Midfielders have always been the key to a successful side. Football has now developed to a stage where the midfield battle is key to winning a game. No better example exists than the recent Euro 2012 winning Spanish national team who chose to play without a striker in a 4-6-0 formation on multiple occasions in the tournament. Having said that, it'll be fair to say that it has always been the attacking midfielders who receive the most recognition.
The defensive minded players, however, are generally the hardest working and sadly the most underrated players in the world of football. They are given the task of running through the length of the pitch performing both their defensive and offensive duties when required. A defensive midfielder is thus an orchestrator, a screener, a ball winner, a defender and even an occasional finisher.
This season, defensive midfielders have underlined their increasing importance on the pitch.
So, here is a list of the top five defensive midfielders of the 2012-13 season.
5. Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
If Yaya Toure hadn't missed the number of games he has this season, Manchester City would've been better off in the Barclays Premier League. The time he is injured or playing in Africa for the AFCON, City, quite clearly, struggle. Even last season, Manchester City let their lead over their neighbours slip during the AFCON, sorely missing him. The sheer strength, passing accuracy and vision, helps Yaya, dominate the midfield. Earlier this season, when City faced a daunting Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeau, Yaya Toure was the Man of the Match despite City losing the game 3-2. Such was his dominance in the game that he appeared to be the only Man in a game of Boys. A real stalwart for City, Yaya Toure is number 5 on the list only because of the games he has missed this season.
4. Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint Germain)
Playing for team studded with players of the prowess and panache of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and more recently, David Beckham, it is hard to make your mark. Blaise Matuidi has done exactly that. A player who absolutely loves to tackle, averaging 3.6 tackles per match Matuidi may well be considered the reason PSG are still in the Champions League. He was without doubt their only silver lining in a rather drab performance in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie against Valencia. His defensive and ball-winning abilities make him stand out at PSG and thus are a regular starter for Carlo Ancelotti's side. Add to that his ability to play on either side of the centre of the pitch at the age of 25; we get a truly special talent. He makes to number four on this list with serious promise of becoming a great defensive mid-fielder in the coming times.
3. Lars Bender (Bayern Leverkusen)
Bayern Leverkusen have had a pretty decent season thus far. For most of the season, they've been second in the table in the Bundesliga, and are just a point below Borussia Dortmund in third currently. Also, they've been the only team to beat Bayern Munich this season in the Bundesliga. Their star striker S. Keibling is currently joint top scorer in the Bundesliga and is a prime reason for their great showing thus far. Having said that, there's another rather underrated individual in the Leverkusen side, who has managed to gather 3 assists and 3 goals from a defensive position. Lars Bender has been pretty influential in his side's decent showing. He is sure on the ball and accurate with his passing too. Another player who likes to tackle, he also has managed to block seven shots so far in the Bundesliga. Only 23 years of age, Lars Bender has all the qualities to take up the role that Sami Khedira has in the German National Team and also is ready to be scalped by the major football powerhouses in European football. At number 3, for his performances both in the Bundesliga and in the Europa League, is Lars Bender.
2. Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
Manchester United came out with a plan against Real Madrid in their second leg. To be fair to them, they it was working before Nani was controversially sent off. The plan was simple; mark Xabi Alonso, suffocate him for space and the main supply to Cristiano Ronaldo will automatically be cut off. Once Nani got red-carded, Danny Welbeck shifted towards the right and Alonso was free. Immediately, Real Madrid looked like scoring. That is how important a player Xabi Alonso is. Sure in aerial duels and even more sure in his tackling, Xabi Alonso forms the backbone of both the Los Blancos and the Spanish National Team. He is a perfect mix of defence and attack and is probably the best defensive midfielder of recent times.
1. Arturo Vidal (Juventus)
Currently, Arturo Vidal is probably THE best defensive midfielder in world football. Not an out and out defensive midfielder, the Chilean is played more in a central midfielder's role with Andrea Pirlo just behind him in the Juventus system. But Andrea Pirlo doesn't tackle much. He is more of an architect. This means that Vidal has to play the role of a defensive midfielder as well. He averages a staggering 5 tackles per game and has scored on 10 occasions, whilst providing 9 assists in all competition. Alongside this, he successfully completes 88% of the passes he makes. At number one, staking his deserved claim is Arturo Vidal.
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