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Bundesliga Preview: The league’s top central midfielders

The Bundesliga’s crop of box-to-box generalists is far from lacking.

Eintracht Frankfurt v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga Photo by Joachim Bywaletz/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Welcome back to the Bundesliga Preview for 2023/24, where we will be going position by position and ranking the top players that the league has to offer. Today we’re covering the league’s best central midfielders: the Achter, or box to box midfielders.

20. Florian Neuhaus (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
The German may be far removed from the world-beating destiny once prophesied for him, but Neuhaus still shows up with a great performance here and there for Gladbach.

19. Yannick Gerhardt (VfL Wolfsburg)
A Swiss Army knife of a player, Gerhardt can essentially do a job at any position on the pitch, but is most often used as a central midfield by Niko Kovač.

18. Sebastian Rode (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Frankfurt’s captain is a strong player in the middle, with consistently solid defensive performances and the occasional foray forward.

17. Grischa Prömel (TSG Hoffenheim)
Prömel is a great signing for Hoffenheim on a free, having cultivated a strong physical style of football at Union Berlin that was run through its paces by Union’s lightning quick counter-attacking style.

16. Nadiem Amiri (Bayer Leverkusen)
Amiri may be unmotivated after a move away from Leverkusen fell through late in the window, but he is still an asset for any team in the league.

15. Éric Ebimbe (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Another versatile player who is best used as a central midfielder, Ebimbe has made himself useful in Frankfurt’s run to consistent European finishes in the league.

14. Felix Nmecha (Borussia Dortmund)
He may be better classed as an attacking midfielder but I think he will be utilised in the Jude Bellingham role more often. Nmecha has a high ceiling but it remains to be seen if he can match his potential with consistent performances.

13. Amadou Haidara (RB Leipzig)
A proper Red Bull player, Haidara is deceptively quick, relentlessly hardworking and of course, crisp with his decision-making going forward.

12. Nicolas Seiwald (RB Leipzig)
Leipzig’s latest addition in midfield is the pragmatic, hardworking and even offensively competent Seiwald. The Austrian is another player bred in the Red Bull system, gifted on the ball and zippy in transition.

11. Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen)
Leverkusen have big shoes to fill in midfield after the departure of Kerem Demirbay, but if the first few weeks of the season are anything to go by then Palacios will fill in that gap extremely well, at the centre of everything Leverkusen do from deep.

10. Marcel Sabitzer (Borussia Dortmund)
Another player who may be used more offensively than the standard box-to-box midfielder, Sabitzer does however possess all the qualities of a box to box player. Sabitzer is well known for his days as an offensive powerhouse for Leipzig, and got the chance to showcase his more down-to-the-ground defensive game at Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Now in Dortmund, he has a chance to combine both sides of his game into one.

9. Arne Maier (FC Augsburg)
Maier may not be extremely gifted defensively, but he is a good presser and is even more destructive when his team has the ball, being an expert at finding advanced spaces and making late runs to get himself into goalscoring positions from deep.

8. Kevin Kampl (RB Leipzig)
Kampl has been Leipzig’s rock in midfield for the last few years, forming the base of all their play. In the midst of an unclear midfield identity through multiple systemic and even managerial changes, the one consistent factor was that Kampl would start no matter what.

7. Maximilian Eggestein (SC Freiburg)
Eggestein has been a top player for Freiburg, complementing Nicolas Höfler’s limited ball playing ability very well with his excellent dribbling ability, occasional shot from deep and of course his extremely impressive range of passing.

6. Mattias Svanberg (VfL Wolfsburg)
Svanberg is probably the most gifted player of any on this list going forward, with some excellent positioning and quick thinking while on the turn, but Svanberg leaves a bit to be desired defensively and in the press leaving him outside the top spots.

5. Robert Andrich (Bayer Leverkusen)
Andrich may be struggling for game time now under Xabi Alonso, but Leverkusen will be reluctant to sell as when he is firing on cylinders, Andrich is almost unplayable. Andrich is an aggressive presser, denying space without hesitation, being unafraid to get stuck in to win the ball back, and then having the ability on the ball to create advantageous situations for his teammates.

4. Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich)
Goretzka is showing the qualities that previously would have placed him at the top spot on this list, but the German international must still show consistent performances for a longer period to sustain a place in the conversation.

3. Konrad Laimer (Bayern Munich)
Bayern’s latest midfield acquisition is a true box-to-box player. Laimer is the fastest midfielder Bayern have ever had, with speeds rivalling that of Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sané. He is a relentless worker, pressing high up the field and tracking back too, as well as being surprisingly gifted on the ball.

2. Manu Koné (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Koné seemed Liverpool-bound, but with the deal seemingly fizzled out, he will remain in the Bundesliga. Koné has all the hallmarks of the modern box to box midfielder, with an impressive physical stature, smart decision on the ball and the technical ability to produce something magical if the situations call for it.

1. Maximilian Arnold (VfL Wolfsburg)

Hertha BSC v VfL Wolfsburg - Bundesliga Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

One of the Bundesliga’s stalwarts for the last half decade or so, Arnold has been Wolfsburg’s key in midfield for years now. The German midfielder is extremely smart defensively, not accruing a massive portfolio of defensive actions but rather educated decisions off the ball that help the team as a whole. This combined with Arnold’s explosive tendencies in attack create the perfect player to build a team around. Arnold’s set pieces are a joy to behold, and his range of passing is impressive too. If any midfielder in Germany is world class, it’s Arnold.

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