Hatem Ben Arfa’s recent rise to prominence has left many questioning where he ranks in comparison to the Premier League’s other top playmakers.
The French international midfielder took time to settle in England after a leg-break against Manchester City last season, but has started to show the skills that persuaded the Toon to sign the player permanently after an initial loan switch from Marseille.
In a league of high-drama and late goals, Ben Arfa isn’t the only playmaker who can make a huge difference for his side when it matters. We select our top five as the season draws to a close – do you agree with our choices?
Hatem Ben Arfa – Newcastle United
Whilst Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse grab the headlines at St. James’ Park, it’s Ben Arfa who has really risen to the occasion in recent months with spectacular goals and wonderful assists.
The 25-year-old was always regarded as one of Franch football’s most talented youngsters when setting Ligue 1 alight with Lyon and OM, and is now showing those attributes across the channel.
David Silva – Manchester City
The Spanish sensation took the Premier League by storm on arrival from Valencia in 2010, and has improved on his return in the first season with a more influential role this term.
Nicknamed ‘Merlin’ at the Etihad Stadium because of his magical skills on the ball, the 26-year-old has produced 12 assists in the league this term and also notched six goals from attacking midfield.
Whilst he’s struggled to maintain his form in the back-end of the current campaign, Silva showed signs of returning to his early-season best in Wednesday night’s 4-0 win over West Brom.
Ryan Giggs – Manchester United
The Welsh wizard made his name on the wing, but is now pulling the strings from central midfield as the Red Devils close on a 20th domestic crown.
Giggs has scored in every season over the past two decades, but it’s his ability to create chances which sets him apart from other players, and whilst he doesn’t have the pace of years gone by, he’s still created eight goals for others this season.
Stephane Sessegnon – Sunderland
Harry Redknapp revealed today (Thursday) that he had the chance to sign Sessegnon, but opted against a move for the Benin international because he had Rafael Van der Vaart in his squad at White Hart Lane.
However, after arriving at Sunderland in January 2011, the former PSG star has quickly become a hit in the Premier League, and has particularly excelled this season under the guidance of Martin O’Neill.
Able to score a goal, it’s his eye for a killer pass which has been really impressive at the Stadium of Light, and Sessegnon has nine assists to his name so far this season.
Steven Gerrard – Liverpool
So often the man for the big occasion at Anfield, Gerrard has evolved from a touch-tackling midfielder to a serious attacking force over the years on Merseyside.
At his prime when working behind Fernando Torres, 31-year-old Gerrard still has plenty to offer despite a long period on the sidelines over the past two seasons – much to the frustration of manager Kenny Dalglish.
When fit, nobody supplies a decisive ball quite like the Liverpool captain, who still has plenty to offer at the very highest level.
A handful of players were close to making the cut, most notably Chelsea veteran Frank Lampard, who remains one of the top assist makers in the division.
Wingers Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata, Theo Walcott and Nani also missed out because of their wide positions, whilst Swansea’s on-loan Gylfi Sigurdsson has made a charge for the five with his performances in the last four months.
Clint Dempsey’s recent appearances in a more advanced forward role also worked against him, whilst Tim Cahill, Wes Hoolahan and Van der Vaart fell below the current top mark.