Analysis: Prem's most influential midfielder? Not Hazard, not Gerrard

Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur all have featured players…

When searching for the Premier League's most influential attack-minded midfielder it is easy to get consumed by leading assist tallies and, on the basis of that statistic alone, players like Steven Gerrard, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Kevin Miralles all lead the way with four contributions each in the current campaign to date.

Opta release figures that highlight total pass attempts, crosses, chances created and, of course assists but when analysing how influential a player's contribution is, it is important to consider how many of those pass attempts met their intended target and how many crosses found the head of a team-mate.

However, with 11 match-days completed in the league, not all players have competed in the same amount of games, nor have they been on the pitch for the same cumulative minutes.

It stands to logic that a player - particularly a midfielder, attacker or playmaker - is going to be of a greater influence on the game the more they are on the ball and doing something useful with it, whether that is a completed pass, a successful cross, a chance creation, a direct assist or a goal.

The table below indicates how many minutes a footballer has played in Premier League competition alone; how many minutes go by until they complete a pass (eg: Manchester City's David Silva finds a team-mate once every 1.2 minutes, while Kevin Miralles takes longer to locate an Evertonian; once every 4.1 minutes); how many minutes pass before they succeed with a cross (eg: Silva again is strong in this category, completed a cross once every 64.3 minutes whereas Aaron Ramsey is yet to get on the board); how often they create a chance (Silva, again, leads with one chance created every 21.4 minutes while Michael Carrick is once every 75 minutes) and, finally, how often they directly assist or score a goal (Ramsey assists/scores once every 92 minutes, but Carrick is yet to do either).

 Arsenal  Mesut Ozil  669  1.4  167  27.9  116
 Arsenal  Aaron Ramsey  922  1.3  N/a  70.9  92
 Chelsea  Juan Mata  386  1.8  77.2  25.7  386
 Chelsea  Eden Hazard  882  2.3  221  40.1  117
 Everton  Kevin Miralles  842  4.1  93.6  44.3  211
 Liverpool  Steven Gerrard  963  1.5  107  33.2  160
 Man City  David Silva  579  1.2  64.3  21.4  96
 Man City  Samir Nasri  632  1.3  90.3  26.3  158
 Man United  Michael Carrick  900  1.3  900  75  N/a
 Southampton  Adam Lallana  879  2.6  97.7  44  175
 Tottenham  Christian Eriksen  428  2.4  214  23.8  428

Southampton midfielder Adam Lallana, a player who is enjoying a swift rise in status, only completes a pass once every 2.6 minutes and, perhaps really should do more with the ball, particularly when considering how often the Saints dominate possession (their last three matches = 61%, 54%, 61%) if he wants to be the most influential in the division.

What is surprising is how Eden Hazard - a consensus top three attacker in England - pales in comparison to Silva, Samir Nasri and Carrick, when it comes to passes completed and even crosses and chances created.

United's requirement for a recognised playmaker and/or box-to-box stalwart such as Ramsey or Steven Gerrard is also noted. Carrick, despite his detractors, remains one of the most useful and efficient passers of the football, yet despite completing 87% of his 770 passes, only 12 of them lead to a chance and not one of them to an assist.

Ultimately, players in the midfield department remain judged primarily on goals and assists and Ramsey's return of one in near enough every full match (with added time included) is exemplary and closely followed by only one other player, but that player is more efficient in other areas also.

Silva is versatile, like Ozil and even Juan Mata despite his challenging season at Chelsea. And his well-roundedness arguably makes him the most influential in and around his position.

image: © Ben Sutherland

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