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Top 5 holding midfielders in the English Premier League

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Not pretty - the role, but pretty necessary.

Victor Wanyama, Fernandinho
A battle between 2 of the top defensive midfielders in England.

The role of a holding midfielder in modern day football has evolved and adapted from simply acting as a barricade to the defense, to being a multi-faceted player required to create quick counter attacks, switch the ball across flanks to spread play and stretch the opposition, whilst guarding the defense from attacks down the channel and between the lines.

Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, various players across a number of clubs have tackled the role of being the ‘team’s player’, a term created for the holding player, since his role involves all aspects of football intelligence like picking up the occasional card to help the team’s cause and more often than not, the club having the most consistent performing player in the role goes on to help his club raise the coveted EPL trophy. 

Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Micheal Essien to name a few in the recent past, have all dominated the heart of the midfield for their respective clubs and have gone on to win major honours.

Also read: 10 best midfielders in Europe this season

Just last season, N’Golo Kante forged a rock solid combination with England international Danny Drinkwater in a flat 4-4-2 system in the middle of the park and led the Foxes to their maiden Premier League crown. Having now made a switch to West London super-giants Chelsea, the French international will have to adapt to Antonio Conte’s three in the centre of midfield. 

Here, we take a look at the top five holding midfielders currently plying their trade in the English Premier League.


#5 Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry, Everton
Barry may have aged but he hasn’t lost any of his intensity.

The veteran English international, also the latest addition to the Guinness Book of World Records for the most starts in the Premier League era, 580, is and has been one of the finest holding midfielders in the last two decades for England.  

A former league title winner with Manchester City, Barry,  found his feet again under new manager Ronald Koeman at Everton, who has assured the veteran of a starting place in his side, views him as a vital cog in the system he is trying to develop at the Merseyside football club.

Koeman insists and instills a quick high-tempo passing game that is very suited to Barry’s style where the Englishman gets to dictate the game at a pace he sets with his distribution skills. At 35, some can argue he has lost his pace and intensity but Barry has adapted to his role with better positioning and the one thing age won’t take away from the Englishman is his intensity, which remains the same as when he made his debut 18 years ago for Aston Villa.

An already highly successful career with hope for more honours in the coming years under the Koeman regime at Everton, Gareth Barry will go down in history as one of the best England have ever produced and is number five on the list.

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