Why De Bruyne is clear leader for Playmaker award

By Adrian Clarke 11 Dec 2022

Adrian Clarke analyses how Man City star is providing more assists than rivals and can break his own record

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As we prepare for the return of the Premier League on 26 December, Adrian Clarke looks at some of the numbers behind the season so far. 

Castrol Playmaker Award

An outstanding start to the campaign by Kevin De Bruyne has put the Belgian in pole position to land his third Premier League Castrol Playmaker Award in six years.

The Manchester City star has produced nine assists after 15 matches and is on course to break his own record of 20 top-flight assists in a single season.

De Bruyne has created three more goals than anyone else this season. In scintillating form, City’s playmaker has laid on a division-high 47 chances, at a rate of one every 24 minutes.

Most assists and their chances created
Player Assists Chances created Rank
Kevin De Bruyne  9 47 1st
Bukayo Saka  6 29 8th
Alex Iwobi  5 27 12th
Gabriel Jesus 5 22 25th
Bernardo Silva 5 20 30th
Dejan Kulusevski 5 17 44th

He has produced 15 successful open-play crosses into the box from wide areas.

Pep Guardiola will also be delighted at how well De Bruyne has linked up with leading scorer Erling Haaland, laying on four goals for the forward so far.

With six assists, Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka is currently De Bruyne’s closest challenger.

The 21-year-old has been at the heart of many Arsenal goals, but since the start of this campaign, he has made just 18 fewer key passes than De Bruyne.

Kulusevski's creativity 

Despite injury affecting his campaign, Dejan Kulusevski has still recorded five assists this season.

Kulusevski has shown skill, imagination, and efficiency in his seven starts, making him undoubtedly Tottenham Hotspur’s most creative midfielder.

The Swede has made three goals for Harry Kane and he is a player who instantly improves Antonio Conte’s side as an attacking force.

Nobody is producing assists at a faster rate than Kulusevski's current average of one every 122.8 minutes.

Minutes per assist comparison
Player Mins per assist
Dejan Kulusevski 122.8
Kevin De Bruyne 126.1
Bukayo Saka 196.0
Bernardo Silva 213.8
Gabriel Jesus 245.0
Alex Iwobi 266.6

Opta’s xA (Expected Assists) and "Big Chance Created" metrics are probably the most reliable gauge for measuring the quality of goalscoring opportunities players supply.

In this regard, De Bruyne is the standout individual.

Of the leading assist-makers, Gabriel Jesus and Alex Iwobi are next in line, having created five big chances apiece, compared to the 14 of De Bruyne, although Jesus' injury will likely rule him out of the running for the Playmaker prize.

Player Expected assists Player Big chances created
De Bruyne 6.8 De Bruyne 14
Trippier 4.5 Fernandes 8
Kulusevski 2.7 Jesus 5
Silva 2.0 Iwobi 5
Saka 2.0 Kulusevski 4
Jesus 1.7 Silva 3
Iwobi 1.6 Saka 2

When you analyse the quantity of clear-cut chances supplied by the chasing pack, it does raise a question mark as to whether they can sustain their goal-making exploits. Kulusevski is the exception however, due to the amount of match time he has missed.

Based on the numbers we have seen, other Premier League players including Newcastle United's Kieran Trippier and Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United are likely to catch up on assists when the campaign restarts.

To usurp De Bruyne for the Playmaker award, somebody is going to have to produce outstanding levels of creativity.

Also in this series

Part 1: Clinical Haaland has edge over chasing pack
Part 2: Why Pope and Ramsdale lead race for Golden Glove

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