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David de Gea and the five other senior Premier League stars whose contracts are expiring

2MD1YMG Manchester United's goalkeeper David de Gea reacts during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates stadium in London, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

It is hard to recall another season where come the end of it multiple teams face losing senior members of their squads on free transfers as their contracts expire.

Extension talks will remain ongoing, that seems to be the message from Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea who, along with the other names listed below, has collectively amassed a grand total of 1,511 appearances in the Premier League.

Using PFF grades and data, we will look at their performance this season in what could be their last at their current clubs.

David de Gea, goalkeeper, Manchester United

PFF shot-stopping grade: 78.0 (position rank: 5th/23)

The long-serving Manchester United goalkeeper recently surpassed Peter Schmeichel’s club record for the most number of clean sheets, but risks not being able to extend his tally of 185 unless talks progress over a contract extension.

Signed from Atletico Madrid in 2011, de Gea has kept 13 clean sheets in the Premier League this season – five more than his total in 2021/22. This has been achieved with nine matches still to play in United’s season and after the arrival of Erik ten Hag as head coach.

Yet to reach an accord in negotiations, de Gea’s increase in clean sheets has not correlated with a better shot-stopping grade than last season. PFF’s shot-stopping grade process centres on every shot attempt, with 0.5 increments used to grade both the shooter and the goalkeeper on a spectrum of -2.0 to +2.0.

Player name Team Age
PFF shot-stopping grade 22/23
Aaron Ramsdale Arsenal 24 90.2
Emiliano Martinez Aston Villa 30 88.5
Bernd Leno Fulham 31 86.2
David Raya Brentford 27 79.6
David de Gea Manchester United 32 78.0
Alisson Liverpool 30 75.0
Kepa Chelsea 28 73.3
Nick Pope Newcastle United 30 72.4

At 78.0 for the current campaign, the Spain international is averaging 2.3 shots on target saved per-90 as United challenge for Champions League qualification.

And for last season, de Gea was a match for a higher frequency of shots on target saved at 3.1 with an overall shot-stopping grade of 88.0. Only Liverpool’s Alisson finished with a better grade, 90.2, but faced 84 fewer shots on target.

Youri Tielemans, midfielder, Leicester City

PFF shooting grade: 85.6 (position rank: 4th/105)

Currently sidelined with an ankle ligament injury, Youri Tielemans’ may be denied the opportunity to get a worthy send-off at Leicester City with whom he won the FA Cup in 2021.

Memories of that day at Wembley have given way to a relegation fight for the Foxes this season as they aim to preserve their Premier League status. To do so without the multi-skilled Tielemans will be a factor new interim manager Dean Smith will have to try to deal with just like his predecessor Brendan Rodgers.

Tielemans suffered inflammation to his ankle earlier this month which Rodgers confirmed had set the Belgian back slightly in his recovery. Should he return in time for Leicester’s run-in, Tielemans will bolster the team’s threat with quality highlighted by a passing grade of 81.6 and a shooting grade of 85.6.

Both of these grades mark an improvement in quality compared to 2021/22, when he had graded impressively at 80.2 for passing and 74.3 for shooting.

This, together with 58 caps behind him at the age of 25, makes Tielemans a high-quality prospect for a free price this summer.

Wilfried Zaha, winger, Crystal Palace

PFF ball carrying grade: 80.7 (position rank: 4th/106)

Like Tielemans, Wilfried Zaha has also sustained an injury just as he enters the final months of his contract at Crystal Palace.

Another season would afford the Ivorian international a chance to reach the milestone of 500 appearances for the club, having played across two spells for Palace.

Journalist Fabrizio Romano has reported this week that the club have notified Zaha of their intention to table another contract offer, while he has been the subject of interest from three Saudi clubs including Cristiano Ronaldo’s employers Al-Nassr.

On the pitch, Zaha has been intent on carrying the ball at every opportunity as the Premier League’s leader in dribble attempts (115). Dribbling, ball carry events and tackle resistance are all factors which comprise PFF’s ball carrying grade that has Zaha sitting at 80.7, the fourth-best grade among wingers and 23rd overall.

Player name Team Dribble attempts
PFF ball carry grade
James Maddison Leicester City 49 85.8
Jack Grealish Manchester City 72 84.4
Kaoru Mitoma Brighton & Hove Albion 80 82.6
Wilfried Zaha Crystal Palace 115 80.7
Michael Olise Crystal Palace 109 80.3
Luis Sinisterra Leeds United 26 79.9
Willian Fulham 42 78.0
Adama Traoré Wolverhampton Wanderers 75 77.7

Zaha has been absent for Roy Hodgson’s first two games in charge, including the 5-1 win against Leeds United last weekend which earned spots in PFF’s Premier League Team of the Week for Eberechi Eze, Jordan Ayew and Michael Olise.

As Palace’s top goalscorer with six goals, Zaha (73.2) holds the third-best shooting grade among the rest of the squad behind Jordan Ayew (78.9) and Odsonne Edouard (78.1).

Ilkay Gündogan, midfielder, Manchester City

PFF Passing grade: 89.1 (position rank: 6th/132)

In the wake of Manchester City’s Championship League first leg victory over FC Bayern, Spanish media has claimed Barcelona is the preferred destination for Ilkay Gündogan.

The German appears to be headed for the exit at the Etihad one year on from scoring two goals as a substitute to fire City to a fourth Premier League title in five years with a comeback victory over Aston Villa on the final day of the season.

He has been instrumental again this season as part of Pep Guardiola’s 3-2-4-1 system with a passing grade of 89.1, creating the third-most goalscoring chances among City players (38). This trails Kevin De Bruyne on 93 and Jack Grealish with 42.

Gündogan has been accurate in executing passes which aim to break the defensive line, evident in his 0.7 defensive-line breaking passes completed per-90, behind De Bruyne (1.0) and Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes (0.9) based on midfielders who have played a minimum of 1,200 minutes.

Roberto Firmino, striker, Liverpool

PFF shooting grade: 88.6 (position rank: 5th/70)

Roberto Firmino made his decision to leave Liverpool in March, according to reports in Germany, having spent eight years at Anfield.

The Brazilian is nearing the conclusion a long-term contract he signed back in 2018 and has seen the arrivals of Darwin Núñez and Cody Gakpo limit his playing this season, as well as a calf injury sustained in December.

But when called upon Firmino has produced the goods, including a late equaliser against Arsenal last weekend in a match many have called the ‘game of the season’, as Liverpool aim to rally and secure European Cup qualification for next season. On 32 shot attempts, Firmino has generated a shooting grade of 88.6 which is a vast improvement on his 2021/22 grade of 69.0.

Player name Team Minutes played
Possessions in box per-90
Gabriel Jesus Arsenal 1,495 8.1
Darwin Núñez Liverpool 1,591 7.9
Eddie Nketiah Arsenal 1,150 6.4
Erling Haaland Manchester City 2,348 6.1
Aleksander Mitrović Fulham 1,959 5.9
Leandro Trossard Arsenal 2,008 5.5
Kai Havertz Chelsea 2,409 5.1
Roberto Firmino Liverpool 1,230 5.1

Firmino’s possession metrics have stayed similar to their levels of last season, currently averaging 5.0 possessions in the opposition box per-90 compared to 5.2 a year ago. He has also seen his rate of received defensive-line breaking passes jump slightly from 0.5 to 0.7.

Remembered for the partnership he formed with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane between 2019 and 2020, years in which Liverpool secured Premier League and Champions League trophies, Firmino has shown high quality ahead of turning 32 in October.

N’Golo Kanté, midfielder, Chelsea

PFF defending dribble grade: 80.6 (1st/117, 2021/22)

A Premier League Player of the Season and UEFA Champions League Midfielder of the Season winner in seasons past, N’Golo Kanté has recently returned from injury to be available for selection for Chelsea.

In the last 12 months, Chelsea have lost Toni Rudiger and Andreas Christensen to free transfers and spent £138m on replacements Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly, Benoît Badiashile. With Kanté’s deal set to expire and having sold midfield partner Jorginho to Arsenal in January, are the signs there that Chelsea will take a new direction in midfield with Enzo Fernández and Mateo Kovačić?

Kanté has started only three games in the Premier League for Chelsea this season due to a severe hamstring injury, so we will not dig into his data for this season. But take a look through last season and he stands out for defending dribbles with a position-leading grade of 80.6.

It is important to provide context of an overall challenge grade 73.9, which ranks 11th among midfielders, but in splitting each facet of challenge events individually, Kanté was the third-best midfielder in Europe when defending dribbles. Only RC Strasbourg Alsace’s Jean-Ricner Bellegarde (81.4) and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Florian Neuhaus (81.0) graded higher.

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