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Where's the praise for the defenders?

If I asked you to pick your favourite football player in the game, most people would say Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney. Maybe even Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao or Sergio Aguero.

But very few would say Nemanja Vidic, Philipp Lahm, Thiago Silva, Giorgio Chiellini, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Ashley Cole and the likes. This leads me to my question – are attackers (both midfielders and strikers) considered to be better than defenders?

Barcelona’s Carles Puyol (R) and teammate Gerard Pique.

This has been debated a lot. Although we can agree that both attackers and defenders are important to a team’s success; it is popular belief that attackers are more vital to a team than defenders. Defenders are largely underrated and under-appreciated too.

This maybe due to a number of reasons, some as simple as attackers create goals and thus, bring excitement to the game. However if you actually think about it, wouldn’t you rather watch a close, nervy game decided right at the end rather than a 6-0 drubbing that is decided before half time? And isn’t good defending a major part of what makes these games so thrilling?

It is believed that attackers require more skill to do their job, they have to take the ball, beat opposing defenders, create goals and also help their defense when their own team is under pressure. This maybe true, but only to a certain extent. For the sake of this article, let’s assume Messi is the best attacker as he can do all of the above mentioned things well.

However, Messi can’t win aerial balls, 50/50′s, have the positional sense to be a defender, perform last ditch tackles, command a back line or perform a perfectly timed slide-tackle. Thus, in my opinion, it is unfair to say that Messi is a better footballer than the likes of Vidic, Cannavaro or Lahm. He may be a better attacker but not a better footballer.

Moreover, defending requires more concentration throughout the entire game; one mistake and the opposition could score a goal or you could get sent off. Strikers and midfielders usually get more than one chance to prove themselves in a game; they can make up for slip-up’s with an assist or a goal. Defenders on the other hand are chided for every tiny mistake they make.

Let me put it this way:  with excellent defenders and poor attackers you will draw games AT LEAST. With excellent attackers and poor defenders you will draw games AT MOST.

Thus, defenders are vital to any team and they deserve more praise and attention than what they are getting right now. Because right now, it seems like defenders are destined to be footnotes to the more famous midfielders and strikers they play with, which is in no way acceptable.

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