LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: Fulham's Clint Dempsey.celebrates after scoring his second goal and Fulham's fifth goal of the match during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Craven Cottage on March 4, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Which attacking players have been most important to their teams so far this year?
Who are the most important attacking players in the Premier League? Sure, you could look at goals scored or assists and come up with a list of elite strikers from elite teams, but that doesn't really tell you who matters most. Manchester City could get by just fine without Edin Dzeko or Sergio Aguero, but where would Fulham be without Clint Dempsey or Newcastle without Demba Ba?
We attempt to answer these questions below. By taking a player's goals and assists and then figuring out which percentage of their team's goals they were involved in (per ESPN Soccernet's numbers), we can get some idea of how important each player has been to their respective clubs this year. It's not perfect, of course, but it's not a terrible approximation, so let's roll with it.
Your top ten most important players in the season so far are below. Some of the names are guaranteed to surprise.
#10 - Royston Drenthe, Everton
Is this a name you were expecting? Drenthe, on loan at Goodison Park from Real Madrid, has acted as the most super of super subs for Everton, contributing hugely to the Toffees' campaign with eight assists and four goals in all competitions. That's good for 30.8% of all the goals his side has scored this season. Not bad for a bust, eh?
While teammate Emmanuel Adebayor is getting most of the plaudits, Defoe is quietly putting together one hell of a season. The England striker has somehow managed to contribute six assists and fifteen goals to the most impressive Spurs campaign in recent history without anyone really noticing, and Defoe deserves better. Having a hand in 30.9% of his team's goals this season from the bench is a remarkable accomplishment.
Klasnic makes the list primarily due to a spectacular start to the season when it seemed as though he was scoring every single week. His form has since cooled off, but since Bolton don't really score very often without him, his eight goals and five assists still see him comfortably at the top of his team's standings with a say in 31.0% of the Trotters' goals this year.
#7 Stephane Sessegnon, Sunderland
The former Paris Saint-Germain playmaker has had a spectacular season so far with the Black Cats, pulling the strings at the tip of Sunderland's midfield. Sessegnon is scoring goals for fun and notching his fair share of assists as well, with seven and six respectively for a hand in 31.0% of his team's goals so far this year.
#6 Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur
The only player on the list with double digit goals and assists, Adebayor has been pivotal to Tottenham's surge up the table. At one point, it looked as though Spurs might even threaten Manchester City's title run, mostly on the strength of Adebayor's eleven goal, eleven assist tally, which wouldn't have made his parent club particularly happy. Now that City are well clear of Tottenham, however, both clubs can appreciate Adebayor's contribution - he's been involved in 32.4% of Spurs' goals during the 2011/12 campaign.
#5 Jonathan Walters, Stoke City
Don't look now, but ninth place Stoke City have quite an all-round striker on their hands. Walters can do a little bit of everything, and he's been a major part of Stoke's success this year. With six assists and nine goals, the Ireland international has been involved in 33.3% of the Potters' goals this season.
#4 Demba Ba, Newcastle United
Rescued from relegated West Ham United over the summer, Demba Ba has been unstoppable at Champions League-chasing Newcastle. The Senegalese striker only has one assist, but his goals tally stands at sixteen, which is more than enough to get him on the list. All told, Demba Ba has contributed to 34.0% of the Magpies' goals this season, which isn't too bad a return for a man signed on a free transfer.
#3 Heidar Helgusson, Queens Park Rangers
Not a name you'd have anticipated seeing on this list, eh? Helgusson makes it primarily because QPR never score - he only has two assists and nine goals, but thanks to the fact that his team are not very good, that represents 36.7% of Rangers' goals this year.
#2 Clint Dempsey, Fulham
American international Clint Dempsey is having a banner year for the Cottagers, notching eighteen times so far with four assists. His contribution to the attack has allowed Fulham to sell off Bobby Zamora - you don't really need a big name striker when Dempsey is involved in 43.1% of the team's goals. At this point, it's only a matter of time before the Texan moves on to bigger and better things, surely?
#1 Robin van Persie, Arsenal
You knew who'd be top of this list, right? Robin van Persie has been something approximating an unstoppable force so far this season for Arsenal, scoring at will and more or less singlehandedly willing them to 4th place in the Premier League table. He has as many goals in all competitions as Wigan Athletic, and his eight assists aren't bad either. 33 goals out of Arsenal's 71 means that van Persie's been involved 46.5% of the time his team has scored. Goodness me.