Following Manchester United‘s lamentable 2-2 draw with Southampton on Saturday, Jose Mourinho bemoaned the lack of “bite” in his midfield.

It was a performance indicative of Mourinho’s recent tenure at Old Trafford: slow, cumbersome and error-prone. And after the match, the Portuguese refused to mince his words when he suggested that his midfield is sufficiently devoid of “mad dog” spirit.

The midfield duo of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera certainly seemed to lack the tenacity to really trouble the Saints, prompting Mourinho to denounce his players for trying to over-elaborate play: “simplicity is genius” was the cry.

Indeed United have looked shy of that real ruthlessness and aggressive streak in the middle of the park of late – a bullishness reminiscent of Lee Cattermole for example – which often translates to passion for the badge.

And so, with that considered, who is every Premier League club’s “mad dog” and why are they so important to their teammates?

Arsenal (Lucas Torreira)

Recoveries: 101
Tackles made: 15
Fouls conceded: 21

Following his explosive start to life in the Premier League, Torreira has aptly earned himself the moniker “terrier” by Gary Neville among others. The pint-sized enforcer has reinvigorated a stagnant Arsenal midfield and added, not only bite, but a bullish South American valour.

Football Manager also seem to rate the Uruguayan highly in terms of his “mad dog” attributes, with the midfielder boasting stats 15 or above for aggression, bravery, determination and work rate.

Bournemouth (Jefferson Lerma)

Recoveries: 89
Tackles made: 11
Fouls conceded: 22

If anyone needed indication of Lerma’s playing style prior to his move to Dean Court, then simply cast your mind back to the Otkritie Arena in Russia. England were playing Colombia and were subject to a battle of intense confrontation and hostility.

Los Cafeteros were cold-blooded which made for a thrilling encounter; Eddie Howe has now added that grit to his midfield and the Cherries are flourishing with the South American in their ranks – he also possesses a 15 rating for bravery, determination and work rate on FM19.

Brighton and Hove Albion (Dale Stephens)

Recoveries: 89
Tackles made: 11
Fouls conceded: 22

Stephens is the sort of no-nonsense midfielder any manager would love in their team, such is his industrious work rate. The Englishman leaves nothing behind and his aggressive tackling goes a long way to unsettling opposition.

Sometimes that can prove too much, as per his ill-judged red against Cardiff, but there can be no denying the 29-year-old’s determination; and FM19 would agree as they have ranked him 15 or more for bravery, determination and work rate.

Burnley (Jack Cork)

Recoveries: 72
Tackles made: 7
Fouls conceded: 8

Last season no outfield Burnley player made more recoveries (244) or more tackles (60) than Cork, while the England international also ranked second for number of duals engaged in (394) and number of duals won (196).

Those numbers give you a pretty strong indication of Cork’s perseverance in the heart of midfield, in fact, earlier this season he had covered the third most ground of any player in the Premier League, while FM19 have given him a ranking of 18 for both determination and work rate, as well as 15 for bravery.

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Cardiff City (Harry Arter)

Recoveries: 57
Tackles made: 16
Fouls conceded: 11

When Neil Warnock got his hands on Arter over the summer he would have breathed a huge sigh of relief as there are few who possess the dedication and commitment of the Sidcup-born midfielder.

What Arter lacks in creativity he more than makes up for in his relentless work rate, and has proven a consistent thorn for opposition in midfield – FM19 have given him an aggression and work rate of 15 or above.

Chelsea (N’Golo Kante)

Recoveries: 84
Tackles made: 14
Fouls conceded: 19

Few can hold a candle to Kante in the “mad dog” department as the Chelsea marvel seems to possess the lungs of two midfielders let alone one. The name Kante itself has become synonymous with intensity and vigour.

The World Cup winner is a habitual nark for opposition players and former manager Antonio Conte even backed him for the Ballon d’Or, describing him as “a great worker” – FM19 gave Kante 15 plus stats for aggression, bravery and determination, while his work rate has been ranked at 20.

Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic)

Recoveries: 89
Tackles made: 32
Fouls conceded: 27

Milivojevic has acquitted himself expertly since relocating to the Premier League, and he is one of the Eagles’ more reliant players. His ability to procure the ball and press with ruggedness are reasons why he currently holds the captain’s armband.

Last season no outfield player made more recoveries (274) or won more tackles than the Serbian midfielder (85), while manager Roy Hodgson has previously waxed lyrical about his skipper’s leadership qualities, “reliability and consistency of performance.”

Everton (Idrissa Gueye)

Recoveries: 103
Tackles made: 37
Fouls conceded: 34

Gueye has been the fulcrum of Everton’s success this season, his ability to break up play and anchor the midfield are two of the main reasons why Marco Silva is thriving on Merseyside.

The likes of Richarlison and Andre Gomes may steal the plaudits for their more refined and eloquent playing styles, but they would not have license to flourish were it not for the aggressiveness of Gueye – FM19 have also recognised his bravery, determination and work rate by giving him a 15 or above in each department.

Fulham (Jean Michael Seri)

Recoveries: 77
Tackles made: 20
Fouls conceded: 14

A more technically proficient player than some on this list, but Seri still possesses all the requisite attributes of a Claudio Ranieri player and will go on to play a chief role in the Cottagers’ basement battle this season.

Built in the mould of Kante, the Fulham midfielder is a relentless runner, and under the auspices of a more tactically astute manager in Ranieri, Seri could transform his game in the heart of midfield – with a bravery and determination of 15 on FM19, he will prove invaluable this season.

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Huddersfield Town (Jonathan Hogg) 

Recoveries: 107
Tackles made: 21
Fouls conceded: 30

If Aaron Mooy is the catalyst then Hogg is the trusted lieutenant; David Wagner will be counting his blessings that his midfield consists of two of the Premier League’s more unwavering players.

Hogg brings a nasty streak to Huddersfield, and such is his aggressive nature, it seems fitting that he plies his trade for a club named the Terriers – he is an absolute savage on the pitch, and FM19 wholeheartedly back that statement as he boasts an aggression and work rate of 18, a bravery of 19 and a determination of 16.

Leicester City (Nampalys Mendy)

Recoveries: 64
Tackles made: 9
Fouls conceded: 13

At just 5ft 6in Mendy is another in the build of Kante, and while he is certainly nowhere on the level of the Chelsea man, the former Nice midfielder does add a level of bite and tenacity to the Foxes midfield.

The 26-year-old has been giving more playing time this season, and with good reason, Claude Puel wants willing runners in his side, and with an 18 work rate on FM19, no one can blame the Frenchman for affording him 12 starts this campaign.

Liverpool (James Milner)

Recoveries: 63
Tackles made: 14
Fouls conceded: 14

Milner just seems to be getting better with age, and it can, therefore, come as no surprise why Fabinho and Naby Keita have struggled to hold down a starting berth this season; even his manager believes he can play on well into his late 30s.

The versatile midfielder has been a model of consistency across his career, but he is an absolute nightmare to come up against – even at 32 – because he just never stops running. Milner may be entering his twilight years, but that has not tarnished his FM19 stats: bravery (17), determination (19), work rate (18).

Manchester City (Fernandinho)

Recoveries: 90
Tackles made: 23
Fouls conceded: 23

One of the key component’s of Pep Guardiola high-octane pressing style; the Catalonian would not settle for players who were not willing to consistently run for 90 minutes, and no player embodies that mentality more than the Brazilian.

At 33, there are fears of what will happen to City’s midfield post-Fernandinho, but for the minute, he continues to be shrewd sweeper in midfield. FM19 have ranked him 15 or above for aggression, bravery, determination and work rate.

Manchester United (Ander Herrera)

Recoveries: 22
Tackles made: 6
Fouls conceded: 6

Mourinho lamented the lack of bite in his midfield, but Herrera certainly has the required attributes to bring that level of nastiness to the United midfield; the Spaniard is a real nuisance on the pitch and has a knack for winding up the opposition.

He played and scored against Southampton, but was not immune from criticism, though with a 19 and 18 ranking for determination and work rate respectively on FM19, there should be no “mad dog” concerns for Mourinho.

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Newcastle United (Mohamed Diame) 

Recoveries: 74
Tackles made: 25
Fouls conceded: 11

Shelvey and Diame have the potential to be a frightening partnership, and that has proven the case in the past, but it is the latter who has played a more prominent role under Rafa Benitez this season.

The Senegal international lacks consistency, but when in full drive, he is like a rampaging bulldog, bringing energy and life to an often tentative Magpies’ midfield. With FM19 stats of determination (17) and work rate (15), Benitez should and will continue to utilise him in his XI.

Southampton (Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg)

Recoveries: 98
Tackles made: 22
Fouls conceded: 23

Despite Southampton’s woes this season Hojbjerg has been a pillar of inspiration; his destroyer-creator acquaintanceship with Mario Lemina will give newly-appointed Ralph Hasenhuttl much hope.

The former Bayern Munich midfielder has endeared himself to the Saints faithful due to his hustle and willingness to work for the team. His FM19 stats back his combative ability: aggression (17), determination (16), work rate (17).

Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur) 

Recoveries: 44
Tackles made: 9
Fouls conceded: 7

The Belgian has often been credited with playing a fundamental role in Spurs’ recent successes, and while his absence has been remedied by a rejuvenated Moussa Sissoko, his return will be met with much glee.

Dembele is a workhorse and has made the box-to-box midfield role his own, playing with a purposeful appetite to constantly win the ball back. He is entering his twilight years but still possesses plus 15 stats on FM19 for bravery, determination and work rate.

Watford (Etienne Capoue)

Recoveries: 110
Tackles made: 24
Fouls conceded: 42

Javi Gracia possesses one of the more physically-imposing midfields in the Premier League with Abdoulaye Doucoure and Capoue, but it is often the latter who just gets stuck in regardless of the consequences and puts his body on the line for the good of the team.

West Ham (Declan Rice)

Recoveries: 95
Tackles made: 18
Fouls conceded: 19

Rice has come of age this season and is now a mainstay in Manuel Pellegrini’s midfield; his ability to break down play has been likened to that of Bobby Moore in some parts of east London.

At just 19, Rice appears years beyond his age and with a work rate of 15 of FM19, he will continue to prove indispensable for the Hammers.

Wolves (Conor Coady)

Recoveries: 88
Tackles made: 8
Fouls conceded: 16

Wolves’ midfield appears too elegant to possess a “mad dog”, so most of their aggression, hard-hitting ability and relentless pressing comes from Coady, the converted centre-back who has proven a priceless commodity for Nuno Espirito Santo. His FM19 stats are also 15 plus for all key categories.

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