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When tasked with identifying the most creative players in the Premier League, it’s unlikely many people would turn to West Ham United.
Given we’re only eight matches into the new campaign, it’s perhaps too premature to make definitive statements, but the Hammers have started well.
Currently eighth, Manuel Pellegrini’s side are just four points behind second-placed Manchester City and they’ve lost fewer matches than beaten Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur.
They may not be the most prolific of sides, having scored 11 so far this term, but they’re only two goals shy of Arsenal. In isolation, that isn’t an achievement but as far as the media are concerned, the Gunners have one of the best forward lines in England.
Record signing Sébastien Haller has adapted to life in England relatively quickly and has four goals to his name. But West Ham’s average of 1.3 goals per 90 is nothing remarkable. Over the entirety of the season that equates to 52 goals – exactly the same total as West Ham managed last term.
Nothing jumps out to reveal West Ham are a creative force. Yet the Hammers possess two of the most creative players in the Premier League this term. And to judge this, we’ve looked at expected goals assisted.
An assist ultimately relies on a team-mate's finishing chances and doesn’t give a true representation of how creative a player is. Expected goals assisted, however, weighs up the quality of chances created, not the outcome.
There’s no surprise to see Kevin De Bruyne topping the list with a per 90 average of 0.64, and while Riyad Mahrez isn’t the first name to pop into your head, he would eventually be guessed as he plays for a rampant Manchester City side.
One might then expect to see Raheem Sterling, James Maddison or a Trent Alexander-Arnold on the list, a trio known for creating chances in attack-minded teams. But joint-third place in the expected goals assisted table is held jointly by Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko.
The West Ham duo have averaged an impressive 0.44 expected goals per 90 so far this season. Granted, the sample size isn’t the largest but it does stand the Hammers in good stead. If these two attackers can keep creating chances at such a rate, Pellegrini’s side will a constant threat throughout the campaign.
With the Premier League top-six primed to be gatecrashed this season, Anderson and Yarmolenko could help fire West Ham into the conversation by providing a reliable supply of opportunities for Haller and the rest of the forward line at the London Stadium.