The 2021-22 Premier League season has been one to watch as things remain tight at the top as well as in the relegation battle. This has led to games being much more open and far more intense.
The Premier League has several aerial ball-winners
Some teams have preferred to play possession-based football with short slick passing. Others have used the 'long ball' approach to thwart their opponents. Understandably, aerial duels have become an important element of the game, be it in open play or set-pieces. Some players have excelled in that aspect more than others.
On that note, let's take a look at five players who have won the most aerial duels in the Premier League this season.
#5 Mohammed Salisu (85)
Mohammed Salisu has been one of the standout centre-backs in the Premier League this term. The 22-year-old ace joined Southampton in 2020 from Valladoid and has been incredible for the Saints this season.
Ralph Hassenhuttl and co could secure a top-half finish this term and a lot of it is down to their Ghanian centre-back.
The defender has been leading the backline exceedingly well with his incredible tackles and interceptions. One of the main features of Salisu is that he reads the game well and lets very little space for his opponent to get past him.
His presence in the air has been second to none as well. The youngster is often heading out corners or winning balls played over the top of the defense. This has led to him winning 85 aerial duels in 21 league appearances this term.
Salisu is a star for the future and it might not be long before a top Premier League club signs him up for a big-money move.
#4 James Tarkowski (88)
James Tarkowski has yet again been a massive presence at the back for Burnley this season. Sean Dyche may not have managed to get the Clarets out of the relegation zone yet but he does possess a backline that can get him out of it.
Burnley may be 20th in the league table but have conceded fewer goals than every team in the bottom half of the table. This is due to their rock-hard defense which is anchored by Tarkowski.
The 29-year-old ace has tons of experience and often puts his body on the line to avoid conceding a goal or stopping a dangerous pass. Since the Clarets use a low block to prevent teams from playing through them, opponents often try to catch them through crosses. But Tarkowski is a master at reading them and heading them out of danger.
He also does not shy away from aerial duels and is strong in the air. All of this has helped him win 88 aerial duels in just 17 league appearances this term.
Burnley still have more than half a season to play and Tarkowski is likely to play a vital role in keeping them up this term.
#3 Ivan Toney (95)
Ivan Toney has been one of the most difficult Premier League attackers to defend against this season. The Englishman fired Brentford to the Premier League through a stellar season in the Championship last term, scoring 31 goals in 45 league matches.
He has kept up his performances in the top-flight this year as well.
Although the Bees do not enjoy a lot of possession on the ball against their opponents, they are quick in transition. Defenders often launch the ball towards Toney, who wins the first ball in the air and secures possession for his side.
They are also a counter-attacking team, courtesy of which the 25-year-old striker is the man to target in the penalty box at the end of a move. His strength, guile and awareness of the players around him makes him a focal figure on the Brentford frontline.
His performances against Arsenal, Leeds United and Liverpool have been the most impressive this term. All of those qualities have also ensured that he has won 95 aerial duels in 21 league games this season.
Toney has been the top-scorer for Brentford this season with seven goals in 24 appearances in all competitions. His heading abilities are likely to land him several more goals by the end of the campaign.
#2 Ethan Pinnock (108)
Ethan Pinnock is one of the three sturdy centre-backs in the Brentford defense. However, he is the man who leads the backline and the ball-playing defender too. The Jamaican is often in the face of the opponent and steps out to intercept the ball when he senses danger.
However, his true qualities lie in heading the ball out of danger. At 6'4, Pinnock is more than just a massive presence in the box. He dominates most aerial duels and covers the near post during corners.
The 28-year-old also has loads of experience and his strength on the ball is often enough to win most duels. But against tall and burly strikers, who the Premier League possesses in abundance, Pinnock is a valuable asset.
He reads set-pieces well and gets his head to the ball first on most occasions. In doing so, he has managed to win an incredible 108 aerial duels in 22 games this season.
Brentford may have conceded a number of goals this season but few have been from set-pieces thanks to Pinnock and his heading abilities.
#1 Chris Wood (112)
Chris Wood is the second most expensive signing in the history of Newcastle United at £25 million and for good reason. The Saudi-led consortium were bound to spend big in January and the former Burnley ace was their second acquisition of the January transfer window.
A key reason behind bringing the striker to the club is his aerial ability. Burnley have profited for a long time due to the Kiwi international's capabilities in the air and the Geordies are hoping to do the same this term.
At 6'3, Wood is quite obviously one of the tallest players in the Premier League and he makes good use of it. He often positions himself into dangerous areas in the box and leaps higher than most to score towering headers.
He uses his aerial presence to help in the build-up play too, by holding up the ball or heading it on to an on-rushing winger. All in all, the 30-year-old centre-forward has won a mammoth 112 aerial duels in just 19 league games this season.
Wood will be keen on justifying his price tag. He will look to use his heading capabilities to prevent Newcastle from getting relegated this season.