Centre-Backs. The brick walls of defence. For aspirations of winning the Premier League, it is imperative to have a strong back line. With Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City set to fight it out in the next few months for the title, this following piece will look at the main centre-back for each team and how they have fared so far this season. Looking at stats such a tackling, duels, errors, clearances etc as well as my own opinion on how they have performed and contributed to their team’s success. The players in questions will be Martin Skrtel, John Terry, Vincent Kompany and Per Mertesacker.
Firstly let us view some general defensive stats for our players. Clean sheets in one of the main indicators to which defenders and goalkeepers are judged upon and so far it is Per Mertesacker who has the most clean sheets with 12, closely followed by John Terry with 11. Kompany has only 4 to his name but has played in fewer games than the other three players. In terms of goals conceded, it is Martin Skrtel who is has by far conceded the most when in the team with 35, Kompany having the lowest with only 20 conceded. Terry has the best goals conceded per game average with a miserly 0.81, with the other three players conceding at least one per game, Skrtel having the highest average of 1.35. Skrtel has made the most interceptions and also most goals out of all four players with 51 interceptions and four goals to his name.
Moving onto the in-depth stats, we shall now discuss the number relating to different challenges. Starting with tackling, Kompany has made the most successful tackles for the least games played with 27 with Terry making the fewest on 17. In terms of tackles won percentage, Skrtel has the highest percentage of all four players, with 78% of his tackles being successful whilst the other three players. Terry has the worst minutes per tackle won rate, with an average of one successful tackle every 1.5 games. Kompany has the best numbers for this stat, with a successful tackle every 54 minutes.
In football terms, duels are defined as 50-50 challenges between opposing players. Starting with ground duels, Kompany has the most successful grounds duels with 60 with Terry having the least with 36. However, Terry has the best ground duels won percentage which shows that even though he is involved in less ground duels, he is winning a higher majority of them than the other players in question. Kompany again has the best mins per ground duel won average with one ground duel won every 25 minutes.
Shifting over to aerial duels, Skrtel has the highest amount of successful aerial duels with 88 from 127. John Terry has had 84 successful duels but has the lowest percentage of aerial duels won with 67%, but this has from 125 aerial duels which is a considerably high number. Skrtel has the best mins per aerial duel won average with 26.39 per aerial duel won, whereas Kompany has a successful headed duel every 70 minutes.
Looking at some stats regarding clearances, it is Martin Skrtel who has the best averages for both minutes per successful clearance and minutes per successful headed clearance. With averages of 7.69 and 13.82, it shows that Skrtel is a no nonsense kind of defender. Kompany has surprisingly the worst averages from the four players with 13.37 and 23.85 respectively for each category.
As a defender and especially as a centre-back, you obviously want to keep any errors to a minimum. Saying that, the stats above show that the players have been impressive in terms of the amount of mistakes made so far in the season. Mertesacker and Terry have only made two errors that have led to shots with none leading to a goal and no own goals between them. Skrtel has made a fair few errors this season with two of the leading to a shot, one leading to a goal and also has three own goals to his name.
Season performance so far
Martin Skrtel – After being dropped in favour of Jamie Carragher at the end of last season, Skrtel could’ve taken the easy way out and packed his bags, especially after the arrivals of Toure and Sakho in the summer. Determined to show that he a lot to offer to Liverpool, he decided to stay and regain his place. His return to the Liverpool fold came against Man Utd in what was an excellent defensive display which attracted much praise. Since then Skrtel has been a regular in the Liverpool starting line up, with injuries to Agger, Sakho and Toure at different times giving the Slovakian a chance to consolidate a first team place. Two goals against Arsenal also helped his popularity with the Anfield crowd. Individual errors have cost Liverpool a number of games this season and Skrtel has been guilty of a number of errors, with own goals against Hull and West Ham, as well as comical defending at the likes of Fulham. Skrtel has had a good season but with the lack of a long running partnership at the back, it has led to misunderstandings which could cost Liverpool in the long run.
John Terry – there is only one word to describe John Terry this season, superb. Terry has found himself out of favour when Benitez took over as interim coach and many thought it might be the end for the former England captain at Stamford Bridge. However, the veteran centre back has flourished this season after being united with Jose Mourinho who he enjoyed his best years under. Mourinho has seemed to again find the best out of the retired England international, with some stunning defensive displays alongside Gary Cahill. Terry’s form has been summed up by the amount of goals Chelsea have conceded with only 22 attempts going past Petr Cech this season. With the Blues sitting at the top with a four gap to Liverpool and Arsenal, Terry has had to lead his defence well, especially as Chelsea haven’t been prolific in front of goal. Having scored a crucial 90th winner against Everton a few weeks ago to keep them at the summit, John Terry will need to keep the performances at that standard if they are to win the league.
Vincent Kompany – having just won the Capital One cup in a 3-1 win against Sunderland, the Man City captain will be over the moon at their first trophy of the season. Injuries have forced Kompany to be part of only 14 games so far this season and have missed his leadership qualities in some of those games. The Belgian captain will feel that the injuries have affected his performances as City have conceded 20 goals in the 14 games he has played, having conceded only 27 so far overall. Saying that, Kompany is back to full fitness and with City’s quality, you would expect them to push all the way to the very end for the title, having been dubbed favourites at the start of the season. Kompany has talked up the possibility of a quadruple but he will definitely have his and his teammate’s feet firmly on the ground with some big games coming up.
Per Mertesacker – Mertesacker has been solid all season and has built up a great partnership with Laurent Koscielny in the heart of Arsenal’s defence. Much has been made of Per’s lack of pace since making his move to England but used his other strengths to nullify his inadequacies. His footballing intelligence and his ability to read the game fantastically well has dumbfounded the strikers he has come up against and this is one of the reasons he has been able to keep former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen out of the starting line-up. A brilliant stat which was uncovered earlier in the season was that Mertesacker and Koscielny hadn’t lost as a partnership when they have played together for 31 games. That astonishing record came to a halt when Arsenal lost to Liverpool 5-1 but shows the defensive qualities of the big German. With massive games coming up for Arsenal in the next month, Mertesacker will have to be at the top of his game if Arsenal are to have a successful end to the season.