The European Carry Kings of 2022-23
Every football fan loves a player that takes the ball and decides to just run with it. They’re arguably the most exciting type of player to watch – the star that feels like they can beat any opponent with their pace, either with a direct running style or on a mazy dribble.
We all have an idea of who those players are in our heads, but which of those across Europe’s top five leagues have actually made the most impact from these situations in 2022-23 so far, based on the data?
Using Opta’s ball carry metric – which looks at every occasion a player travels at least five metres with the ball – we’re able to give you the information on that.
It’ll probably come as little surprise to see Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior as the leading player across Europe’s major leagues this season for shot involvements following a carry.
The Brazilian forward has been involved in 49 shots following a ball carry in LaLiga – 30 of those seeing him attempt a shot himself and 19 leading to a chance created for a team-mate.
Six of those shot involvements have led to a Real Madrid goal in 2022-23, which is among the highest in Europe this season, but not the best tally. That honour is shared between the trio of Moussa Diaby, Jamal Musiala and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – all have seven goal involvements following a ball carry.
Napoli’s Kvaratskhelia has been one of the stories of the season, following his move to the Serie A leaders in the summer from Dinamo Batumi. The Georgian’s languid dribbling style has won the adoration of not only fans in Naples, but across the world. He’s assisted five Serie A goals following a carry in 2022-23 so far, which is more than any other player in the competition.
Bundesliga pair Diaby and Musiala have been in excellent form across the season so far. Leverkusen’s 23-year-old forward has scored five of his seven league goals in 2022-23 following a ball carry, which is only surpassed by Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder (six) in the top five European leagues. Bayern Munich’s German international Musiala may only be 19 years old, but he’s already proving a handful for Bundesliga defences with his three goals and four assists following a carry.
Milan’s Rafael Leão has attempted the most shots taken following a carry across the top five European leagues this season (32), with his overall involvement in team shots in these situations (46) second to only Vinícius Júnior’s 49.
In third place for total shot involvements following a ball carry in 2022-23 is a name that is probably less familiar to football fans than the others mentioned so far – Sassuolo’s Armand Laurienté. The Frenchman has been involved in 42 shots overall following a carry in 2022-23 and 22 of those have been as a chance created for a team-mate – the highest tally across the top five European leagues this season.
The top Premier League player for his threat from ball carries in 2022-23 so far has been English star Bukayo Saka at Arsenal – the wide forward has provided 18 shots and 20 chances for a tally of 28 shot involvements from carries, which is just ahead of Nantes’ Ludovic Blas and Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé (both 36), while in the Premier League it leads Marcus Rashford’s 35 shot involvements.
Rashford’s 35 shot involvements are one more than PSG’s world-class pairing of Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi (34) in Ligue 1 this season.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the leading player for proportion of carries leading to a shot involvement across the top five European leagues this season is none other than Liverpool’s king of chaos, Darwin Núñez. Of his 109 ball carries, 33 have ended in a shot involvement (26 shots, seven chances created), which means 30.3% of his ball carries contribute towards a Liverpool shot.
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