No team has ever been victorious without a solid defence. At the heart of that, the defence has to be a centre-back capable of keeping the best attackers in check.
Many years ago, managers wanted defenders who could win headers, tackles and control opponents in the penalty area.
Now, they need to mix that power and aggression with poise on the ball and an ability to play out from the back under pressure.
“Attacks wins you games, defence wins you titles,” once said Sir Alex Ferguson, who is one of the greatest and most successful managers of all time.
Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Juventus, Barcelona, PSG and Ajax claimed trophies this season, thanks to their strong defence and prolific attackers.
Nevertheless, here are five defenders who have been rock solid for their teams and deserve to get special praise.
Manchester City claimed Premier League title for the second consecutive time. Pep Guardiola’s side scored 95 goals and conceded only 23. That speaks about the professionalism of the defensive side of the team.
Laporte was a key player in Guardiola’s defence. The player spent 3939 minutes for City, he scored five goals and created three assists. His pass success stands at 92.3 %. The France international’s only weakness was holding on to the ball.
Pique, 32, had achieved his most consistent season for his club. He played 35 games, all of them as a starter and it’s his best record so far. Piqué had been dribbled only 0.4 times per match. Laporte has an average of 0.4 and 0.3.
In terms of clearances in the Champions League, Pique surpasses all of the defenders. He made 5.1 clearances per match, which are twice higher than another defender. The Spaniard is also the second defender who committed the least number of fouls just behind Sergi Roberto. He had also won twice more aerial duels than any other Barcelona player who played more than 10 matches: 3.8 duels per game.
Manchester United are supposedly ready to bid €95m for centre back Kalidou Koulibaly and that speaks about his successful season. Koulibaly was named Serie A’s best defender of 2018/19 season. The Senegal international is an integral part of a defence that kept 14 clean sheets in the Italian league this season.
Koulibaly was dribbled past only 0.5 times per game and made 1.7 tackles per game in Seria A. In terms of ball distribution, his success percentage stands at 88.7% in Seria A. However, he needs to improve his discipline, as he received 10 yellow cards an also a red card in 35 league games.
Matthijs de Ligt
De Ligt is the youngest Dutch player to score in a Champions League knockout match. The 19-year-old kid’s leadership and masterful defending aided his side to win the league title as well as KNVB Beker Cup. The captain scored three goals and created an assist in 33 Eredivise games.
The Dutchman made 1.5 tackles per game and 1.4 interceptions per game in Champions League where they were knocked out by Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final. He has been at the centre of attention for already a long time as the youngster has been linked with a move from the Dutch club.
Manchester United and Barcelona, as well as Juventus, have shown an interest to sign the player. Juventus have made a £75m bid for the young defender.
Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk’s £75million arrival in January 2018 may be remembered as the starting point of a new era of success for the Merseyside giants. Every football fan would struggle to find another player who has made as much of an impact as he has in 18 months for the Reds.
The Dutchman averaged 1 tackle, 4.8 clearances, 0.8 interceptions, along with 3.4 aerial duels per game in Europe’s elite competition during the 2018-19 season. He also averaged 1 tackle, 4.8 aerial duals and 5.2 clearances per game in the Premier League this season.
PFA Player of the Year Van Dijk has cemented his status as one of the world’s best defenders this season.
Author: Alla Zakaryan