Premier League midfielders preview: Who’s in the top five? Who just missed out?


As the 2015-16 Premier League season gets ready to spread its wings this weekend, Pro Soccer Talk is getting you ready with a week full of projections, lists, news and views.

If offense wins games and defense wins championships — as the old adage goes — then what about the men in the middle of the park, the midfielders making the lives of both the forwards and defenders so much easier?

[ MORE: Season previews of all 20 PL teams ]

Without those midfield technicians, the sport of soccer would essentially boil down to big, ogre-ish defenders lumping long balls forward to equally big, but slightly more skilled forwards to smash powerful shot after powerful shot in hopes that eventually one might beat the goalkeeper.

Whatever your team needs most on any given day — tracking back to win the ball, slipping the perfect through ball for a vital scoring chance, or man-marking your opponent’s creative genius out of the game — you can count on a midfielder to do the job.

[ MORE: Predicting the final league table | Top 5 goalkeepers | Defenders | Forwards ] 

In case you can’t tell, here at PST we love us some midfielders, so who’s in our top five Premier League midfielders?

5. Nemanja Matic, Chelsea — Given the way that Jose Mourinho demands his side plays — pragmatic as could be — Matic proved last season he’s as important to his team as any player in the PL. The 27-year-old Serbian makes not only his fellow midfielders infinitely better, but the defenders behind him as well.

source:  4. Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea — Yes, this list is going to be Chelsea-heavy, but considering they won last year’s title by eight points and their midfield was the main reason for doing so, why wouldn’t it be? 18 assists in 2014-15 meant the 28-year-old Spaniard topped the charts by miles and miles (11 was the next closest).

3. David Silva, Manchester City — The 29-year-old Spaniard bounced back in a big way last season — after a subpar 2013-14 campaign led to questions about his long-term future at the Etihad Stadium, Silva followed that up with seven goals and 11 assists in league play. Even with the arrival of Raheem Sterling this summer, Silva remains the creative hub behind Sergio Aguero’s barrage of goals.

2. Morgan Schneiderlin, Manchester United — An absolute workhorse in the midfield and a sensational passer of the ball, the 25-year-old Frenchman is exactly what the Man United midfield has been missing for years now. On the big stage at United, he’ll prove worth every last bit of the $42 million paid to Southampton this summer.

1. Eden Hazard, Chelsea — The reigning PL Player of the Year is said — by his own manager — to be in the same stratosphere as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. While he’s probably still got a ways to go before that’s true, the 24-year-old is, frighteningly, still far from the finished article.

Honorable mention: Santi Cazorla, and Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Yohan Cabaye and Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace) Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Jordy Clasie (Southampton), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win first opener in four years

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Spain’s top flight is two days into a new season, and here’s a roundup of all of Sunday’s action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Getafe

It wasn’t done in aesthetically pleasing fashion, but Atletico Madrid won their first opening season game in four years.

In fact, the first half was rough with both Atletico and Getafe loosing players to straight red cards. Getafe’s Jorge Molina saw red for a studs-up challenge in the 38th minute, while Renan Lodi was asked to leave the field in his debut for Los Colchoneros. 

Summer signing Alvaro Morata proved to be the difference for Atletico, however. Assisted by former Tottenham fullback Kieran Trippier, the team’s academy product scored early on in the 23rd minute – the goal made Atletico one of eight clubs to start the season with three points.

$140 million signing Joao Felix also made his La Liga debut, and impressed the home crowd with a dazzling run in the second half that ended drawing a penalty for Atletico. Morata missed.

Not the smoothest of games for Diego Simeone’s side, but like Real Madrid, they already have an edge on Barcelona.

Espanyol 0-2 Sevilla 

Julen Lopetegui can finally breathe (and coach) in peace.

Following a series of unfortunate events with the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Lopetegui and Sevilla started their new era in a winning way.

Sergio Reguilon got things started for the visiting side with a tap in inside the six-yard box. And in the final minutes, no stranger to stepping up for Sevilla, Nolito slotted one past Diego Lopez.

With only two shots on frame to speak for them, Espanyol was one, two steps behind Los Hispalenses, who look for another top-six finish in Spain’s top-flight league.

Sevilla’s young quest for that continues as they travel to Granada. Meanwhile, Espanyol have no time to waist with a Europa League play-off bout against Ukrainian side Zorya lined up midweek.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Real Valladolid

Alaves 1-0 Levante

Report: Edinson Cavani set to join Inter Miami next summer

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Edinson Cavani is reportedly set to make a big splash in Florida.

According to Uruguayan journalist Alvaro Izquierdo, Cavani, 32, is set to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami next summer. The club will make their MLS debut next season.

The specifics of the supposed move are not know, but per the report from Izquierdo, Cavani will join Miami on a free transfer after his contract with PSG expires in June. Since joining in 2013, El Matador has been irreplaceable for the French giants, scoring over 160 goals and becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. This season, Cavani is off to a perfect start -scoring in the first two games of the Ligue 1 season.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The striker is one of the first superstars linked to Miami, but the general vibe given off by owners Jorge Mas and Beckham is that the club will look to spend big – similar to Atlanta United, LAFC and LA Galaxy.

Miami has signed three players so far ahead of their 2020 MLS debut – Christian Makoun, Julian Carranza, and Matias Pellegrini all currently makeup the squad.

‘But hey this is MLS’: Wayne Rooney slams MLS’ travel arrangements

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Wayne Rooney is not a fan of MLS’ travel arrangements.

D.C. United lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in Canada, and had to fly back to the nation’s capital before prepping for a midweek showdown with visiting New York Red Bulls. To the 33-year-old Englishmen the trip should’ve taken six hours, not half a day.

MLS is notoriously known for the lack of charter flights it offers its teams, a mere four per season is the reported amount each team is allocated. Traveling on commercial flights has caused routine delays for a slew of team’s this season, with certain teams arriving only hours before the first whistle in some cases.

Players, however, will reportedly push for better travel in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Not only for Rooney, but for the majority of professional athletes around the world, flying charter is customary.

Upon his arrival to D.C. in 2018, Rooney turned down first-class flights offered by the Black-and-Red, among other fine accommodations. “If you are going to be part of the team, you have to be part of the team,” Rooney said on his decision to reject first-class flights and private hotel rooms. “All in and do the same things. I don’t want special treatment — I wanted to be treated the same as the players. I’m part of this team.”

Rooney, despite being on his way out of D.C. to join Derby County in January, is certainly a part of the team.

He is also now a part of the complex fight for better travel in MLS.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.