The transfer window is now upon us and in a series of features scouting some of the top players in Europe thus far this season, we start with 10 of the best battling midfielders around.
For those looking to add steel in central areas to their teams, you need look no further than the leaderboard here, which has been whittled down due to a number of statistical filters.
To be considered each player must have played in at least half of their current team's games this season, accumulating averages of at least 2 for tackles and interceptions per game. Furthermore, all players here have attempted an average of at least 40 passes per game with an accuracy above 80%.
The leaderboard was then chosen based on the WhoScored ratings of the players to have qualified, so without further ado here is your rundown of the top 10.
10. Roman Neustädter (Schalke / DMC / 24)
WhoScored Rating - 7.28
Huub Stevens sealed the signing of former Gladbach midfielder Roman Neustädter before the transfer window opened in the summer on a free transfer, such was his desire to conclude a deal for the 24 year old. Since then Ukrainian-born Neustädter has been capped for Germany and excelled for his new club, starting every game prior to the winter break. His figures of 57 tackles, 55 interceptions and 1123 passes are all team highs, proving his importance to a side that qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League with ease.
9. Daniele Conti (Cagliari / DMC / 33)
WhoScored Rating - 7.28
Veteran midfielder Daniele Conti is by far the most experienced player to make our top 10 here, proving that there's life in the old dog yet as the Calgiari stalwart remains a key player for his side at 33. The Italian's averages for tackles (2.31) and interceptions (2.69) are both very strong, and he is at the hub of every Cagliari move. Conti has averaged 70.3 passes per game this season - second best here and almost 20 more a match than any teammate. With an 89% pass accuracy, despite his advancing years, Conti's role in the side is huge.
8. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal / DMC / 30)
WhoScored Rating - 7.33
Certainly not deemed a defensive midfielder during his time at Everton, a move to Arsenal has seen Mikel Arteta pull the strings from deeper and deeper with age. He's adapted his game seamlessly to average 3.55 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per game this season, and the Spaniard is the cool head in an otherwise adventurous midfield. His averages for passes per game (85.1) and the accuracy with which he delivers them (92.1%) are unsurpassed here, though the impending return of Abou Diaby may well be pivotal to his future at the club.
7. Maxime Gonalons (Lyon / DMC / 23)
WhoScored Rating - 7.35
Already a regular in the France set-up under new manager Didier Deschamps, Lyon youth product Maxime Gonalons has gone from strength-to-strength in recent seasons. An exceptional average of 3.89 tackles per game ranks fourth in Ligue 1, while 3.06 interceptions a match is also among the top 10 in France. With 68.6 passes per game he ranks highly on our leaderboard, while his often safety-first approach leads to a superb 88.6% accuracy. The 23 year old is already at one of the top clubs in France but looks set for bigger things in the future.
6. Sandro (Tottenham / DMC / 23)
WhoScored Rating - 7.37
Many Tottenham fans would have you believe that Sandro is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League, and on this season's form it would be hard to argue with them. Most would have deemed his deputising for the injured Scott Parker to be just that, but the Brazilian's efforts this season are likely to see the England international's chances limited upon his return. He leads the Premier League for interceptions (79) and ranks second for tackles (72) whilst also completing an accomplished 86% of his passes in the Spurs engine room.
5. Ilkay Gündogan (Dortmund / DMC / 22)
WhoScored Rating - 7.42
Ilkay Gündogan has become the most used player in Dortmund's double pivot since the departure of former talisman Nuri Sahin - now touted with a return to the club - and in turn forced his way into the German national set-up, pledging his allegiance to Joachim Low's side ahead of Turkey. With solid averages of 2.6 and 2.5 for tackles and interceptions per game respectively, Gündogan is usually the more attack-minded of the midfield pairing but still gets through a lot of work, with an average of 58.2 passes per game only behind centre-back Neven Subotic.
4. Lars Bender (Leverkusen / DMC / 23)
WhoScored Rating - 7.48
The third and final German international in our top 10, it is Lars and not Sven Bender who comes out on top in the sibling rivalry. Having been seen as the lesser of the two twins early on in his career, Lars Bender's importance for high-flying Bayer Leverkusen has become far stronger than his brother's at Dortmund. He ranks top here for tackles per game, with a remarkable average of 4.25 supplemented by a further 2.3 interceptions per game. Though his pass accuracy is the lowest in our top 10 it seems the 23 year old will make the step up in his career sooner rather than later.
3. Blaise Matuidi (PSG / DMC / 25)
WhoScored Rating - 7.49
In a team of mega-stars shipped in from all over Europe it is a domestic transfer made by former manager Antoine Kombouare that has perhaps impressed the most outside of the deity, or so he'll have you believe, that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Signed from Saint Etienne for what now seems a snip at around €7.5m, Matuidi is seen by many as as one of France's key stars of the future. His averages for both tackles (3.83) and interceptions (3.89) are by far and away the highest at table-topping PSG, with the latter ranking top of our leaderboard, and an 88.6% pass accuracy proves that Matuidi is the real deal.
2. Etienne Capoue (Toulouse / DMC / 24)
WhoScored Rating - 7.54
Just pipping his aforementioned compatriot to second place, Toulouse’s Etienne Capoue is the third France international here, indicating that les Bleus, along with Germany, are more than well stocked in the defensive midfield department. The 24 year old is a real powerhouse midfielder and it is no surprise that he has already been mooted with moves elsewhere. Though a transfer seems likely in the recent future, Toulouse will be desperate to get all that they can out of a man that has averaged 2.29 for both tackles and interceptions this season, as well as chipping in with 3 goals and 2 assists.
1. Milan Badelj (HSV / DMC / 23)
WhoScored Rating - 7.55
Claiming top spot here by the slimmest of margins, HSV summer signing Milan Badelj has been crucial to his new side's progress up the league. The Croation's averages for tackles (4.19) and interceptions (3.44) both rank among the top 3 here, and though the defensive side of his game is incredibly impressive, he offers more than an out and out anchorman. The 23 year old attempts 58.6 passes per game, second most behind captain Westermann for his side, but he also has the ability to unlock defences, with an average of 1 key pass per game and a brilliant 2.9 successful dribbles per game.