As the world of football has progressed, it is obvious that players have gotten physically and technically better, in overall abilities.
Presently, centre backs players are expected to contribute to attack and as a result the more “destructive” types are being ignored.
Ball Playing Defenders
In the modern game, many defenders like Mats Hummels and Gerard Pique are known as ‘ball playing’ defenders who help set the tempo from the back. In many top teams in Europe they have an increasing number of these types of centre backs in particular such as Chelsea’s David Luiz or Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen who are technically astute.
However, the main problem with these defenders is that they are not very reliable defensively. Arsenal’s captain Vermaelen was benched towards the end of last season while David Luiz was deployed in defensive midfield as their defensive abilities became a liability to the team.
The offensive requirements for most central defenders have become even more vital than their ability in defensive especially in the best clubs. This is understandable, considering that a top team like Barcelona or Bayern Munich mostly have majority of the possession during matches and consequentially their defenders don’t need to defend very much. Nonetheless the situation is becoming a disaster, as there is a severe lack of top quality defenders.
A prime example for this argument is the emergence of Rafael Varane, a 20-year old who is already considered world-class just after one season, mainly because of the poor standards of defenders around the world. Last season he benched a 30-year-old Pepe (who at that age is meant to be at his peak) and looked far more composed than arguably Spain’s best defender, Sergio Ramos.
Had the standard been at the level it was ten years ago when the likes of Fabio Cannavaro and Sol Campbell were in their peak, Varane would probably be considered “very good” at best as the overwhelming quality would look insurmountable compared to him.
Stone Wall Defenders
This term is mainly used to refer to defenders who simply prevented strikers from advancing and cleared the ball out of danger. Legendary defenders like Alessandro Nesta, Jaap Stam and Marcel Desailly easily fit into this category.
But now in the modern game’s “ball playing defenders” are considered more useful and as a result defensive players who can’t contribute to attack are being ignored. For example Javier Mascherano looks far more comfortable than Pique in defence but he is behind him in the pecking order simply because Pique helps out in attack.
The last of the dying breed in this category of defenders include the likes of Carles Puyol, Andrea Barzagli, Nemanja Vidic and John Terry, all who are in the latter years of their careers. All the aforementioned players in this category defended with a “no nonsense attitude” and really made scoring hard for the best of strikers.
Lastly, this category is simply to acknowledge the very best defenders in contemporary football who have managed to combine solid defending with good technical ability.
Often you find out that these defenders can be deployed in an alternative position like Thiago Silva and Vincent Kompany who can play in defensive midfield. Similarly Giorgio Chiellini who can play as a left back or central defence.
It is has become harder to find extremely reliable defenders who have all the necessary and physical attributes to complement a good team. Or could it be possible that there are simply too many world-class strikers in this generation?
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