Stats Zone Premier League Central Midfielder of the Season 2013/14
Stats Zone Premier League Central Midfielder of 2013/14: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)
Australia aren't harbouring many hopes (OK, absolutely none) in a World Cup group containing Spain, Holland and Chile this summer, but at least they know their central midfield warrior will be able to offer some kind of resistance to the red-and-orange onslaught.
That's because Crystal Palace enforcer Mile Jedinak – recently named the Socceroos' skipper for Brazil – is coming off the back of a superb debut season with the Eagles, in which his consistently fearsome presence at the heart of midfield ensured the Eagles thrived under Tony Pulis. He missed out to Julian Speroni for the south Londoners' Player of the Season prize, but only just.
Palace bragged one of the top flight's finest defensive records once Pulis took charge in November, conceding 27 goals in 26 games, keeping 10 clean sheets and losing only 10 league games under the Welshman's tutelage. Captain Jedinak played a huge role, making more clearances (133), interceptions (139) and tackles won (102), and winning more aerial duels (167) than any other central midfielder.
To understand what those numbers actually mean, it's worth putting them in context. His success rate in the air was the joint-second-highest in the league (70%), slightly below Stoke centre-back Ryan Shawcross (71%) but behind Stoke's Steven N'Zonzi (76%). The Frenchman's success ratio in the air may have been higher, but he only managed 79 successful duels to Jedinak's incredible total.
In the other big categories, meanwhile, no midfielder came remotely close to his exploits; Steven Sidwell finished second in tackles (won) (93), Steven Gerrard was second for clearances (90) while Youssouf Mulumbu trailed him on interceptions (115).
In April's 1-0 win over Aston Villa, Jedinak managed 11 interceptions – the only time a player reached double figures in the league all season – and 7 tackles, his best record in a Premier League game.
Liverpool fans might cry out for Steven Gerrard in this category, and while it's true the Liverpool skipper enjoyed an excellent campaign in the holding role, Jedinak was simply far better defensively. Gerrard's passing was excellent (1,908 completed at 86%) and he assisted 13 goals as the Reds made a strong claim for the title, but he also made 5 defensive errors (only Mark Noble and Marc Wilson made more as outfield players with 6), three times fewer interceptions and 43 fewer clearances. Working for his back line, England's leader wasn't all that.
There were also cases for Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey, whose 10 goals and eight assists capped a super campaign, and Tom Huddlestone, excellent for Hull in his first year at the KC Stadium – but Jedinak is our worthy winner.
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