Which Premier League players would be missed the most?
With the summer’s transfer activity continuing to ratchet up and rumours flying, we’ve turned to StatsBomb’s Premier League data to identify the players whose contribution to their clubs’ cause last season was the most valuable.
This has been quantified by comparing each players’ attacking contribution in the Premier League to their team’s total to see who was responsible for the largest percentage, and whose departure would therefore be the most disruptive.
Firstly we’ve looked at how every player’s personal expected goals (xG) tally – the combined goalscoring potential of all the shots they took – compared with their team’s overall Premier League output last season.
Two players stand out as having been unusually key to their side’s attacking efforts – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal and Leicester’s Jamie Vardy. Both were responsible for more than a third of their team’s xG from shots last season, so replacing either would be no easy feat.
Rumours abounded earlier this summer than the Gunners were keen to cash in on Aubameyang before age caught up with him, but if they were to do so then it would be reckless not to have secured an understudy for Alexandre Lacazette.
While Vardy is unlikely to be leaving Leicester any time soon, the Foxes’ extravagant purchase of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle suggests an awareness that they need to start reducing their load on a star striker who will be turning 33 this season.
Another front man with even more miles on the clock completes the top three: Glenn Murray of Brighton is fast approaching his 36th birthday but generated over 28% of the Seagulls’ xG last term.
While Graham Potter’s new winger Leandro Trossard clearly has an eye for goal, having netted 11 times in the Belgian top-flight last season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him dip into the market for another centre-forward unless he thinks he can squeeze more out of Murray’s existing understudies.
Also in the top 10 is Salomon Rondon, who looks unlikely to return to a Newcastle side already without the aforementioned Perez, meaning that whoever replaces Rafael Benitez at the St James’ Park helm should be insisting on some serious money being available for strikers during his job interview.
Callum Wilson was marginally more central to Bournemouth’s attack than either Harry Kane was to Tottenham or Mohamed Salah to Liverpool, so if he were to move on then Eddie Howe would need to act decisively to replace him.
Secondly we’ve looked each player’s share of expected assists (xA) in 2018/19, defined as the goalscoring potential of all the shots set up via passes.
Again we have a standout name whose relative contribution to their team’s cause far outstrips the rest.
Ryan Fraser is entering the last year of his contract at Bournemouth and if the Cherries can’t tie him down to a longer deal after a superb season in which he created almost a third of their expected assist output, then they’ll surely have to consider selling him while he would still command a fee.
Second and third place are both held by Everton players, with Lucas Digne’s attacking forays from left-back almost as dangerous for the Toffees as the efforts of their set-piece specialist Gylfi Sigurdsson.
As the only side with two players among the Premier League’s 10 most influential creators – and from different parts of the pitch – it’s easy to see why big things are expected of Marco Silva’s side this season.
With the recently-departed Eden Hazard having been the fourth-most dominant creative player last season and the seemingly unsettled Christian Eriksen also in the top 10, the Premier League’s ‘big six’ clubs aren’t immune to losing their most influential stars this summer.
With Chelsea currently unable to sign players, new recruit Christian Pulisic will need to hit the ground running under Frank Lampard, while cashing in on Eriksen would surely trigger further reinforcements to Spurs’ threadbare midfield.