Top 10 midfielders of the Premier League season

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Discussing and dissecting the quality of midfielders can be a touchy subject. If the player in question is regularly playing wide in the top band of a 4-3-3, does he get to be dubbed a midfielder? How do you account for defensive mids, if the majority of your list is focused on the excitement and trickery of attacking players?

Should you take a fantasy league approach, in which just one appearance at midfield qualifies a player to be eligible for a top ten list? And what, exactly, makes a player truly top in his position?

MORE: Latest Premier League reviews

In this case, the top ten footballers for the 2013-2014 Premier League season have been chosen based on their clear, definable numbers, like goals scored and assists provided. But the players on the list were also selected according to their value to their team…which is why you might see some interesting names:

10. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
With Aaron Ramsey healthy, the Gunners were challenging for the title. With Ramsey injured, they were worried about losing out on Champions League. Despite missing over three months of the season, the Welshman still had 17 goals and 9 assists in all competitions – that’s in 37 appearances. Who knows where Arsenal may have finished this season if they’d been able to count on a fit Ramsey? It’s a question plaguing supporters’ dreams, it’s certain.

9. Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle/PSG)
It’s probably not kosher to bestow top honors on a player who only spent the first half of the season in the Premier League. But Cabaye’s worth to Newcastle is perhaps best demonstrated by his absence. His seven goals and two assists for the Magpies don’t tell the full story. After his move to Paris Saint-Germain, it became painfully clear that Cabaye was the architect of Newcastle’s entire game. After his move, Newcastle failed to score in their next four matches. They went on to win four of their final sixteen matches, failing to score in ten of those.

8. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
What is Liverpool without Stevie G? The Reds are hoping they won’t have to find out for a few more years. Brendan Rodgers, hoping to keep the Liverpool captain on as a valued member of the side, moved the 33-year-old into a deeper role in midfield. There were a couple blips – most notably the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in January – but Gerrard now looks as though he will flourish there. In total he notched 13 goals and 13 assists in Liverpool’s impressive season, and his impressive form shouldn’t be overshadowed by an unfortunate slip…

7. Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)
Giving a top-ten spot to a player with only 15 starts and 4 goals seems a bit odd. But then again, Manchester United finishing in 7th also seems a bit odd. It’s been known for ages that United are lacking in the midfield, so when an exciting teenager comes along and seems to be able to create more in his few minutes on the field than the entire rest of the team, it’s worth acknowledging him. Particularly when, in his first start with the team, he sinks two goals in seven minutes to give his side a comeback win over Sunderland.

6. Adam Lallana (Southampton) Lallana, now 26, has been at Southampton since he was born, more or less. He was part of the club when they were sent down to League One and with them as they rose up, and up, up to 8th place this year. He’s now come into his own, displaying a quiet brilliance throughout the entire Saints’ season. Lallana has six recorded assists to his name, but he also works to set up his teammates – or takes the goals himself, bagging nine this season. His performances have earned him a place in England’s World Cup squad, with him likely to see some starts in Brazil.

5. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
This may just be another case of a quality player shining for a disappointing team, but it seems Eriksen is the real deal. It took him a bit to find his Premier League feet after joining from Ajax in the summer, but once he was established in the side it became clear that Erikson was one of the few buys upon which Spurs definitely did not waste their money. He might not score many goals but he certainly can set them up, particularly with his tremendous free kicks. Now Tottenham fans will be hoping whoever comes in to take the helm will be able to get even more out of their favorite Dane.

4. Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)
The Palace captain very nearly played every minute of every Premier League game this season – he came off injured in the final match against Fulham, losing out on the last 30 minutes of the match. But worry not, Socceroos fans, Jedinak is confident it’s just a minor injury and he’ll be fit to play in Australia’s first World Cup match. The defensive midfielder played a key role in Crystal Palace’s 11th-place finish, sweeping up in front of the defense to ensure that the Eagles could hold off many of the league’s strongest attacks.

3. Ross Barkley (Everton)
Barkley, just 20 years old, filled a variety of roles for Roberto Martínez this season. He’s played behind the striker, out wide in a band of three, or in a more withdrawn role – much of the time to great success. Barkley’s made it difficult to remember that this was really his first season in the Premier League (he spent much of the last on loan to Sheffield Wednesday) and that it’s still not certain where his best role on the field might be. But his versatility and his creativity make him a quality addition to any squad. That fact was not lost on Roy Hodgson, who named him in England’s World Cup squad.

1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Some want to call Hazard a “forward”. Let’s face it – Chelsea’s forwards are Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres, who have under 20 goals between them. Hazard, an attacking midfielder, has 14, in 32 starts. Just a few months ago, his playmaking abilities were being talked up as among the best in the world. But manager José Mourinho apparently didn’t feel the same, dropping him after the Champions League loss to Atlético Madrid and now telling him he needs to work harder at his game. Mou, most teams would kill to have such a talented player in their squad – enjoy it!

1. Yaya Touré (Manchester City) There’s no official ranking of these ten players, but you’ll have to admit we’ve saved the best for last. Yaya is the king of the Premier League midfield, a consistent gem in the center of the pitch. In 35 games he scored 20 league goals for Manchester City, ending the year as their top scorer. He absolutely terrorizes defenses, either with his own shots on goal or by placing a perfect pass to the likes of Sergio Agüero or Edin Džeko. Snubbed for the Player of the Year award, Touré decided to go ahead and win the title instead.

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

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CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

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Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow