Ødegaard and...? Ranking the top 25 advanced midfielders
Here are the midfielders who really thrived in attacking roles this season
Arsenal have probably (I think?) secured their attack-minded number 8 for the 2023-2024 season in Chelsea castoff Kai Havertz, but if you think that’s going to stop me from publishing a bunch of charts and words on players in a similar profile, you’re gravely mistaken.
With the ‘22-23 season now behind us, I’m back at it again, this time re-jiggering my formula to identify central midfielders with a more attacking skillset. Once I give you a glimpse of the leaderboard, you should have a good idea of the profile I’m going for here.
As usual, my disclaimers:
This list is created relying fully on statistics from the 2022-2023 season. I always encourage a healthy dose of the eye test before forming a final opinion on any player, so consume responsibly.
Not everyone here was deployed in the same position. There are some 8s, some 10s, and even some tweeners whose inclusion here is maybe a bit questionable. I’ll address case-by-case.
That said, the formula really looks for everything you’d like in an 8 or 10. These players are direct and progressive while also being secure, have high output and are creative, but to the extent possible, are also solid in duels.
All scores are subject to an adjustment according to league strength, so you shouldn’t have to mentally raise or lower rankings to make it more “fair.”
This is not a ranking of all players in my spreadsheet. Instead, I’ve isolated those players who are relatively young and attainable for an Arsenal-level club. I’m only human, so I did make an exception here or there.
So, who topped the overall rank? Let’s take a look!
You should have already known this…come on. KDB is so far ahead of his cohorts in the creative and carrying metrics here, he’s literally breaking the curve. Yikes.
Bruno, unfortunately, did come in second. So, do with that what you will.
I admit this was a bit of a “huh?” moment for me. But what Rémy Cabella did for Lille this season was crazy! In 28 starts, the former Newcastle man had 17 goal involvements. You take that from your midfield when you can get it. It’s pretty likely to be a bit of an anomaly for Rémy, having been his most G+A since his Montpellier breakout season a decade ago.
And our guy came in fourth! Arsenal’s player of the season had a great campaign and the underlying numbers back it. While there was certainly some “over-performance,” as we armchair analysts love to call it, it’s not the type of thing I’d expect to cost Ødegaard more than 2-3 goals, all else being equal. And for what it’s worth, he actually underperformed his xA. (7 real assists to 8.1 expected).
So those are the best of the best. Who are the best of the rest? Some honorable mentions:
Enzo Milliot, VfB Stuttgart (35)
Konrad Laimer, RB Leipzig (34)
Lazar Samardzic, Udinese (33)
Jacob Ramsey, Aston Villa (32)
Emi Buendía, Aston Villa (31)
Marcus Tavernier, Bournemouth (30)
Ismaël Bennacer, AC Milan (29)
Enzo Le Fée, Lorient (28)
Mason Mount, Chelsea (27)
Oihan Sancet, Athletic Club (26)
And here are the 25 names to know:
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