7 attributes of an ideal centre-back

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal shows appreciation to the fans after the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on April 30, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Koscielny is one of the most versatile centre-backs on the planet

“You must stop either the ball or the man. Both must never get past you.”

A centre-back is one of the most crucial players in a team for its prolonged success, and no team is complete without one. In the modern game, with the increasing speed of play and more physicality involved, the centre-half is challenged immensely. His job in the team is harder than ever before. So, what exactly are the ingredients that go into making the ideal central defender? Let’s take a look:

Also read: What are the different field positions in football?

#1 Positioning

Evidently, the most important characteristic that a centre-half should possess is awareness and sense of positioning. Having a keen eye for predicting a striker’s next move and sensing when to cut off the danger or make a vital interception allows defenders to win the ball without taking on the opposing player, thereby making up for a lack of pace, like in the case of Per Mertesacker.

The importance of positioning cannot be overstated: Having this quality goes a long way in being a great defender. Giorgio Chiellini and Jerome Boateng are perhaps the best examples of the same.

#2 Communication along the backline

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Leicester City's two central defenders Wes Morgan of Leicester City and Robert Huth of Leicester City look on during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Liverpool at The King Power Stadium on February 27, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Communication is one of the most important aspects of defending

Every formation fields a minimum of two centre backs, and therefore it is crucial to have a good understanding with your defending counterparts. This can be seen especially when one of the defenders comes out to challenge the attacker and the other covers up in his place.

An offside trap requires great chemistry between the two men at the back in order for it to be successful, requiring both the defenders to push forward in unison. Having such excellent chemistry and coordination can make a defence extremely solid, even without any world class defenders present. Proof of this statement is in Robert Huth and Wes Morgan’s partnership that won Leicester the league last season.

#3 On-the-ball ability

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 26:  John Stones of England is tackled by Nerijus Valskis of Lithuania during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between England and Lithuania at Wembley Stadium on March 26, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
John Stones has the ability to play his way out of trouble

With the demands of the modern game ever increasing, defending nowadays isn’t simply about no-nonsense tackles or monstrous clearances, but also about retaining possession and staying calm and collected on the ball.

This has become a prerequisite for defenders at top tier clubs. Consequently, defenders who are comfortable with the ball at their feet can allow the team to suck in the opposition and exploit the hole left in behind by the invited high press. John Stones is an excellent example of such a player.

#4 Acceleration

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  David Luiz of Chelsea closes down Mesut Ozil of Arsenal during The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Luiz often uses his pace to get himself out of tricky situations

An instant burst of pace is a must for defenders of the modern era. Having the legs to make up ground for a winger’s adroit skill moves and subsequently making a tackle can go a long way in helping the team keep a clean sheet.

We are often left starstruck when we see a centre-back track back at top gear and defend his goal. Hector Bellerin and David Luiz are defenders who often use their instant acceleration to great effect.

#5 Upper Body Strength

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 18:  Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid and Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City battle for possession during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Leicester City and Club Atletico de Madrid at The King Power Stadium on April 18, 2017 in Leicester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Diego Godin’s physique allows him to out-muscle most attackers

Upper body strength is a huge advantage to any central defender, allowing him to physically out-muscle any competition on the ball. A centre back must stand his ground and ensure he does not get pushed around when there is a threat to the goal lurking nearby.

A centre back must not get bullied, and having a good build will ensure that that does not happen. Additionally, a good physique can intimidate the opposition player, as people like Pepe, Diego Godin, Nemanja Vidic and Vincent Kompany have shown over the years.

#6 Tackling

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JUNE 05:  Jan Vertonghen of Belgium looks on during the International Friendly match between Belgium and Czech Republic at Stade Roi Baudouis on June 5, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Vertonghen is one of the best tacklers in the game

Everyone likes a good, old school, no-nonsense tackle. For a defender, knowing when to commit to the tackle is of utmost importance. When to stand your ground, when to jockey and when to actually make a sliding or standing tackle are quirks that speak volumes of the quality of the centre-half.

Marking is perhaps the most key aspect, as sticking to your allotted man or taking full responsibility of your zones as per directions received could potentially stop the opposition from posing a threat to your goal. The most acclaimed tacklers of this day would include Laurent Koscielny and Jan Vertonghen.

#7 Aerial Ability

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 18: Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid CF wins the header before Mats Hummels of Bayern Muenchen during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Real Madrid CF and FC Bayern Muenchen at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 18, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Ramos is second to none in the air

Knowing how and when to head the ball is essential for a centre-half. Crossing the ball into the box is one of the most basic, yet effective plays for the attacking team, and, while important for any player, it’s more than doubly important for a centre-half.

Having good aerial ability can go a long way in ensuring that crosses do not pose a threat to your goalkeeper between the sticks. At the other end of the pitch, one well-placed or one powerful header can give your side a goal to take home. In this sense, heading is absolutely essential, and of use at both ends. Sergio Ramos for me is an undisputed maestro when it comes to heading the ball.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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