A midfield enforcer who will get stuck in and win back possession for his team is vital in any Premier League side. Here at Threeandin.com we recognise the men who could be deemed the most important men in the division by counting down the top 10 ball winners in the Premier League. All stats courtesy of the excellent WhoScored.com
10. John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
The Nigerian has displaced Michael Essien as Chelsea’s first choice holding midfielder this season, resulting in Essien’s departure on loan to Real Madrid. Mikel is perhaps the most understated member of the current Chelsea side, with the statistics speaking greater volumes than his perceived performance on the pitch. But in a side that contains superstars like Hazard and Torres, the quiet ball winner is always going to play second fiddle.
9. Steven N’Zonzi (Stoke)
The tall Frenchman was one of the few successes at Blackburn Rovers last season and has continued that form at new club Stoke. The 24-year-old has provided solid cover for the Potters back line this season, winning as many balls defensively as in the midfield. His cover has helped Stoke to develop the meanest defence in the Premier League this season, conceding just 13 goals in their opening 18 games.
8. Leon Britton (Swansea)
Leon Britton has been one of the standout players of Swansea’s two seasons in the Premier League. His performances, along with a high work rate throughout the park, have led him to be rumoured with a potential future England call-up, and with these stats, that call-up might not be far away.
7. Mikele Leigertwood (Reading)
Part of the Reading team that gained promotion to the Premier League last season, the tenacious defensive midfielder has brought the tough tackling mentality from the Championship with him into England’s top flight. His ability to get stuck-in and win the ball back could be key to Reading’s survival chances this year.
6. Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
Perhaps one of United’s most consistent performers over the past five seasons, Carrick’s ball winning abilities have meant that not only has become the linchpin of United’s midfield but has also required him to fill in at centre back a handful of times over the past two seasons. One of the most overlooked players in the country, Carrick has only managed 26 England caps over the course of his career despite playing in three out of the last five Champions League finals.
5. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Having been brought to the Emirates following the departure of Cesc Fabregas, Mikel Arteta has proved to be a solid replacement for the former Arsenal skipper. His ability to win the ball, particularly in the attacking third has made him one of the Gunners most valuable assets so far this season.
4. Leon Osman (Everton)
The 31-year-old is having a fantastic season. Following an England call-up against Sweden in November, Osman’s Everton are riding high in the Premier League. His aggression in the final third has been one of the driving forces behind the Toffees this season, and will be a key player in deciding where Everton finish the season.
3. Mark Noble (West Ham)
A dominant part of the West Ham’s midfield, which has seen the club make an impressive return to the Premier League. Solid and robust throughout the park, Noble is a typical product of The Sam Allardyce Project and there is no surprise that he has worked his way into this list.
2. Youssouf Mulumbu (West Brom)
The most defensively minded of all the entrants into the top 10, Mulumbu has won back possession for West Brom in the defensive third more times than any other play in this list. The Congolese international’s quiet, yet integral, role this season has seen the Baggies perform above all expectations and currently preside over sixth place in the table.
1. Joe Allen (Liverpool)
Joe Allen leading the way as the Premier League’s best ball winner is perhaps symptomatic of Liverpool’s misfiring opening to the season. The 22-year-old has made a solid start to his career at Anfield, emerging as one of the brighter stars in Brendan Rodgers’ beleaguered squad. More of the Welshman’s resolve will be required from the Reds if they are going to get anywhere near the top four this season.