After a frantic period in the Premier League, which consisted of all the teams playing eight games in the space of one month, we have reached the halfway stage of the season. With players now adjusted to the demands of heavy schedules, especially for the bigger teams, the next few months will show us which teams can cope with the high pressure league encounters as well as commitments in other competitions. It is proving to be a fascinating campaign so far with the top four teams separated by just six points. With any of the top six teams in with a chance of taking the title, this season is as unpredictable as ever. If the next half of the season is anything as good as the first, we are in for a real treat.
This piece will discuss how the midfield playmakers from the current top four have helped their side climb into the Champions League qualification places. The players in question are Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil of Arsenal, David Silva and Samir Nasri of Manchester City, Eden Hazard and Oscar of Chelsea and finally Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard of Liverpool.
Using various tables, we’ll look at aspects in which these players have flourished this season and how much they have influenced their team’s success so far. Obviously some players will have better/worse statistics than others in specific areas, depending on how often they attempt certain passes etc. On the whole, however, we will be able to analyse which duo’s have produced the best numbers for their teams (Green boxes indicating best number and red boxes indicating worst number for each stat.).
First of all we’ll look at the different passing numbers for the players in question, mainly concentrating on their accuracy rate, for each statistic, in percentages. Starting off with the passing accuracy, we can that see the Nasri and Silva have the highest figures, with 91% and 88%. Oscar has the lowest percentage with 82%, although he has only attempted 662 passes, far less than the rest of the players above.
The crossing accuracy statistic really depends on how often players get into positions to do so. Players like Ramsey generally stay towards the middle of the pitch so crossing is few and far between, so having a 0% accuracy from 20 attempts, an average of one cross per game. Players like Gerrard and Nasri, however, will drift into the wider positions or take set pieces which contribute to a high number of crosses, with both on figures around 100. Nevertheless, it is Silva who has the highest accuracy from crosses with 42%.
Samir Nasri comes on top on both attacking half and final third passing accuracy, which shows his dramatic improvement since the new manager has taken over. Having been in and out of the squad since his move from the Emirates, we are now seeing the talented Frenchman producing performances similar to the ones which made him such an important player for Arsenal.
The two other players who have produced impressive passing stats as well as the two Manchester City players are Mesut Ozil and Jordan Henderson. Having pulled off the coup of season by signing the German international in the summer, Ozil has lived up to the high pressure demands of firstly his price tag, and secondly the physicality of the Premier League. His final third passing accuracy of 83% has actually come from 515 passes, the highest in the Arsenal team and the highest amongst the players above, which shows how precise he can be within the danger areas of the pitch.
Jordan Henderson has made major strides this season, especially in his passing. Having now asserted himself as an integral part of Liverpool’s midfield, he is now slowly taking the baton from Steven Gerrard as the Reds’ main attacking central midfielder. With all stats (apart from CA) in the 80% or above region, it shows how much he has improved since Brendan Rodgers’ arrival and the belief shown in him which has produced results. Having the highest LBA percentage out of all the players in question, at an incredible 90% from 87 long balls, it indicates the type of player he wants to be, and the type of player Gerrard has been for the past decade.
Manchester City have shown this season under Manuel Pellegrini how well they can move the ball around from player to player with sharp and incisive passing, especially at home. Therefore it is really no surprise that their players, especially in midfield, have flourished and it has shown; Silva and Nasri have the best passing stats overall. Hazard and especially Oscar surprisingly have the worst passing stats as a partnership out of those in question, something they will hope to improve upon in the coming months.
The creativity statistics are the ones that will really show how these midfielders are providing for their teams. Most of these players are in the team for this very reason, so it will prove as an important indicator on how successful they have been this season.
In terms of assists, the duo from Arsenal, Ozil and Ramsey, have collectively assisted 13 goals this season. This is very impressive considering that this is only Ozil’s first six months with the club and Aaron Ramsey, who has assisted six goals from only 26 chances created. Ramsey, a player that fans were calling to be sold last season, has been arguably one of the standout players of the season so far, and with both instrumental in Arsenal’s title charge so far. Liverpool duo, Henderson and Gerrard, have also assisted an impressive 11 times so far as well.
Hazard has created the most chances so far with 49, and has assisted five goals; but, it is Silva and Nasri who have collectively created the most chances. With 92 chances created between them, you can see how dangerous they can be for the opposition when given enough time on the ball.
Silva has also the best minutes per chance ratio in the league, creating a chance every 20 minutes, averaging around 4.5 in the games he has played. Ramsey has the highest MPC rate, creating a chance every 58 minutes. However, he has the best MPCCC rate, far better than any of the other players on the list with a clear cut chance created every 166.1 minutes (with 9 so far). Surprisingly, Nasri has the lowest MPCCC rate, having only created 2 clear cut chances, at one every 653.5 minutes.
Oscar has the best through-ball accuracy rate, although he has only attempted one through-ball so far, with Ramsey only succeeding with 7 of his 23 through-balls so far giving him an accuracy of 30%.
Although David Silva has best dribbling accuracy from the list, it is Hazard who has the most impressive percentage as his 60% success rate has come from an incredible 121 attempted dribbles, as opposed to Silva’s 17.
Overall, the table shows that Ozil has the best creative stats, with the most consistent numbers across the board, as well as the highest number of assists. Eden Hazard’s stats are also impressive, he’s created the most chances out of the list, whilst the two Liverpool men have also been effective.
As an attacking midfielder, as well as creating, then attacking and chipping in with goals are both part of the role. Most top class attacking midfielders will work as an extra option in the final third in spells of pressure and will look to contribute around ten goals a season.
In terms of goals, Ramsey and Hazard are way out in front with eight goals already after only half of the games played this season. Oscar has also chipped in with an impressive six goals already, showing how much the Chelsea midfielders like to roam in behind the front and contribute in the final third. With Chelsea’s well documented striking issues, it creates more pressure for players like Hazard and Oscar to add to the goal tally and so far have not disappointed.
Ozil and Ramsey have the best shooting accuracy rates with 82% and 71% respectively, with Ramsey’s percentage coming from 40 shots, the most out of all eight players.
Hazard has scored his eight goals from 37 shots giving him a chance conversion rate of 31%, which is very impressive for a midfielder. Nasri and Ramsey have the best clear-cut chance conversion rates with Nasri’s 75% coming from four attempts and Ramsey’s 67% coming from six opportunities.
Clearly, Jordan Henderson’s attacking play has not been the best so far, having only scored one goal, with a chance conversion rate of 4% and a mins per goal involvement rate (including goals and assists) of one every 296.5 minutes. Having improved his passing and creativity greatly this season, his next step will be to contribute more for the team in terms of goals to take the pressure of the likes of Suarez and Sturridge.
The MGI rate is very important, in simple terms it is how often a player is involved in a goal, either scoring or assisting. It is the most telling stat to see which players are making it count where it matters and from the table it is Silva and Ramsey who have the best ratio. With rates of 101.22 and 106.79 respectively, these two players are contributing, on average, to a goal roughly every 1.2 games.
Overall in an attacking sense, Ramsey has clearly been the most effective player so far in an individual sense with impressive numbers for all variables. The Chelsea duo of Hazard and Oscar, however, have the best attacking stats as a midfield partnership.
Who has been the most effective?
Although we have all the stats to back up certain arguments, it is hard to say which one is the best attacking midfielder from those that have been mentioned. After all, some of these players may drop in form and some may step up their performances, with injuries and such also likely to impact on the players.
Passing wise, David Silva and Samir Nasri have been the most effective so far, with Jordan Henderson also impressing. Creatively, Ozil and Hazard have been the pick of the bunch so far whilst in an attacking sense, the Chelsea duo have done well with Ramsey’s individual numbers being effective as well.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and looking through the various statistics, I feel that individually, Eden Hazard has impressed me the most, having scored the bulk of his team’s goal and supplying goals for others, his importance to the team is second-to-none, even with Chelsea’s array of world class midfielders.
As a partnership, Arsenal’s Ramsey and Ozil have done exceptionally well so far to guide their team to the top of the table, having both been involved in 23 goals and assists so far collectively, they are both thriving in attacking midfield. With players like Wilshere, Flamini, Rosicky and Arteta taking care of the defensive duties in the middle of the field, it gives these two a licence to roam forward and they have so far reaped rewards. Whether they can sustain the level of performances during the second half of the season is yet to be seen, with all players mentioned hoping to guide their team to the coveted Premier League title.