The dribble. One of the most exciting aspects of football.
A good dribbler gets supporters off their seats as they glide past opponents. But there can be frustration too – all that build-up, no end product and a loud groan from the stands.
Now a new ‘ball-carrying’ metric from data analysts Opta – which measures players running with the ball for at least five metres – means we not only know which players take on the most dribbles, but whose are the most effective too.
BBC Sport takes a look at the Premier League statistics…
Grealish the creator
|Carries ending in chances created|
|Player||Total carries||Carries ending in a chance created|
|Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)||260||17|
|Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)||218||14|
|Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)||201||12|
|Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)||212||11|
|Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers)||204||11|
|Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)||188||10|
|Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)||142||10|
|Felipe Anderson (West Ham United)||225||9|
|Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)||132||9|
A dribble may be exciting but the most important thing is what comes at the end of it. No-one likes a player who runs down blind alleys.
Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish tops the chart for the number of carries ending in a chance being created this season with 17, a reflection of his impressive season back in the Premier League.
Earlier this season, Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer said a tweak of Grealish’s position is helping this improvement.
“The manager has been asking him to play a lot closer to the centre-forward Wesley, predominantly from the left-hand side, and it’s suiting his game,” Shearer said.
“It’s given him some freedom to go and roam.”
|Carries ending in a shot|
|Player||Total carries||Carries ending in a shot|
|Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)||188||17|
|Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)||131||13|
|Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United)||125||12|
|Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)||218||11|
|Nathan Redmond (Southampton)||153||11|
|Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers)||140||11|
|Mason Mount (Chelsea||138||11|
|Neal Maupay (Brighton & Hove Albion)||81||11|
Another way to assess a dribble is whether a shot came at the end of it.
Gerard Deulofeu has had more carries ending in an effort on goal than any other player this season with 17, although he has only scored twice.
Chelsea forward Willian is another who likes a shot at the end of a dribble, as is Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, although he dribbles less often.
Bringing it out from the back
|Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)||171|
|Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)||161|
|Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City)||159|
|Fernandinho (Manchester City)||155|
|Harry Maguire (Manchester United)||154|
|Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers)||152|
|Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)||146|
|Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)||144|
|Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)||138|
|Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)||131|
|Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)||131|
|Felipe Anderson (West Ham United)||130|
|Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea)||126|
|Jamal Lewis (Norwich City)||125|
|David Luiz (Arsenal)||124|
There is little point in a lengthy dribble if it is back towards a team’s goal.
Progressive carries measures the number times a player brings the ball at least five metres upfield, and a number defenders – rather than traditional ‘dribblers’ – make this list as a result.
Liverpool left-back Andrew Robertson leads the way and the presence of Reds right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in the top 10 it suggests this is a tactic effectively employed by the league leaders.
“Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are redefining the way full-backs play,” former Reds striker Peter Crouch said on Match of the Day 2 earlier in November.
“With their runs forward and balls into the box they have always offered such an attacking threat along with the front three, but now they are passing to each other too.
“It is a joy to watch at times and they really are outstanding. I don’t know a better full-back pairing in the world at the moment, and they are another reason why this Liverpool team is going to be so hard to stop.”
Pace, pace, pace
|Average carry progress|
|Player||Total carries||Average carry progress (m)|
|Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United)||125||12.17|
|Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)||119||11.09|
|Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers)||140||11.03|
|Daniel James (Manchester United)||148||10.97|
|Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City)||195||9.98|
|Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers)||204||9.83|
|Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur)||114||9.06|
|Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)||112||8.98|
|Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)||238||8.79|
|Seamus Coleman (Everton)||121||8.67|
The ‘average carry/dribble progress’ statistic also helps to measure effectiveness.
This is the average distance a player carries the ball forwards across all of their dribbles this season. Newcastle winger Allan Saint-Maximin has the largest average carry distance at 12.17 metres.
Former Magpies striker Shearer described the 22-year-old Frenchman’s pace as “staggering” after an impressive performance against West Ham this season.
That speed has helped him top the chart with Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford second.
Take him on!
|Carries with a take on|
|Player||Total carries||Carries with a take on|
|Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)||203||48|
|Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers)||204||38|
|Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United)||125||38|
|Joshua King (Bournemouth)||139||32|
|Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)||218||30|
|Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)||188||29|
|Sofiane Boufal (Southampton)||122||29|
|Dwight McNeil (Burnley)||154||28|
|Miguel Almiron (Newcastle United)||171||26|
|Emiliano Buendia (Norwich City)||214||25|
It may not necessarily result in a goal or a chance being created, but one thing football fans like to see is their players beating an opponent.
It is little surprise that Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha dominates this statistic, which measures the number of dribbles that involve taking on at least one player.
Zaha has done this 10 more times than anyone else and fellow wingers dominate the rest of the top 10, including Wolves’ Adama Traore in second and Saint-Maximin of Newcastle.
Kovacic the controller
|Carries per 90 minutes|
|Player||Total carries||Carries per 90 minutes|
|Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea)||296||30.24|
|Fernandinho (Man City)||235||27.47|
|Bernardo Silva (Man City)||209||25.84|
|Rodri (Man City)||238||24.29|
|Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)||260||23.78|
|Felipe Anderson (West Ham)||225||23.74|
|Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal)||300||23.62|
|Harry Winks (Tottenham)||206||21.58|
|Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)||171||21.05|
Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic is, perhaps more surprisingly, the player who has completed the most dribbles of five metres or more per 90 minutes so far this season.
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The Croatia international has received plaudits for his improved performance under manager Frank Lampard this term compared with the 2018-19 campaign under Maurizio Sarri, with his high number of dribbles a suggestion he is having a greater impact on games.
Garth Crooks said Kovacic has been a “revelation” since Lampard took charge at Stamford Bridge and fellow BBC pundit Jermaine Jenas has praised both the 25-year-old and his team-mate Jorginho.
“Kovacic is a top player and I think under Sarri maybe he didn’t really show he had the ability. Frank has given him a little bit more freedom and the pair of them looked like the real mature heads in that team,” Jenas said.
Who do you think the Premier League’s best dribblers are? Have your say in the comments below or via #bbcfootball
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