Everyone on the football pitch is vital to a team’s success, and an attacking midfielder is no different. They are generally positioned between the central midfield and the team’s forwards and they are primarily offensive players.
Occasionally you will hear an attacking midfielder referred to as a trequartisti or fantasisti, these are players who are usually more mobile and creative, and are known for their vision, ability to shoot from a distance, and skill at passing. However, not all attacking midfielders are trequartisti; some essentially serve as auxiliary attackers whose job it is to link-up play, hold up the ball, or provide the final pass. In this instance, they are referred to as secondary strikers.
You can find attacking midfielders on the left, right and central, but the main idea is that they are positioned behind the forwards. A central attacking midfielder may also be called a playmaker. Either way, there are a number of qualities the player needs such as good passing skills, the ability to make long shots and good dribbling skills.
The Premier League has many brilliant attacking midfielders who had excellent seasons. Here we will look at ten of the best of them.
Manchester City have dominated the Premier League for two years so it is not particularly surprising that they have probably the best attacking midfielder in the league. Speaking not long ago Sterling said, “Last season I said to myself ‘I want to score 15 in the league’ then went on to score 18. This season I’ve gone back and said ‘I need to do better than last season’.” He didn’t quite manage to do better than last season, but he got extremely close scoring 17 goals and making 10 assists, in each case just one less than last season.
This achievement was one of the factors that make him the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. Were it not for Virgil van Dijk’s excellent first full season with Liverpool, then it is most likely that Sterling would also have received the PFA award as well. However, aged 24, he was awarded the Young Player of the Year award. Throughout all of this, he has conducted himself with extreme dignity in the face of racism, and looks set to continue on this upwards trajectory.
With the Europa League final still to come, no player has been as vital to their team this season as Eden Hazard has been to Chelsea. He managed 16 goals and 15 assists, meaning that he was directly involved in 41.2% of Chelsea’s total goal count.
If Chelsea had a centre forward who was equal to Hazard, then it is likely that he would have been involved in even more of the goals. Were Hazard able to be on the end of his own passes then the team’s season may have been vastly better. They will certainly feel his absence when he leaves.
The star Senegal player has had a huge impact on Liverpool’s season and has certainly picked up some of Roberto Firmino’s slack. He and Mohamed Salah both scored 22 goals this season, and Mane picked up 11 of his in 11 matches between January and March to help Liverpool stay on top of things in both the Champions League and the Premier League. Furthermore, if you remove penalties from the count, then Mane would have been the Premier League’s top scorer this season. Of course, Liverpool’s season is not yet over and he could still score more in the Champions League final.
It is widely agreed that last season Mohamed Salah was the best attacking midfielder in the league. This season he has struggled a bit, but he was still an important part of Jurgen Klopp’s team. He managed 22 goals this season, the same number as his teammate Sadio Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. This means that the golden boot award was a three-way tie, but it is still the second consecutive year that Salah has won it. Considering that at the start of the season many were speculating about Salah not looking as good as last season, this is a hugely impressive feat.
Things took a bit of a downwards turn for Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min towards the end of the season with his suspension enforced absence from the first leg of the Champions League semi-final and a first half red card at Bournemouth, which ended his Premier League season early. However, before those two incidents, he was absolutely vital to Spurs’ success.
While he is South Korea’s star player, his Premier League season only really got going after Mauricio Pochettino held him back from international duty last November. Before that Son admitted that he “didn’t feel great” but after taking the opportunity to rest, Son went on to score the first 11 of his 12 Premier League goals of the season in just 15 appearances. Three of those goals came in three games in which Harry Kane was absent, making them particularly important for the team.
While he only went on to score one more Premier League goal, he did score three more in the Champions League quarterfinal against Manchester City, ensuring that Spurs went through to the semi-finals. While he didn’t score in the match against Ajax, he could still prove himself to be vital in the upcoming final.
Ryan Fraser received a bit of a pep talk from Eddie Howe last summer and it seems to have inspired him to have the best season of his career. Fraser said, “He [Howe] said my mind set had to change because if I didn’t, he would pick someone else over me”.
Since then, one of the Premier League’s shortest players has gone on to become one of the best creators of chances in the league. The Bournemouth player has created 28 big chances, the next best was Eden Hazard who created 18. He was also very close to Hazard in terms of assists, creating 14 of them to Hazard’s 15. As a result, it is no surprise that Fraser has attracted a great deal of attention from the top clubs and has refused to sign a new contract with Bournemouth.
James Maddison is another player who has been extremely impressive at creating chances in the league this season. Only two players across Europe’s top five leagues have created more opportunities for teammates this season, Lyon’s Memphis Depay and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez. No one in the Premier League has equalled his efforts.
It is an incredible achievement for a young player who has just had his first season in the Premier League. If he manages to maintain it next season then there is bound to be plenty of interest from the league’s top teams.
There are plenty of players at the Wolverhampton Wanderers who had outstanding seasons. The team had a fantastic season, helped along a great deal by the efforts of Diogo Jota. Jota succeeds in carrying Wolves up the pitch and he managed an impressive nine goals and five assists.
Manager Nuno can certainly take some credit for Jota’s improvement. At the start of the season, he was struggling to adapt to the Premier League on the left of a front three, but after being moved to play off Raul Jimenez, he quickly improved.
It was not a particularly good or bad season for Everton, but Gylfi Sigurdsson certainly took his playing up a notch in his second year for the team, appearing in all games and accumulating a huge number of minutes for the team. Along the way he scored 13 goals, making the Icelandic player Marco Silva’s joint-top scorer, and his 6 assists is more than any of his teammates.
If Everton had a top centre forward, something they have long been lacking, then Sigurdsson’s efforts would probably have helped them get closer to the big six. Very few players in the Premier League created more chances.
Speaking after signing a new deal less than a season after joining Bournemouth from Sheffield United, David Brooks said, “When I arrived at the club, not many people would have anticipated the start I have made, myself included.” The contract was a reward for a huge amount of hard work from Brooks that saw him go from being rejected by Manchester City to a Premier League and international regular.
He managed seven goals and five assists last season, a real sign of the quality that the young player has brought to Bournemouth. Ryan Giggs has said that he thinks Brooks would have earned a place in the England squad were he not Welsh, and he was also nominated for the PFS Young Player of the Year award together with Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice. To be included in such a list is a true sign of his quality, and Bournemouth would probably make a huge profit on the £10 million they paid for him last summer.