La Masia graduate Thiago Alcantara is a player touted as a replacement for the aging Xavi Hernandez, and if his passing stats are anything to go by, Barcelona are in safe hands, as he has a higher success rate than Xavi, but the caveat of that is that Xavi plays more often and in the bigger games (i.e. El Clasico).
Joe Allen is a new face on the scene this season, impressing for Swansea City in their first season in the Premiership. Swansea’s style of play has been raved about, and compared to Champions League holders Barcelona.
Such an abundance of praise is deserved, with the disciplined Allen being a key man in the middle of the park despite being in his first ever season in the top flight. While being deservedly praised highly for having a pass success rate of 90%, he is also a key asset in performing defensive duties. He makes nearly 5 interception and tackles per game, an extraordinary number when you see Swansea average 57% possession per game.
At just 22, he has time to improve his shooting, with just 3 goals from 29 shots so far, and he also needs to improve his control, as he loses possession 3 times per game whilst on the ball.
But for such an inexperienced player to make such an outstanding contribution has shown maturity and genuine quality that isn’t always seen in players from promoted teams.
Mikel Arteta was getting stuck in a rut during his last couple of seasons at Everton, but has been rejuvenated since being signed for Arsenal as a replacement for the departing Fabregas.
He has played deeper this season, giving him more time to do what he does best – pass, pass, pass. He has completed more passes more than he even attempted in the whole of the previous season, and his success rate has gone up by 4% to over 90%. Overall, he makes more passes per game in England than anybody except Yaya Toure.
His defensive contribution has improved as a consequence of his deeper role – he makes 4.5 interceptions and tackles on average, almost 1 more than he did for Everton in 2010-11, and the increased pressure of playing for a bigger club hasn’t affected him in possession, losing the ball on fewer occasions.
Despite playing deeper, he has scored 2 more goals, but has assisted 3 fewer. Overall, his move to London has been a success.
Michael Carrick has been much maligned during his 6 years at Old Trafford, but there can be no reason for criticism this season, where he has been at his best.
He is one of the few players in Europe to have passing success of over 90%, which is all the more remarkable when you see he makes 70 passes a game (the 9th most in Europe), with him making an average of 6 long balls per game.
His defensive contribution is equally impressive. An average of almost 6 interceptions and tackles is the highest at United. He very rarely makes a foul (15 all season), and such is his quality on the ball, loses out a little over once per game.
He was notably missed in the Champions League, where he missed 4 of the 6 games
Francesc Fabregas was always going to return to his boyhood club Barcelona, and he did so in 2011.
Despite being such a good passer of the ball (86% success rate), the quality that makes Fabregas one of the midfield greats is his ability to score and create goals. He scores from almost 1 in 4 of his shots, and has directly contributed to 17 goals (9 goals, 8 assists).
For Fabregas to be a success at Barcelona, he will need to keep his scoring rate up throughout the season – he has just one league goal in 2012.
Toni Kroos is a product of Bayern Munich’s impressive youth system who first made his name while on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, but has since established himself as a starter in both the Bayern and German teams.
He is a clever player who likes to play the ball quickly, but is also very good in possession. It is his passing where he comes to the fore, with passing accuracy of 87% from an average of 59 per game, with 6.6 being long distance passes. He has made the second most key passes for Bayern, with his 54 passes leaving him behind only Franck Ribery.
He has end product too, with him contributing directly to 11 goals, although with just 4 goals from 45 shots, his shot accuracy can be improved.
Yann M’Vila is a highly rated French youngster who plies his trade with Rennes. His performances over the past two years have caught the eye of numerous clubs, the latest being Arsenal. While he normally plays alongside a midfield partner, he is capable of playing alone as he showed against England.
He makes a combined 2.8 interceptions and tackles per game, and is one of the few players around Europe to have attempted 2000 passes thus far, with an impressive 81% of them finding their target. He makes 7 long balls per game, demonstrating his eye for a pass.
His concentration levels are high and he has quick feet, as he is rarely knocked off the ball (dispossessed 0.7 times a game and 0.8 turnovers), and for a man so small, has an impressive 61% aerial duel success rate.
Bosnian international Miralem Pjanic was signed to be part of the Roma Revolution under Luis Enrique, and he has certainly come into his own, being one of their best performers this season.
Pjanic contributes both in attack and defence, with 81 tackles and interceptions in 27 games, plus a direct contribution to 14 goals, for both Lyon and Roma.
He is one of the finest passers in Europe, with almost 87% of his passes finding the target, and a 76% success rate when attempting a long pass.
Bruno Soriano was an unfamiliar name that cropped up when looking through the stats. He is a left-footed player plies his trade with the club he played for as a youngster, Villarreal.
Sitting alongside veteran Marcos Senna in a 4-2-3-1 for much of the season, Bruno has stood out amongst during a difficult season for El Submarino as they have struggled for form and goals with the departure of Santi Cazorla to Malaga and the early-season injury to Guiseppe Rossi.
He is another of the players to have attempted over 2000 passes, with a remarkable success rate of 88%, highly impressive considering he plays for a team low in the table. His passing technique is superb, with 82% of his 200 long balls reaching a teammate.
His defensive contributions have been key in the bid for survival, with 84 tackles all season and a massive 6 interceptions per game, the second most for a centre midfielder in Europe. He also contributes by winning 67% of aerial duels.
His brilliance in possession means he very rarely loses the ball, just more than once a game on average.
If Villarreal were to go down, he would surely be snapped up by a top flight club.
The then 27 year old Jeremy Toulalan was signed in 2011 from Olympique Lyonnais for a fee of approximately £8m. The signing of the French international was part of a summer spree, and has paid instant dividends. Malaga sit 1 point off 3rd place Valencia, and Toulalan has been key.
While his pass success rate of 78% could be higher, it is his job as a defensive midfielder where he stands out as he regularly cuts out opposition attacks, with 133 tackles and the same number of interceptions, along with making 31 clearances. He uses his height to great effect, winning 43 aerial duels this season.
Stats from whoscored.com
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