at the Etihad Stadium, a blossoming Phil Foden and the reliable Ilkay Gundogan. Yep, Pep has a decent midfield.


For more from Ed Alexander, follow him on Twitter!

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