Reading The Game - The Premier League's Top Interceptors

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Which players win the ball back for their team the most? Who reads the play best? Today on the blog Barrie takes a look at which players in the Premier League this season lead the league in interceptions.

Sandro

Winning back possession is vital for any side. Tackling is one way, but here is a list of the players in the Premier League who intercept the most passes from the opponents per game.

Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur) – 3.6 per game (80 total)

The Brazilian holding midfielder injured his right knee in a 0-0 draw with Queens Park Rangers recently that ruled him out for the season, but had been solid in front of the back four prior to that point.

Fortunately for Andre Villas-Boas, Scott Parker returned from injury at a convenient time. Sandro was averaging 3.6 interceptions per game before his season ended early – the most in the Premier League. Averaging 3.3 tackles per game too makes him one of the best at recovering the ball in England's top flight this season.

Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton) – 3.6 per game (93 total)

A nice finish at the weekend gave the Saints holding midfielder 4 goals for the season in his debut Premier League season and more than any season he's played during his 5 seasons with Southampton.

Morgan Schneiderlin has won possession off the opposition more times than any player in the Premier League this season. Southampton average 50.5% possession this season with help from Schneiderlin. And you cannot point a finger at him for some of the calamitous goals the Saints have conceded this season.

Chico (Swansea City) – 3.3 per game (63 total)

The first of two and a half centre backs on the list, Chico missed Sunday's Capital One Cup victory through injury, but aside from the occasional reckless challenge, Michael Laudrup's summer signing has been pretty solid at the back for the Swans.

A feisty defender who makes a number of tackles per game, Chico also reads opponents well and steps up to intercept the ball, on average, more than 3 times per game.

Chris Baird (Fulham) – 3.2 per game (60 total)

Has played in the centre and on the right of Fulham previously, but Martin Jol found a new role for Chris Baird in the centre of midfield. As well as scoring 2 headers at the near post from corners this season, the Northern Irishman has intercepted the ball for Fulham on 60 occasions in 19 appearances this season.

Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal) – 3.2 per game (60 total)

The only out-and-out left back on the list (Jan Vertonghen appears later), Kieran Gibbs ranks high on this list. The full back has won possession back a number of times in midfield this season as well as in his own defensive third.

An injury meant he was a big blow to the side missing the first leg of their recent Champions League loss to Bayern Munich.

Ryan Nelsen (Queens Park Rangers) – 3.1 per game (65 total)

The now former Queens Park Rangers centre back left to a round of applause from the home fans in his final game at Loftus Road in January. He left the relegation favourites to become head coach of Major League Soccer side Toronto FC. Prior to that, Ryan Nelsen had been one of QPR's fewer decent performing defenders this season.

Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur) – 2.9 per game (67 total)

Tottenham's summer signing from Ajax has proven to be a solid acquisition for Andre Villas-Boas' side. Having played centre back on a number of occasions, Jan Vertonghen seems to have found his spot at left back.

The Belgian wins back possession a number of times during games, whether it be interceptions or tackling, as well as winning a high percentage of aerial battles. Vertonghen likes to stride forward with the ball also, but after his effort against Manchester United was later ruled an own goal, he only has 1 goal in English football so far.

Stéphane Mbia (Queens Park Rangers) – 2.9 per game (55 total)

The Cameroon international joined from Marseille in the summer. Looked clumsy in the centre of defence in his first few appearances but has found a suitable role for his skills under Harry Redknapp in a holding midfield role.

Not a fan of his ability to mark players and does like an ambitious shot at goal, but Stéphane Mbia does win back possession for his and gets stuck in, all whilst playing for a side bottom of the league.

Steve Sidwell (Fulham) – 2.8 per game (69 total)

Once upon a time Jose Mourinho brought Steve Sidwell to Chelsea. The former Reading midfielder's career went on hold for that period before a move to Aston Villa followed by Fulham. With the sale of Mousa Dembele at the start of the season, Sidwell has become an even more important part of the Cottagers' starting eleven.

He's won numerous tackles, made a large number of interceptions, and well, given away a number of free kicks and picked up 6 yellow cards in the process, as is his nature.

Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) – 2.8 per game (65 total)

The Spanish midfielder has committed more fouls this season than anyone in the top 10, and only Marouane Fellaini and Grant Holt average more per game. Yes, Mikel Arteta needs some practice when it comes to tackling, but the former Everton fan has an eye for the ball when it comes to intercepting the opposition.

Loves to be in possession of the ball, finding space around the centre of midfield to receive the ball and often play a short, simple pass off to a team mate.

The following players make up the top 20:

PlayerTeamAppearancesInterceptions per GameTotal Interceptions
Alexander Tettey Norwich 19 (1) 2.7 54
Gael Clichy Manchester City 19 (1) 2.7 54
Angel Rangel Swansea 22 (1) 2.7 61
Cheick Tiote Newcastle 14 (2) 2.6 42
Yohan Cabaye Newcastle 15 (1) 2.6 42
Ashley Williams Swansea 26 2.6 68
Mikele Leigertwood Reading 25 2.5 63
Danny Rose Sunderland 17 (1) 2.5 45
Matthew Lowton Aston Villa 27 2.4 66
Adam Lallana Southampton 17 (3) 2.4 48

The following table shows the percentage of interception each of these 20 players make for their team whilst they're on the pitch. A number of these players make more than one-fifth of their teams interceptions per game; Chico, Alexander Tettey, Gaël Clichy, Cheick Tioté and Yohan Cabaye all showing significant importance for their teams when they play.

PlayerTeamInterceptions per Game% of Team Interceptions
Sandro Tottenham 3.6 19%
Morgan Schneiderlin Southampton 3.6 19%
Chico Swansea 3.3 20%
Chris Baird Fulham 3.2 16%
Kieran Gibbs Arsenal 3.2 19%
Ryan Nelson QPR 3.1 17%
Jan Vertonghen Tottenham 2.9 15%
Stephane Mbia QPR 2.9 16%
Steve Sidwell Fulham 2.8 14%
Mikel Arteta Arsenal 2.8 17%
Alexander Tettey Norwich 2.7 22%
Gael Clichy Manchester City 2.7 21%
Angel Rangel Swansea 2.7 16%
Cheick Tiote Newcastle 2.6 21%
Yohan Cabaye Newcastle 2.6 21%
Ashley Williams Swansea 2.6 16%
Mikele Leigertwood Reading 2.5 17%
Danny Rose Sunderland 2.5 16%
Matthew Lowton Aston Villa 2.4 13%
Adam Lallana Southampton 2.4 12%

 

 

Follow Barrie on Twitter: @BarriesView

And read more of his work at BarriesView.com

Premier League blogger, statistician and fan.