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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Top 5 Passers in the English Premier League so far

Modern Football has evolved a lot over the years, however the ability to make a pass is still one of the most basic aspects of the beautiful game. Passing the ball is as important now as it was decades ago, however, the effectiveness of passing as a tool in both the defensive and offensive component of football has never been so grand.

Instead of hooking out the ball as part of defending, teams now try to play the ball out of trouble, by small intricate passing that gives them greater control on the pitch. They use accurate passing to ensure there is no panic, everything in planned, practiced and executed as per the tactics. In the offensive side as well, individual skills are no longer the most preferred way to break opposition defenses. Clever exchanges of passes and perfect through balls are capable of disrupting even the strongest of defenses.

As such, teams are now more often built on passers who control the play, dictate the momentum and pull the strings in the team. Every team desires a master passer of the ball, whose ability to see a pass and execute it to perfection often defines the game. Today, we take a look at the top 5 passers in the Premier League so far this season.

5 Granit Xhaka (Arsenal, Switzerland)

[caption id="attachment_1230" align="alignnone" width="632"]AC Milan v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: First Leg AC Milan v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: First Leg[/caption]

The Switzerland International seems to have found a new lease of life under Unai Emery this season. Granit Xhaka has 2 goals from 12 appearances in the Premier League and has been in the starting eleven for all of those games for Arsenal. Barring the first two games, the Swiss has almost always completed the full 90, which highlights his growing importance in Emery's tactics at Arsenal.

Last season, Xhaka had just 1 goal from 38 appearances in the Premier League. He averaged 82 passes per game and had completed 3116 passes, the most in the Premier League. This season, though, Xhaka averages a slightly lower 80.5 passes per game and has already completed 966 passes. As such, the Swiss has been consistent with his performances but has greater competition this season.

While his free kicks have been a rage this season, Xhaka is the heartbeat of this new look Gunners side. He has 1202 touches in the ball so far, second only to Jorginho in the league, so the battle between those two is sure to get exciting as the league progresses. As of now, Xhaka has completed the 5th most passes in the Premier League this season so far.

4 David Luiz (Chelsea, Brazil)

[caption id="attachment_1229" align="alignnone" width="618"]Chelsea FC v Cardiff City - Premier League Chelsea FC v Cardiff City - Premier League[/caption]

Before the arrival of Maurizio Sarri, there were questions whether David Luiz would be able to survive in the Italian's 4 man defense. The Brazilian did look a little uncomfortable at the start of the season, but has adapted brilliantly to Sarri ball. He has played every minute of the 12 games in the Premier League and has been solid at the back. Most importantly, he has found relief and joy in the way Chelsea play now, as the system enables him to focus on one of his strengths, which is passing.

Last season, Luiz spent much of the time on the sidelines with injury, missing 30 games in the process. As such, he had just 10 appearances in the league and there wasn't much stats to talk about. This season, the Brazilian is making up for those missed opportunities and has already completed 984 passes, with an average of 82 passes per game. Luiz also has 1128 touches on the ball so far, the 5th most in the league. At Chelsea, only Jorginho and Marcos Alonso have touched the ball more times.

One of the main reasons for Chelsea's success this season has to be the way the players have adapted to Sarri ball and David Luiz has been one of the brightest of them all. It is no wonder, as such, that he has completed the 4th most passes in the Premier League so far this season.

3 Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea, Germany)

[caption id="attachment_1228" align="alignnone" width="628"]Chelsea FC v Everton FC - Premier League Chelsea FC v Everton FC - Premier League[/caption]

The German stopper might look like the odd man out in this list, but the truth is that Rüdiger is is one of the main reasons why Maurizio Sarri's tactics has flourished at Stamford Bridge. With Rüdiger's quality, Sarri has the luxury of two ball playing defenders at his disposal and this has been essential for the successful implementation of Sarri ball.

Las season, Rüdiger had 2 goals from 27 games and averaged 63 passes per game. He completed 1079 passes and as such, did not even make the top 20 passers in the Premier League. However, this season, the German already has completed 986 passes in 12 games, averaging above 82 passes per match and barring the one game against West Ham, has completed 90 minutes every time for Chelsea in the Premier League. He has 1099 touches on the ball so far, the 7th most in the league.

Sarri's influence had unleased a new Rüdiger and the German defender has repaid the faith bestowed on him by his boss, by becoming the third best passer in the Premier League so far.

2 Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City, France)

[caption id="attachment_1227" align="alignnone" width="606"]Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League[/caption]

Replacing one of the best passers of the last season is no mean feat and the French defender has done just that this time. Nicolas Otamendi completed 3074 passes last season, second only to Xhaka in the whole league, yet has seen his chances limited this time. The main reason behind that has been the emergence of Laporte.

The Frenchman has been an omnipresent figure in the City defense this season and he has the third most touches in the league - 1171, which is also the highest at his club. After joining City in the winter of last season, Laporte gave a glimpse of his qualities, completing 811 passes in the 9 games played, with an average of above 90 passes per game. This season too, his fine form has continued, as he has already completed 1065 passes with an average of almost 89 passes per game.

The Frenchman's incredible rise has seen him emerge as the 2nd best passer in the Premier League this season and he will be hoping that he can give able competition to the master passer who is leading this list now.

1  (Chelsea, Italy)

[caption id="attachment_1226" align="alignnone" width="585"]Chelsea FC v Cardiff City - Premier League Chelsea FC v Cardiff City - Premier League[/caption]

When Maurizio Sarri joined Chelsea in the summer of this year, he ensured that his trusted lieutenant Jorginho made the move with him, because the Italian knew that he needed his country man to successfully implement his system at Chelsea and rule the Premier League. And Jorginho has done just that.

At Napoli, Jorginho ran the orchestra from the middle of the park last season, as Sarri's team made Juventus sweat to win the Serie A. Since making the move to Chelsea, Jorginho has taken over the reigns at Chelsea and has bossed the midfield consistently. Every thing that has happened in the Chelsea team on the pitch, good or bad, goes through their Italian midfield marshall and Jorginho gives the rest of the team the confidence to play the ball out of trouble with ease.

It not a wonder then, that Jorginho has the most touches in the Premier League this season - 1297. He has also completed 1186 passes so far in the league, with an average of almost 99 passes per game and he is, without any doubt, the best passer in the league so far this season.

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