At the beginning of last season, three of the Premier League’s biggest clubs brought in three of the most creative players from some of Europe’s biggest leagues. Eden Hazard swapped Lille for Chelsea, Manchester United brought in Shinji Kagawa from then Bundesliga Champions Borussia Dortmund, and Santi Cazorla made the move to Arsenal from troubled Malaga. All three were lauded for their creative performances at their former clubs, but to what extent did they live up to that reputation in English football?
Cazorla was widely accepted as being one of the buys of the season. The Spaniard played in every league game for the Gunners this season, starting all but one of them and quickly became one of the team’s most influential players. Over the course of the season, Cazorla was able to create 96 chances for his team which included 11 goal assists, nine of which came from open play. This amounted to him creating a chance roughly every 34 minutes, seven minutes fewer than Hazard at Chelsea. Cazorla was also the leader of our three subjects in the creation of clear cut chances, of which he made 15. On top of all this, he also scored the most goals of the three with 12 across the season.
While not being able to achieve the same appearance statistic as his Arsenal counterpart, Hazard still made 34 appearances and came on as a substitute just three of those times. The former Lille star was bought for his creative efficiency and while he didn’t outshine Juan Mata this season, he was still able to make a big impact on the team. He created 50 chances from open play and made a further four from set pieces. He also got the assist in 11 of Chelsea’s league goals this season, meaning he created 65 chances overall. Now as good a figure this is, it only serves to demonstrate just how good Cazorla was, who created over thirty chances more at Arsenal.
Kagawa had a disappointing season by his standards. Coming from Borussia Dortmund where he was very much an important player, the Japanese midfielder struggled to make anywhere near the same impact at Old Trafford. Appearing in just 20 league games all season, Kagawa is obviously nowhere near replicating the kind of figures that Cazorla and Hazard set in the creative department. He created just 19 chances overall with three of these coming in as goal assists. He also created just four clear cut chances compared to Hazard’s 12 and Cazorla’s previously mentioned 15. Kagawa did compare more favourably with his goals, scoring six over the course of the league campaign. With a 221 minutes per goal average, he could have scored more than Hazard had he played for the majority of the season.
Looking at all these stats, it’s easy to see why Cazorla has been considered as one of the top players of the Premier League this year. For Kagawa, his goal count may have improved beyond that of Hazard if he made a similar amount of appearances, but at a rate of 71 minutes per chance created, he still wouldn’t have got near to matching the same amount of chances created by his two rivals in London.
Arsenal fans will be looking forward to similar levels of creativity from Cazorla next year, while Chelsea fans will be very pleased with Hazard’s first season and expecting an improvement in his second Premier League year. Kagawa however will clearly have to work a lot harder if he is to have a future at Manchester United and in English football as a whole.
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