Here is a breakdown of the Premier League’s top creators so far during the 2011/12 season. A created chance is the final pass or pass-come-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal.
10. Mark Gower (Swansea City) – 2.3 chances created per game
A regular in the first team during Swansea City’s promotion campaign from the Championship last season, Mark Gower has made just 13 starts and 3 substitutes in the Premier League this season despite showing his creative ability during that time. Since the arrival of Gylfi Sigurdsson in January, Gower has had next-to-no time in the first team.
Mark Gower has created 36 chances during his first season in the top flight with the Welsh side; 15 of these coming from set plays. The centre midfielders most notable creative performances from open play came in back-to-back games against Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton Wanderers in October. Swansea picked up 4 points from these games, with Gower creating a total of 8 chances in open play, picking up an assist in each.
9. Robin van Persie (Arsenal) – 2.4 chances created per game
The Premier League’s top scorer has been the main focal point up front for Arsenal this season. The Dutch forward has scored 26 goals in 30 league games for the Gunners this season, as well as creating a total of 71 chances for team mates. 24 of these have come from set pieces.
Of the chances created for team mates this season, Robin van Persie has recorded 9 Premier League assists this season. He does however have the lowest pass completion percentage in this top 10 list (78%). The bookmakers odds-on favourite to win this season’s PFA Player of the Year award, van Persie is set for a summer of speculation linking him to richer, more-successful clubs of recent years should he come out and say he is staying with the Gunners for the foreseeable future.
8. Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) – 2.4 chances created per game
The Manchester United right winger (and at times, full back) has been one of the defending Premier League champions’ most consistent players this season. His pace and strength down the right wing have troubled most full backs this season, most notably against Wolves’ Ronald Zubar, where he recorded 5 of his 11 assists over two games (4-1 and 5-0 victories), scoring 1 goal.
Only 1 of the 45 chances Antonio Valencia has created for his Manchester United team mates this season has come from set pieces as the Ecuadorian gets his work done down the wing in open play. The former Wigan Athletic player fought back from an injury-hit season start ahead of the in-form Nani in last season’s Champions League final to show us Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in him.
7. Danny Murphy (Fulham) – 2.4 chances created per game
It may come as a surprise to some to see Danny Murphy’s name on this list, but the Fulham central midfielder has created 70 chances in 29 games for his team mates this season. This helped largely by the set pieces the 35-year old takes, which has resulted in 37 chances for Fulham players this season.
Danny Murphy has 2 assists from set pieces so far this season and a further 3 from open play. Two of the latter came in games against Blackburn, whilst Murphy’s latest open-play assist came in a 5-0 victory over Wolves recently. Danny Murphy was on the receiving end of Michael Carrick’s trip inside the penalty area in the 90th minute against Manchester United on Monday night that controversially saw no penalty awarded.
6. Nani (Manchester United) – 2.4 chances created per game
Portugal’s Nani has had a quiet start to 2012 since netting 6 times in the Premier League before Christmas. The winger has only played five of Manchester United’s 11 league games since the turn of the year as injuries have hit last season’s 9-goal star.
Nani has created 58 chances in 22 Premier League games so far this season, resulting in 8 assists. Although he takes his fair share of set pieces, 44 of his created chances have come from open play, as have all of his assists. Whilst 75% of his assists have come on the road, his stand out performance this season was arguably during Manchester United’s 3-1 home win over Chelsea in September. Nani recorded 1 assist that day, scored 1 goal, won the penalty Wayne Rooney missed and succeeded in 8 of his 9 dribble attempts; a season high.
5. Samir Nasri (Manchester City) – 2.5 chances created per game
Following much stick from Arsenal fans following his summer move, and seemingly not having the most productive of debut seasons, Samir Nasri ranks in as high as number 5 on our list for averaging 2.5 chances created per game in the Premier League. The French midfielder has made 23 league appearances for the Citizens and has recorded 7 assists.
A memorable debut against Tottenham saw Samri Nasri create 11 chances, resulting in 3 assists during the 5-1 drubbing at White Hart Lane in August. Since then, Nasri has only managed to provide assists versus Wigan Athletic (September) Blackburn Rovers (October) and Stoke City (December). The ex-Arsenal man has managed to create at least 1 chance for a team mate in all-but 5 league games this season, but is someway shy of the 10 goals he scored for the Gunners last season.
4. Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur) – 2.6 chances created per game
Few full backs have been able to prevent Gareth Bale from creating a chance against their side this season. In fact, only Danny Simpson (for Newcastle in both games) and Martin Kelly (in the 0-0 draw at Anfield) have prevented Bale from creating at least 1 chance in a single game so far this season.
Gareth Bale has been better at White Hart Lane than away from it in Premier League games this season. No San Siro hat trick this season. The Welsh winger has created 73 chances in 28 games for team mates this season; 39 of these at home. These have resulted in 8 assists of which 6 came in front of the home supporters. He scored in both games versus Wigan this season but his brace at Carrow Road is well remembered.
3. Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur) – 2.7 chances created per game
Luka Modric’s appearance at number 3 means that Tottenham Hotspur have two of four most creative players in the Premier League this season. A good reason to support some pundits’ claims they have the best midfield in the division, although that’s not wholly supported here.
The Croatian midfielder who was subject to a strong transfer campaign by Chelsea in the summer has created no less than 75 chance for his team mates in his 28 league appearances. However, the player who pulls the strings in the Spurs midfield in just about every game only has 4 assists. Generally not one to be involved in the final product (so far has 3 Premier League goals; the same total for each of his three previous seasons with Tottenham), only Yaya Toure and Mikel Arteta have made more pass attempts than Modric’s 1,898 this season. He is second to Ashley Williams amongst outfield players to make long pass attempts.
2. David Silva (Manchester City) – 2.7 chances created per game
Manchester City’s David Silva has created at least 1 chance for a team mate in 27 of his 29 Premier League appearances this season. The two successful defences were Newcastle back in October when the Spaniard played only 21 minutes, and Chelsea a week ago when Roberto Mancini hauled Silva off with quarter of an hour remaining. Other than that, the £24 million 2010 summer signing from Valencia has tortured most defences.
His quick feet, movement and technical ability put him amongst the best in the world, and the 79 chances created this season put him number 2 in the Premier League in that category. 71 of these have come from open play. David Silva leads the Premier League with 12 assists through 30 games, although has not registered since Manchester City’s 3-2 win over Tottenham on 22 January. He has also failed to score since Christmas and not played the full 90 minutes in any of Roberto Mancini’s side’s last 4 Premier League games. Still, he’s been very productive during the 2011/12 season however he finishes it.
1. Juan Mata (Chelsea) – 3.1 chances created per game
Whilst Spain holds both the European Championships, the World Cup and the Champions League with their short passing Tiki-taka style game, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see two Spaniard’s lead the created chances category in the Premier League this season.
Chelsea’s Juan Mata has created at least 1 chance in each of his 28 Premier League games during his debut season in English football. A total of 88 to date averages 3.1 per game, well-ahead the rest of the league. Only Paris Saint-Germain’s Nene has created more chances (101) so far this season in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Already under his second manager at Stamford Bridge in the 7 months he has been in London, Juan Mata has been Chelsea’s brightest spark during a struggle in the league. The ex-Valencia playmaker has 5 goals and 10 assists in his first season, with his most-notable performance coming in a 3-0 victory over Wolves in November. Mata scored 1 and setup the other 2 during that game. Certainly needs to be a focal point during Chelsea’s resurrection for next season.
Barrie's View is written in conjunction with Premiership Tips.