Although net-busting goals and outrageous skills tend to dominate the headlines, the less glamorous side of the game should not be overlooked.
In an age where possession is key to winning football matches, being able to successfully claim the ball in the air is proving to be more valuable than ever.
Here we rank the Premier League players with the most aerial duels won this season, those who have taken to the skies to dominate opponents.
Ranking the Premier League players with the most aerial duels won this season:
5. James Tarkowski – Everton (26)
An ever-present in the Everton backline, Tarkowski has helped the Toffees kickstart their season after a slow start, winning two of their last three Premier League fixtures.
With 26 aerial duels won this season, the England international has continued to fortify Sean Dyche’s side, with a defence of steel his manager’s number one requirement.
Tarkowski has also been competitive at the opposite end of the pitch, popping up with a goal during the impressive win over Brentford last month.
EVERTON RETAKE THE LEAD!
James Tarkowski comes back to haunt Brentford! 👻 pic.twitter.com/gOpDEegFPW
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 23, 2023
Alongside winning 70% of aerial duels and tackles, the Manchester-born centre half has made 30 clearances, massively contributing to his side’s recent upturn in form.
If Everton are to build on their recent form, making sure Tarkowski can remain vigilant in the air will be of the upmost priority.
4. Amadou Onana – Everton (26)
Amadou Onana settled in well at Goodison Park last season, and was one of the main reasons the Toffee’s managed to secure top flight football for the 71st consecutive season.
Onana shares his number of successful aerial duels with Everton teammate Tarkowski, but the midfielder also continues to influence his side’s play all over the pitch.
Coupled with an 84% pass completion, in a largely counter-attacking side, the Belgian international is as good with his feet as he is in the air. Amid rumours of a big money move away from the club floating around, keeping Onana until the end of the season is crucial for Everton’s survival chances.
3. Oli McBurnie – Sheffield United (27)
The Sheffield United fan favourite may not have opened his goal account yet this campaign, but the Scottish forward has influenced his side’s play in other ways.
In a team that often concedes the battle for possession, physical presence is necessary to try and break up the game, with Paul Heckingbottom deploying the striker to lead the line.
The Blades have an average possession of 42% so far this season, defending their own box more often than not, with McBurnie’s aerial prowess proving useful at both ends of the pitch.
Although the striker will surely be looking to add goals to his game soon, his defensive work can not be understated.
2. Ethan Pinnock – Brentford (36)
Brentford’s form has seemingly dipped in the early stages of this season, with the absence of Ivan Toney through suspension and loss of David Raya to Arsenal having hit the Bees hard.
Although the club do currently sit in 15th place, Ethan Pinnock has stepped up to lead his side forward with some heroic defensive performances so far.
The Jamaican centre-half has been in phenomenal form and leads the division for clearances (57), five clear of his next competitor, alongside his 36 successful aerial duels.
Ethan Pinnock made 17 clearances against Manchester United yesterday, 11 more than anyone else on the pitch 😳
— NT Stats (@NTStats) October 8, 2023
Keeping Ivan Toney in January seems to be Thomas Frank’s priority, and with good reason, but maintaining Pinnock’s form is crucial to the sides defensive stability.
1. Carlton Morris – Luton (43)
Luton Town haven’t started their first Premier League season on fire, but one man has – Carlton Morris.
Also making his debut in the top flight this year, the physical striker has been a shining light so far, with his four goal contributions dragging his team out of the relegation zone.
Kenilworth Road makes for a unique playing field and Rob Edwards sets his team up to accommodate such a factor, with Morris flourishing in this system.
Although his aerial strength has shone through this season, the Luton talisman has been clinical in front of goal as well, scoring the decisive goal in their maiden Premier League victory, a 2-1 triumph over Everton.
After being made seemingly redundant in modern football, the art of the hold-up striker seems to be making a popular return to England’s top flight.