WhoScored.com's latest feature focuses on the world's top crossers of the ball, compiling the best 5 players based on crosses attempted per game for each of the top 5 divisions, kicking off in England with the Premier League.
The leading 5 are also analysed in terms of their threat from wide with regards to dribbling statistics, key passes, assists and chance conversion to give a detailed overview of just why the respective wide men are so effective. The Premier league's top candidates are far from surprising when it comes to the top 3, however despite a disappointing campaign, Aston Villa are represented twice on the list while Wolves also have a player in the top 5.
Manchester United winger Nani justified his league high WhoScored rating of 7.58 with some exceptional figures from out wide. The Portuguese international ranked at the top of the 5 contenders for over half of the categories analysed, with his dribbling figures an unsurprising highlight. However, the 24-year-old's crossing ability should not be underestimated and despite attempting over 200 deliveries in his 31 starts last season, Nani was accurate with 24% of these, the highest of the 5. His 138 total dribbles attempted was also a leading statistic, making his success rate when taking on defenders of 56% all the more impressive, eclipsing the other contenders by some distance. 2.45 key passes per game was also top of the leader board, as was his tally of 14 assists and 9 goals.
If there is one area of weakness in his attacking game it lays in the wide mans chance conversion rate. Despite netting the most goals of the 5, the Portugal international attempted almost double the amount of shots per game than any of the others on the list, making his shots per goal rate of 10.67 the weakest by some way.
Last season's PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale is an equally expected inclusion in the top 5. In terms of crosses per game, of which this feature was based upon, Bale ranks the highest having attempted 6.88 deliveries a match. His accuracy with these efforts of 21% is also commendable and the Welshman's threat and confidence through his impressive displays was highlighted by the fact that he also attempted more dribbles per game than any of the top 5 with 5.04. His success rate in his aforementioned dribbles attempted was 42% which is still very good, while his 7 goals from just 1.6 shots per game leaves him with an impressive chance conversion rate of a goal every 6 shots.
Bale's main area for improvement is undoubtedly in his assist tally. Having made the second least key passes per game of the 5 (1.77), he only managed one assist in the league all season, which comes as quite a shock. It should be noted that Tottenham's misfiring front line would not have helped the 21-year-old's cause, though the Wales international will no doubt be hoping for better figures next time around.
26-year-old winger Stewart Downing had a revolutionary season at Aston Villa last term, winning the club's Player of the Year award in the process. The former Middlesbrough man also revived his England career having fallen out of favour under Fabio Capello and has subsequently earned a £20m move to Liverpool in the process. Downing made more appearances than any of the others on the list (36), highlighting his importance to Gerard Houllier's side last season, and in turn weighed in with a league high of 239 crosses attempted. His 21% success rate with said deliveries matches up to Bale's decent figures and the winger will hope to bring the important feature of his game to Anfield next season which could prove invaluable for the likes of Andy Carroll. Downing's excellent all-round attacking stats saw him rank second in the leader board for dribble success (43%), key passes per game (2.31), assists (7), shots per game (1.6) and goals (7).
Having made 36 appearances, Downing's relatively meagre figure of 58 dribbles attempted over last season proves that he is not known for his trickery. However, having been successful with a higher percentage than Gareth Bale, some would suggest that the England man should have more faith in his ability to take defenders on. His only other minor blemish to the scorecard comes having converted just 1 goal every 8.29 shots.
The 21-year-old's appearance in the list will surprise many but is indicative of the breakthrough season the youngster had at Villa Park last term. The bright spark for much of the first half of Villa's campaign, Albrighton racked up 20 starts early on in the season and did not disappoint. His willingness to run at defences and no nonsense approach to getting deliveries into the box saw him attempt an average of 6.45 crosses per game, hitting his target with a creditable 20%. He also attempted plenty of dribbles and despite playing considerably less matches, tried 29 more than his teammate and winger on the opposite flank, Downing, with 87. His four league assists from a limited number of appearances should not be sniffed at but his chance conversion rate was his standout figure. Having scored 5 times from an average of just 1.1 shots per match, Albrighton hit the net with every 4.4 shots, way below half the rate of Nani almost half the rate of Downing, leading the way in this regard.
Confidence is a key facet to the young winger's game but he may need to pick the opportune moment to run at defenders more carefully. His 30% dribble success rate was the lowest of the top 5 by some way, though improvements in his game are more than expected at the Under-21 international's tender age. Albrighton also ranked bottom of the leader board when it came to key passes per game with 1.5, though his ability to create clear goalscoring opportunities is not in question having set up 4 efforts from those figures.
Wolves midfielder Matt Jarvis was somewhat of a surprise package last season and an integral player to Wolves’ survival in the Premier League. The 25-year-old even received an unexpected call-up to the England international squad, with his delivery and vision with his left boot proving a real asset. In 33 league starts, Jarvis attempted 220 crosses, the second highest figure of the 5, with 6.67 per game. He also provided a team high of 1.82 key passes per match, leading to 6 crucial assists in the process.
Of the players to make the cut, the Wolves man attempted the least shots per game with 0.8, resulting in another list low of 3 goals last season. His inferior shots per game rate does not make up for the fact that he still took 8.67 shots on average to find the net, ranking second bottom in this regard. He was also 4th best in terms of dribbles attempted (87) and dribbles success rate with 38%. His weakest stat proved to be his cross accuracy, having only found a fellow teammate with 17% of his attempted deliveries.