In my last piece: Premier League Ultimate Team: Defence we picked the goalkeeper and defenders for our Ultimate Team. We also established that we would pick a team based on a passing style of play and in a formation along the lines of 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Choosing a passing style of play for our team brings to the fore passing statistics that we can look at, and choosing a fluid style of formation allows us to be flexible when picking our front players.
We will play more a 4-2-3-1 with one defensive midfielder (No. 6 – see graphic below), another central midfielder slightly further forward (No. 7), who will be more attack-minded and a further three (No.’s 8,10,& 11) behind our main striker. For or our defensive midfielder we will concentrate on defensive statistics like tackling and ground duels etc when awarding points. Whilst concentrating on creative statistics for our players further forward.
So, statistically, who has been the best defensive midfielder in the Premiership this year? Well to decide that we will look at battling and passing stats and award points on that basis. I’ve collated data on 633 players and to narrow the field down and to make sure our players have featured heavily this season I will filter out players who have attempted 700 or less passes. This leaves us with 122 players to pick the best defensive midfielder from. Which in turn leaves 10 players who could be classed as defensive midfielders, and we will choose our player from this ten.
So let’s award our first points, first off let’s take a look at the passing accuracy and how often they intercept the ball, of the 10 chosen. We will award 5 points to the top passer, 4 for the second best, 3 for the third and so on.
As you can see from the table, Leon Britton comes out top with an incredible 93.01% passing accuracy. In fact out of 397 players with 100 or more passes attempted this season Britton has the best passing accuracy of them all. It literally is a fantastic rate. Staggering to think out of the 1589 passes he has attempted he has only misplaced 111 of them. So we award Leon Britton 5 points and the rest of the top five, points on a reducing line basis.
Next up from the table is interceptions, and how often per pass do these players intercept the ball. Interceptions are an important quality to have in our defensive midfielder, especially in that zone of the pitch where a lot of through balls and creativity comes from opposition players. As you can see Mulumbu intercepts the ball every 15.69 passes, more often than any player on the table. In fact of the 122 players we are analysing with 700 or more passes attempted this season only 3 players (Warnock, Petrov & Gamst Pederson) intercept the ball more often. So we award Mulumbu 5 points and so on down the list.
Next Page: Tackling & Duels for Defensive Midfielders and The Attacking Midfielder position
Next up let’s take a look at ground duel and tackle win percentages. We are not interested in really the amount of tackles/duels a player puts in, or even how often, what we are interested in is what percentage of them they win. Because it’s such a pivotal area of the pitch it’s vital our defensive midfielder can win a high proportion of his tackles and 50/50 duels.
Mulumbu comes out tops again, winning 76.71% of all his tackles. With Faurlin, Reo-Coker, Diame and Gareth Barry all featuring in the points places. Next Michael Carrick surprisingly comes out tops in the ground duels category. A player maybe not renowned for his battling qualities. To put into context only 8 players out of the 122 we are looking at have a better ground duel win percentage, and all of them are defenders. So impressive from Michael Carrick.
So let’s take a look at our final table and see who gets the defensive midfielders slot in our Ultimate Team.
Youssuf Mulumbu comes out tops in the table with 11 points. He came out top in the tackle win % statistics and the passes per interceptions category. He also recorded a respectable 84.72% passing accuracy so a worthy winner in the end as the stats point to the fact he has an all round game.
Next we’ll have an attacking midfielder that will operate slightly further forward in our 4-2-3-1 system. Of course an attacking midfielder will need different attributes than a defensive midfielder so we will look at more creative stats when picking our attacking midfielder. Again we’ve filtered out our players to only look at players who have attempted 700 or more passes. Amongst the 122 players we are left with a total of 19 players who could operate in that position.
Firstly as you can see Mikel Arteta just about comes out tops in the passing stakes – being accurate with 90.64% of all his passes. Quite impressive, anything above 90% really is outstanding. In context, out of 247 players that have attempted 400 or more passes this season, only 13 of those have a passing accuracy above 90%.
The next category in the table is ground duels win %. All though not the most important attribute in an attacking midfielders locker it is important nonetheless to be combative in any midfield role. As you can see Dembele comes out tops winning 58.26% of his ground duels, with Lampard and again Arteta close behind.
Next let’s take a look at various creative stats for our attacking midfielders.
First off Danny Murphy has created more chances and assists combined this season among our attacking midfielders with Modric not too far behind with 67. These two are a way in front of next placed Charlie Adam on 51. Secondly, how efficient are our attacking midfielders? Well Adel Taarabt creates a goal or assist every 17.27 passes he attempts. That’s pretty efficient if you ask me. It shows, compared to the time on the ball he gets (passes), he often creates something. In fact only 6 players on our list of 122 players create more frequently per pass attempted.
Our last column is self-explanatory really. Frank Lampard has been once again at his goal-scoring best despite the limited amount of time he’s played this season. Scoring 10 goals as a midfielder is impressive, even more so with so much of the season left. And when you break it down he scores a goal every 124.4 passes he attempts. So a much deserved 5 points for Frank Lampard.
So where does that leave us in our final table for attacking midfielder?
As you can see Mikel Arteta is the winner with 13 points from the statistics we looked at, with Luka Modric and Frank Lampard not too far behind. So we have a central midfield pairing of Mulumbu holding and Arteta slightly more advanced trying to pull the strings in our attack.
Next Page: Side Attack, who will play either side of the forwards?
We are going to break up our 3 players in behind the strikers into two categories. Players that can operate on the side of the attack (No. 8 & 11 – see attacking 4 graphic left) and players who can operate in the hole behind the striker. Despite the obvious reasons, we also need to think tactically about it. Our 2 players either side of our player in the hole will need to retreat into wide positions in a defensive sense when we lose the ball, so they must also be comfortable filling a role on the wing. It’s open to debate which players can be included in what category so I have made a judgement call on a few players. Furthermore as we will need 2 players, one for either side, we will pick the two players with the most points in our final table.
The first statistic we will look at is not passing accuracy but passing accuracy in the final third. It’s a lot more difficult to keep the ball in the final third, so an important area for an attacking player. As you can see from the graphic below, Samri Nasri has the highest pass competion in the final third with 86.78%. Nani comes a close second with David Silva third. So lets put Nasri’s passing accuracy into some context. Out of the 356 players to attempt more than 160 passes this season no other player can better that passing accuracy. Nasri really does know how to pass that ball in the final third.
We also want our wider players to be able to cross the ball with some accuracy and be able to dribble. After all, attacking players are there to create. Clint Dempsey comes out top with 40% of all his crosses finding a team-mate. Nasri again figures high in this category. Lastly in our dribble attempt column Nani gets 5 points with 74.24% of all his dribbles being successful. Out of 36 players to have attempted 50 or more dribbles this season Nani is the most successful.
It is no surprise that when it comes to creating chances from open play then David Silva would feature highly. He has been a revelation this season and a fantastic player to watch in full flow. Likewise Juan Mata has hit the ground running in his first season in the Premiership. Both these players get 5 and 4 points respectively for coming out tops in both categories in the creativity graphic. As a side note its interesting to note that Mata is actually more economical with his chance and assist creation – creating a chance or assist every 14.26 passes he attempts, compared to Silva’s rate of every 20.13 passes.
Lastly lets take a look at goals scored by our attacking side players. Clint Dempsey has had a very productive season scoring 12 goals all ready. A number some strikers would be happy with at this stage of the season. Gareth Bale is also having a good season in front of goal having scored a total of nine. Also a player not mentioned a lot this season, Nani has scored 6 goals.
So what does our final table look like? What two players are going to play either side of our front two?
Silva is hardly a surprise choice to play in our attacking front four. He has created more chances and more assists than any other player this season. However, Nani might be a slight surprise having not featured that heavily for Man United this season. Having said that, he scored tops with being successful with the amount of dribbles he attempts and he has also scored 6 goals and created 8 goals for his team-mates. So put in that context a creative player who can cause opposition defences all sorts of problems.
Next Page: Finally, which two strikers will make the Premier League Ultimate Team?
Last but not least we move on to our 2 strikers. We will play one striker just in the hole behind the main striker. So we will be picking the top two in terms of points for our Ultimate Team. Of course all strikers are judged on goals. So instead of filtering out players who have only made 700 passes or more we are only going to consider all strikers who have scored 6 goals or more this season. This narrows our search down to 25 players. We will mostly concentrate on scoring statistics and how efficient our players are at scoring. As a side note: where two players finish equal in a given stat I have awarded the higher points to the striker with most shots on target.
Of course first up is the amount of goals a player has scored. It’s quite obvious that Van Persie has been the leading striker this year with an incredible 26 goals. There is not much more you can say about his performances this season. Wayne Rooney has also had a good season in terms of goals, with Demba Ba slightly surprising coming in equal third on the table. When it comes to shots on target: obviously the more shots a player has on target then the bigger danger he is, again Van Persie comes out top in this department. With Rooney, Aguero and Demba Ba again figuring high.
But how efficient are our goalscorers and how often do they pose a danger to opposition defences. Well again Van Persie is way out in front in the efficiency stakes – he scores a goal every 29.38 passes, a full 15 passes more often than Yakubu who is next in the table. Rooney does not figure having scored a goal every 59.95 passes this season. Perhaps not too surprising considering he has been used in a withdrawn role in a number of games. However, he does come out tops with a shot on target every 37.75 minutes. More often than any of his fellow strikers. Van Persie again scores points with a shot on target every 41.25 minutes. One thing to notice is that there is barely 5 mintues difference between the top 5 players in the minutes per shot on target category.
Lastly what are the shot conversion and shooting accuracy rates of our strikers. Remember, when equal,
I have awarded the higher points to the player with more shots on target this season. Both Bent and Klasnic have an incredible high shooting accuracy, both being on target with 67% of all shots they take. But what about the number of those shots that get converted to goals?
Well both Yakubu and Klasnic come out equal, both scoring a goal from 33% of all their shots. A very decent striker rate when you consider a third of their shots are converted to goals.
Let’s take a look at our final table so we can finally be able to complete our Ultimate Team. I don’t think many people will be surprised to see that Van Persie and Rooney both top the table. When all is said and done they probably have had a better season so far then their fellow goal scorers. Honourable mentions must go to Demba Ba and Klasnic for being so high up on the table.
So here is our final Premier League Ultimate Team ladies and gentlemen. Maybe a few surprises in there and also a few players that you probably would have guessed would make it at the start of this journey. However, as the old cliché goes: football is a matter of opinions, and every supporter has one. Here’s to 3 points or a Cup win to whatever team you may support.
Agree or disagree? Please do drop a comment below and let me know!
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes a author privileges!) See Demo’s and videos about the Stats Centre & read about new additions to the stats centre.