The midfield is where most matches are won and lost. If the defence provides the skeletal structure of the team and the forwards its muscles, the midfield is the nerve centre of the the team, co-ordinating the various parts together to perform in unison. Be it matches or trophies, no team can win without a competent midfield in place.
Taking stock of the performances from the men in the midfield in the month of February, here are your nominees for Midfielders of the Month.
The Frenchman arrived at English shores in late January for a paltry £2.5 million, in another coup by Newcastle in the French transfer market. It was a bit of a surprise when Alan Pardew decided to play him in an advanced role, given that he played more in a double pivot along side Capoue at Toulouse. But the Frenchman took to the role like a duck to water, and the results are there for all to see.
In six games, it was only Tottenham on the back of the outstanding Bale that were able to beat the Magpies. Sissoko made his presence felt in his home debut, as he scripted a memorable victory over Chelsea, courtesy of a brace. He followed that up with impressive displays against Tottenham and Southampton, while also winning the decisive penalty against Metalist Kharkiv that sent Newcastle through to the the last 16 in the Europa League.
3 goals and 2 assists in 6 games have made him the biggest instigator in the onset of the French revolution at St. James’ Park.
The season has become some sort of a break-out season for the Frenchman. Payet has already achieved what you would call in basketball terms a double-double, by passing the 10 goals and 10 assists mark this season.
In all, Payet has given the Lille faithful a reason to smile at a time where they have seen their Ligue 1 winning side from a couple of years past being slowly dismantled. In LOSC’s recent 3-1 triumph over AC Ajaccio, Payet’s forays from the left wing looked unstoppable.
February has been a great month of action for Payet, where he netted thrice and was the author of a further 3 assists, which meant that Lille went unbeaten in the second month of the year in Ligue 1.
The German international is the fulcrum of the Bayern side that managed to win all of its games in all competitions in the month of February. Schweinsteiger has one of the best motors in football, which enables him to protect the back four whenever called upon while providing the first point of attack on many occasions. His immense control of the centre of the pitch was evident in his performance in DFB Pokal against the dangerous Borussia Dortmund.
Chipping in with goals and timely assists doesn’t hurt either. If not for hitting the post twice against Hoffenheim, his tally would have been much greater.
The name of Real Sociedad always awakes within me the nostalgic memories of the club challenging the mighty Real Madrid of Zidane and Ronaldo for the La Liga title with players like Nihat Kahveci, Xavi Alonso and Darko Kovačević in the early years of the century, only to fall a few points short and eventually going down a few years hence.
Sociedad are up again and are contending for European places (currently sitting pretty in 6th position on the table) now. That might not have been the initial plans, but stellar performances from the team as a whole has given them this opportunity. Illaramendi has proved to be one of the vital cogs in the machinery of Real Sociedad, as his work in front of the back four has drawn praises from all and sundry.
He might not find his name in the headlines everyday, but his gritty performances in the heart of the midfield has meant that he is one of the first names on the team list for Philippe Montanier.
The 31-year old skipper seems rejuvenated after signing a new contract with the club in January. His confidence and play seems to have rubbed off on his teammates, as a string of seven games unbeaten has pulled the oft-struggling club clear of the drop-zone.
The run included a memorable 4-2 win over Roma and a hard-earned draw at home to Milan. The skipper played his part as he made the midfield tick with his experience, while also chipping in with goals as he did against Torino.