Top 6 Defensive Midfielders in the Premier League since 2012

Over the course of the last five years, we’ve seen some of the best defensive midfielders grace the Premier League. You’ll agree with me that the job of these guys cannot go unnoticed – guys like me won’t let it.

Before I go further, allow me a few paragraphs to explain the job of a defensive midfielder. In times past, when the 4-4-2 formation held sway in soccer, we usually had 4 midfielders in every football starting line-up; one defensive midfielder (DM) who stays put, shields the back four and serves as a link between the more attacking midfielders and the strikers; then there’s the number 10 (the orchestrator) – he’s the man in charge of dictating the pace of the game, and ensuring that the wingers and strikers are seeing enough of the ball.

Over the past two decades, we’ve experienced a paradigm shift in football, as soccer managers have begun experimenting with new formations, a scenario that has dynamically changed the job of a defensive midfielder.

A defensive midfielder is now required to break up play (make vital interceptions), shield the defence, win aerial duels, bridge the gap between the attack and the midfield, join in the attack and grab a few goals if possible.

The number of defensive midfielders in the Premier League who have been able to meet up to this highly-demanding requirement in the past 5 years is quite a few.

Here are top 6 defensive midfielders who have been incredibly outstanding since 2012.


You might dispute his inclusion on this list but this is a guy who plays the defensive midfield position like he was born to play there. Fernandinho joined Manchester City in 2013 for £34 million and has since asserted himself as one of the most effective DMs in the Premier League.

Fernandinho helped Manchester City win the league in 2014, a season in which he played 33 games, scored 5 goals and provided 3 assists. But it was in the defensive midfield role that Fernandinho was the most effective. He made 58 interceptions, 98 tackles with a tackle success rate of 73%. He does make a few cynical tackles here and there but he’s breed is rare in the Premier League.

Lucas Leiva

Lucas is one defensive midfielder who receives far less credit than he should at Liverpool. He possesses the ability to break up play, fit perfectly into a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, dictate the pace of the game and distribute passes far and near.

Lucas joined Liverpool in 2007 for a fee of £5 million, signing for Rafael Benítez side from Brazilian club, Gremio. Lucas has gone on to become one of the highly underrated midfielders in the Premier League.

Here are some Lucas stats: he’s made 236 Premier League appearances for the Reds, making an astounding 470 interceptions. He’s provided 11 assists in that period.

Victor Wanyama

Victor has been remarkably good since he came to the Premier League. His career has been on the meteoric rise and that explains the burgeoning transfer fees he’s attracted since he came to Europe. Celtic signed him from Beerschot for just £900,000 but sold him to Southampton in 2013 for £12.5 million. His superb performances as both a defensive midfielder and a central midfielder, attracted Tottenham Hotspur, who signed him for £11 million in 2016.

Wanyama is known for his tough tackling, aerial prowess, ability break up play, distribute the ball and score a few goals. This guy simply cannot be outmuscled. Wanyama has scored 2 goals and made 33 interceptions for Spurs in 26 Premier League matches this season.

Gareth Barry

He’s been among the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League in the last decade, not just the last 5 years. Barry has smashed the Guinness book of records for the most starts in the Premier League era, having broken David James’ record of 571 starts. Barry, has made 617 appearances for Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester City combined. Barry also holds the record for the most yellow cards collected by a Premier League player, with 115 bookings.

Barry is a hard tackler, a fast-paced midfielder who can single-handedly win any midfield battle on his day. Although he’s an ageing breed, the former Aston Villa skipper is one of the best English defensive midfielders of all time.

N’Golo Kante

The top defensive midfield general in the Premier League is N’Golo Kante! I once wrote an article where I described him as “a midfielder who plays like he has ten fully charged batteries in his shorts” – if you’ve not watched Kante play before, I urge you to watch the next Chelsea game, and look out for the Chelsea number 7.

Kante came to the Premier League from French Ligue 1 club Caen in 2015; by 2016 he was a Premier League Champion, making the highest number of interceptions in the league (156). He currently plays for Chelsea, where he is constantly proving to be the difference between Chelsea and other teams. Kante is the best defensive midfielder in England.

Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure is a player who needs little or no introduction for fans of the Premier League. The midfield giant is the highest paid player on this list – earning £220,000-per-week. Yaya Toure signed for Manchester City in 2010 from Barcelona and had since been one of the best midfield stalwarts in the Premier League since then.

Toure’s massive body shape gives him the advantage of bullying opposition and winning back possession for his team with relative ease. He’s also known for his knack of scoring great goals when he goes forward. After a rough start for him this term, Yaya Toure has become a regular feature in Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City squad, appearing 14 times and contributing 4 goals.

What do you think ?? Are they the Best DMs ??​

About the Author Kingsley

I am a football/soccer connoisseur who enjoys crafting interesting articles like the one you just read.

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