Real Madrid’s Casemiro (left) and Liverpool’s Fabinho (right)
The midfield is the spine of a football team. A team that dictates proceedings in the center of the park usually dominates the game and ekes out a positive result. Thanks to the ways in which the modern game has evolved, the roles in midfield have become quite specific in nature.
Several teams use a double pivot in midfield whereby two defensive midfielders provide cover to the backline. But there are also teams that use just one defensive midfielder and are more attack-oriented in their style of play.
The primary job of a defensive midfielder is to disrupt play and win back possession for his side. Subsequently, he is tasked with recycling possession and distributing the ball to help his side transform from defence to attack.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five of the best defensive midfielders in the world this season.
#5 Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
Bayern München v Villarreal CF Quarter Final Leg Two – UEFA Champions League
Joshua Kimmich is one of the most versatile footballers on the planet. The German international can play in any position across midfield and can also fill in at right-back. Kimmich is one of the best deep-lying playmakers in the game right now.
He has been a bit inconsistent this season but we’ve seen quite a lot of glimpses of his quality. Kimmich is the player with the most number of passes played into the final third in the Bundesliga in the ongoing campaign. He has made a total of 61 interceptions in the league for Bayern Munich this season.
Kimmich’s ball-playing qualities are elite and has scored three goals and provided 10 assists in 34 appearances across all competitions for the Bavarians this term.
#4 Casemiro (Real Madrid)
Chelsea FC v Real Madrid Quarter Final Leg One – UEFA Champions League
Alongside the legendary Toni Kroos and the inimitable Luka Modric, Casemiro formed the most lethal midfield trio of the past decade. They are still going strong and Casemiro’s belligerent style of play provides the steel to Real Madrid‘s midfield.
The Brazilian international is an aggressive presence at the center of the pitch. He ranks fourth for tackles in La Liga this season with 86 to his name. Casemiro is also fourth in the Spanish top-flight for interceptions made with 53.
He is also relatively tidy in possession and has been crucial to Real Madrid’s domestic and European campaigns this term.
#3 Fabinho (Liverpool)
Leeds United v Liverpool – Premier League
Liverpool have been one of the most dominant teams in Europe in the ongoing season. They have already won the League Cup and are still in with a chance of winning the quadruple this term. Liverpool are a difficult team to break down and much of the credit for that has to go to their defensive midfielder Fabinho.
Fabinho has made a total of 48 interceptions for Liverpool in the Premier League this season. He has also been quite reliable as a penalty taker. Fabinho has scored seven goals and provided one assist for Liverpool in 39 appearances across all competitions so far this term.
Fabinho is a calming presence in midfield for the Merseysiders and it’s very hard to get the better of him when he is on song.
#2 Declan Rice (West Ham United)
Olympique Lyon v West Ham United: Quarter Final Leg Two – UEFA Europa League
If there were any doubts about the hype surrounding Declan Rice last summer, the player has done more than enough this season to put all that to bed. Rice has done remarkably well for West Ham United in midfield in recent times.
Not only is he excellent at breaking up play and turning over possession, but he is also excellent at foraying forward with the ball at his feet. He has made a whopping 54 interceptions in the Premier League this season.
Rice has also completed 31 of his 52 attempted dribbles in the English top-flight this season and that is a fair reflection of his ball progression skills. He has also scored five goals and provided four assists in 42 appearances across all competitions for the Hammers this season.
#1 Rodri (Manchester City)
Manchester City v Leeds United – Premier League
Rodri has been phenomenal at the base of midfield for Manchester City. The Spanish international is one of the most intelligent footballers on the planet. He is also one of the most well-rounded midfielders in the world right now.
His positioning, tactical knowledge and spatial awareness enables Pep Guardiola’s side to play an attacking brand of football. Rodri almost always does the work of two players in midfield. He averages 87.58 passes per game in the Premier League this term.
Rodri has also made 33 interceptions and 40 blocks in addition to winning 60% of his attempted tackles as well. The 25-year-old has scored three goals and provided an assist in 37 appearances across all competitions for Manchester City so far this season.