Europe's Possession Kings: Top 10 Club Teams Ranked by Percentage of Possession
Pep Guardiola's Barcelona embody the possession-based approach to football. While possession doesn't always equal success, a team would be hard-pressed to win over the long term without getting its share of the ball.
Thanks to the good folks over at Whoscored.com, we can compare apples to apples and definitively say which team are Europe's true possession kings.
Some names will be familiar (Barca, anyone?) and some will surprise. We're counting down No. 10 to No. 1.
No. 10: Swansea (EPL)
Percent of possession: 56.8%
Swansea are without question the minnows of this list. If there are people left in the world who still don't follow the Premier League, they might be shocked at finding the Swans in this conversation. But for fans and opponents who have witnessed Swansea's smooth passing game, Brendan Rodgers' team is no longer a surprise.
Their mastery of the ball is the major factor in their success during this debut season in the Premier League. Swansea currently sits 10th in the table with enough points to be virtually guaranteed survival.
No. 9: Manchester City (EPL)
Percent of Possession: 58%
Having come over from Barcelona, Yaya Toure was used to having as much of the ball as he wanted. Now as part of Manchester City's expensively assembled squad, Toure and company are proving stingy with possession in their own right.
It was enough to keep them at the top of the table through the majority of the season. But having been recently supplanted by their Manchester rivals, the Citizens will need every touch they can manage to retake the EPL summit before time runs out on their season.
No. 8: Arsenal (EPL)
Percent of possession: 58.7%
Arsene Wenger might have lost his best midfield options in the off-season, but even a weakened Arsenal top the possession statistics among EPL clubs.
Despite my son's protestations that "Arsenal suck this year," the Gunners are showing that a playing philosophy can survive even when players as talented as Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri head out the door.
No. 7: AC Milan (Serie A)
Percent of possession: 59.1%
The Italian leaders may be tied up in the Champions League with a side in Barcelona that makes them look profligate with the ball, but against everyone else Milan look pretty slick in possession.
Four points ahead at the top of Serie A and into the quarter-finals of Champions League play, keeping the ball seems to be keeping AC Milan in good stead this year.
No. 6: Lille (Ligue 1)
Percent of possession: 59.6%
Lille's star man Eden Hazard may be on his way to England over the summer. But if he wants the ball at his feet as much as possible, he could do worse than remaining at the French side.
No other team in France (nor for that matter, England) control the ball like Lille. But their current third-place standing in Ligue 1 shows that sometimes possession alone isn't enough to come out on top.
No. 5: Real Madrid (La Liga)
Percent of possession: 60.1%
It's not often that a team gets almost 80-percent of possession like Real Madrid did in the first leg of their Champions League tie with APOEL on Tuesday. But for Cristiano Ronaldo and company, it's not as uncommon as you would think.
Jose Mourinho's side sometimes gets criticized for its approach against Barcelona, where it often resorts to more primitive footballing tactics. Take them out of the discomfort of El Clasico however, and suddenly you get a chance to see their more cultured side.
The formula is exquisite possession married to the fastest counterattack in the world on the rare occasions when they do give the ball away. Over the course of the season, no one else in La Liga has been able to stack up the points at anywhere close to their pace.
No. 4: Roma (Serie A)
Percent of possession: 60.2%
Francesco Totti is one of the best players in the world at protecting the ball at his feet. By their possession statistics, his Roma teammates aren't too shabby themselves.
It hasn't been enough to keep pace with the top teams in Serie A this season. Now that Fabio Borini has been ruled out for several weeks with a hamstring injury, they'll need the rest of the squad to step up if they want to reach any European competition next year.
No. 3: Juventus (Serie A)
Percent of possession: 61%
Juventus keep the ball like no other in Serie A. With Andrea Pirlo manning the center of the park, it would be odd if they weren't stingy in possession. Unfortunately, while they own the ball, they cannot match AC Milan when it comes to putting it in the back of the net.
The failure to turn possession into goals has seen them draw 14 times this season. Juventus managed to score more than one goal in just two of those matches. Despite that, they only trail Milan by four points and have more than enough time to add a cutting edge to their possession game before season's end.
No. 2: Bayern Munich (Bundesliga)
Percent of possession: 64.8%
Bayern Munich is the only Bundesliga team in the top 10. The next closest team in terms of possession is Borussia Dortmund who only command 54.6% of the ball.
Unfortunately for Gomez, Ribery and company, those rankings are reversed in the league table where Bayern trails Dortmund by five points.
No. 1: Barcelona (La Liga)
Percent of possession: 69.6%
Was there ever really any doubt which team would top this list? Even the most uneducated viewer knows that Barcelona are the best possession team on the planet. Now you've got the statistics to back it up.
The Barca approach has always been possession-based and in the current squad they have the finest purveyors of keep-ball ever assembled. In Xavi alone, the Catalans have a man who averages right at 20 more passes per game than the next closest player.
While they are right on track in the Champions League, Europe's possession kings are playing catch-up in La Liga where they're six points behind Real Madrid.