Premier League’s top five defensive midfielders, featuring Villa and West Ham players

Aston Villa’s Idrissa Gueye, West Ham United’s Mark Noble and Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin are among the best defensive midfielders so far this season.

With one month of the season gone, we take a look at which Premier League stars have excelled in their position so far, starting off with the all-important defensive midfield role.

Before Claude Makelele came onto the scene at Real Madrid and then Chelsea, defensive midfielders were often overlooked for box-to-box stars as 4-4-2 generally dominated the Premier League scene.

However, Jose Mourinho’s arrival in England sparked a change in mentality, with the lone striker and holding midfielder coming into fashion and later becoming absolutely pivotal roles.

Tackling, interceptions, winning defensive duels and ball recoveries have all become key characteristics of a holding midfielder, and the table below illustrates which players have shone in such areas.

  TeamDef Duel WinnersAerial WinnersTacklesInterceptionsEffective ClearancesBall RecoveriesAccurate PassesAppearances
Idrissa Gueye Aston Villa 43 6 14 12 1 33 189 4
Francis Coquelin Arsenal 33 5 15 8 4 45 224 4
Etienne Capoue Watford 32 5 7 13 9 32 182 4
Nemanja Matic Chelsea 30 10 7 8 7 44 193 4
Mark Noble West Ham 30 1 3 7 2 24 162 4

According to the table provided by Opta Stats, Aston Villa’s Idrissa Gueye leads the table in defensive duel winners while also making 14 tackles and 12 interceptions to date.

After losing Fabian Delph to Manchester City in the summer transfer window, many Villa supporters were feeling fairly despondent, but manager Tim Sherwood quickly identified Gueye as an ideal replacement and the former Lille star has made a big impact.

Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin also makes the Premier League’s top five defensive midfielders to date, with his results in each category arguably making him the best overall.

The Frenchman has been such an important figure for the Gunners since breaking into the team in early 2015, and some could argue that he has been even more of an influence than Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic.

The other notable name in the top five is West Ham United’s Mark Noble, with the player not exactly a natural defensive midfielder but still excelling in some of the key defensive areas.

The 28-year-old has won 30 defensive duels, and has made 24 ball recoveries and seven interceptions – not bad for someone who also adds creativity and a genuine goal threat from deep.

Noble has been a key performer for the Hammers under new boss Slaven Bilic, with his attributes certainly suited to the Croatian’s preference of a compact diamond formation away from home.

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