Defending has changed since I’ve been watching football. I am only 25 by the way, so that doesn’t mean I’m going to start harking back to the likes of Bobby Moore or how you could go in two footed knee height as long as you got the ball in the ‘good old days’, I’m talking very recent football history. I have seen some fantastic defenders, the likes of Paulo Maldini, Alesandro Nesta, Tony Adams, Jaap Stam, Marcel Dessailly, the list just goes on and on. As a way of wasting time in school we used to make up fantasy elevens and there could be arguments of who were the best defenders around with several names being thrown into the mix. The question I am asking now is, how many ‘world class defenders’ there are at the moment. Vincent Kompany was on Match of the Day last Saturday and both Redknapp and Hansen said they would put him in a World XI. Now I am not saying Kompany is poor by any stretch of the imagination, but going on his performances this year I just can’t see him competing with the defenders I mentioned previously. I agree with both Hansen and Redknapp in that I would probably put him in my World XI right now, but I think this may be down to a lack of competition.
I really want to be wrong in this blog and I’m hoping that somebody can give me an outline of who exactly the world class defenders out there are, but I have been racking my brain and I’m struggling. The mere fact that the greatest club team I’ve ever seen are now playing Javier Mascherano at the back makes me worry that the art of defending may be lost. The role of a centre back has changed dramatically over the past few years and a different set of pressures comes with it. Centre backs are much more comfortable in possession than before and play almost as deep lying midfielders in the way they contribute to the attacking side of play. This is an expectation rather than a gift for the blessed few and as a result the no nonsense ‘if in doubt, get it out’ style of defending is much less prominent. The game around the defensive line has changed dramatically too. We now have a much more fluid and pacey game which makes it all the more difficult to defend, but surely that would mean the most talented should shine even more. I could also bring in the fact that diving seems more prominent and almost accepted and robust tackles are made to look much worse but I think it is sadly a case of a lack of top quality defending.
So what is it? A lack of quality or am I just out of touch with the modern game? I reckon it could be a mixture of the two. I just hope that the ‘old school’ defender hasn’t lost its place in the game and maybe in the next generation of players we’ll have a few more rough diamonds.