Premier League’s Most Creative Defenders | Opta Stats Analysis

Premier League’s Most Creative Defenders | Opta Stats Analysis


The phenomenal Leighton Baines has inspired a post dedicated to the most creative defenders to ply their trade in the Barclays Premier League this term. We’ve take a look at a number of statistics including passing, dribbles attempted, chances created and goals to compile a list of five of the top creative defenders going forward. We typically believe that defender goals can not be predicted and use players like John Terry as an example. Prior to Terry’s six-goal haul in the 2011-12 season, the Chelsea skipper had scored only six goals over his previous three Premier League campaigns combined.

Honorable Mention. Rafael, Manchester United

It is worth noting that we expected to find Manchester United’s Rafael on this list but elected to leave him off in favour of our No. 5 choice. If we revisit this list again at the end of the season, we expect to see the young Brazilian supplant our No. 5 defender – Branislav Ivanovic – and perhaps move as high as third overall.  Rafael has created the most chances of any United defender (7) this term, been successful with 100% of his five dribbles and made 31 final-third entries – behind only Carrick (90), Scholes (64) and Cleverley (37) for the Red Devils this season. The right-back has also been exceptional defensively, winning 16/22 tackles and 30/54 ground duels — both TOP for Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad — and 9/15 aerial duels, despite his diminutive size. If you feel honorable mention is a slight to his extraordinary ability, you have our permission to mentally re-arrange this list to suit your fancy or personal bias.

5. Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea

It would be difficult to leave Ivanovic off this list. The Chelsea player leads all defenders at this early stage of the 2012-13 season with two goals scored and has converted 100% of his clear-cut chances this year (2). While Ivanovic has scored twice, club teammate Ashley Cole has created one more chance (5) than the Serbian international and has attempted eight dribbles — successful on 38% — while Branislav has only attempted three.  For Cole, the goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Stoke City marked his first goal in over two years for Chelsea.

Where Ivanovic has made his mark in Chelsea’s attack is with his passing. He has competed 15 of his 22 long balls, completing at least one in Chelsea’s opening six Premier League fixtures, and he has made 34 final third entries. Final third entries are passes made into the attacking third of the pitch. Ivanovic has made at least four such passes in each of the Blue’s six league fixtures this term. The Serbian defender has completed 199/243 total passes (82%) and three of his 21 crosses to date.

4. Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, Arsenal

Arsene Wenger’s two wing-backs are hard to separate this season and both have been given a bit of license to press the attack down their respective flanks.  Gibbs is third among the current Gunners with seven chances created, behind Santi Cazorla (24) and Lukas Podolski (8). The left-back is level with Mikel Arteta on chances created and has created only one more than Jenkinson (6).  While Gibbs has embarked on nine dribbles, Jenkinson has attempted 10 – completing an impressive 50% of those. Between the two defenders, they have created better than two chances, and completed more than one dribble, per Premier League fixture this term.

Gibbs has pressed more in recent matches. After creating a single chance over the Gunner’s first three fixtures, he has created three, two and one chance(s) over the last three. The 23-year-old has attempted at least one dribble in five of the Gunners six fixtures this season. His counterpart on the right has created at least one chance in four of six matches and attempted three, one, four and two dribbles over Arsenal’s last four Barclays Premier League fixtures.  Both Jenkinson (19 crosses, 21% success rate) and Gibbs (27 crosses, 15% success rate) have been involved in building the attack with their passes from the wings, as well with passes out of their own defensive end. Jenksinon has completed 21-of-37 long balls this term – 57% – and Gibbs has completed 9-of-12 – 75%. While Bacary Sagna’s return to fitness may limit Jenkinson’s opportunities over the course of the season, Gibbs has performed well enough to solidify his place in Wenger’s first-choice starting XI.


Next Page: The Top 3 Creative Defenders in the Premier League