After an impressive start to the 2013/14 Premier League season, Fabian Delph is staking a claim as one of the league's best midfielders.
Considering the wealth of talent in the opposition midfield throughout those games—with the likes of Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere for Arsenal, Frank Lampard and Ramires for Chelsea as well as Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Philipe Coutinho—it may have come as a surprise that 5'8” Delph wasn't overshadowed by any of his rivals.
Finally it appears that the Bradford-born star is ready for the Premier League after a number of set-backs inhibited his progression in the Villa side since his move from Leeds in 2009.
In an interview with the Birmingham Mail's Mat Kendrick, Delph spoke of his gratitude to the Villa faithful for sticking with him throughout his injury-hit first couple of years in claret and blue:
The fans have been great with me, they’ve been patient.
I’ve been here four years now and I’ve been injured most of them. If I’m being honest, if I was a fan I’d probably be a bit frustrated thinking ‘oh, when’s he going to start playing’.
All credit to them they’ve backed me all the way and it was nice to come off and hear the applause from the fans
Delph's impressive performances during Villa's start to the new Premier League season saw him named Villa's Player of the Month for August. The combative midfielder's drive, tenacity and energy are now being matched with incisive distribution and a cool head when required as well as a determination that has always been evident in his game.
So far this season, Delph has started and completed each and every one of Villa's matches. His pass accuracy stands at an astonishing 86 percent with an average pass length of 16 metres—only six of his completed passes were long balls.
Delph has won 70 percent of his duels and has made an average of seven defensive contributions per match.
A rash challenge is seemingly always around the corner whenever the 23-year-old plays and, in typical fashion, he has picked up one yellow card so far this season.
In comparison with Delph, Michael Carrick, who is a consistent performer in Manchester United's midfield, has a similar pass accuracy of 85 percent. However, United's more experienced and dynamic midfield has allowed him an average pass length of 17 metres—ever so slightly longer than the Villa man's.
And though Carrick is no stranger to getting back and helping out defensively, the Red Devils' midfielder hasn't fared as well as Delph in challenges this season, winning an average of 59 percent of his duels while picking up two yellow cards in the process.
Chelsea's Frank Lampard will forever be a benchmark for Premier League midfielders to compare themselves to, with the England midfielder consistently excelling in the heart of the Blues' midfield. A talismanic midfielder, Lampard regularly contributes toward Chelsea's goal tally and is always on hand to do the dirty work when required.
Lampard has already found the net this season—something Delph has failed to do—and has created four more chances than the Villa man.
However, Lampard's average pass accuracy stands at 85 percent, on par with Carrick but ever so slightly less than Delph's. The Chelsea man's success rate in duels is also significantly lower—winning an average of 53 percent.
So in comparison with two of the Premier League's finest midfielders, it seems that Delph is able to hold his own and now, more than ever, looks capable of taking England's top flight in his stride.
The only criticism of the 23-year-old's game is that he lacks goals. As previously mentioned, Lampard has already found the net this season and is sure to do so many more times. The 35-year-old surpassed Bobby Tambling's all-time goalscoring record last season as he notched his 202nd and 203rd goals in a match against Delph's Villa.
That is some feat for a midfielder.
Delph has scored just three goals during his time at Villa—the most recent coming in a win over Rotherham in the League Cup—but the Bradford-born star has shown more attacking intent this season. He struck the post against Arsenal and, with a willingness to improve and excel, it surely won't be long until Delph begins to find the back of the net.