The eight hardest working players in the Premier League - Rudiger, Rice, Cancelo, Bowen and more

The December and January fixture schedule is one of the most brutal in European football. There's no such thing as a week off for some. Planet Sport looks at the players who just crack on regardless.

The phrase 'he's got a great engine on him' is levelled at many a player. But you'd be wrong to start thinking this article is about the size of Premier League players' car collection. Our footballers' 'engine' is made up of big lung capacity, tenacity, stamina, mental fortitude and just hard graft.

We are looking at the Premier League players who just keep going; dodging big injuries, rarely getting subbed off and where slumps in form are just not a thing. These guys play the most games they possibly can during a season, and you can rely on them week-in, week-out.

A couple of extra caveats, goalkeepers are dismissed from the list, spitting into your gloves every ten minutes and staring blankly up the pitch for most of the game does not make you hard working. Although keepers in teams at the bottom of the table will perhaps disagree.

Also to any players on the list who I jinx with a huge injury in the final four months of the season I can only apologise in advance.

Special mentions to Brentford's Ivan Toney and Palace defenders Marc Guehi and Joel Ward who just miss out, stuck on the 1,800 Premier League minutes mark.

(All stats correct at time of publication Jan 20, 2022)

Antonio Rudiger - 1,980 Premier League minutes played

The Chelsea defender has played 22 Premier League games this season, plus another seven in other competitions. No wonder Chelsea fans are keen to see him sign a new contract, he's the foundation of Thomas Tuchel's back line. Thiago Silva might get all the plaudits, but it's Rudgier who wears the Mr Reliable shirt.

With Chelsea's busy spell over the festive period, it was good of Tuchel to give the 28-year-old a rest for the FA Cup game with Chesterfield. He actually went a whole week without playing a match!

Most importantly, despite the number of games, he's only made one error leading to a goal.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 18 vs Brighton, Jan 15 vs Man City, Jan 12 vs Spurs, Jan 5 vs Spurs, Jan 2 vs Liverpool, Dec 29 vs Brighton, Dec 26 vs Aston Villa, Dec 19 vs Wolves, Dec 16 vs Everton, Dec 11 vs Leeds

Pontus Jansson - 1,972 minutes played

Pontus Jansson of Brentford

Brentford's stalwart Swede is having a superb season and as club captain is leading by example as the Bees aim to steer clear of the relegation scrap. He currently leads the league in clearances with 100.

At 30 years old, Jansson is no spring chicken but he has still managed to play in all of Brentford's 22 Premier League games this campaign. A Covid-delayed match before Christmas gave him a generous 12-day break ahead of the festive schedule.

Last week, Jansson signed a one-year extension until the end of the 22/23 season, so that should keep off the likes of Newcastle, Everton and Leicester from sniffing around.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 19 vs Man Utd, 16 Jan vs Brentford, Jan 11 vs Southampton, Jan 2 vs Aston Villa, Dec 29 vs Manchester City, Dec 26 vs Brighton, Dec 22 vs Chelsea, Dec 10 vs Watford, Dec 5 vs Leeds, Dec 2 vs Spurs

Declan Rice - 1,890 Premier League minutes played

Declan Rice

No surprise to see West Ham's imperious midfielder high in this chart, the 23-year-old England international is a machine.

When everyone is flagging late in a game it's always Declan Rice who is still storming up and down the field, leading a counter attack or running back to cover West Ham's injury-hit defence.

Tomas Soucek's recent bout of Covid-19 has meant Rice is doing double the work in midfield, and that is doubled again when David Moyes brings on Andriy Yarmolenko or Arthur Masuaku, where tracking back is something someone else does.

A one-match suspension, served against Watford on December 28, is the only break Rice has had over Christmas and New Year.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 16 vs Leeds, Jan 12 vs Norwich, Jan 9 vs Leeds, Jan 1 vs Crystal Palace, Dec 26 vs Southampton, Dec 22 vs Spurs, Dec 15 vs Arsenal, Dec 12 Burnley, Dec 4 vs Chelsea, Dec 1 vs Brighton

Tyrick Mitchell - 1,881 Premier League minutes played

Tyrick Mitchell

The Crystal Palace full-back feels like the forgotten man of the Premier League.

He gets zero credit from the media as he rarely scores or provides assists (just one this season). Yet there he is week-in, week-out on the left side of the Palace back line doing a solid job.

He is yet to be booked all season, which is rare for a defender, and is yet to serve up an error leading to a goal. He's also second on the most successful tackles list with 62.

A covid-delayed game on December 18 and some late substitutions have been the only breaks the 22-year-old has received.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 14 vs Brighton, Jan vs Millwall, Jan 1 vs West Ham, Dec 28 vs Norwich, Dec 26 vs Spurs (subbed 82 mins), Dec 15 vs Southampton, Dec 12 vs Everton (subbed 89 mins), Dec 5 vs Man Utd, Nov 30 vs Leeds, Nov 27 vs Aston Villa

Joao Cancelo - 1,878 Premier League minutes played

Joao Cancelo of Manchester City

In a team that is regularly chopped and changed, Cancelo is one the few mainstays of the Manchester City first XI. But why would you shuffle out one of your most consistent performers, especially when Zinchenko is the likely replacement?

The 27-year-old has played in all but one of City's Premier League games this season, and has provided five assists and one goal.

He's had two breaks in the last two months; the 7-0 thumping of Leeds on December 14, when he was suspended and the Champions League dead rubber match against RB Leipzig on December 7, when he was rested.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 15 vs Chelsea, Jan 7 vs Swindon, Jan 1 vs Arsenal, Dec 29 vs Brentford, Dec 26 vs Leicester, Dec 19 vs Newcastle, Dec 11 vs Wolves, Dec 4 vs Watford, Dec 1 vs Aston Villa, Nov 28 vs West Ham

Christian Norgaard - 1,858 Premier League minutes played

Christian Norgaard
AFC Bournemouth's Dominic Solanke (right) and Brentford's Christian Norgaard battle for the ball during the Sky Bet Championship match at the Vitality Stadium

Another no frills player on our list. The Bees defensive midfielder is one of those footballers who is always there breaking up play and letting others steal the limelight.

The Dane leads the Premier League in tackles won (69), and occasionally chips in with the odd assist (2) and creates several big chances (5). But nobody gives him the credit he deserves. Perhaps that's what Brentford fans want. Other clubs won't come sniffing for the hidden gem they have in their ranks.

The 27-year-old has played all but one of the Bees' Premier League games this season, when he was suspended for the clash against Man City on December 29, and was an unused sub for the recent FA Cup win over Port Vale.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 19 vs Man Utd, Jan 16 vs Liverpool, Jan 11 vs Southampton, Jan 2 vs Aston Villa, Dec 26 vs Brighton, Dec 22 vs Chelsea (subbed on 66 mins), Dec 10 vs Watford, Dec 5 vs Leeds, Dec 2 vs Spurs, Nov 28 vs Everton (subbed off 70 mins)

Jarrod Bowen - 1,857 Premier League minutes played

Jarrod Bowen
Jarrod Bowen, West Ham, England

Jarrod Bowen used to be the player West Ham manager David Moyes took off with ten minutes to spare, usually after he'd run himself into the ground chasing lost causes.

Now, after his much discussed summer training retreat running ploughed farmers' fields, Bowen is showing more staying power than a heavyweight boxer.

Along with Michail Antonio, he's just one of two forwards on the list, perhaps highlighting how thin West Ham's striking options are and how many games they've played recently.

Where Antonio remains mainly in the opposition's half, Bowen is regularly found sprinting back to cover the West Ham defence. He's blocked 17 shots, and made six clearances this season and he's mainly used as a winger!

He's played every game of West Ham's league season, with a handful of substitutions reducing his minutes played. He wasn't rested at all during the festive period, playing the full 90 in nine league games on the trot.

Plus he's got to deal with minor celeb status too now he's going out with Dani Dyer, being dragged to celeb parties can be exhausting. Well that's what celebs say anyway…poor them.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 16 vs Leeds, Jan 12 vs Norwich, Jan 9 vs Leeds, Jan 1 vs Palace, Dec 28 vs Watford, Dec 26 vs Southampton, Dec 22 vs Spurs, Dec 15 vs Arsenal, Dec 12 vs Burnley, Dec 4 vs Chelsea

Michail Antonio - 1,839 Premier League minutes played

Michail Antonio
Michail Antonio of West Ham United celebrates the goal during the UEFA Europa League group H match between Dinamo Zagreb and West Ham United at Maksimir Stadium on September 16, 2021 in Zagreb, Croatia.

The oldest player on the list at 31, and probably a bit of a surprise given how injury prone Michail Antonio has been over the last few seasons. West Ham fans still take a sharp intake of breath when he goes down…'please, not those paper thin hamstrings again'.

Antonio has played in all but one of West Ham's Premier League games this season, absent for the Manchester United defeat way back in late September. Yes, the one with the last-minute penalty miss. He was also off with Covid-19 for the Carabao Cup defeat to Spurs on December 22.

Last ten league and cup matches played: Jan 16 vs Leeds, Jan 12 vs Norwich (subbed off 88 mins), Jan 9 vs Leeds, Jan 1 vs Palace, Dec 28 vs Watford, Dec 26 vs Southampton (subbed on 46 mins), Dec 15 vs Arsenal, Dec 12 vs Burnley, Dec 4 vs Chelsea, Dec 1 vs Brighton

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