Man City and Man United capitalise on lost art of defending while Dembele's injury was result of disrupted pre-season

In his weekly column, Mikael Silvestre comments on the problems with Premier League defenders and the Barca star

Mikael Silvestre
by Mikael Silvestre
19th September 2017

article:19th September 2017

It’s difficult to find top defenders. You’ve seen how much it cost Manchester City to sign Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy – two right-backs and one left-back – and how much they had to spend on John Stones.

With Vincent Kompany still being in and out they’ve got problems in the middle of their defence.

Liverpool have Joel Matip but I don’t think they’ve got enough strength there to win the title. Every centreback partnership they have seems ill-equipped for a title push and after the deal for Virgil van Dijk fell through, they had no Plan B.

In the market I think Tottenham have done the best acquisitions in Europe in terms of prospects, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth. The reason why it’s so hard to find quality defenders is because of what the academies are focusing on producing.

Since the era of social media, all the publicity goes to the tricks and step-overs and taking on people on-on-one – even the fullbacks are attacking more than they are defending.

In general, the focus is on this and it is just natural for the players growing up to be more concerned about ‘how can I beat this player?’ – even the defenders.

Liverpool's Joel Matip puts in a tackle against Burnley's Chris Wood.

Liverpool’s Joel Matip puts in a tackle against Burnley’s Chris Wood.

The art of defending is not something as recognised anymore. It is hard to sign players who are proper defenders like in the old days because it’s not fashionable.

Premier League teams are finding it very hard to defend against Manchester United and City but they’ve got really high quality going forward.

There are two elements – the individual talents and the collective play going forward. Both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola recognise that in the Premier League, the transition going forward is to be quick because that’s what the English culture demands.

They are really good at it because they’ve got great passers of the ball and intelligent players, and when you’ve got wingers and finishers who can win one-on-one, two-on-one, which is the case for both of them, you can break any defence and create chances.

You can’t ‘park the bus’ against them, but you don’t want to defend too high up the pitch. Try to form your two lines of four in front of them as much as you can, but the aim of the game is to score goals as well.

It’s easy to say that, but much harder to realise. There’s too many good players to focus on. There’s not one man you have to stop them, it’s three or four.


Paulo Dybala has already scored 10 goals for Juventus this season.

He’s showing a lot of character because of the expectation of playing for Juve and the pressure that goes with wearing the No10 shirt after Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero.

If he stays another 10 years at Juve, he could also be in that world-class bracket. He may move to the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, but it depends because Serie A is strong with the two Milan teams back in the race – with Roma and Napoli remaining dangerous, you could have an attractive league.

Juve has enough money to hold on to Dybala, it’s just a question of reaching targets with Juve –the Champions League, which they are failing to do.

If Juve give him the sense they are really going for it by buying the world’s top players, it would be fantastic for him to stay there. Juve, certainly in terms of history and legacy, are as good as Real and Barcelona.

Paulo Dybala (C)

Paulo Dybala (C)


Ousmane Dembele has been ruled out of action with a hamstring injury for four months, and for me it is a consequence of his situation in the summer.

With Borussia Dortmund he was not going to training, going through a lot of stress, and then straight into training at Barcelona.

He was trying to play catch-up with the team and go through a pre-season in 10 days that he wasn’t able to do in Germany.

I think he was unfortunate, but it wasn’t the ideal preparation. Will he bounce back? Yes I think he will, it’s a serious injury but he can overcome it.

The question is will he have enough to impact on Barcelona’s title charge and also with the France team. That’s his first big injury and as a young player it’s difficult to deal with.

Hopefully, Barcelona will take care of him because it will be a long process.

Ousmane Dembele (C)

Ousmane Dembele (C)



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