As anticipation slowly builds towards the 2017/18 campaign via transfer rumours and various international tournaments, we look back at the best passers of the ball during 2016/17.
Which league produced the most consistent, creative and crisp passers? Across the next few weeks we will look through the top-five leagues in Europe to establish who was the best passer in domestic competition.
We begin with the world’s most marketed and entertaining league, the English Premier League.
No Premier League player completed more short passes than the Spaniard. Cesar Azpilicueta racked up a whopping 2030 short passes from 38 games, registering a 91.3% passing accuracy ratio (misplaced 194). Though this is not the best accuracy ratio for short passing.
Short Passing Accuracy – John Stones
Another heavily maligned player, John Stones, failed to shrug off his doubters after a big-money move from Everton. While he had the backing of his manager, Pep Guardiola, after some high-profile blunders, it remains to be seen whether the Englishman will remain as first-choice come the opening weekend of the Premier League.
One positive to take from 2016/17 was a ridiculously accurate passing ratio over short distances, at 95% (1285/1353 short passes from 27 appearances). It’s not hard to see why Guardiola favours the 23-year-old, but how patient will he be with him should the same mistakes keep happening?
Most Long Passes – Toby Alderweireld
The Belgian hit more long passes than any other outfield player (212), but was highly inefficient overall, misplacing his more direct attempts on 162 occasions. That gives him a 56.7% accuracy ratio for long passes, which doesn’t even come close to some of the best in the Premier League.
Alderweireld’s compatriot is better known for his mazy runs and goal-scoring, but also happens to be the best long passer of the ball in the Premier League (when compared with others to have made at least 100 long passes). Hazard attempted 131 long passes in 36 appearances, connecting with 114, which gives him an outstanding 87% long passing accuracy ratio.
Most Key Passes – Christian Eriksen
Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen continues to establish himself as one of the most creative players in Europe. His 112 key passes are the most in the Premier League and second only to Montpellier’s Ryad Boudebouz (117) when compared to the rest of Europe (comparing league performances only).
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne came the closest to Eriksen’s total, with 103 key passes, while Mesut Ozil trailed close behind with 100.
Most Assists – Kevin De Bruyne
18 assists for Kevin De Bruyne ranks as the best in the Premier League this season, and the most ever by a Manchester City player since David Silva got 15 in the title-winning 2011/12 season.
His overall tally was narrowing beaten by RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg (19) when compared with the rest of Europe, and his 160.17 minutes per assist was only bettered in the Premier League by a veteran playmaker.
Most Assists per 90 minutes – Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas didn’t receive a great deal of faith from Antonio Conte throughout the season, as he started a measly 13 games, but he made sure of getting the most out of every opportunity with an assist every 110.58 minutes.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona man finished with 0.8 assists every 90 minutes, and 12 assists from his 29 league appearances in total, the highest in the Premier League amongst players who made at least 15 appearances.
Most Assists per game – Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne’s incredible 0.5 assists per game means he laid on a goal in every other game in the Premier League in 2016/17. It’s a telling statistic for the Belgian, who is growing into arguably the most dangerous attacking midfielder in the Premier League.
Verdict – Christian Eriksen
Though Kevin De Bruyne was slightly ahead on the assists tally, and compares quite well with the Dane, it was Christian Eriksen who was the more complete passer.
His numbers were superior to De Bruyne’s in passes per game, accurate short and long passes per game and key passes per game/overall, while De Bruyne only fared slightly better regarding assists and overall passing accuracy ratio.
Tottenham’s hopeful surge for a Premier League title last season saw the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli grab the headlines, but it was the creative spark and guile of Christian Eriksen that kept them ticking over, and the Dane is starting to get the recognition he deserves.