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Paul Merson picks the 5 best midfielders in the Premier League right now 

Kevin De Bruyne is undoubtedly the best midfielder in the Premier League at the moment
Kevin De Bruyne is undoubtedly the best midfielder in the Premier League at the moment
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Paul Merson

Only seven games have been played in the 2022-23 Premier League season, but we've already got a clear idea of what to expect from the new campaign. Arsenal lead the pack with 18 points from seven games, while Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are just a point behind them as things stand.

When it comes to the best midfield players in the Premier League, it's a tough one to call as managers expect players to play specific roles for their teams. That said, Kevin De Bruyne immediately grabs your attention, and there are no prizes for guessing that he tops my list.

I thought about it a lot, and it saddens me a little bit that there isn't a single English player in my top five. If you draw up a similar list of right-backs or wingers, you could argue that it could well be dominated by English players, but when it comes to midfielders in the Premier League, that isn't quite the case.

People might look at my picks and go, 'Oh my god, what is he saying?' but this is how I look at the game, so here are my five best midfielders in the Premier League as things stand.


#1 Kevin De Bruyne - Manchester City

Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund: Group G - UEFA Champions League
Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund: Group G - UEFA Champions League

At the moment, I believe Kevin De Bruyne is the best player in world football, so he undoubtedly tops my list. His vision is on a different level and he's so, so intelligent. Wolves sat back and put 10 men behind the ball against Manchester City the other day, but De Bruyne went on the overlap and served the ball on a platter for Jack Grealish to slot home from close range - which shows just how much quality he possesses.

You can look at the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar - who have all been fantastic for PSG this season - but De Bruyne is the all-round package and was an easy pick at #1. I know it doesn't make much sense to compare players who don't play in the same position in the Premier League, but De Bruyne's consistency over the years for this Manchester City side has been staggering, to say the least.

He plays with the insurance policy of Rodri behind him, who in my opinion is the best defensive midfielder in world football at the moment. They complement each other very well and it allows De Bruyne to run the show as the right-sided #8 in a 4-3-3 and influence games for Pep Guardiola.


#2 Thiago Alcantara - Liverpool

Fulham FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Fulham FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League

Thiago Alcantara is an unbelievable footballer, he's a class act. When he doesn't play, Liverpool are a completely and utterly different team and we've seen that a handful of times already this Premier League season. When he first joined, there was a lot of talk that he slowed Liverpool down a little, but after adapting to the pace of the Premier League, there's been no stopping him!

I just like the way he plays and moves - he's always looking forward and is more than comfortable playing one-touch football when the situation calls for it. I like players who see things on the football pitch before they happen and he's one of them, which is why I'm such a big fan of him.

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People might be a bit surprised with Thiago's inclusion at #2, but this is how I see the game and I genuinely believe that this guy is a special player. We're talking about a world-class player who makes such a huge difference to a team like Liverpool - we saw it first-hand against Ajax when he started the game and absolutely ran the show for his team.

These lists are obviously very subjective and could change every Premier League gameweek, but Thiago is a player I've always rated over the years.


#3 Jorginho - Chelsea

Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League
Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League

When Jorginho first joined to play at the base of Chelsea's midfield under Maurizio Sarri, he got a lot of stick. That said, over the years, he's played regularly under every manager who has taken over the reins at Stamford Bridge, which simply doesn't happen if you aren't a good player.

He's different to English midfielders in the sense that he's not about his workrate, hustle or moving at 100 miles per hour. He makes the team tick by keeping it tidy in the center of the park and is also capable of picking a defense-splitting pass if the situation calls for it.

Kalvin Phillips joined Manchester City for a fee believed to be in the region of £42 million, while Declan Rice is valued at over £100 million by West Ham United. They're both good players, but they don't play like Jorginho, do they? I'm not saying England don't have good midfield players, but we haven't had a player like Jorginho for god knows how long now.

Jorginho has got flaws like his lack of pace, but he's very assured on the ball and controls the game from a deeper midfield position. For me, he's very underrated as people really don't understand what he brings to the table in the Premier League. Chelsea aren't the same team when he doesn't play, as his presence allows the likes of Reece James and Marc Cucurella or Ben Chilwell to bomb forward in attack.

Last year, Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League and Italy won the European Championships, with Jorginho playing a massive role for club and country. It couldn't have been a fluke, so he's definitely a special player.


#4 Rodri - Manchester City

Bayern Munich v Manchester City - Pre-Season Friendly
Bayern Munich v Manchester City - Pre-Season Friendly

I genuinely believe we underestimate holding-midfield players. In such a role, you aren't expected to do something spectacular, but the simple things need to be done very efficiently and that's exactly what Rodri does. The David Silvas and the Kevin De Bruynes are obviously world-class players in their own right, but they can't exist in the Premier League without someone like Rodri, who sits back and enables them to weave their magic.

He's an unbelievable player who has come in and replaced a City legend like Fernandinho so seamlessly. It's mindblowing, really, as it just happened so smoothly! Manchester City are the best team in world football in my opinion, but when Rodri is out of the team, they tend to struggle as they don't have another player who can play that role as well as him.

Much like Jorginho, he tends to go under the radar. In an era when players get rotated so frequently due to the Premier League fixture congestion, Rodri plays week in and week out if he's fit, which is a startling example of how indispensable he is to Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

Spain have Sergio Busquets competing for the holding midfield role as well and this is a player who has played alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta. He's a legend of the game with an unbelievable football brain, but if there's someone who can keep a player like Rodri - who is in his prime at the moment - out of the team, it has to be the Barcelona man. He's not getting any younger, but his football IQ is on another level and his experience in big games will obviously be crucial for Luis Enrique.


#5 Martin Odegaard - Arsenal

Arsenal FC v Aston Villa - Premier League
Arsenal FC v Aston Villa - Premier League

At the moment, I'll put Martin Odegaard at #5 because he's taken Arsenal to another level this season. He's got a swagger about the way he plays and moves, while he's also added goals to his game. Odegaard has been around for a while, so it's easy to forget he's only 23. The fact that he's Arsenal's captain at such a young age shows how highly Mikel Arteta rates him.

I like Bruno Fernandes, Mason Mount, Phil Foden and the likes, but Odegaard is someone who has already made a massive impact this season. He plays in a position where he has to make things happen and he's done just that as Arsenal find themselves at the top of the Premier League table with 18 points from seven games.

Foden is an unreal talent too, but if he doesn't play for Manchester City, they've got the likes of Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez to deputize for him. James Ward-Prowse is another player I really rate, but with all due respect, I don't think he's among the five best midfielders in the Premier League currently. If that was the case, one of the so-called big boys would've definitely come forward and broken the bank to secure his signature.

The way I see it, England are producing good midfield players, but they aren't really prolific passers of the ball like Thiago or Jorginho. Declan Rice is an excellent box-to-box midfielder, while Kalvin Phillips is a player who is more about his work-rate and industry than his passing.

Trent Alexander-Arnold played as a midfielder in his younger days at Liverpool and also did so once for England. It's a difficult position as the game literally goes through you, so you need to be a lot more involved over the course of the 90 minutes. His passing range is up there with the best in the country along with De Bruyne, so I'd like to see him play in midfield at some point in the future.


Edited by Paul Merson
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