We’re talking all competitions here, but not goalkeepers. Those buggers don’t run nearly enough…
20. Dele Alli – Tottenham (2,109 minutes)
He may have been suspended for half of Tottenham’s group stage campaign in the Champions League after his Europa League red card, but Alli still makes the list. That’s mainly because, until recently, he wasn’t being substituted in the Premier League. Simple as.
19. Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City (2,112 minutes)
Not quite the same skill set or body type as N’Golo Kante, but Ndidi is doing a passable impression of Leicester’s former all-tackling, all-intercepting central midfielder. He has become Mr Dependable under Claude Puel.
18. Cesc Fabregas – Chelsea (2,133 minutes)
Most of this list understandably contains the names of those who have played regular European football this season. Fabregas makes the grade despite starting only 15 of Chelsea’s 22 league matches. He is their man of all competitions.
17. Christian Eriksen – Tottenham (2,153 minutes)
There is an accusation that Eriksen goes missing too often when it matters for Spurs, but you cannot doubt the workload. Only two teammates have played more minutes this season. Eriksen is still 25 but has played a remarkable 445 senior career matches. And still he is expected to create and run, run and create.
16. Hector Bellerin – Arsenal (2,160 minutes)
Arsenal are almost entirely absent from this list, having treated the Europa League as an opportunity to afford the club’s young players a chance to shine. Bellerin makes the grade only because he has not missed a minute in the Premier League, played in the Community Shield and started in the first group game against Koln.
15. Alfie Mawson – Swansea City (2,168 minutes)
No European football here, just a reliable central defender who has not missed a minute in the league and has played two lots of 90 minutes in the third and fourth rounds of the Carabao Cup. Mawson is going to need a move this summer, isn’t he?
14. Roberto Firmino – Liverpool (2,186 minutes)
Jurgen Klopp’s rotation policy means that they are the only one of England’s five Champions League participants without a representative in the top ten. Firmino is the first of their two entrants. Klopp really doesn’t trust Daniel Sturridge, y’know.
13. Kyle Walker – Manchester City (2,201 minutes)
There was an awful lot of scoffing when City paid £50m for Walker last summer, but he has been the reliable upgrade Pep Guardiola hoped for. Missed one league game having been sent off against Everton on his home debut, but since then Walker has been immense. The best right-back in the world? Perhaps.
12. Fernandinho – Manchester City (2,238 minutes)
The one criticism of City in the summer is that they had chosen not to improve the spine of their team. Guardiola’s squad still looked light of one central defender, while Ilkay Gundogan’s fitness and Fernandinho’s form and advancing years looked like obvious weaknesses. Fernandinho has made me look like an idiot. As is customary.
11. Mohamed Salah – Liverpool (2,262 minutes)
Mo Salah, no problems. Klopp may want to rotate his midfield and attack to rest Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum, but when an attacker is in a rich vein of form such as Salah’s it’s damn hard to justify leaving him out.
10. Harry Maguire – Leicester City (2,271 minutes)
Remember the halcyon days of June 2017, when £12m (potentially rising to £17m) felt a lot for a central defender? That’s how much Leicester paid for Maguire, and by god was he worth it. Maguire is the last player on this list without European football this season, here because he has played every minute in the Premier League and missed only nine minutes of Leicester’s Carabao Cup campaign.
9. Jan Vertonghen – Tottenham (2,311 minutes)
Perhaps not Tottenham’s best defender – that honour surely goes to Toby Alderweireld – but surely their most consistent when form and fitness are combined. With his left-back days now over, Vertonghen has become the reliable presence Mauricio Pochettino desperately needs to accompany the still raw Davinson Sanchez.
8. Nicolas Otamendi – Manchester City (2,321 minutes)
Still not convinced that he’s actually any good and that at some point this season he will kick the ball into his own goal for no apparent reason, but for now Otamendi has stopped Guardiola having kittens despite injuries to John Stones and Vincent Kompany.
7. Ashley Williams – Everton (2,328 mins)
An Everton career that might have been saved by the arrival of Sam Allardyce. Williams struggled horribly during his first months at Goodison, and yet has been the Everton outfielder with the most minutes in all competitions. That’s despite missing four league games.
6. Eric Dier – Tottenham (2,331 minutes)
Dier’s position in Tottenham’s first team might well come under threat should every player be fit. He struggled so much in a central defensive three recently that Pochettino altered the formation and played him as a holding midfielder. Victor Wanyama’s return from injury might cause Pochettino a headache. Yet for now, Dier keeps on playing almost every minute.
5. Kevin de Bruyne – Manchester City (2,343 minutes)
There is a fallacy that creative players cannot also be made of stern stuff, but De Bruyne is here to call you a fool. No outfield player has played more minutes for the best team in the world on current form. That’s despite De Bruyne being kicked from pillar to post against almost every team he plays. We love him.
4. Marcos Alonso – Chelsea (2,389 minutes)
Almost as impressive as Alonso’s outstanding goal return is his stamina. He plays in a role that demands defensive and attacking work, regular sprints and constant concentration, and has also swapped positions with Eden Hazard over the course of the last two games. Would a team of Marcos Alonsos win the title?
3. Nemanja Matic – Manchester United (2,441 minutes)
Still can’t fathom why Chelsea would agree to sell an excellent central midfielder to a supposed title rival, but Manchester United have enjoyed Matic’s consistency. He has missed 36 minutes in the Premier League, started four of their six Champions League games, played 90 minutes in the UEFA Super Cup and even played 23 minutes in the Carabao Cup against Swansea. Should have picked him against Bristol City.
2. Romelu Lukaku – Manchester United (2,480 minutes)
The banterous reply when Jose Mourinho suggested that Lukaku could do with a rest was to ask why, when he never runs around anyway. ROFL. The truth is that Lukaku is more than five months away from turning 25, and has already played 412 matches in his senior career. At some point, that workload will break him.
1. Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea (2,505 minutes)
Practically perfect in every way. Not only is Azpilicueta the most consistent defender in the Premier League in terms of his performance, he is the most consistent in terms of his availability. Fun fact: Azpilicueta has played 8,601 of Chelsea’s last 8,910 league minutes, a run stretching back to May 2015.