Though they often ensure excitement, even the very best tricksters can be among the most frustrating players for the fans to watch. Here we'll take a look at the players across Europe's top 5 leagues most prone to conceding possession through all manner of means.
We take a look at each players’ total losses of possession, excluding inaccurate passes, crosses and shots, to find the 10 most culpable individuals. To do so we've combined the following statistics;
Dispossessed (tackled in general play) + unsuccessful dribble (tackled while attempting a dribble, including overrunning the ball) + unsuccessful touch (tackled following poor control).
For argument's sake we'll call the total 'losses of possession' and to be considered each player must have appeared in at least half of their side's matches this season, with the rankings based on per game statistics.
In this piece we'll focus on the top 5, and it's quite an illustrious leaderboard.
5. Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle) - 8.54 losses of possession per game
Newcastle fans were buoyed by the news that Hatem Ben Arfa had returned to training this week and should be back in contention for the next round of Premier League fixtures. The France international was having an impressive season prior to his latest injury lay-off and still leads the league for successful dribbles per game (4.9). Although he is unsuccessful with 3.5 dribbles per game on average, the good outweighs the bad in this sense, with a 58% success rate.
An area the winger does need to improve is his ability to hold onto the ball in general play. The 25 year old is tackled (excluding unsuccessful dribble attempts) more often than any of the other analysed players here, and only fewer than Adam Szalai in the top 10, with 3.2 per game. However, Pardew will still be desperate to have the midfielder back available, as he is always likely to come up with a moment of magic that no other team near the bottom of the Premier League can conjure.
4. Jonathan Pitroipa (Rennes) - 8.68 losses of possession per game
The Burkina Faso winger was recently named player of the tournament at the recent African Cup of Nations having helped his nation en route to a shock appearance in the final. The 26 year old wowed the crowds with his skill on the ball and though dribbling is clearly a strong suit, he does lose the ball a lot, with his touch often letting him down.
This season, for French outfit Rennes, Pitroipa has given away possession due to an unsuccessful touch 4 times per game. That average is way more than anyone else in our top 10 and highlights a significant weakness in the midfielder's game. Rennes fans will certainly hope that he can carry his form from the AFCON back into Ligue 1, with his nation's unexpected success in the tournament likely to be a real boost.
3. Serigo Garcia (Espanyol) - 8.77 losses of possession per game
Espanyol forward Sergio Garcia has had a stop-start season in La Liga thus far and, starting just 12 league games, has netted only 3 times. The 29 year old has the ability to swing matches in his side's favour but hasn't shown the form he displayed earlier in the month against Levante enough in the current campaign. Having attempted a lot of dribbles per game this season (4.7), he often runs into trouble.
Only 1.7 of said dribbles per game have actually been successful for the Spaniard, giving him a terrible success rate of just 36%, and his touch is also suspect at times. Behind the aforementioned Pitroipa, Garcia ranks second in our leaderboard for losses of possession due to bad control, with 2.9 per game. If Espanyol are going to continue their recent run of form - with 4 wins from their last 5 games - they need their starting striker to begin to hold onto the ball better.
2. Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) - 9.06 losses of possession per game
Bayern's French maestro has had a superb season in the Bundesliga thus far, but while he terrorises defences at will some times, Ribery is certainly not impossible to dispossess, even in full flight. His average of 5.3 successful dribbles per game is the most in Europe, pipping Ben Arfa into second, but he has lost the ball when venturing on one of his countless attempts far more often (4.7 per game). In turn, his dribble success rate is somewhat unspectacular, at 53%.
Like the Newcastle man, another weakness of the 29 year old is his ability to keep the ball when challenged. Though his average is marginally lower, Ribery too is dispossessed in general play 3.2 times per game, and while the opposing full-back is invariably skinned numerous times when up against the Bayern man, they often rack up a decent number of tackles too. In general, although he is without a goal since late November, the winger is still the star man for the German front-runners.
1. Luis Suarez (Liverpool) - 10.28 losses of possession per game
Luis Suarez is the sort of player who tends to amaze and annoy the neutral in equal measure, but his ability ranks among the Premier League's very best and has earned him the unconditional love of the Liverpool faithful. Nevertheless, the Uruguayan loses possession incredibly often, and some way more than any of the other top 10 in Europe here. While he often wriggles his way through gaps in defences that don’t seem visible to the naked eye, the forward is certainly guilty of running down his fair share of blind alleys.
Indeed, his dribble success rate (37%), given the huge volume that he tends to attempt in a game, is very poor, averaging a quite remarkable 5 unsuccessful dribbles per game. This willingness to constantly run at players also sees that average include a leaderboard high of 1.2 overruns of the ball per game. While Suarez's skill is unquestionable, his tendency to get frustrated can lead to poor decision-making but his ability to come up with the sublime is unmatched at times, and Liverpool fans certainly wouldn't have him any other way.