Creative midfielders are essential for footballing joy.
The ability to carry the ball through the middle of the pitch, and then thread the eye of the needle to create chances for your team, to put your attacking players into great positions and to do it all in style, is what makes the sport fun. Without creative midfielders driving their teams forward we’d be living in a world of strictly counterattacks, and how dull would that be?
We’ve had a look at the best creative midfielders in the Premier League, ordering them into a top 10 that is based on a combination of their individual qualities but also their performances last season. Disagree with any of our picks? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
10. Youri Tielemans
Leicester, 16 chances created
Tielemans showed up in January and played just over 1000 minutes (1091 to be exact) in 2018/19, but he makes this list because he played the hell out of those minutes. Tielemans was a mercurial presence bristling with creativity, driving the Foxes forward with his play and convincing them to shell out £40m to bring him back permanently. If last season was anything to go by he won’t be at the King Power for long because the elite sides will come a-knockin’.
9. Gylfi Sigurdsson
Everton, 74 chances created
Everton spent a lot of money on Gylfi Sigurdsson but Marco Silva is now starting to get the Icelandic international to make good on that investment. Placing Sigurdsson at the head of his midfield, Silva saw a dramatic uptick in his form. Gylfi’s passing probes defences everywhere and his set-pieces kept Everton alive as a constant threat even if their open play form wasn’t always the best.
8. Joao Moutinho
Wolves, 84 chances created
The bargain of the season at just £5m, Moutinho added a sense of composure and control to Wolves’ midfield. Partnered by the younger Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker, the Portuguese was a beacon of order and creativity whether from open play or set-pieces (his 84 chances created were split perfectly down the middle with 42 from both states).
7. Mesut Ozil
Arsenal, 45 chances created
Mesut Ozil is an easy target for criticism with his lackadaisical running style and body language that can charitably be described as “relaxed.” But the truth is he’s a phenomenal creative force for Arsenal. He struggled some in 2018/19, which is why he’s down at 7, but his quality cannot be denied. If Unai Emery’s Arsenal built around him as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal did, his production would shoot up.
6. James Maddison
Leicester, 100 chances created
No one created more chances in 2018/19 than James Maddison. No one. 100 chances created, which is an utterly absurd number when you think about it. 52 of Maddison’s chances came from open play, 48 from set-pieces. And that was his first season in the Premier League.
Maddison was peerlessly creative no matter the scenario, he always managed to put team-mates into position to get a shot off. His quality was such that Manchester United are looking at him with genuine interest and could end up paying £60m to secure him. And he’d be worth it because at just 22-years-old he could get so much better too.
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5. Christian Eriksen
Spurs, 73 chances created
Christian Eriksen had a down year by his lofty standards but still got 12 assists in the Premier League. He wasn’t at his best but the way he moved between opposing lines and fed his forwards was mesmeric at times. Unfortunately for him and Spurs, focus on the Champions League meant that the end of season domestic form was staggeringly bad and that has to drag him down the list.
4. Paul Pogba
Manchester United, 55 chances created
Paul Pogba is a divisive figure, which is odd because he’s really quite great at football. The Frenchman had an inconsistent campaign with a stifled beginning where José Mourinho seemed determined to start a fight with him, a red hot middle where Pogba was unleashed under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and we saw a glimpse of his full potential, and a damp ending where – his side shorn of the fast attackers that made Solskjaer’s revolution possible – United (and thus he) became listless. Still he created more chances from open play than any creative midfielder bar the next two players on this list, and that was despite playing in a functionally broken side with midfield partners who are, when they’re at their very best, nothing more than adequate.
3. David Silva
Manchester City, 73 chances created
David Silva was amazing when Man City won the league. In fact he’s been amazing every time City have won the league, and indeed when they haven’t. Last season he was again a picture of elegance, helping take over in Kevin de Bruyne’s absence. Silva’s greatest strength is his ability to find that killer pass in the final third; no creative midfielder put more big chances on a plate for team-mates than his 16. He is simply a gift and one expects a hat-trick of creative masterclasses as he goes into his final season at Man City in 2019/20.
2. Bernardo Silva
Manchester City, 71 chances created
Bernardo Silva split time this season at right-wing and central midfield, but he deserves to be included on this list because quite frankly he was masterful in both positions. 68 chances created from open play, more than any other player in the league. He also completed 48 of 94 dribbles (because why the hell not) and registered 7 assists as well.
It’s hard to imagine a player low key being the best in the league, but that was probably true with Bernardo. In many ways that makes him the ultimate creative midfielder, because not only was he at the heart of his team’s attacking play and relentlessly creative for them, but he did so in such a way that the forwards (Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling) took most of the glory. You didn’t notice him but he was there the whole time performing absolute miracles, kind of like gravity.
1. Kevin de Bruyne
Manchester City, 36 chances created
The best player in the league (which he was in 2017/18 even if all the awards had your typical striker-blindness) had a rough 2018/19 with injuries restricting him to just 974 minutes. He still managed to create 36 chances, which is pretty impressive. Even moreso, however, is the fact that he created 11 big chances, an incredible figure that only two other players on this list can better.
In fact, the more you think about it, the more absurd you realise it is that Kevin de Bruyne playing over around 1,200 minutes less than any of his peers created more big, substantial chances than all but two of them. That is why he’s no. 1, because he is the best. Injuries derailed his season and perhaps were he not so utterly absurdly fantastic, that would knock him down.
But hey, look at chances created per-90 minutes in 2018/19. Of those players who managed to play more than 90 minutes, none created as many chances as De Bruyne’s 3.33. Even Maddison’s century when translated to per-90 is only 3.16, so just think on that for a second. And when it comes to big chances created? Forget about it. De Bruyne’s 1.02 obliterates the next highest per-90 creative midfielder which is David Silva with 0.6. When it comes to the best creative midfielder in the Premier League, there’s just no contest.