Today we have a guest post by @theShAnchorman . He takes a philosophical view of defenders here but seasoned managers know the value of a good defender especially this season where the likes of Marcus Alonso have the double whammy of attacking returns and clean sheets.Read on.
Football is not what it once used to be. With the advent of new styles, formations and tactics, the game is constantly changing – almost as if it were reinventing itself.
Take positions, for example. Many wingers have now evolved from being the suppliers to becoming the goal-scorers. You only have to look at Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Arjen Robben, Eden Hazard and Antoine Griezmann. Full-backs have become preponderantly attacking players, bursting forward to aid the wingers.
Perhaps the only outfield position that hasn’t changed is the centre-back. Even today, the role is the same as it always used to be– stay back, stop the forwards and rely solely on defensive capabilities. Almost all the time, you’ll find centre-backs to be the sturdy, robust controlling players on the field, although a certain Guardiola would beg to differ.
Central defenders, from a positional standpoint, are in the middle of the pitch and see the entire field in front of them; being thrown into a leadership position on the field so to speak. It is only apposite that they have always had to organize the team, constantly barking out instructions for the other players on the field, keeping everything in order. Generally, a mistake from the central defenders leads to an opposition goal. Regardless of the style of the defender – be it a ball-playing defender like Gerard Pique, a traditional defender like Vincent Kompany or the skilful, unsure-of-his-own-position defender like Chelsea’s second-time signing David Luiz (Chelsea fans might beg to differ based on this season’s performances. Although I have a lot to say, that could be a topic for some other day), it is HE who has to control the game.
The significance of the centre-half clearly cannot be trivialized, yet is ignored often in terms of reward. Most people prefer to glorify attacking players be it Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Luis Suarez (Think Ballon d’or). This partisanship towards this style of player leads to defenders being unappreciated. The people who watch, report on and even run football are guilty of completely undervaluing the defensive side of the game. We are so enamoured by attackers and goals that we ignore the significance of its counterpoise.
An interesting stat that I came across recently said that clean sheets produce almost 2.5 points per match on an average as opposed to scoring a goal, which on an average earns a team about one point per match. This tells us only one thing – not conceding is more than twice as valuable as scoring a goal.
In other words: “Goals that don’t happen are even more important than goals that do.”
Yet, this fact is grossly overlooked by everyone in football.
At least one great centre-back features at the heart of every successful team. Yet, in a time when this game is constantly witnessing change, the position of the centre-back has stayed very much the same. And in spite of the forwards being worshipped as gods, the conventional centre-back has perhaps remained as the most important outfield position.