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By The Numbers: The Most Creative Midfielders In The PSL

With the end of the PSL season approaching, the questions around who the best players who will be at the forefront in the coming weeks.


With the end of the PSL season approaching, the questions around who the best players who will be at the forefront in the coming weeks. The nominations for season awards will be announced soon, and besides the Player of the Year and Footballer of the Year, different categories will be considered. The Midfielder of the Season is one of the most hotly contested awards, and numbers can provide insight. In By the Numbers this week, we look at some numbers on Midfielder of the Season.

Midfielder Of The Season

Midfielders have different roles and responsibilities in the field. There are deep-lying midfielders, whose role involves building up play for their team, be it through distributing passes or running with the ball (box-to-box). Advanced midfielders create chances and openings for their team, orchestrate the play, and crash the box as late entrants in the attacking phase. Some stats can help us see which midfielders have done well in certain parts of play.

Most Assists

The most easily understood metric for “creativity” is assists. Jayden Adams of Stellenbosch leads the field for assists in the Premiership this season, with six. Seven other players have five assists to their name- Kganyane Letsoenyo, Relebohile Mofokeng, Higor Vidal, Augustine Mulenga, Deon Hotto, and Darwin González. With two rounds of games remaining (three for other teams and four for Sundowns), they all stand a chance to end the season as the player with the most assists.

Chances Created:

While assists provide a guideline for players that offer offensive threat, the downside is that they depend on strikers’ ability to finish. Other metrics can help us see which players are effective at creating opportunities, independent of whether the chances are taken or not. According to Opta, the chances created are the total of ‘Assists’ and ‘Key Passes’ made by a player. A key pass is defined as “the final pass from a player to their teammate who then attempts goal without scoring”.

Top 5 Players For Chance Creation This Season:

  • 69 – Sanele Barns
  • 51 – Oswin Appollis
  • 49 – Patrick Maswanganyi
  • 46 – Darwin Gonzalez
  • 45 – Lyle Lakay

Chances created also include crosses from corners and set pieces that are delivered and end in a shot. A useful filter when analyzing chances is looking at chances created from open play i.e. while the game is in flow.

Big Chances Created

While chances are the next level to assist, we can go deeper and look at Big Chances. These are defined as “a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter”. Players that create these provide shooters with the best chances to score.

Top 5 Players For Big Chance Creation This Season:

  • 16 – Darwin Gonzalez
  • 9 – Sanele Barns, Lucas Costa
  • 8 – Jamie Webber
  • 7 – Devin Titus, Marcello Allende

Other Metrics

It is important to note that there are deep-lying midfielders whose roles do not include creating chances. They are equally important to their teams in terms of building up play at the start of offensive transitions, disrupting opposition attacks in defensive transitions, and more. Passes are one way of seeing which players have been important in building up play. However, this (like many metrics) is heavily dependent on the team’s style of play. A team like Sundowns that dominates possession will have a few players attempt many passes. Teams like Sekhukhune & Polokwane have less of the ball, and influential players like Jamie Webber and Oswin Appollis may not feature in the Top 5.

Most Successful Passes (Pass Success Rate In Brackets):

  • 1070 – Teboho Mokoena (89%)
  • 878 – Grant Margerman (85%)
  • 866 – Kamohelo Mokotjo (83%)
  • 854 – Yusuf Maart (84%)
  • 850 – Marcelo Allende (90%)

Indeed, the world of football data still struggles with measuring defensive contributions. Tackles, interceptions, balls won and other defensive actions are measured, but not yet understood.  Further articles on this site will look at the different midfielder roles, and analyze pass directions, value, and impact.

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