Picking a Premier League Best-Passing XI on Stats
Ever wonder what a team crammed full of the Premier League's elite passers would look like? Wonder no more.
This slideshow will attempt to blend together the most accurate passers in the English top flight with those who contribute the most to their side's passing game—based entirely on stats, not reputations.
In most areas, only players who have attempted at least 1,000 passes this season will be considered, in order to include the more consistent performers and sieve through coincidence.
That considered, here comes a lineup of pure passing masters, capable of keeping the ball for record periods of a game.
Goalkeeper and Defence
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Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina
Picking a goalkeeper wasn't too tricky, with Liverpool's Reina both the most frequent passer and the most accurate among Premier League stoppers.
He boasts the best passing accuracy (72 percent) of any top-flight goalkeeper, crucially averages the most passes per game, and one of the lowest long-ball percentages. While many goalkeepers blast the ball upfield, Reina is generally keen to patiently build from the back, which suits this team.
Right-Back: Bacary Sagna
This was the position that proved the most troublesome, with Sagna and Swansea's Angel Rangel both proving tough to separate.
In the end, Sagna prevailed, averaging more passes per appearance (60.7) than any other defender. His passing accuracy of 86 percent is also the second highest among full-backs, although he's the one outfield member of this squad to have passed slightly under 1,000 times, at 971.
Centre-Back: Chico Flores
Swansea's Chico Flores is a clear pick at centre-back. The Spaniard averages more passes per appearance (58.4) than any other centre-back this season and would have probably passed more than any other defender had he not been recently sidelined with injury.
His accuracy of 90 percent also ranks him alongside the very top passing defenders.
Centre-Back: Per Mertesacker
In terms of passing efficiency, perhaps surprisingly, no defender competes with Per Mertesacker's precision.
Of players with 1,000 passes this season, no defender can trump the Arsenal man's impressive 92 percent accuracy, with Chico the only defender to average more passes per game than the German (53.4).
Left-Back: Daniel Agger
Full-backs are not renowned for having the best passing games, and finding a worthy left-back proved quite troublesome.
The two with the best accuracy, Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra, simply haven't contributed enough to the passing game, averaging around 40 passes per game—good, but not elite in passing terms.
Therefore, a reshuffle was needed.
Martin Skrtel, Rio Ferdinand and Vincent Kompany are the only three defenders with marginally better passing accuracies than Daniel Agger's 89 percent, but none of them have passed more than the Liverpool man, and, crucially, he is the only one who can perform at left-back.
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Midfield: Michael Carrick
With 2,119 passes, nobody has passed more in the Premier League this season than the metronomic Michael Carrick.
His accuracy of 88 percent also keeps him close to the league's most accurate passers, and combined with his high volume of his work, guarantees him a slot in this team.
Midfield: Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta was the most obvious choice in midfield. The Arsenal man has attempted the second-highest amount of passes in the Premier League (2,115), and of the top 15 passers, he's the only player to average above 90 with his completion rate.
Indeed, his accuracy of 92 percent is the best among players with over 1,000 passes this season, and only Carrick averages more passes per appearance.
Midfield: Ki Sung-Yueng
One place behind Mikel Arteta's 92 percent accuracy comes Swansea's perhaps underrated Ki Sung-Yueng, who's developed Leon Britton's role from last season deep in the heart of Swansea's midfield.
The South Korean international has completed 91 percent of his passes, with only a handful of midfielders passing more often than him.
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Right Attack: Santiago Cazorla
In terms of attackers, Arsenal's Cazorla is an obvious first choice here. Only four players have passed more (1,907) or average more passes per appearance (65.8) than the Spaniard this season, none of whom could fill a wide attacking berth as competently.
His accuracy of 88 percent is only beaten by Shaun Maloney among attacking players, but the Wigan man contributes an average of 23 fewer passes per game. Although he's more comfortable centrally or drifting in from the left, he will have to adopt a right-sided role in this lineup.
Left Attack: David Silva
On the opposite flank, Manchester City's Silva narrowly keeps out Chelsea's Juan Mata, cutting in from the left.
With 1,501 passes, Silva is second to Cazorla in attacking accumulative terms and ninth overall in the Premier League. No other attacking player can better his overall accuracy of 85 percent, other than Cazorla, making him a natural fit.
Striker: Dimitar Berbatov
Finally, who better to lead the line than one of the keenest exponents of a simple passing game in England; Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov.
Strikers are renowned for recording low pass-completion rates, but few can match the Bulgarian's 79 percent accuracy, and no other forward averages as many passes per game as Berbatov's 46.8.
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(4-3-3): Pepe Reina; Bacary Sagna, Chico Flores, Per Mertesacker, Daniel Agger; Michael Carrick, Mikel Arteta, Ki Sung-Yueng; Santiago Cazorla, Dimitar Berbatov, David Silva.
So, here's a Premier League best-passing XI based on stats, in full.
The team predictably incorporates a heavy Spanish influence, with Arsenal the side represented the most.
Passing is clearly an essential trade in football, yet it only gets you so far before you start relying on your side's effectiveness at both ends of the field.
While this XI perhaps may not be the most ruthless, or possess many players likely to get stuck in if the going gets tough, there's certainly enough pedigree included to give most teams a stern examination.