Since arriving at Manchester City in 2015, Kevin De Bruyne has been the Premier League’s ‘assist king’.
The Belgian has been the division’s leading playmaker in four of his eight seasons with the Cityzens. This includes a record-equalling tally of 20 in the 2019/20 campaign.
He was at it again last season, topping the charts with another 16 assists. This took his overall total to 102 in the Premier League – a figure beaten only by Ryan Giggs, Cesc Fabregas and Wayne Rooney.
De Bruyne’s vision and technique make him a near-perfect creator. And, with a deadly goalscorer like Erling Braut Haaland in front of him, he seems to be a certainty for another Playmaker Award.
But is anyone able to take the crown from the 32-year-old? Here are four other players who could compete for the prize.
Bruno Fernandes led a number of the creative charts last term, racking up the highest expected assisted goals, most key passes and most through balls (via FBRef). And yet, eight players ended the campaign with more assists.
This is partially down to the lack of a top-class striker at Manchester United. Last season, the Portuguese playmaker relied on Anthony Martial, Wout Weghorst and an over-the-hill Cristiano Ronaldo to finish the chances he had created. He will now be providing €80 million forward Rasmus Hojlund.
Hojlund is young and remains unproven at the highest level. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be a major upgrade. But if he hits the ground running, Fernandes should be in with a great shout of the Playmaker Award.
Attacking full-backs have been a thing for a while now, but Trent Alexander-Arnold takes the phrase to a new level. Since becoming a regular starter for Liverpool five seasons ago, the 24-year-old has recorded 53 league assists.
That was while playing as a right-back in a back four. In recent months, he has begun to play a new role, stepping into midfield and progressing higher up the pitch.
How this affects his numbers remains to be seen, but early evidence suggests he could be even more productive next year.
He played as a central midfielder during June’s international fixtures, registering one goal and one assist from two outings while earning heaps of praise.
Despite Leicester City’s relegation, James Maddison enjoyed a fine individual season, notching ten goals and nine assists. This earned him a £40 million transfer to Tottenham Hotspur this summer.
The England international will be hoping to see Harry Kane remain in north London this season.
His delivery, coupled with the forward’s aerial ability and finishing, seems like a sure-fire recipe for success. Not to mention, teammate Heung-min Son is also one of the Premier League’s best finishers.
The former Aberdeen loanee is one of the division’s finest from a dead ball. Last year, only Liverpool scored more than Spurs from set pieces (via WhoScored) – and that was WITHOUT a set-piece specialist.
The next year is expected to be a huge one for Arsenal. Having competed for the title for most of last season, they have heavily invested in their first team in the hope they can get over the line this time around. It feels like a potentially make-or-break season for manager Mikel Arteta.
One player who should be helped by the incomings is academy graduate Bukayo Saka. The winger has established himself as one of the finest wide men in the world in recent years, hitting a career-best 14 goals and 11 assists in the league last season.
The Gunners have numerous sources of goals in their side, which will only come to Saka’s benefit in the race for the Playmaker Award.
Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Jesus, Kai Havertz, Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun all know where the net is.
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