Manchester United's pursuit of Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata may well turn out to be one well-founded when studying the statistics he has returned in fields that consensus dictates are the top attributes required for a renowned chance creator and comparing them to his peers such as Arsenal star Mesut Ozil, Tottenham Hotspur's recent recruit Christian Eriksen and Liverpool's coming-of-age Brazilian.
While Mata has made numerous appearances for the Blues this season, he has rarely completed the full 90 minutes and is oft-overlooked in favour of Oscar, most recently Willian and the ever-present Eden Hazard.
Despite his frustrations at Stamford Bridge, Mata has retained commendable form when it comes to the pass (he has an 88% passing accuracy), he sees a lot of the football (a touch every 1.1 minutes) and, out of the four players featured in the table below, it is he who is the most frequent picker of key passes (once every 27 minutes on average).
What lets him down is his efficiency in front of goal (no goals returned from 11 shots) while only two of his 30 chances have turned into direct assists.
There is an argument his goal/assist haul (two in total, one every 412 minutes) would be significantly increased if he were fielded behind on-form and netbusting goal-scorers, such as, for argument's sake - Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie - instead of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba.
However, there is no escaping that Ozil (one goal/assist every 135 minutes), Eriksen (every 159 minutes) and even Coutinho (every 318 minutes) are all more prolific in this department.
|Player||Club||Goals||Assists||Mins/ Chance||Mins/ Acc Pass||Mins/ Touch||Apps||Mins|
In Mata's two-time Chelsea player of the Year seasons, though, he was far more on point. Last season, in Premier League competition, he affected the scoreline once every 96 minutes, while in the Champions League he was even more dangerous, returning a goal or assist every 73 minutes.
This season, though, there are other attack-minded midfielders operating on an even higher plane… one is already on the books at the Blues, Eden Hazard, and registering a goal or assist for every 131 minutes he is on a Premier League field, enjoying a touch every 1.3 minutes, while another two are both employed by Manchester City.
When it comes to chance creating, pass picking and playmaking efficiency, there are few as fine as Samir Nasri and David Silva have been this season. The former touches the ball at a rate of once per minute on average and creates a chance every half an hour while the latter is even more influential, enjoying a touch every 55.2 seconds, hits an accurate pass every 1.3 minutes and creates a chance at a rate of one per 21 minutes.
|Player||Club||Goals||Assists||Mins/ Chance||Mins/ Acc Pass||Mins/ Touches||Apps||Mins|
image: © Wshjackson