How many defenders around today will we think of in years to come as GREAT defenders? Not necessarily great players, but great at the art of defending! And it is an art.
Sergio Ramos is a wonderful player but no matter what he ends up winning in his illustrious career, you will automatically think of his disciplinary record before anything else (in 12 seasons with Real Madrid he has managed to accumulate 139 yellow, and 17 red cards!)
Phillip Lahm & Gerard Pique are ones we may look back on with great fondness; both World Cup winners like Ramos, and serial trophy collectors with Barcelona and FC Bayern, but without the problems with referees that their Spanish counterpart/rival has had.
But where is the new Nesta? Fabio Cannavaro? Tony Adams? Currently the world’s most expensive defender is John Stones – of course price is inflated because of his age and nationality. But how many times do we hear experts say ‘he needs to work on his defending’ and ‘he’s got really good feet’. Surely the number one trait for any defender should be how well can he defend.
Another fairly recent trend is all the grappling that goes on in the penalty area at corners. When did this actually become ‘fashionable’? This was never a problem 10 years ago, as defenders did just that. They defended. Don’t get me wrong, some of them could play a bit (John Terry was a better footballer than a lot of people give him credit for).
But now you don’t see a single penalty area when a corner is about to come in, where there isn’t at least 2 or 3 defenders trying to grab a hold of their man. Just mark him. It’s not easy, but that’s why you train and play in the Premier League or La Liga. You’re supposed to be better than the average fan.
Are they being coached how to defend?
Have coaching standards slipped to such an extent that they don’t bother teaching defending anymore? Or are the players simply not good, or intelligent, enough to take all the instructions in?
Another factor could be that defending just isn’t sexy or glamourous enough for the present day footballer. Most of your youngsters would rather be the start striker or box-to-box midfielder! Even this season two of the Premier League’s big six had midfielders as their first choice full-backs (Antonio Valencia & James Milner).
Your Harry Kanes and Alexis Sanchezs will always get the headlines, and their names on the back of the supporters’ shirts, before any defender. It just isn’t fashionable to be a defender anymore. But it is mightily important. And all too rare.