The term ‘it sticks to his foot like glue’ is probably thrown around too much when it comes to generalisations about players who are very effective in possession of the ball.
The Premier League has seen some truly gifted midfielders take big headlines this season such as Michael Carrick of Manchester United and Santi Cazorla of Arsenal but surprisingly they are not the best when it comes to controlling and protecting the ball.
When it comes down to the nitty gritty of literally being an effective 'footballer' those players get outshone by some surprising names from teams that haven't always been grabbing the headlines on a weekly basis.
The best ball players this season have been the stars who it’s most difficult for the opposition to dispossess and you’ll probably be surprised at some of the names on the list because it’s not all about players who are similar to Xavi and Andres Iniesta of Barcelona.
Whether it’s defenders needing to guide the ball out from the back four or midfield maestros looking to spray the ball around the middle of the pitch, ball retention is the key to building and maintaining pressure on the opposition.
Here are the top five players in terms of ball control this season, based on whoscored.com’s top 20 attacking and defensive players of the season - with the top player being the one who was dispossessed the least times;
1) Chico (Swansea City) dispossessed 0.5 times per game on average
2) Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur) dispossessed 0.6 times per game on average
3) Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) dispossessed 0.7 times per game on average
4) Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) dispossessed 0.8 times per game on average
5) Leighton Baines (Everton) dispossessed 0.9 times per game on average
Are you surprised? Who did you expect to see on the list?
image: © wonker