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Leon Osman's seemingly unconditional loyalty to Everton Football Club has made him so much more than just a fans' favourite at Goodison Park. He is now well into his ninth season as an established member of the Toffees' squad, and yet it is only really this season that he has begun to receive acclaim for the role he plays on a bigger stage than that of Merseyside, having just recently made it into the England squad. One contributing factor could be that the departure of Tim Cahill has meant Osman - along with Marouane Fellaini - has taken on a greater share of the goalscoring responsibility, and so has grabbed the headlines to a greater extent. But there is more to him than the odd goal and whoscored.com has the statistics to justify his inclusion in the national set-up.
Osman's strike in the win over Manchester City last weekend was a goal of real class. Hitting across the ball with your weaker foot is a skill that is tough to master in itself, and the swerve he managed to generate on the shot totally wrong-footed his now England teammate Joe Hart in goal. That was his third goal from outside the penalty area in Premier League games this season, leaving him behind only long-range specialists Gareth Bale (6), Luis Suarez (5) and Juan Mata (4) in terms of goals from range this season. It could well be that David Moyes has encouraged his midfielder to shoot more often as, prior to this season, Osman had only scored one goal from outside the box in his last 75 appearances.
Whilst such goals grab the attention of those watching Premier League highlights and little more, the powers-that-be in the England camp will have been impressed by Osman's unassuming role in the Everton midfield. He has started all of their league games this season, only withdrawn on three occasions, and each of those were in the final 15 minutes of the game, and the consistency of his selection can be seen on his WhoScored player page. He has thus completed 2576 of his side's 2610 minutes (98.7%), highlighting just how important he has become.
Playing primarily this season alongside Darron Gibson or Phil Neville at the heart of the Everton midfield, he is given licence to roam because of the greater defensive mindset of his partners, and that has seen him follow the play, keen to get on the ball as often as possible. Only 12 players have completed more passes than him in the entire Premier League this season (1259), and his tally ranks him significantly higher than any other Everton player, with left-back Leighton Baines second to Osman. What makes this all the more impressive is that Everton rank 11th in the top flight for passes completed, with 9600, meaning Osman has in fact made an impressive 13.1% of his side's passes. As Mikel Arteta is for Arsenal, Osman has become the metronome that keeps the team ticking and retains the tempo of the play, and Hodgson and co. have taken note.
Given that Osman does so much of the work on the ball for his side, he could arguably improve his rather meagre chance creation tally. With only two assists from a disappointing 24 key passes, there is certainly room for improvement in this sense, though it is Osman's priority to get the ball to the likes of Baines, Mirallas and Pienaar who provide a greater deal of creative spark in the Everton ranks. In the England team, it may be wise to ensure Osman, who is likely to pick up his second cap on Friday, has attacking full-backs in the mould of Baines and Johnson supporting him, as well as wingers that prefer to pick the ball up deep and run at defenders.
There is consistency to be found in Osman's defensive play as well where, with 68 tackles and 66 interceptions, he ranks higher than any other player in the Everton squad for both, and fairly well amongst all Premier League players. At only 5 feet 8 inches he is far from the most intimidating of opponents, but he has still managed to win an incredible 1.9 aerial duels per game this season, which is a higher average than the likes of Jelavic, Heitinga and Neville amongst his Everton teammates.
With Turkish Cypriot heritage, Osman could have taken what many would have considered an easier option and chosen to fight for a place in the Turkey national team. Instead, Osman, born and bred on Merseyside and a product of the Everton youth system, held out for a chance with England. One might call that a mature decision for a player that has matured on the pitch, coming into his own after moving into his fourth decade. With the advancing years of England stalwarts Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, Osman find his chances even greater in the coming months, with Hodgson able to call on him as an ever-reliable option.
All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com. Follow Ali Tweedale on Twitter at @alitweedale.