Stats: Who are the Premier League's best defensive forwards?

Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Manchester United players feature.

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.

PlayerTeamWon Tacklemins / Won TackleMins
Marouane Chamakh Crystal Palace 34 53.26 1,811
Yoan Gouffran Newcastle 27 59.00 1,593
Jay Rodriguez Southampton 27 75.11 2,028
Marko Arnautovic Stoke 22 55.91 1,230
Luis Suarez Liverpool 20 94.20 1,884

Yoan Gouffran, Jay Rodriguez, Marko Arnautovic and Suarez himself prop up the remainder of the top five.

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.

PlayerTeamInterceptionmins / InterceptionAppsMins
Yoan Gouffran Newcastle 26 61.27 23 1,593
Wayne Rooney Man Utd 22 79.82 21 1,756
Danny Welbeck Man Utd 18 63.39 17 1,141
Fabio Borini Sunderland 16 67.75 20 1,084
Jay Rodriguez Southampton 16 126.75 26 2,028

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.

PlayerTeamBall RecoveryMins
Eden Hazard Chelsea 126 2,190
Yoan Gouffran Newcastle 108 1,593
Jay Rodriguez Southampton 91 2,028
Jonathan Walters Stoke 91 1,881
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

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