Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma and Manchester United’s Harry Maguire find themselves perched on a podium you probably didn’t know existed.
Have you ever wondered which defenders offer the most commanding aerial presence, the players who are most likely to extend their neck muscles and power the ball clear via their forehead?
Well, thanks to CIES Football Observatory, who have consulted data from their partners InStat, we now have a clearer idea of who offers the most value in defensive aerial duels.
The renowned football website have analysed the top 10 leagues (via FIFA rankings) and identified the players who have won the highest percentage of defensive aerial duels in the current campaign.
The only prerequisite for consideration is that you must have won at least 20 aerial duels since the start of the season.
Having won a whopping total of 96.3 per cent of his aerial duels, Zouma tops the chart and is one of just three players to have breached the 90 per cent mark.
Maguire sneaks into that exclusive 90+ per cent club with exactly 90 per cent aerial duels won, while Atalanta’s Berat Djimsiti takes second place on 95.7 per cent.
There are a handful of other Premier League stars on the list as well.
Everton’s towering 6ft 5 centre-back Yerry Mina (86.2%) has the 10th best return in Europe and James Tarkowski (85.7%) sits just behind in 12th.
Further down the table the likes of Tyrone Mings (83.3%), Jan Bednarek (81.4%) and Liam Cooper (80%) all feature.
Zouma’s ability to dominate his opposite number in the air is not only one of his core defensive attributes but also a valuable attacking weapon.
That the Frenchman has scored two headed goals in the Premier League already this season attests to his aerial prowess, and the recent study from CIES Football Observatory goes to show just how dominant he is when competing for headers.
Frank Lampard’s decision to trust Zouma in seven of Chelsea’s opening eight league matches has been firmly vindicated so far as the 26-year-old continues to go from strength to strength at the top level.
Here’s a list of the top 10:
10. Yerry Mina (86.2%)
9. Lorenzo Tonelli (87.5%)
8. Jhon Lucumi (87.5%)
7. Oliver Boscagli (87.5%)
6. Sebastian Holmen (88%)
5. Pablo Nascimento (88%)
4. Raphael Varane (88%)
3. Harry Maguire (90%)
2. Berat Djimsiti (95.7%)
1. Kurt Zouma (96.3%)
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