With ten Premier League matches down, there are 29 outfield players (and 16 goalkeepers) to have played every minute of the season so far. Here, then, are the heroic outfield 900-minuters…
Chelsea – 4 (Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso, David Luiz)
At Chelsea, managers come and go, formations come and go, and superb seasons are followed by shonky ones. There through it all is Cesar Azpilicueta, the ultimate utility man able to slot seamlessly into any team. Left-back, right-back, centre-back; it makes no odds to Cesar. He’s now missed precisely two Premier League games in three-and-a-quarter seasons.
Three-quarters of Maurizio Sarri’s first-choice back four remain ever-present this season (Antonio Rudiger only missed the last 21 minutes of the goalless draw with West Ham), with Kepa there behind them. It’s now also literally impossible to imagine a time before N’Golo Kante was running a Premier League midfield.
Wolves – 4 (Conor Coady, Ruben Neves, Ryan Bennett, Willy Boly)
Great effort from Wolves, this. In a renegade attempt to disprove the notion that it’s a squad game these days, they’ve got five 900-minuters when you add Rui Patricio, and a ridiculous four further players with more than 800 minutes already under their belts. Nuno’s now very clear starting XI have all got 700+ minutes on the clock, while Adama Traore’s solitary start and eight substitute appearances puts him 12th on the list with a mere 251 minutes. It’s nothing but loose change for the rest of the ‘squad’.
Crystal Palace – 3 (Luka Milivojevic, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt)
Luka Milivojevic’s penalty double ended Arsenal’s winning run, while it’s no great surprise to see a defensive dominance of ever-presents in a team that has a better goals-against record than Everton and Manchester United and the same as Arsenal, yet has outscored only Cardiff and Huddersfield. In unrelated news, Andros Townsend has played 869 minutes this season without a goal or an assist.
Leicester – 3 (Harry Maguire, Wilfred Ndidi, Ben Chilwell)
Harry Maguire hasn’t allowed national treasure status or links with the big boys to put him off his stride, picking up where he left off last season with his massive head in charge of the Leicester defence. Wilfred Ndidi has been in front of him the whole time, with England new boy Ben Chilwell to his left and Kasper Schmeichel behind. Reassuring.
Southampton – 3 (Nathan Redmond, Ryan Bertrand, Wesley Hoedt)
Mario Lemina and Cedric Soares just miss out, having both been absent for less than a half in the Premier League this season. Ryan Bertrand has put his 900 minutes to good use by being one of only three Southampton players to score this season.
Bournemouth – 2 (Nathan Ake, Steve Cook)
Bournemouth have caught the eye going forward in their fine start to the season, but it’s been built from the back where Nathan Ake, Steve Cook and Asmir Begovic have all played every minute of every game – and to largely good effect, apart from that weird 4-0 tonking at Burnley. The impressive Callum Wilson (878) and Joshua King (784) have 19 starts out of 20, producing nine goals and five assists between them.
Cardiff – 2 (Bruno Ecuele Manga, Sean Morrison)
Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge also has 900 behind two members of Cardiff’s leaky defence, but Sol Bamba’s nine full games make him the only other player above 800 minutes.
Watford – 2 (Abdoulaye Doucoure, Etienne Capoue)
The midfield engine room behind Watford’s fine start to the season have been there throughout the campaign, while the man most responsible for the Hornets’ success directly in front of them – Roberto Pereyra – has missed only 19 minutes of Premier League action: three for a man-of-the-match ovation on the opening day, and 16 at the end of the 4-0 spanking dished out by Bournemouth.
Arsenal – 1 (Shkodran Mustafi)
The Germany centre-back hasn’t always entirely convinced during his two years at Arsenal, but the Hank Scorpio lookalike has been pretty solid in Unai Emery’s winning run. Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka are the only other men to even start all ten for the Gunners.
Brighton – 1 (Shane Duffy)
The Seagulls’ only outfield ever-present has also been perhaps their second-best player this season behind only six-goal, 753-minute hero Glenn Murray. The ever-reliable Duffy has also turned in three full UEFA Nations League games for Republic of Ireland, but did sit out the Carabao defeat to Southampton. Part-timer.
Burnley – 1 (Ben Mee)
James Tarkowski and Jack Cork are both well above 800 minutes, while it’s heart-warming to see Aaron Lennon close to that mark. But it’s Tarkowski’s defensive partner Ben Mee who, along with Joe Hart, has been there throughout a topsy-turvy opening ten games for last season’s surprise package.
Fulham – 1 (Aleksandar Mitrovic)
Ever-presents aren’t always necessarily a team’s key player. In Fulham’s case, he most certainly is. Mitrovic has scored five of their 11 goals this season. Andre Schurrle is next on that list with four, and sits third on the total minutes list for the Cottagers despite only mustering 779 so far. Fulham have also used three goalkeepers already.
Manchester City – 1 (Aymeric Laporte)
Monday night suggested Laporte isn’t the biggest NFL fan after a rare wobbly performance, but he’s been on the field throughout City’s superb start to the season in which they’ve conceded a goal every 300 minutes. Sergio Aguero has started all ten games but completed only two and been on the field for just 719 minutes.
West Ham – 1 (Fabian Balbuena)
Are West Ham any good or not? Eight points from ten games suggests not, and puts them at the top of an eight-team gang of dreck at the foot of the table, already five points adrift of 12th-placed Leicester. The Hammers should be capable of easing clear of the dross and latching on with the mediocrity, and it’s likely Fabian Balbuena will remain integral to that effort.
Tottenham – 0 (Most: Harry Kane, 894 mins)
See, what’s all the fuss about Harry Kane’s workload? He’s had six whole minutes of rest this season, the lazy get. Lucas Moura (857) and Toby Alderweireld (801) are second and third on Spurs’ list, neither of which – for different reasons – appeared particularly likely back in July.
Newcastle – 0 (Most: Mohamed Diame, 886 mins)
No wins, no outfield ever-present after the struggling Diame was hooked with 14 minutes left of last weekend’s goalless draw at Southampton. His purple patch in the second half of last season now seems to be over, with his recent displays more the sort of Newcastle form that makes Daniel Levy start chucking £30m around.
Huddersfield – 0 (Most: Christopher Schindler, 881 mins)
Huddersfield and Spurs are the only clubs with no 900-minute men even when you count keepers, Jonas Lossl taking over from Ben Hamer after he was injured in the 0-0 draw with Cardiff back in August. The Terriers do have three 800-minuters, Schindler joined by almost-but-not-quite ever-present central midfield combo of Aaron Mooy and Philip Billing. Schindler edges out the Dane by 13 minutes, so it’s second, Billing.
Manchester United – 0 (Most: Paul Pogba, 874 mins)
De Gea’s been there throughout, albeit not quite as the effortlessly reassuring presence we’ve grown accustomed to. Outfield, it’s been 874 minutes of glorious rage-inducing, haircut-having, opinion-dividing, penalty-bantering midfield majesty from Paul Pogba leading the way, with redemption’s Luke Shaw next in line on the back of nine full games.
Liverpool – 0 (Most: Virgil van Dijk, 865 mins)
Top of Liverpool’s minutes list come the two players who have done most to turn the Reds from entertaining also-runs a year ago to teak-tough contenders now, with Alisson ever-present in goal and Virgil van Dijk only 35 minutes behind. Mohamed Salah has been struggling terribly, of course, with a frankly embarrassing five goals and three assists in his 854 minutes.
Everton – 0 (Most: Gylfi Sigurdsson, 839 mins)
It’s the Merseyside pair bringing up the rear in this particularly arbitrary table. Gylfi Sigurdsson lost his 100 per cent record in the very first half of the season but has missed only 14 minutes more in the last nine games, scoring five goals in his last six Premier League matches.
The keepers: Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth), Mat Ryan (Brighton), Joe Hart (Burnley), Neil Etheridge (Cardiff), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea), Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), David De Gea (Manchester United), Martin Dubravka (Newcastle), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Ben Foster (Watford), Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham), Rui Patricio (Wolves).