The players giving Arsenal hope for a better midfield than Chelsea and City

Aaron Ramsey

While some think Manchester City or Chelsea possess the best midfield in England, there is a strong case for Arsenal, and an unsung hero in Liverpool's ranks.

Earlier this week I wrote an article comparing Chelsea's midfield to Manchester City's.  My reason for doing so was the arrival of Nemanja Matic at Stamford Bridge, a player who has the potential to make Jose Mourinho's midfield every bit as powerful as Manuel Pellegrini's.

The analysis considered six main factors: goals, assists, interceptions won, tackles made, accurate passes and ball recovery.  And it was enlightening in the fact that Chelsea's Ramires came out on top in more than one category, raising the question as to whether partnering him with Matic would automatically make the Blues from London as formidable as the Blues from Manchester.

But having published my story, I was asked why I did not include Arsenal in the analysis; after all, they are the current Premier League leaders.  

Although the aim of my story was to focus solely on City versus Chelsea, the reader had a point.  If I was going to look at arguably the best midfields in the country, surely I would have to take into account the men currently sitting top of the pile.

So here I am redressing the balance, considering the midfield players from all the teams in the current top four. And it makes for interesting reading.

Below is a breakdown of the four teams, starting with the Gunners.

NameGoalsGoal AssistInterception WonTotal TackleAccurate PassBall RecoveryMins
Aaron Ramsey 8 6 19 66 1,064 135 1,495
Theo Walcott 5 4 4 5 210 23 858
Mesut Özil 4 7 3 13 902 78 1,399
Jack Wilshere 3 3 8 27 667 89 1,251
Mikel Arteta 1 0 25 47 801 88 994
Santiago Cazorla 1 2 16 18 731 93 1,183
Mathieu Flamini 1 0 23 28 623 70 964
Serge Gnabry 1 0 5 10 141 11 306
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 0 1 0 0 27 4 49
Tomas Rosicky 0 1 8 12 434 33 706

It is no surprise that Aaron Ramsey leads the way with goals scored, but he has also made the most tackles, the most accurate passes and has recovered the ball more than any of his midfield teammates.

While Mesut Ozil is hailed as the new jewel in the crown at the Emirates Stadium, it is the Welshman who outdoes him in practically every statistic above.

NameGoalsGoal AssistInterception WonTotal TackleAccurate PassBall RecoveryMins
Yaya Touré 10 3 16 30 1,319 125 1,758
Samir Nasri 4 4 8 26 915 77 1,386
David Silva 4 5 5 16 761 49 1,001
Fernandinho 3 2 46 59 915 113 1,662
Jesús Navas 3 6 15 23 517 53 1,092
James Milner 1 1 9 16 334 45 722
Javi García 0 0 14 10 411 36 639
Jack Rodwell 0 0 0 2 35 3 93

While I analysed City's midfield in my last piece, it is worth reminding people of Fernandinho's impressive amount of interceptions - 46 in total and a stat bettered only by Lucas Leiva of Liverpool in the midfields of any of the clubs considered here.

Yaya Toure - regarded by many as the best midfielder in the country - has recovered the ball 125 times, and yet there is one man who outdoes him.  You guessed it, Ramsey.  Although the Ivorian does have the last laugh when it comes to accurate passes.

NameGoalsGoal AssistInterception WonTotal TackleAccurate PassBall RecoveryMins
Eden Hazard 9 5 14 15 749 99 1,746
Oscar 6 2 3 52 586 73 1,278
Frank Lampard 4 3 12 35 639 75 1,189
Willian 2 1 7 19 330 37 712
John Obi Mikel 1 1 19 22 440 64 770
Ramires 1 2 21 67 846 138 1,799
Michael Essien 0 0 2 4 119 21 147
Juan Mata 0 2 3 14 473 52 834

I did not include Eden Hazard in my last piece as I see him more as a forward, but he is in the stats above  and has scored more goals and provided more assists for the Blues than any of the others listed.

Although he is outshone by teammate Ramires when it comes to both accurate passes and ball recovery.

NameGoalsGoal AssistInterception WonTotal TackleAccurate PassBall RecoveryMins
Steven Gerrard 4 6 19 42 955 110 1,407
Raheem Sterling 3 2 8 23 307 57 968
Philippe Coutinho 2 2 9 24 576 65 1,227
Jordan Henderson 1 5 19 49 974 107 1,869
Victor Moses 1 0 6 7 233 46 589
Luis Alberto 0 1 2 3 91 7 124
Joe Allen 0 0 10 26 327 39 612
Lucas Leiva 0 0 48 74 1,044 125 1,534

And finally we come to Liverpool, for whom I have already noted that Lucas has won the most interceptions of any player considered in this piece.  He is also behind only Toure and Ramsey when it comes to accurate passes (just 20 less than the Welshman).

He also matches Toure for ball recovery, with only Ramires and Ramsey outdoing him so far.

So what does all this tell us?  It tells us that despite many believing it is a straight fight between Chelsea and Manchester City for the best midfield in the country, there are players at both Arsenal and Liverpool who should not be lost in that debate.  In fact when it comes to interceptions won - a factor every bit as important for a midfielder as scoring and creating - Arsenal possess two of the top four in Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini.

Statistics can tell you anything you want them to, but Arsenal are top for a reason.  And perhaps the numbers above give us an insight into why.

 

image: © wonker

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