Top 5 defenders of the ISL 2023-24 season: Center-backs from underperforming Jamshedpur FC and Chennaiyin FC make the cut; Jay Gupta misses out

A look at the top five defenders from the ISL 2023-24 season.
A look at the top five defenders from the ISL 2023-24 season.

Crunching tackles, goal-line clearances, and adrenaline-fueled duels capped off another enthralling season of the Indian Super League (ISL) as Mohun Bagan Super Giant clinched the League Shield and Mumbai City FC conquered the Cup.

The saying 'attack wins you matches, and defense wins you titles' was proven to be true yet again as the teams who conceded the least number of goals through the league phase challenged for both titles. All great defenses function more as well-oiled machines, few individuals hogged the limelight.

On that note, let's take a look at the five best defenders from the ISL 2023-24 season:

#5 Laldinpuia PC (Jamshedpur FC)

Even with a late resurgence under Khalid Jamil, Jamshedpur FC suffered an underwhelming season, with the club finishing 11th in the league standings. The Red Miners shipped in 32 goals throughout the season, however, Laldinpuia was one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise disjointed unit.

The 27-year-old delivered consistent performances over the season, whether operating in a four-back system or as the left center-back in a three-back system. Occasionally, he slotted into the full-back position as well on both flanks and even scored a crucial goal in a 2-2 draw with Chennaiyin FC.

Defensively, Laldinpuia registered 106 successful duels, 133 recoveries, and 35 tackles over the 21 appearances. Additionally, he maintained a pass completion rate of 80 percent.

#4 Rahul Bheke (Mumbai City FC)

Petr Kratky has throughout the season, on multiple occasions, highlighted the importance of Rahul Bheke in the Mumbai City squad for his consistent performances and leadership qualities. The 33-year-old was a crucial cog in the Islanders' defensive wheel and was one of the first names on the team sheet.

With 21 tackles, 74 successful duels, 101 recoveries, and eight clean sheets under his belt, the veteran defender was one of the standout performers throughout the season. His versatility is a standout feature, seamlessly transitioning between right and left-sided center-back roles in addition to his customary right-back duties.

#3 Ryan Edwards (Chennaiyin FC)

Despite the Marina Machans struggling to find their feet throughout the majority of the season, Ryan Edwards emerged as a defensive linchpin and steered them to the playoffs berth. Although Chhenaiyin conceded the second-highest number of goals in the ISL 2023-24 season, the English center-back's impact was evident.

Tallying 79 clearances, 31 blocks, 26 interceptions, and nine successful tackles, Edwards cemented his spot on the list. Even beyond these numbers, he came away with 100 successful duels, highlighting his relentless effort on the pitch.

#2 Odei Onaindia (FC Goa)

Following the footsteps of Manolo Marquez, the Spanish center-back moved to FC Goa ahead of the 2023-24 season. The 34-year-old added a sense of composure to the backline and even in the absence of Sandesh Jhingan, he held his own. Throughout the league stage, the Gaurs conceded just 21 goals, only bested by Mumbai City FC.

The veteran defender helped Goa secure eight clean sheets, registering 30 interceptions, 16 blocks, and 94 clearances. Additionally, he came away successful in 67 duels across the season.

#1 Subhasish Bose (Mohun Bagan SG)

When one intends to zoom in on the standout defender for the season, purely numbers or highlight reels aren't enough criterion; consistency makes or breaks the deal. There's been one defender across the season who has maintained an elite level of performance, despite changes in coaches, and an overhaul in approach.

Subhasish Bose operated as a makeshift center-back throughout the season, reverting to his natural left-back role occasionally. The Mariners started in a four-back system but then switched to a three-back under Antonio Lopez Habas. Irrespective of his position, the 28-year-old had a defense-first approach and registered a staggering tally of 37 successful, 145 duels won, and 132 recoveries.

As a leader, as an old-school center-back, and as a fearless competitor, Bose was the standout performer of the 2023-24 season.

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Edited by Ankush Das
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