Although Rafa Benitez once considered selling Xabi Alonso to finance a move for Barry during his time as Liverpool manager, the midfielder has never convinced everyone of his worth. Much of the criticism aimed at Barry derives from England's shellacking against Germany at World Cup 2010 when his woeful lack of pace was exposed by Mesut Ozil. But speed isn't an important part of Barry's game as he sits deep in midfield, wins back possession and provides short passes to allow Manchester City's more creative players, such as David Silva, the time and space to unlock defences. It may be a relatively simple role, but the 31-year-old is disciplined in the execution of his duties and, with 34 appearances last year, he played a crucial part in City's title victory. Barry remains a key cog in the City wheel - even popping up with the winning goal against Reading (as well as an embarrassing own goal in defeat to Southampton) - and his form and fitness are vital to a squad that has struggled for convincing options in central midfield this season.
Arsene Wenger has persevered with Ramsey despite Arsenal fans growing frustrated at the midfielder's below-par performances in what seems a make-or-break season for the 22-year-old. Ramsey has often been deployed on the right of Wenger's 4-2-3-1 formation this year, and while he doesn't do an awful lot wrong, he doesn't do much right either, lacking the pace or incisive movement to challenge opposition full-backs. The Wales international's main strength is retaining possession to keep things ticking over in the Gunners' midfield but his jack-of-all-trades role has become indicative of the team's general decline as they face their hardest battle yet to maintain their long-standing position in the top four. If Arsenal fail to secure a Champions League spot, it will surely be time to sell Ramsey as part of a squad overhaul.
Unlike Ramsey, Henderson has started to grab his chance at Liverpool (aside from his dreadful performance against Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday) and the midfielder has started the last six matches, including the trips to Arsenal and Man City. It's unlikely the 22-year-old will ever justify his hefty price tag, but there are encouraging signs of his development and he has worked hard to force his way into the Reds' first team after being frozen out earlier in the season. Rodgers made it clear that Henderson was set for a limited role following his arrival at Anfield in the summer, but the England U21 captain has gradually convinced the manager of his worth, often acting as a replacement for the fatigued Raheem Sterling on the left of Liverpool's midfield (albeit in a narrower role). Henderson's superb goal against Norwich was just rewards for his hard work and it's almost certain that he will remain with the club to continue his development next season.
Carrick has been a love-hate figure for Manchester United fans for some time, but the midfielder has excelled this year and played a crucial role in the team's healthy position at the top of the league. Although the 31-year-old's main strength has always been his intelligent and disciplined use of the ball, his improvement can be put down to the fact that he has more teammates to pass to. While United often struggled in central midfield last season - with the 3-2 home defeat to Blackburn a notable example - they have looked a more cohesive unit in the current campaign with Tom Cleverley thankfully remaining injury-free and Shinji Kagawa also playing a part. This has allowed Carrick to operate as a deep pivot, similar to Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, and he has made more tackles than any other United midfielder as well as contributing four assists in a successful campaign thus far.
While Tiote was tipped for a big-money move to Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea 12 months ago, the 26-year-old has struggled for form in a stop-start campaign that has been disrupted by injuries, suspensions and Africa Cup of Nations absence. After his recent arrest on suspicion of fraud it seems Tiote's woes are set to go from bad to worse and following Newcastle's January spending the midfielder has found his position in the team increasingly under threat. Not only is Tiote making fewer tackles per game than last season but his pass completion rate has also dropped and he is no longer the combative presence that helped the Magpies secure an unlikely fifth-place finish. The Ivory Coast international faces a difficult battle to regain his form and it's unlikely we'll hear him linked with anyone in the top four again in the near future.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.