A striker’s work when his side is out of possession can make a remarkable difference on a club’s fortunes - even if ultimately he will be judged on goals scored and provided.
Earlier this week Liverpool legend Ian Rush lauded Luis Suarez as player of the year, but not just for the prolific finishing ability he’s set the football world alight with.
It was the Uruguayan’s contributions off the ball that the Welshman - known in his own right for defending from the front - pointed to in praising the oft controversial hit man.
And so Rush’s comments got us thinking here at HITC - statistically speaking, who are best defensive forwards in the English game this term?
In terms of tackling, former Arsenal flop Marouane Chamakh takes top honours - factoring into the discussion with 34 successful challenges for relegation-threatened Crystal Palace.
|Player||Team||Won Tackle||mins / Won Tackle||Mins|
|Marouane Chamakh||Crystal Palace||34||53.26||1,811|
On a per-minute basis, it’s Chamakh that also shines brightest, followed by the Stoke and Newcastle men - Rodriguez and Suarez not far behind for sides that see far more possession on average than the other three.
Gouffran and Rodriguez again make the list for interceptions - bookending the top five with 26 and 16 respectively - Manchester United pair Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck filling out the middle alongside Liverpool loanee Fabio Borini.
|Player||Team||Interception||mins / Interception||Apps||Mins|
|Wayne Rooney||Man Utd||22||79.82||21||1,756|
|Danny Welbeck||Man Utd||18||63.39||17||1,141|
The Magpies’ Frenchman also tops the charts rate-wise with an intervention just over every hour of game time - Welbeck and Borni not far behind in this area.
And finally, it’s Chelsea’s heralded Eden Hazard who’s chased down the most loose balls - having made an enormous 126 ball recoveries to date.
|Wayne Rooney||Man Utd||89||1,756|
Gouffran (108) and Rodriguez (91) represent themselves well in popping up in the top five in all three categories put forth, Jonathan Walters (91) making the cut with Rooney (88) appearing once more.
The former two certainly have a shout to be named as the Premier League’s finest in defending from the front, whilst Rooney has his say as well in accordance with his two-way style.
There are plenty of intangibles - unmeasurable in metrics - that come along with a forward’s defensive impact, but it’s clear to see the players that deserve consideration for top billing based on the numbers.
So as these men continue to hunt down goals in search of three points for their clubs, be sure to keep one eye on their performances when the ball has gone away.
Rush made the difference for a ravenous Liverpool in his own day contributing in every area of the pitch, and those who seek to emulate him can prove a boon to their side - serving as an initial line of protection and making life difficult for opponents looking to break through.
images: © Ronmacphotos