Manchester United’s Ander Herrera vs Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante – A Statistical Comparison

There are few doubts as to who has been the best midfielder in the Premier League in the past two years. N’Golo Kante, after arriving at Leicester City from Ligue1 side SM Caen, became an instant hit in England and played a major role in the Foxes’ title win last year.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the best of the clubs line up for a move for the Frenchman and he eventually ended up joining Chelsea, who had finished in the 10th place last season, in the summer of 2016. The move was criticized in some circles, considering that the Blues weren’t playing in Europe, but having made the switch, Kante has turned heads once again with his amazing performances and looks all set for his second Premier League winners’ medal in his second season in England.

His energy, his ability to cover every blade of grass for the entire 90 minutes of the game and his high intensity throughout have made him stand out.

But another midfielder who has been doing the exact same things as Kante, but hasn’t been in the limelight is Manchester United’s Ander Herrera. After two years of playing a bit-part role at the Old Trafford, since joining the club back in the summer of 2014 from Athletic Bilbao, the Spaniard has really thrived this season under Jose Mourinho and has become the beating heart of the Red Devils’ midfield. His performances have slipped under the radar slightly due to United’s struggles at the top but the 27-year old has been a class apart in the middle of the park.

The bundles of energy that he has brought to the United midfield, the incessant pressing, the fearless tackling, the tenacity that he has added to the United midfield, has made him a firm fan favourite. Due to his enforcing duties in the middle of the park, Herrera has allowed Paul Pogba to prosper at United, while at the same time easing Michael Carrick’s workload.

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Both Kante and Herrera have become pivotal to their clubs and have been absolutely brilliant in the midfield. Performing their defensive duties with great diligence, both of them have even contributed immensely going forward and as a result, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that these two have been the best midfielders in the league this term. But how do they stand against each other? Who comes out on top? Let’s analyze:

Ander Herrera N’Golo Kante
League Appearances 22 (2 Subbed on) 24 (0 Subbed on)
Goals 0 1
Assists 3 0
Chances Created 24 16
Pass Success-Rate 88% (1415 Passes Completed) 88% (1282 Passes Completed)
Take-Ons 77%(24 Successful in 31 Attempts) 77% (27 Successful in 37 Attempts)

On taking a look at the attacking parameters of the two midfielders, Herrera – in his 22 league appearances for United this season – has failed to open his goalscoring account but has setup three strikes for his teammates. On the other hand, Kante, who has played two more games than the Spaniard, has scored one goal, coincidentally against the Red Devils, but has made no assists so far.

Looking at the creative aspect of their game, Herrera has the upper hand, having created more clear-cut opportunities for his team (24) than the Frenchman (16) for Chelsea. Coming to their distribution, it is quite clear from the numbers that both have been equally good in their passing, having the same accuracy of passes (88%), but it must be noted that Herrera has attempted more passes (1603) than Kante (1459), despite featuring for lesser minutes. Both Kante and Herrera are extremely comfortable and very confident with the ball at their feet and are inseparable when it comes to their take-on success rate (Both 77%).

While they are not in the team for their attacking prowess, it is clear that both have influenced their teams going forward, but it is Herrera who just slightly edges Kante in terms of the effectiveness in the attacking half of the pitch.

Ander Herrera N’Golo Kante
Tackles 52 successful (136 attempted) 54 successful (127 attempted)
Aerial Duels 22 successful (37 attempted) 17 attempted (46 attempted)
Interceptions 70 56
Clearances 48 32
Avg. Defensive Actions Per 90 minutes 6 4
Total Defensive Errors 1 1
Yellow/Red 5/1 6/0

Given the box-to-box role both play, their defensive game needs to be at the topmost level all the time. And both Herrera and Kante have excelled and shown great defensive nous so far. Unafraid in tackling, great awareness and reading of the game, they have solidified their teams and have shielded their backline admirably.

Now taking a look at their defensive parameters, Herrera, despite featuring lesser than Kante has attempted more tackles than him, but the Frenchman has enjoyed a better success-rate (43%) compared to the Spanish international (38%). Herrera has averaged 6 defensive actions per 90 minutes this term, compared to Kante’s 4 and both have made a single defensive error that has led to an attempt on goal from their opponent.

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While Kante has been heralded heavily by the media and pundits for his ability to break-up play in the middle of the park, it should be noted that Herrera trumps the Frenchman when it comes to thwarting the opponents having made 70 interceptions and 48 clearances compared to his Chelsea counterpart’s 56 interceptions and 32 clearances. Herrera has committed slightly more fouls (37) than Kante (35), but also has been on the receiving end more times (34) in comparison with the Frenchman (11).

Another interesting stat that gives an insight into Herrera’s excellent form is that the 27-year old has won the most number of interceptions and tackles in the opponent’s half than any other player in the league. According to stats experts Squawka.com, the Manchester United man has won the ball on 30 occasions in the opposition half compared to N’Golo Kante’s 26 times, who is behind Bournemouth’s Harry Arter (28 wins).

Despite all the fanfare and the praise surrounding Kante and his performances, Herrera has clearly outdone the Chelsea midfielder when you compare their defensive stats. The Spaniard has been more game-aware, has won possession on more occasions and despite his petite physique has won more headers and made more tackles and interceptions. The 27-year old former Athletic man has been a major part of United’s defensive strength this season which sees them being the third best team defensively in the league, having conceded just three more goals than Chelsea’s 18.

It is clear from the numbers that, Herrera has outdone Kante on both sides of the pitch, be it in attack or in defence and has been the better midfielder. But, the fact that Chelsea sits at the top of the table and the impact that Kante has had on the squad, coming in the summer window, has been the reason behind him capturing all the limelight.

United’s profligacy in front of goal has been the main reason for their current plight in the league table, where they occupy the 6th place, due to which Herrera’s brilliance and consistency in the middle of the park has gone unnoticed. But on close examination, it can be seen that the Spanish international has edged out the last year’s Premier League winner.

Written by Raghavendra Goudar

Mechanical Engineer, avid reader and a football fanatic.

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