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The Lost Art of Defending – An English Premier League Story

Gone are the days when every striker feared the crunching tackles of defenders Jaap Stam and Nemanja Vidic. Gone are the days when John Terry and Rio Ferdinand hammered attackers as soon as they touched the ball. Even the incredible pace and defensive power of Gary Neville and Ashley Cole are no more playing. The game is changing and defensive solidarity is being compromised for attacking prowess.

pl defenders ashley cole
Image Source: Twitter.com

The continued commercialization of the sport has a part to play in this. The superior entertainment value of attacking football has led fans to demand offensive tactics. Wing backs are no longer just defenders. They are expected to possess superior attacking quality and support the wingers in their attacking efforts. Center Backs are no longer just walls between the opponent and the goal. They are expected to be playmakers who are good with their passing and footwork. All this is admirable but at the same time, a compromise on pure defensive ability is sometimes accepted if it is made up of by these other attributes.

Another aspect that has largely influenced this trend is the change in refereeing guidelines. Players are protected a lot more these days and fouls are given away for a lot lesser than they were in the past. The introduction of VAR has skyrocketed the number of penalties given too. Defenders have to be a lot more careful about making any kind of contact. Attackers nowadays require nothing more than a nudge to hit the floor and claim a foul or penalty.

As a result, we are seeing very high scoring fixtures in the Premier League. This season has been incredible in terms of goals scored. Clean sheets are becoming few and far apart. There has been only a single goalless draw in 48 matches so far this season. A total of 170 goals have been scored so far in just 48 games. This averages at 3.54 goals per match which is an incredible number after 5 game weeks.

pl defenders van djik robertson
Image Source: Andrew Robertson Twitter

Teams that kept a large number of clean sheets last season such as Liverpool have only kept one in 5 games so far. The lack of a proper preseason is also considered to play a role in this. New signings have not had time to settle in and teams have not been able to regroup and rebuild sufficiently after the end of the previous campaign.

The game is evolving as always and a shift to attacking football is very noticeable. While this is entertaining, an important aspect of the game is losing traction. Sir Alex Ferguson once said ” A great attack will win you matches. But a great defense will win you titles.” The team that can find the balance between attack and defense is most likely to dominate European football. As Jose Mourinho always says, You can’t lose a game without conceding a goal. Defending is a very important part of the game and it is crucial to re-emphasize its impact on football matches.

Also Read: The Ronaldo Messi Effect

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