The real reason Arsenal and Liverpool top the table…

Lucas Leiva

Arsenal and Liverpool currently sit top of the Premier League, equal on points and goal difference after seven games played.

The two Red teams will face each other next month but, at present, there is almost nothing separating the two sides – just Arsenal’s superior number of goals scored which sees the Gunners take the top place.

Both sides have taken 16 points from an available 21 so far this season – both winning 5 games, drawing one and losing just one and whilst all the attention and plaudits will understandably go to their abundance of attacking talents, the credit for their position in the table must also be distributed throughout the team and to the managers Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers.

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge currently leads the Premier League in terms of his goal scoring with 6 to his name already – the England international has been simply superb this term, his form and fitness from the opening day to present day has been enough to keep Rodgers’ side’s title ambitions alive even prior to the return of the top scorer last season, Luis Suarez.

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Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has scored four and midfielder Aaron Ramsey who has been named Player of the Month for September has also scored four. The arrival of Mesut Ozil at the Emirates has been something of a lift for the whole club following a disappointing season last term and a tough time in the transfer market, of which Liverpool will be well aware of.

However, it is not their attacking talent I believe that has them both in poll position for the title race at present – the influence that holding midfielders Mathieu Flamini and Lucas have had on both sides’ season so far has been crucial.

It is not coincidence that Flamini and Lucas have picked up more yellow cards than anyone else so far this season – both have been booked four times in five and six appearances, respectively.

Whilst picking up yellow cards is not ordinarily something one would point to in a positive light, when we’re talking about defensive midfielders, those cards are often the player sacrificing himself to protect the team whether than be a cynical professional foul to break up a counter-attack from the opposition, any foul for the same reason, or a strong tackle, these players have been two of the most important and effective players in the Premier League.

They are underrated often because they don’t necessarily score goals or contribute to the build-up play the way playmakers do but their work in behind the midfield, protecting the backline has been crucial to their teams’ positions in the league. It's not pretty, it's not necessarily very clever, but it earns their teams vital points week in week out.

It's no surprise to me that, incidentally, both Arsenal and Liverpool have had their struggles without these two players in the side in recent seasons - Lucas has been out previously for long spells through injury and Flamini was at AC Milan. Since both have returned to action in the Premier League, their presence in the team is felt all over the pitch and shows in the excellent results and performances both teams are enjoying at present.

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