Last season was a perfect example of how teams are in need of at least one box-to-box midfield engine that has the well-rounded ability to influence play at both ends of the field. Yaya Toure had arguably his best season in a Man City shirt, finishing as their top scorer and helping them win the league. Jordan Henderson made huge strides last year for Liverpool and was widely regarded as the most improved player in the Premier League. Arsenal looked a different outfit with Aaron Ramsey in the squad and he had an unbelievable start to the season and finished by scoring the winner in the FA Cup final. Cesc Fabregas, signed from Barcelona for a reported £30 million, excelled in this role for the Gunners in his previous spell in the Premier League and will look to do the same for Chelsea. All four players will have a huge part to play in the upcoming season so let’s look at their 2013/2014 statistics to see what they can offer for their teams.
Manchester City – Yaya Toure
Second only to Liverpool’s Luis Suarez in the Player of the Year award, Yaya Toure was instrumental in helping the blue side of Manchester win their second Premier League title in three years. Often taking games by the scruff of its neck, Toure has the ability to rally his troops and bring a game to life with his trademark bulldozing runs from his own half.
The Ivorian finished the season with a mammoth 20 goals from midfield, behind only strikers Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in the goalscoring charts. The total came from only 27 shots on target giving him an excellent conversion rate of 40%, with a shooting accuracy of 54%. If you thought that wasn’t clinical enough, Toure bagged all of his nine clear cut chances without fail making him absolutely deadly in front of goal.
As the midfield general, Toure also played his part in terms of winning back possession for his team, doing so on 195 occasions with 125 of those being in the key midfield area of the pitch. The 31-year-old also averaged a tackle success rate of 69% from his 54 duels at a rate of one every 54 minutes. Toure’s passing was excellent during the past season and registered a success rate of 90% from his mammoth 2515 passes during the course of the season.
His creativity was also impressive with his dribbling the most surprising statistic. For player of his stature, you would think that dribbling or getting past players would not be his forte but he was successful in 42 of his 56 dribbles, with his power and pace the key rather than trickery.
With nine assists to his name, it was an impressive season again in terms of making goals but having created only 40 chances last season, you would suspect that if he were to create more often than the 73 minutes per chance he is making now, he would have a few more assists to his name.
Liverpool – Jordan Henderson
Jordan Henderson went from being a £20 million flop and on his way to Fulham to establishing himself as one of Liverpool’s most crucial players and forcing his way into the England World Cup squad. This is testament to the hard work and effort the 24-year-old has put in to improve his all round game. Whereas Suarez and Sturridge will have taken most of the plaudits last season, Henderson was equally as important for dogged displays in midfield and doing the so called “dirty work” for his team.
Henderson demonstrated last season the influence he can have at both ends of the field and made an effective partnership with captain Steven Gerrard in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield. Overall, he created 62 chances, more than Toure and Ramsey, as well as having the best minutes per chance rate of 50. Out of the 62 chances, seven of them were clear-cut and resulted in seven assists during the season.
In terms of defensive work, Henderson racked up 83 tackles with a 71% success rate and a tackle every 38 minutes of play. With 36 interceptions over the season, the midfielder won back possession an impressive 179 times in the defensive and midfield areas, signifying his effective work rate and stamina levels. He also ended the season with a pass success rate of 86% from 2105 passes, which is superb for a player who was apparently not good enough for Liverpool just over a year ago.
One area that Henderson will need to work on is his ability in the final third. He did manage to notch four goals over the season but this was from a total of 38 shots, giving him a poor conversion rate of 11%. His shot accuracy rate was 42%, which isn’t bad but it is just about being more clinical in front of goal when the chance comes. This is something he will know and look to improve upon.
Arsenal – Aaron Ramsey
For the first half of the season, there was no question that the player of the moment was Aaron Ramsey. When he was signed by Arsene Wenger from Cardiff in 2008, there was clearly a lot of potential in the young Welshman and it was only a matter of team until he burst onto the scene and showed his true qualities. Many will say that it would’ve happened earlier if it wasn’t for the broken leg sustained in 2010 but Arsenal fans will be happy that they now have a young box-to-box midfielder who can make an impact at any time.
As a midfielder, the aim every season should be to notch around ten goals or more and Ramsey did exactly that despite only starting 20 Premier League games, having suffered from injuries during the latter part of the campaign. This actually gave him an average of a goal every two games, which is fantastic for a player in his position and something he will look to emulate again next season. His shooting accuracy was excellent at 71% and his clear-cut chance conversion rate was also top quality, again at 71%.
Ramsey only made one defensive error last season, making him reliable and dependable in his own half. The 23-year-old also average a fantastic tackle success rate of 84% from 77 tackles - better than both Toure and Henderson.
His pass completion rate stood at a respectable 83% but his completion rate in the midfield and attacking areas were at 79% and 75% - which is surprising given his impact in both areas of the field last season.
Ramsey managed eight assists from 32 chances, created at a rate of one every 55 minutes. He also managed to create 10 clear cut opportunities for his team-mates at an average of one every 176 minutes, much better than Toure’s 325 minutes and Henderson’s 447 minutes. His crossing, however, will be an area of improvement with none of his 25 balls into the box finding its target.
Barcelona – Cesc Fabregas
Eyebrows were raised when Fabregas chose to the blue half of London considering his ties with Arsenal. Having been one the club's top performers for a number of seasons, Fabregas departed Arsenal for his home-town club of Barcelona where things didn’t quite go to plan if you believe the fans, even though his statistics tell a different story. Now surplus to requirements and a good chance to create extra funds, Fabregas is now under the wings of Mourinho and ready to prove himself again in the Premier League.
Many teams would love to have a player who racked up the statistics that Fabregas did with 13 assists to his name from the 58 chances he created. This gives him a better minutes per chances created ratio than Toure, Henderson and Ramsey.
Fabregas Stats via Squawka.com
The Spanish international’s pass completion rate was again impressive with 87% from his 2139 passes during the last La Liga campaign. 1319 of those passes were played forward and 45 were marked as key passes on the way to his team scoring a goal.
Defensively, Fabregas made one error during the campaign and made 17 interceptions in the mean time. Winning 40% of the duels with opponents, the 27-year-old registered a tackle success rate of 31% from his 93 tackles.
The now Chelsea midfielder returned with eight goals last season and a shot accuracy of 63% from his 52 attempts on goal last season. The main issue for Fabregas this year will be adapting to a new team and a new style of play. Chelsea's approach is significantly different to that of Arsenal and Barcelona’s, as free flowing ground play is replaced by effective use of key areas of the pitch. As this is something Fabregas will have to adjust with, we shall see how he adapts to life under Jose Mourinho
New Season = New Challenges
All four players were impressive in their own right last season and are rated highly by their clubs. They do however all have improvements that need to be made, as does every player, but if they can perform on a consistent basis, they will more than likely impact their team in a positive way as one of the focal points.