MrSwellman

Defending- Dying Art or Impossible Task

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Great read.

I too, grew up watching Serie A football regularly and have a similar opinion on defending in the modern game.

Maldini was a true great and I always was a fan of Nesta too. Imagine it wasn't that long ago, AC Milan could put a team out on the pitch with those two, plus Cafu and Stam. What a back 4 that was.

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Fantastic.

 

I would also add that the rules have made it much harder to defend effectively too. Tackling has pretty much been eliminated from the modern game in general, let alone a defender daring to attempt one in his own penalty area. Too often a defender slides in with a picture perfect "hard but fair" tackle, only for the attacker to hurl himself earthwards like he's taken a gunshot. Whether or not it's down to a "clever" forward who is "exaggerating" contact, or even simulating it, or not - a defender who "goes to ground" is now in the position of "making the referee make a decision" (which in 9/10 situations favours the forward - unless it happens to a Liverpool defender in front of the Kop, or Phil Jones at the Stretty) and that now leaves a modern defender in the position similar to those blokes in Basketball who stand there waving their arms about in front of Lebron James.

 

In my days in kids' Sunday League (God that made me sound old) The "big kids" went in defence, I myself was chosen for LB because I was pretty quick, but also a ferocious tackler as well (which in adult Sunday League earned me the moniker "Keano" - might have had something to do with my explosive temper too) by then I had moved into the wing positions, like a Roy Keane fused with Ronaldo (without the talent).

 

The advantage used to be less skewed against defenders back then, but now it seems that the modern defender not only has to display all the skills mentioned in the OP, but also now be able to anticipate and "read" the game. Defending now seems to be about positioning and eliminating attacking options, rather than pro-actively going in to regain possession.

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I don't think we'll see the days of where we see greats like Nesta, Thuram, Cannavaro, Maldini, Vidic, Rio etc for some time to be honest.

The defending has gone down hill so badly over the past years and even the best like Hummels, Silva, Ramos, Chellini and Kompany are prone to mistakes.

Attacking players have improved and changed a lot over the past few years. We're now seeing smaller, quicker and more agile attacking players like Messi, Aguero, Suarez, Silva etc that seem to be causing defenders endless problems. We're seeing less of the classic number 9's and instead we're seeing these types of players which defenders and defensive midfielders are finding hard to contain.

You only have to look at what Agüero did to Boetang, Benatia and Dante a few months ago.

There's some great young defenders coming through like Varane, Laporte, Zouma, Marquinhos, Jones etc and maybe in a few years time they'll find a way to deal with these attacking players but I don't see it happening for a while.

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I don't really agree with this: "Defenders are being outmuscled, out-paced and generally outplayed. It’s almost impossible to nullify the attackers in the current climate". More exception than the rule I feel except perhaps being out-paced. But good organization in the back line can certainly reduce the space to be out-paced....

How many are like Ronaldo, Messi or even Suarez anyway? I think MORE acclaimed strikers will actually struggle in England than strive so for the article to slant so much towards making defenders seem so hapless and hopeless is a bit biased. I really don't think strikers get the better of defenders so rampantly, generally speaking. We also don't need to look too far for some examples, just ask Falcao...

Edited by versa

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I don't really agree with this: "Defenders are being outmuscled, out-paced and generally outplayed. It’s almost impossible to nullify the attackers in the current climate". More exception than the rule I feel except perhaps being out-paced. But good organization in the back line can certainly reduce the space to be out-paced....

How many are like Ronaldo, Messi or even Suarez anyway? I think MORE acclaimed strikers will actually struggle in England than strive so for the article to slant so much towards making defenders seem so hapless and hopeless is a bit biased. I really don't think strikers get the better of defenders so rampantly, generally speaking. We also don't need to look too far for some examples, just ask Falcao...

 

Is The Premier League the only league in question?

 

Do you not see the inflation in goalscoring stats, season by season? 10 years ago, you would be lucky to see a striker score 20 goals in one season. That figure has now drastically risen. Midfielders are even scoring 15+ goals a season.

 

I don't have the stats, but I'd be willing to bet that the amount of clean sheets per season for each club is steadily decreasing.

 

Falcao simply hasn't recovered from a career threatening injury.

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Fantastic.

 

I would also add that the rules have made it much harder to defend effectively too. Tackling has pretty much been eliminated from the modern game in general, let alone a defender daring to attempt one in his own penalty area. Too often a defender slides in with a picture perfect "hard but fair" tackle, only for the attacker to hurl himself earthwards like he's taken a gunshot. Whether or not it's down to a "clever" forward who is "exaggerating" contact, or even simulating it, or not - a defender who "goes to ground" is now in the position of "making the referee make a decision" (which in 9/10 situations favours the forward - unless it happens to a Liverpool defender in front of the Kop, or Phil Jones at the Stretty) and that now leaves a modern defender in the position similar to those blokes in Basketball who stand there waving their arms about in front of Lebron James.

 

In my days in kids' Sunday League (God that made me sound old) The "big kids" went in defence, I myself was chosen for LB because I was pretty quick, but also a ferocious tackler as well (which in adult Sunday League earned me the moniker "Keano" - might have had something to do with my explosive temper too) by then I had moved into the wing positions, like a Roy Keane fused with Ronaldo (without the talent).

 

The advantage used to be less skewed against defenders back then, but now it seems that the modern defender not only has to display all the skills mentioned in the OP, but also now be able to anticipate and "read" the game. Defending now seems to be about positioning and eliminating attacking options, rather than pro-actively going in to regain possession.

 

The offside rules has made it very hard to play with a good defensive line. Players can wander offside for up to a minute and then come back onside at the last second to tap in a cross from wide.

 

I agree with Figo. Bring back the old offside rule. Beating the offside trap used to be more of an art.

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John Terry is currently the best defender in the Premier League. He probably wasn't even the best in his prime.

He really exemplifies how the standard has dropped. Neville wrote a great article about this a while back. It's basically just not being coached in the same way. Far more emphasis on becoming all round footballers rather than getting the basics down. There's a reason certain coaches can tighten up teams so significantly. Pulis dedicates more time to working on defence than anyone around apparently. It shows. That's more of a team thing though, the individuals just tend to suffer as a result.

I think it's a bit of both, but I'd certainly lean towards a defline in defending. The attacking players are developing. More of a shift to lone strikers who simply have to be complete with the task of leading the line and far more of an emphasis on the #10. That said I'm not sure those players didn't also exist throughout the 90's. The fact that be likes of Giggs, Totti, Di Natale etc. are able to be effective in this new era show that they probably would be every bit as great as they were if they were at their peak.

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Is The Premier League the only league in question?

 

Do you not see the inflation in goalscoring stats, season by season? 10 years ago, you would be lucky to see a striker score 20 goals in one season. That figure has now drastically risen. Midfielders are even scoring 15+ goals a season.

 

I don't have the stats, but I'd be willing to bet that the amount of clean sheets per season for each club is steadily decreasing.

 

Falcao simply hasn't recovered from a career threatening injury.

EPL is not the only league but it is a good litmus test for the very top players like Ronaldo and Messi which I really don't think they could score as much as they are doing now in La Liga.

I don't know about statistics here or if statistics prove anything. Rooney has yet to beat Charlton's records even though the latter is not a striker. Beating the offside rule to score also does not necessarily prove the defenders are more lame than before per se.

I just don't think defenders are that hapless as the article portrays is my beef.

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EPL is not the only league but it is a good litmus test for the very top players like Ronaldo and Messi which I really don't think they could score as much as they are doing now in La Liga.

I don't know about statistics here or if statistics prove anything. Rooney has yet to beat Charlton's records even though the latter is not a striker. Beating the offside rule to score also does not necessarily prove the defenders are more lame than before per se.

I just don't think defenders are that hapless as the article portrays is my beef.

 

Look at Messi and Ronaldo's Champions League record then. Pretty much puts an end to your argument there and then.

 

Charlton wasn't a central midfielder or a striker. He falls somewhere between. Plus, football had very different rules and teams played with very different formations back then. Rooney hasn't beaten it because 1. he's been terrible for years; and 2. Charlton played for the club for nearly 18 years, compared to Rooney's 10 and a bit years.

 

Also, I'm not quite sure if the offside sentence was even English.

 

Where are the top defenders then? It's pretty clear that there is a bigger emphasis on attacking and technique, which, while good, shouldn't mean a neglect on the defensive side of the game. There has to be a balance.

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EPL is not the only league but it is a good litmus test for the very top players like Ronaldo and Messi which I really don't think they could score as much as they are doing now in La Liga.

I don't know about statistics here or if statistics prove anything. Rooney has yet to beat Charlton's records even though the latter is not a striker. Beating the offside rule to score also does not necessarily prove the defenders are more lame than before per se.

I just don't think defenders are that hapless as the article portrays is my beef.

Name these top notch defenders then, prove me wrong. Your example is striker who hasn't recovered from a career threatening injury.

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How odd! I was having dinner with a friend last night who was lamenting the exact same thing about the NBA having no great defenders and that he watched the last 4 of the NCAA because it's a much more tactical game. His reasoning was that you don't want a great defender to stop the ''show'' in the NBA. People want to see Lebron and some other guy scoring 30+ points. I don't know much about NBA so i can't comment on the validity of his claim but i definitely drew parallels with football with regards to the lack of quality defenders over the last 5 years. 

 

At the same time Italy hasn't always had amazing defenders. Gentile being the most notorious example for assaulting Maradona and for every Maldini you have a Materazzi who's a thug. 

 

 

It is true we're blessed with some incredible forwards in the modern era and that defenders are lacking what they used to but I think it's cyclical and eventually we're go through another period of having some incredible defenders that will give us the long and tedious 1 - nil draws we crave. 

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Magnific article.

 

I always thought Nesta was the most elegant defender I've ever seen. I loved Maldini too, but Nesta was special to me in so many ways. I think one of the problems with defenders, apart from what you mentioned in them being better on the ball is that nowadays, most teams look for physicality in defenders. Since a very young age.

 

Nesta, Maldini and Baresi weren't the physical powers that Kompany and some others are nowadays, but they had a special instinct, a specially intelligent about themselves, a very unique reading of the game and what strikers would do, that made them so good. Positioning was always on point, never a mistake on where to tackle and where not to, they knew it everything about the game, they were so intelligent in every movement that as you say it looked like an artist at work. They had a natural instinct, a gift to play the game.

 

Nowadays, if you take a look at, specially, the Premier League's central defenders; it's mostly full of physiques, have a look at our Smalling, Joness and Rojo; for example. Have a look at Mangala, recently signed for an incredible amount of money. Look at Cahill and Zouma. And for a much better example, look at the youth systems of Premier League clubs, we have Fosu-Mensah, who's an incredibly physical centre back... If all of these have one thing in common, is that they all commit mistakes, positioning mistakes, decision making ones, etc; exactly the ones that the ones you mentioned would never make. And that's why we all like Varane, and the ones that have seen Laporte like him; because they remind us in some way of that old-school defender, elegant, intelligent, classy, who exactly knows what to do in every moment; even if they're nowhere near close to being as those greats before mentioned were.

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Mertesacker and Koscielny strike fear in the hearts of any striker in Europe :whistle:

You see this is my point exactly.

If you even examine our own defence at the moment, look at our centre backs, they are being protected more than ever, why? Because attacking players have gotten so good. In the past, teams in a 4-4-2 rarely bothered with a holding midfielder. Keane was box-to-box. Defenders didn't need to be shielded by their midfield as much because even 2v2 they were probably on top.

Nowadays, even with a holding midfielder we still leak goals, as do many teams throughout Europe. It's simple really the player quality isn't there in defence and attacking players are just too good.

Smalling, Evans, Rojo, Jones wouldn't be fit to lace even Berg or Johnsen's boots. Defensive players just aren't as good anymore and I'm still waiting for Versa to put forward an argument that isn't a completely ridiculous one like Falcao.

There once was a time when attacking players were delighted to get 20 league goals a year. Now that goal is easily 30 for the top teams. Why are the demands so much higher? Is it because the defenders are worse or the attackers better? Or is Versa stuck in some insane world where he thinks the standard of defending in the modern game is on par with the past. What a joke if he even remotely thinks that, the game has changed open your mind.

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Great article,and Nesta has rightly received much praise from many posters,i recall Sir Alex went to watch him before we bought Rio,and he had a absolute nightmare,apparently at fault for 3 goals....Milan are probably my favourite team outwith United,mainly down to Sacchi's side of the late 80's early 90's.

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