In an era of high-octane, press-oriented football, it is imperative to have players who are willing to run. Players who would willingly cover every blade of grass on the pitch for the greater cause of the team. The rise of such players in midfield and especially the forward lines of teams has brought about a great change to the approach to the game.
No bigger example can be cited than that of the defending champions of the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool. The champions of Europe have led by example and have shown that the willingness to press tirelessly and outrun their opponents to suffocate them could help teams reap rewards aplenty. Atletico Madrid are another such team that come to mind.
The Premier League champions are the gold standard in this regard. The league is blessed with other such players who put in tireless shifts for their teams without the ball.
Here, we take a look at 3 players who have covered the most distance for their club per touch they have registered.
#3 Callum Wilson | AFC Bournemouth
Touches registered: 694
Distance covered per touch: 354m
A large number of players in AFC Bournemouth's squad were purchased for cut-price fees due to them being signed from teams from the lower divisions, and Callum Wilson is one such player. Having been purchased for a measly £3m from Coventry City, Wilson repaid the Cherries' faith in him with 20 league goals in his first season which saw them step up to the Premier League in 2015.
The Englishman has, however, been uncharacteristically off-colour this season with just 7 goals and an assist in 26 games, including a streak of just over 2 months without a goal. He has, however, contributed immensely with his running off the ball with 354m covered per touch taken, signifying Bournemouth's reliance on hitting teams on the break. Despite his output being low, Wilson has worked his socks off for his side.
#2 Teemu Pukki | Norwich City
Touches registered: 706
Distance covered per touch: 370m
Norwich City's Teemu Pukki was one of the stars of the Premier League season having been promoted after a stellar 29 goals in 43 league games in the Championship. The former Sevilla and Schalke man is a journeyman of sorts as the English league is the 9th different league he has plied his trade in a 14-year-long professional career. The Canaries signed him from Danish Superliga club Brondby IF on a free transfer ahead of the 2018-19 Sky Bet Championship season.
The Finland international introduced himself to the English top-flight with a superb 7 goals in 5 games but has, ever since, faded significantly. Regardless of Norwich's woes as they sit at the bottom of the Premier League table with 17 losses in 28 games, Pukki has played for the badge and led a relatively young Canaries forward line valiantly. Apart from his 11 goals and 3 assists in the league, the Finn covered an impressive 370m per touch in Norwich's league campaign, which is the second-highest in the league.
#1 Jamie Vardy | Leicester City
Touches registered: 544
Distance covered per touch: 419m
Currently the top-scorer of the Premier League alongside Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Leicester City maverick Jamie Vardy has been one of the standout players in the league so far and has been one of the catalysts to their push for a European spot. The former English international is no stranger to prolific Premier League campaigns as he has scored 20 and 18 goals in 2 of his last 5 campaigns, and a 24-goal season which saw him win the Golden Boot that led to Leicester City lifting the title.
Vardy, however, hasn't found the back of the net in the last 7 league games. The Englishman has clearly been missing his shooting boots but has received the backing of his boss Brendan Rodgers, who suggested that he offers them something similar to what Roberto Firmino offers Liverpool when he doesn't score. The former Reds boss said,
“Look at Roberto Firmino at Liverpool – he’s scored 10, but look at his influence and what he gives and allows the other players [to do].
“With Jamie (Vardy), when he’s not scoring, he’s creating space for others. It’s the responsibility of everyone – full-backs, centre-halves, midfielders, front players, and the guys coming off the bench, too, to contribute.”
His tireless running for the Foxes has been a major talking point and the 33-year-old has aged like fine wine in that regard. Still as menacing and arguably as clinical as the 2015/16 version of himself, Vardy presses the opposition backline and leads the Foxes' counters with supreme intensity. The Premier League winner has covered 419m per touch of the ball which further signifies his impact on the team despite not scoring.
Published 29 Feb 2020, 05:03 IST