One of top defenders in the world is Barcelona's Gerrard Pique. And what makes him so unique is his ability to read the game of soccer and stop attacks before they even happen. Pique is also a special type of defender because of his great passing ability and touch on the ball. He's part of the new modern era of defenders who can start attacks and keep possession of the ball just as good as a midfielder.
Let's now look at three things all great defenders possess:
Being a central defender can be the ultimate thankless and tough task in soccer. When a striker scores the crowd rises to their feet, they scream, they cheer, they dance, sometimes they even cry. Strikers get the glory, they get to feel that amazing feeling that only comes when you get your team a goal.
Defenders on the other hand, particularly ones in the middle, do not receive the same praise or adulation and are often the first to get it in the neck when they make a mistake.
In practical terms there isn’t much difference between scoring a tap in at the back post and clearing the ball off the line and stopping a certain goal. However, one will get you on the back page of the paper and one won’t. On the other hand, if a striker makes a mistake, they will often get a good chance to rectify it. If you are a defender however one error can be totally catastrophic and ruin a whole game.
The sight of Dejan Lovren being ignominiously substituted before half time in Liverpool’s recent game against Tottenham showed how tough it can be as a defender. So here are three quite simple but very useful tips to make you a better and more confident defender.
Keep it Simple
This is perhaps the best tip for a player just starting out or getting used to being a centre back. It is easy to watch players like John Stones or Jerome Boateng spray beautiful passes and carry the ball out of defence but actually doing it is another matter entirely. It can be fatal to try and take the ball out from the back only to be tackled. It might not be beautiful, it might not win you reams of applause but sensible defensive play wins titles and sometimes kicking the ball out into row Z is what you have to do to win.
Planning what you are going to do as well as considering what could occur in the future is such an important facet of being a top defender. In his guide to defending, Rio Ferdinand stresses the importance of anticipation and talks about how thinking ahead can help you to avoid feeling panicked.
In practice this means, that, for example, when a team gets a corner don’t just think about the ball coming into the box but think about where it could when it's knocked down. From a throw look at where it might be flicked on to. Football is such a quick game that considering multiple outcomes can be the difference between a goal saving tackle and a striker getting a one on one with your goalkeeper.
Work Out How You're Going to Play
Finally, as a defender, it is a good idea to have a style, a way of playing and trying to hone parts of your game based on that, don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. The three classic styles are being a limited defender, a ball playing defender and a generic one. A limited defender will focus purely on winning the ball and stopping goals, they won’t think at all about what to do when they have the ball because they will just get it out of the danger area.
A ball playing defender, and this is better for advanced players, will hope to pick out their teammates and find passes, they will still keep it simple in their passing, but they will take their time a bit more. Finally, a generic central defender does a bit of both, they won’t play the perfect pass but also won’t just clear it away. Having a style and working towards playing that style can help you do more targeted and in-depth training.