The following is a look at a chosen twelve midfielders in the English Premier league, and their performance this season, up to March 4th. The following players are those who feature; Gareth Bale, Santi Cazorla, Marrouane Fellaini, Steven Gerrard, Eden Hazard, Aaron Lennon, Juan Mata, Michu, Bryan Ruiz, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Jack Wilshere.
Much like my analysis of strikers, firstly a look at the birthplaces of these twelve players, who are numbered as follows;
Bale – 1, Cazorla – 2, Fellaini – 3, Gerrard – 4, Hazard – 5, Lennon – 6, Mata – 7, Michu -8, Ruiz – 9, Silva – 10, Toure – 11, Wilshere – 12.
From the sample, only two fall outside of Europe (10, David Silva, is born in Gran Canaria, Spain); Yaya Toure from Ivory Coast, and Bryan Ruiz, from the unlikely footballing nation of Costa Rica. Unsurprisingly, the sample of midfielders mainly originate from Europe; with Spain and the United Kingdom contributing the most with four each. With the technical excellence that the current Spanish squad possesses, it is not hard to imagine why Premier League teams look to purchase them. It’s a case of ability rather than buying a Spanish player due to the reputation that fits the nation.
Belgium is also well represented, with two players. Belgium are a growing force in international football, and the likes of Fellaini and Hazard are elite players in their squad. There are also a number of Belgian defenders who ply their trade in England, as an analysis of Premier League defenders will reveal.
Although Yaya Toure and Ruiz both originate from outside of Europe, both were brought in from European clubs; Toure from
Barcelona, and Ruiz from Dutch side FC Twente. Both had succeeded on the continent before being brought into the Premier League; something that a lot of managers look for in their signings, to prevent wasted investment.
On both maps, point two (Cazorla) is shrouded by point eight (Michu), as they grew up just 20km away from one other in Asturias, Spain.
Without really breaking the bank in terms of footballing insight, many may suggest the primary responsibility of a midfielder is to create scoring opportunities for the strikers. Although the duty of the midfielder does now blend with the attackers, and in some instances, warrants a higher return of goals, you expect midfielders to be topping the assists table in the league.
Surprisingly, the statistics don’t echo the notion of the midfielder’s role in assisting goal scorers. Only three players have broken into double figures, two of which (Juan Mata and Eden Hazard) play for the same club, Chelsea. Between them, Mata and Hazard have been the key to Chelsea’s season, so their direct influence in goals isn’t surprising. The other is Steven Gerrard, who plays with the leagues top scorer, Luis Suarez.
So, with the evolution of the game, has the midfielders role has changed into one of a deep lying striking role? In terms of product, are they expected to get on the score sheet just as much as they set up a goal? Granted that the term ‘midfielders’ is a broad one, and to many in this article could be considered attacking midfielders or wingers, whose role has changed to more of a wide forward role. With players such as Michu or Gareth Bale, they are seen by many as an attacking threat than a playmaker, their expectations are to be the primary goalscorer for their club, and as a result, their assist tally takes a hit. So let’s have a look at which midfielders contribute the most goals.
As expected, Bale and Michu make up for their lack of assists with a hat-full of goals; netting 31 between them. To many, Michu would seem to be a striker, given his attacking prowess and frequency on the scoresheet, and has been crucial in Swansea’s season so far. For £2 million, he really is the signing of the season.
For those looking for Jack Wilshere’s bubble on the diagram to the left, he is represented by the light green bubble void of writing. This is due to him yet to score a goal in the league this season. Unlike Michu and Bale, Wilshere is instrumental in the creation of opportunities, with fewer attempts to shoot, and as a result falls short of the 16 goals of Gareth Bale.
Av. points with/without
So with the role of a midfield blurring as the game emerges from the shackles of rigidity, it is difficult to judge a player solely on their goal and assists. The next graph shows the importance of a player to their team, by the number of points they average when they play, compared to how many when they don’t.
Aside from those who have played all 28 games, and as a result have no data to show for when they don’t play (Lennon, Cazorla, Gerrard), the table on the right shows their importance to the side. Stand out players in terms of importance are that of Eden Hazard, whose influence doubles their average points per game, Mata, who adds 0.9 points, and Gareth Bale who adds .5 to Tottenham whenever he plays. An interesting result is that of Marrouane Fellaini, who many consider Everton’s best player, whose presence doesn’t seem to sway their average of 1.6 points a game. Perhaps this summer isn’t a bad time to cash in on the Belgian, who seems to be in high demand, in favour of someone who can secure them a better points average.
ConclusionThe midfielders chosen in this analysis are all of top quality, and selecting an outstanding candidate is a tough decision. However, for his importance to this team, coupled with his goal and assist contribution, Chelsea’s Juan Mata is whom I would consider the best midfielder of the Premier League. However, a midfield that boasted Mata, alongside Bale, Michu and Hazard would be formidable to any opposition; in terms of strength of a position, the midfield really is the superior role in the English league.