Like Arsenal last season, teams are often chastised for being overly reliant on a single player, with critics arguing that without that player they would struggle and potentially even fail. Without Robin van Persie this term, Arsenal are undoubtedly worse off and they paid for any dependence on the Dutchman when he left in the summer for Manchester United.
With van Persie's new teammates sharing out the goalscoring - so much so that a Premier League-high of 16 of United's squad have scored this season - there is less onus on him to perform, and it is more difficult to identify the players on whom a great deal of the burden lies this season. Upon further research, though, there are players that stand out in terms of the percentage of their team's goals that they have either scored or set up this season.
At the top of the pile is Swedish powerhouse Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who, at Paris Saint Germain has become even more integral to his team than he was at Milan last season. The centre forward was directly involved in 45.9% of Milan's Serie A goals last season, only to go yet further in France, contributing to an unbelievable 61.1% of PSG's goals in the league; a stat even more impressive when considering that the Swede has missed 3 games already this season. In those 3 matches PSG stumbled to a goalless draw at Ajaccio, a 1-1 stalemate at Montpellier and a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Rennes - one of only 2 home defeats this season, along with the game in which Ibra was sent off.
With 18 goals he is by far the leading scorer in the division, while his 4 assists rank him behind just 12 players in Ligue 1, only 3 of whom have made the majority of their appearances this season up front. Add to that 2 goals and 5 assists out of PSG's 14 in the Champions League group stages and it is plain to see exactly how key he is to the Parisians, having either scored or assisted 22 of their 36 goals so far. Ibrahimovic is a complete striker, able to play as the most advanced player in a team or deeper as a traditional number 10, traits that are exhibited by his consistently creative and clinical attack play.
Following close behind the PSG striker in terms of importance to his club is Aston Villa's Christian Benteke. Looking at his goalscoring record alone, a lot is left to be desired, with only 6 goals netted in 19 Premier League appearances this season. However, given that Villa as a whole have only scored 17 league goals and Benteke has picked up 4 assists as well, the Belgian's record is actually rather impressive.
Benteke has been charged with replacing Darren Bent at Villa Park as the lone striker and has had a fair job on his hands with Paul Lambert's youthful team underperforming on far too many occasions this season. Benteke's strength is a virtue that he uses to his advantage time and again, and his hold up play has been extremely effective. It wouldn't be at all unfair to say Benteke may be disappointed with his assist tally this season though, having won more aerial duels (152) than any other player in the Premier League, and with only Arsenal's playmaker Santi Cazorla having made more 'layoffs' than Benteke (117) [a layoff entails controlling the ball and passing it into the path of an onrushing teammate]; a stat which clearly portrays Benteke's attributes with his back to goal. His direct involvement in 58.8% of his side's goals is the second highest in Europe's top 5 leagues.
Linked with a move to Valencia as well as Swansea and Arsenal in this month's transfer window, Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas has impressed across the continent this season. He has scored (8) or assisted (3) 57.9% of his side's goals this season, and provides much of the reason that the newly promoted side find themselves up in 15th position, albeit only one point above the relegation zone.
With 68 shots and 44 key passes and no other Celta player having had more than 24 shots or made more than 32 key passes, Aspas is quite clearly the figurehead of his side's attacking play. He is generally expected to show loyalty to the club he has been at for 18 years and stay for the time being, but Celta will do well to hold on to him for much longer than that, though there is no doubt they will be keen to do so.
It is only thanks to Barcelona's extraordinary 64 goals this season that Lionel Messi's 36 goals and assists (56.3% or Barca's total) ranks lower than 5 players in Europe's top 5 leagues, with the other two players rounding off the top 5 for contribution to goals Vedad Ibisevic (57.1%) and Aritz Aduriz (56.5%).
With 10 goals and 2 assists in 15 Bundesliga appearances, Ibisevic is the main man at Stuttgart, and his contribution alone have, incredibly, earned his side 13 of their 25 points, without which they would be languishing in the relegation playoff zone. Of course, without Ibisevic's contribution, someone would replace him in the team, but that statistic merely serves to strengthen his importance to the club.
Aduriz meanwhile, has had the tough task of replacing Fernando Llorente up front at Atheltic Bilbao, and he has done so with aplomb, bagging 11 goals and setting up two more to hold a position as the joint top-scoring Spaniard in La Liga. He plays to his strengths, with more headed attempts on goal (22) than any other player as well as the joint most headed goals (4). For a striker that has been in Spanish first tier football for a number of years now without being spectacular, to all of a sudden become top dog at Bilbao in spite of the pressure of having to replace Llorente, Aduriz has done exceptionally well this term.