Football News

The most influential Premier League playmakers of 2019

By Harry Edwards

Best Premier League playmakers in 2019

Published: 12:44, 31 December 2019

While the Premier League title, along with the individual honours, will not be confirmed until May, some stars should look back on 2019 fondly. Kevin De Bruyne is one of those.

The Belgian had a slow start to the year in terms of productivity as he endured a stuttering return from injury, but he kicked on in the second half of 2019.

In fact, De Bruyne ends 2019 as the Premier League’s most ‘creative’ player having created 103 chances in 32 games – averaging 3.96 per 90 minutes. The metric ‘chances created’ is a combined total of assists and ‘key passes’, the latter of which is defined by Opta as: “The final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring.”

This loosely lines up with the general definition of a playmaker across many sports, someone who puts teammates in a position to score, hence the title.

In any case, by the definition above, De Bruyne finishes the year two chances clear of Leicester City’s James Maddison. The 23-year-old midfielder is the only other player to create more than 100 chances in 2019 with 47 of his 101 coming from set pieces.

Nine back on 92 is Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Joao Moutinho, who continues to prove that age does not fine quality in football, especially when you are as exquisite on the ball as the Portuguese is.

Premier League 2019: Most chances created…

  1. Kevin De Bruyne: 103
  2. James Maddison: 101
  3. Joao Moutinho: 92
  4. Trent Alexander-Arnold: 88
  5. Pascal Gross: 81

Close behind Moutinho is the Premier League’s assist leader for 2019 Trent Alexander-Arnold, who created 88 chances across the calendar year. Brighton & Hove Albion’s Pascal Gross completes the top five.

But it’s not just through chance creation that players have been influential in attack. The Premier League’s use of wingers has changed over the past few years, with the wide players expected to get themselves into the box more to score and create, rather than just utilising their crossing ability.

Raheem Sterling is someone who’s benefited most from the change, especially under Pep Guardiola, as he had more touches inside opposition areas than any other Premier League player in 2019.

The Englishman’s total for 2019 ended at 344, 39 more than any other player in the division and is testament to his growth at Manchester City, justifying his move to the Etihad.

In second place is Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah on 305, the only other player to crack 300. Frequently starting on the right wing, Jurgen Klopp’s system allows Salah the freedom to float across the front line, often ending with him in the box.

There is another significant gap between second and third as Wilfried Zaha’s role at Crystal Palace has seen him have 264 touches in opposition areas in 2019, often carrying the hopes of Selhurst Park on his shoulders.

Another ageing midfield magician finds himself in the top five for touches in the opposition box, though this time it’s David Silva. Despite playing just 32 games and seeing his minutes cut down to manage what is his final Premier League season, Silva has had 221 touches in opposition areas across 2019 still capable of weaving through the midfield and causing problems for Man City.

Premier League 2019: Most touches in opposition box…

  1. Raheem Sterling: 344
  2. Mohamed Salah: 305
  3. Wilfried Zaha: 264
  4. David Silva: 221
  5. Gerard Deulofeu: 214

A perhaps surprising name caps off the top five in Gerard Deulofeu, with the Watford man managing 214 touches in opposing areas.

Then there are some players who look to influence the attack from a deeper position, passing the ball into the final third rather than getting their themselves.

Head of that particular pack is the midfield magician Silva once more, showing the full extent of his abilities, with 704 successful passes ending in the final third. He’s the only Premier League player in 2019 to complete at least 700 and is almost 50 ahead of second place.

There’s a theme with his particular top five too, as four of the list come from Guardiola’s Man City. Behind Silva in second place is Ilkay Gundogan who has completed 656 passes ending in the final third, part of Guardiola’s possession-based attacking game.

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Jorginho is the only non-Man City player in the top five, completing 627 passes ending in the final third across 2019. The Italian international received criticism for his role in Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea team and has been praised for coming out of his shell more under Frank Lampard. However, Jorginho actually completed more passes ending in the final third under Sarri in 2019 than he did Lampard, 349 to 278.

Bernardo Silva is the next Man City player in the list, just five passes behind Jorginho while Kyle Walker finishes off the top five as the only defender.

Premier League 2019: Most successful passes ending in final third…

  1. David Silva: 704
  2. Ilkay Gundogan: 656
  3. Jorginho: 627
  4. Bernardo Silva: 622
  5. Kyle Walker: 615