With the rise of statistical football analysis, Key Passes have joined Assists and Goals as a prominent factor of attacking prowess. But what does a Key Pass indicate, and who contributes the most?
Opta define Key Passes thusly, “The final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring.”
A Key Pass is simply a would-be assist had the recipient of the ball converted the chance into a goal. But why is this important? Principally because it aims to indicate a player’s creative worth, even in teams lacking goal scoring potency.
Of course, Key Passes are not a fool-proof method of measuring an individual’s creativity. If, say, Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley, sat 50 yards from goal, played a two yard pass to Wayne Rooney who then attempted a 50-yard lob of the goalkeeper and missed, Cleverley would have provided a Key Pass.
Compare that to Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla delicately slipping a pass between three defenders for Olivier Giroud to thump over the crossbar, and you see where the problem lays.
As statistical blogger Colin Trainor so wittily put it, “All Key Passes are equal, but some Key Passes are more equal than others.”
However, as the average football fan doesn’t have the energy nor resources to writhe through dozens of other stats to accurately gauge a player’s creativity, for now, they serve a broad purpose. Plus, they do help indicate a player’s general involvement in a team’s attacking movements.
Conscious of this, you may wonder who the leading lights are among the Premier League's creative attackers. Hazard, Silva, Özil and Rooney all spring to mind, but do the stats correspond?
|Team||Total Key Pass||Goal Assist||Total|
|Samir Nasri||Man City||84||8||92|
|David Silva||Man City||77||9||86|
This table highlights the top five Key Pass makers in the Premier League. As a bonus, I’ve included their individual assists and the two combined. This should allow us to see the most creatively effective players in the league.
The top four are no surprise, however Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko is an unexpected addition.
Next, let’s look at the combined figure divided over their individual appearances to see a Key Pass and Goal Assist per game.
|Team||Total Key Pass+Assist / apps||Apps|
|David Silva||Man City||3.19||27|
|Samir Nasri||Man City||2.71||34|
We now see two new names: Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil and Spurs’ midfield magician Christian Eriksen.
Finally, let’s see how this pans out per minute.
|Team||mins / Total Key Pass+Assist||Mins|
|David Silva||Man City||25.27||2,173|
|Samir Nasri||Man City||27.15||2,498|
|Marc Alrighton||Aston Villa||28.41||966|
So, there we have it. Along with Nasri, Suarez, Eriksen, Sissoko and Albrighton, Hazard, Özil and Silva are the most creative in the league after all, though Wayne Rooney is nowhere in sight.