Watch + Learn: Central Defenders

Watch + Learn: Central Defenders
Published: 2021-01-19

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The Big Game: Man City v Aston Villa 

Man. City was super-slick beating Palace 4-0 – that’s 5 back-to-back wins – 11 goals scored on that run – just 1 conceded.  That’s title form 😊 Villa hasn’t played since New Years’ Day – Covid ravaging their Training Ground – so expect some rust as they get back to business. Villa has only conceded 5 goals in 8 away games all season-best in the Prem. Man. City knows what they have to do.

MatchEdge Predicts: – Over 1.5 Goals  + Home Win

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Watch + Learn: Central Defenders

Centre-backs used to have one job: Defend.  They were menacing, tough-tackling, and hard as nails.  These are the no-nonsense, uncompromising hard men who lived to defend. The job of a center-back has evolved rapidly, particularly in the last decade, seeing desired traits change and transfer prices skyrocket.   A new breed of Centre-backs has emerged. Their job was still to defend, first and foremost, but they possessed a real calmness and ability to read the game.  To be tough tackling was not a necessity if you boasted an astute awareness. The legendary Italian central defender, Paolo Maldini said - “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake.”

Aston Villa – Tyrone Mings

Pep Guardiola’s performance framework requires every member of the starting XI to be exceptional in possession. Turning intelligent, composed, ball-playing footballers into central defenders have since become commonplace. Dean Smith converted left-back Tyrone Mings into a Centre-back – and he quickly won England caps as a Centre Back. Liverpool spent £75m on Virgil van Dijk.  The Reds knew how vital it was to land a defender of his quality - with leadership, composure, awareness, and (as a last resort) supreme tackling and physical attributes in equal measure. The Netherlands international is the full package and has proved to be one of the final pieces of Jurgen Klopp's jigsaw, winning the PFA Player of the Year and UEFA Men's Player of the Year awards in 2019. Manchester United made Harry Maguire the world's most defensive defender 18 months later. It's hard not to see a new record being set again in the near future.

5 Coaching Steps for Central Defenders 

  1. Make the first move - You have to be prepared for a lot more headers and tackles when you are playing as a Centre-back. You do not want the opposition running at you - it’s more about trying to intercept, rather than tackle.  If you can keep the opposition striker facing their own goal at Centre-back you’ve done your job.
  2. Understand your job – As Centre-back you’re the last man - so you have to make sure you’re communicating with full-backs, your other Centre-back, and your midfielders. You have to focus on reading the game and sensing the danger - because as well as tracking the striker’s runs, you have to keep an eye on the delivery from out wide.
  3. Stay switched on - Dealing with multiple threats requires a high level of concentration. In the modern game, Centre-backs don’t just defend - they also attack.  You can’t afford to let your focus slip, neglecting one or the other.  Stay switched on and the rest will take care of itself.
  4. Build a body for battle - It’s important to understand the different physical demands from playing as a Centre-back and playing as a full-back. Full-backs should concentrate on lots of speed and quick feet drills because they will be coming up against fast, tricky wingers so you have to be mobile and sharp.  Centre-backs need to be physically strong and quick because you’re coming up against pacy, powerful players.
  5. Train like you play – Don’t just go through the motions in training – train like you play - to win.

Exercise 4 plays 6 - Playing in one half of the pitch - set out your back four and have a team of six players attacking your goal.  Because you’re outnumbered this drill will work the back four hard - demanding communication, organization, and discipline.  Everyone has to concentrate and do their job, dealing with a threat from all angles – like in a game. Each defender has to stay focused on their job - full-backs stopping crosses from out wide and Centre-backs dealing with the danger through the center.

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