It really is a pretty special achievement for a player to feature in every minute of every game throughout a gruelling 38 game Premier League season.
The level of consistency of performance and the physical and mental strength required to achieve such a feat means only a select band of players each season will ever be able to add this accomplishment to their CV’s.
In fact, only seven footballers from the 20 Premier League clubs did so over the course of this elongated campaign, and here we pay tribute to the top-flights ever-presents.
Conor Coady – Wolves
Although they ultimately fell just short of qualifying for European football again next season via their league position, it has been another remarkable campaign for Wolves. The Molineux outfit have established themselves as one of the most consistent sides in the top-flight over the last two years, and key to their rise to prominence is club skipper Conor Coady.
One of Nuno Espirito Santo’s shrewdest moves as Wolves boss has been moving Coady from midfield to the centre of the three-man defence, where his organisational skills and ability to play out from the back has been crucial to the success of the Portuguese coach’s impressive tactical setup.
Despite their season starting over a year ago, Wolves campaign is still not over, with the Midlands outfit still due to compete in the Europa League mini tournament in Germany next month. Coady will be hopeful he can lead his side to their first ever piece of European silverware, and qualification for the Champions League.
Mostly though we just love CC because of this brilliant interview he did earlier this season, when he broke from the norm and actually gave an honest and insightful piece of post-match reaction.
James Tarkowski – Burnley
It has been a remarkable few years for Tarkowski, the no-nonsense defender going from plying his trade in League One with Brentford to becoming an England international within the space of a few seasons.
Tarkowski has formed one of the Premier League’s most consistent centre-back pairings alongside Clarets skipper Ben Mee, the duo part of an impressive Burnley backline that kept 15 clean sheets this season.
Sean Dyche’s side continue to punch above their weight, finishing 10th this season despite operating on a fraction of the budget of most other top-flight clubs, and Tarkowski will be hoping that another impressive campaign next time out will see him force his way in Gareth Southgate’s Euros squad.
James Tarkowski this season for Burnley, with rankings in the Premier League:
Minutes Played: T-1st (all 3420 minutes)
Aerials Won/Game: 4th (1st among defenders, 5.2)
Clearances per game: 4th (5.3)
Blocks per game: T-2nd (1.2) pic.twitter.com/Cn3rxleTvX
— Matchday365 (@Matchday365) July 27, 2020
James Ward-Prowse – Southampton
The Saints’ turnaround following their 9-0 drubbing by Leicester last October has been one of the stories of the Premier League season, with 22-goal striker Danny Ings rightly taking many of the plaudits.
However, the form of 25-year-old Ward-Prowse has also been key to the improved fortunes of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, the academy graduate contributing five goals and three assists in what has felt like a coming-of-age season for the central midfielder.
The England international has shown this season that there is more to his game that just having a wicked dead-ball delivery, and his emergence as a leader within the group was rewarded recently when Hassenhuttl handed Ward-Prowse the club captaincy.
Declan Rice – West Ham
Although this season has once again been one of struggle for West Ham, one player who has stood out amongst the mediocrity is 21-year-old defensive midfielder Declan Rice.
It is a testament to the youngster’s ability that he has been the East London clubs most consistent and reliable performer throughout a difficult season, in one of the most important positions in modern football.
Rice regularly shows positional and tactical intelligence that belies his tender years, and the fact that many think he will eventually end up playing at centre-back further highlights the overall level of his talent.
Linked with a big-money to West Ham’s London rivals Chelsea – who released him as a teenager – Rice will surely be playing for a club competing at the top end of the table before long.
Harry Maguire – Manchester United
There can be no doubt that Harry Maguire has improved Manchester United’s defence since his £80 million move from Leicester City. The 27-year-old England international’s composure on the ball has added an extra dimension to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and he has defended to a reasonably consistent standard during a season, which, despite their third place finish, has been at times a very difficult one for the Red Devils.
Maguire’s leadership skills were evident straight away and his promotion to captain after just a few months at the club is a testament to his character and professionalism.
However, it does seem very strange indeed that most fans and pundits agree that Solskjaer needs to spend big again this summer in the centre-back department to cover Maguire’s lack of pace. Surely a player, supposedly in his prime, who was made the world’s most expensive defender ever last summer shouldn’t have such a glaring deficiency in his game?
George Baldock – Sheffield United
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United team have been one of the success stories of the season, the Steel City outfit winning a host of admirers for their innovative tactical approach and securing a club record 9th place Premier League finish.
Former MK Dons right-back Baldock has been amongst a host of Blades players who have proved their pre-season doubters wrong and taken to life in the top-flight like a duck to water, scoring two goals and providing three assists over the course of the campaign.
Sheffield United have been one of the most enjoyable teams to watch this season, and a regular feature of their play has been excellent displays of Baldock, the 27-year-old combing tidy technical skills with relentless work-rate down the right flank for Wilders side.
The Starman was ever-present ?
George Baldock played every minute of every Blades #PL game this season. ? pic.twitter.com/zFRDx3VFgd
— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) July 27, 2020
Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
It’s hard to quantify just how much of a transformative effect Virgil van Dijk has had on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side since his £75 million move in January 2018.
While the Reds Premier League and Champions League success in recent seasons has undoubtedly been the result of 1000’s of small decisions made by Klopp and the Anfield club as a whole, it’s hard to argue against the claim that bringing the Dutchman to the north west has been the most impactful.
Van Dijk’s imperious and ever-present displays at the heart of Liverpool’s defence has seen the Reds turn their once biggest weakness into arguably their biggest strength, and in the process ending that agonising 30 year wait for a top-flight title.
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