You don’t want your team’s defenders to be left having to make too many last-gasp tackles but, when they do, you want them to be able to get them right.
And, according to stats from our friends at WhoScored.com, there are three men you most want in that position.
Arsenal duo Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny lead the way with a league high 11 last-man tackles.
In third is Southampton’s Jose Fonte with eight, making his availability in January that little more enticing for any onlooking managers.
Who would you rely on the most and who would you not like to be left with it all to do and a striker bearing down on your team’s goal?
José Fonte: Only Mertesacker & Koscielny (11 each) have made more last man tackles in the last 5 PL seasons than Fonte (8) pic.twitter.com/zyOSnz9Nkg— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 20, 2017
Old-school fans of the Premier League have long been complaining that defending has become a lost art. Now, there’s statistical evidence to back up that claim.
There has been a sharp drop in the number of tackles per game made by the Premier League’s best-tackling centre-backs since the 2009/10 season. Carlos Cuellar led central defenders with 3.7 tackles during that campaign, and for the next two seasons, the tackles per game number for the leading centre-back was 3.8.
However, since then, there has been a significant decline in the number of tackles the top-tackling defender has made. In each of the last four seasons, including the ongoing one, the per-game number has been 3.0 or less.
Given that Manchester City’s defence has been much maligned in recent weeks, it may come as a surprise that their Argentine centre-back Nicolas Otamendi currently leads all central defenders in the Premier League in tackles per game. Otamendi in fact led the league in this statistic last season as well.
But Otamendi’s manager can provide the best explanation for the declining numbers seen here. Pep Guardiola famously said last month that he doesn’t coach tackles. While the Spaniard faced ridicule for his statement, especially given City’s shambolic defensive performances recently, his is not an isolated opinion.
Where centre-backs’ primary duty used to be tackling, now priorities have changed, with attributes like positioning and passing ability being prized over old-school defensive technique. It’s no wonder the number of goals being scored is rapidly increasing – defenders are now as valued for their ability to launch attacks as stopping them.
With January transfer window speculation suggesting Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez could leave the Emirates, the Chilean has reassured supporters that his future lies in north London.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Juventus are planning a strange bid for Miralem Pjanic, if the 28-year-old departs.
What do you think about these transfer stories?