Talking Tactics

Playmaker award: How the contenders compare

By Adrian Clarke 29 Mar 2021

Adrian Clarke assesses the players battling for the most assists in 2020/21

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Adrian Clarke analyses the leading contenders for the 2020/21 Premier League Playmaker Award.

Player Assists
Harry Kane 13
Kevin De Bruyne 11
Bruno Fernandes 10
Jack Grealish 10
Harry Kane (TOT) 13 assists

Kane has been playing in a more varied centre-forward role this season, so he has been able to showcase even more of his all-round quality.

Linking play and delivering incisive passes from deeper positions, the Tottenham Hotspur star has laid on an incredible 13 assists.

To put that into context, Kane managed just eight assists across his previous three seasons combined.

He set the ball rolling with four assists for Son Heung-min in a 5-2 win at Southampton early in the season, and that connection has continued.

Kane's assists v Southampton 

Kane has produced nine assists for Son, making up 69.2 per cent of his total tally, while the South Korean has returned the favour by creating five goals for the striker.

Spurs are at their most dangerous from turnovers and counter-attacks, and Kane is efficient when chances arise to hurt teams.

Thanks to his excellent decision-making in the final third, 14 of the 39 key passes he has made have been classified as big chances.

Player Big chances created Chances created
Fernandes 17 82
De Bruyne 16 70
Kane 14 39
Grealish 14 75

If space opens up for him to provide a defining pass, he rarely disappoints.

Kevin De Bruyne (MCI) 11 assists

De Bruyne has not quite replicated the consistent brilliance he showed last season, but he nonetheless remains one of the league’s top creators.

While he has created 19 chances from set-pieces, more than his rivals for this award, his assists have mainly come from open play.

De Bruyne's trademark right-wing crosses created goals for John Stones and Ruben Dias at home against Crystal Palace and West Ham United respectively.

The Belgian also made assists with deliveries from that same side against Burnley and Southampton.

Most chances created per 90
Player Total/90
De Bruyne 3.46
Grealish 3.41
Fernandes 2.99
Kane 1.48

De Bruyne has arguably been at his best this term when playing penetrative passes into the box.

On the move, he has a great ability to slip runners in with a well-weighted pass, and this type of through-ball has featured in five of his 11 assists thus far.

Bruno Fernandes and Jack Grealish have created more chances than De Bruyne overall in 2020/21, but this is partly because the Belgian has suffered injuries.

No player in the competition can match him when it comes to key passes per 90 minutes.

Bruno Fernandes (MUN) 10 assists

The Manchester United midfielder turns defence into attack with more precision than any other Premier League player.

Four of his 10 assists this term have started with the ball inside his own half.

Fernandes sent Marcus Rashford clear with raking long passes for goals at Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United.

He also dribbled 50 yards before teeing up Edinson Cavani in a win at Everton, while Rashford’s late winner at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers also began with a Fernandes pass from deep.

MUN most chances created
Player Chances created Open-play chances created Passes into box
Fernandes 82 67 249
Shaw 52 33 161
Rashford 34 33 88

The Fernandes-Rashford axis has worked well throughout 2020/21, with the England international the chief beneficiary of his team-mate's invention.

The 19 chances and four assists Fernandes has created for Rashford are both more than any Man Utd player, while Fernandes also leads the way for big chances created at Man Utd this season, with 17.

Aside from scoring or assisting 26 goals in only 29 appearances, the No 10 is integral to his side's creativity as a whole.

Jack Grealish (AVL) 10 assists

Despite missing six matches through injury, Grealish has been a revelation for Aston Villa this season.

Operating mainly on the left, the midfielder has created 25 per cent of his team's chances.

He supplied three perfectly-weighted through-balls for Ollie Watkins' goals against Liverpool, Arsenal and West Ham, and he has also provided an accurate ball across the face of goal for five further assists.

When he is in those areas down the side of the 18-yard box, Grealish is a master at picking out the right option.

Open-play chances created
Player Total/90
Grealish 2.96
De Bruyne 2.52
Fernandes 2.44
Kane 1.37

Of the four leading contenders to land the Playmaker award, Grealish is the most creative from open play.

He makes just shy of three chances per 90 minutes, not including set-pieces, which is a phenomenal return to accompany his 10 assists.

Also in this series

Part 1: Golden Boot: Kane and Salah lead pack with an eye on treble
Part 2: Golden Boot race: How the contenders compare
Part 3: Golden Glove: Ederson under pressure in pursuit of award
Part 4: Golden Glove battle: How the contenders compare
Part 5: Playmaker award: Kane targeting rare double

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