The new Premier League season is only a week away and you can feel the buzz surrounding the opening weekend with all teams raring to go. In the fourth instalment of our season preview comparisons, it’s time for the defenders to take centre stage and see how a few of them performed last season and whether they can help their teams to a successful campaign this time round. In this piece, we’ll be looking at statistics and performances regarding Vincent Kompany, Martin Skrtel, John Terry and Per Mertesacker.
Vincent Kompany – Manchester City
It was fitting that Man City captain Vincent Kompany had the final say to seal the club’s second Premier League trophy in three years. Kompany’s goal in the 2-0 win against West Ham on the final day ended any repeat of the crazy drama in 2012 and clinched the title after an exhilarating battle between City and Liverpool in the latter stages of the season.
It was the Belgian’s best season in a City shirt by any means. Injuries reduced him to 28 games during the season and a lack of a stable defensive partner meant that there was a lack of communication at the back from time to time. In the games played, the City captain recorded only eight clean sheets and conceded 30 goals in his 28 matches, giving him a goal conceded per match ratio of 1.07. Nevertheless, by any other player’s standard it would’ve been an excellent season. Kompany registered a 70.77% tackle success rate at an average of one every 36 minutes. Over the course of the season, Kompany was on hand with 62 vital interceptions but was also at fault defensively on three occasions, one of which being in the crucial 3-2 to Liverpool but luckily City did enough to take the title regardless.
Worst moment of 2013/2014: Error leading to Coutinho’s winner in the 3-2 loss to Liverpool.
Best moment of 2013/2014: Scoring the second goal against West Ham to clinch the title.
Martin Skrtel – Liverpool
Skrtel from an individual stance was probably the most impressive Liverpool defender of last season. At the start of the season, Skrtel didn’t seem to be one of Brendan Rodgers first choice centre-backs but after being left out of the first two games, the Slovakian put in a stellar display against United and his place in the team was secured ever since. Injuries to Agger, Sakho and Toure did help his cause but his displays were generally good and also produced in the big head to head games, scoring against Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea.
In the 36 games Skrtel was involved in, the team only kept eight clean sheets, which is unlike Liverpool who are generally miserly in this aspect. The Reds conceded 50 goals whilst Skrtel was on the pitch at a rate of 1.39 goals per game, an area which will need to be improved if they are to again challenge at the top of the table. In terms of individual statistics, the 29-year-old weighed in with a tackle success rate of 73.47% at a rate of one every 66 minutes. Skrtel was also involved in a mammoth 182 aerial duels, winning an impressive 70% of those. As mentioned before, Skrtel’s goals were vital, especially in the crucial games. Doubles against Arsenal and Cardiff as well the vital second goal in the 3-2 against City showed how effective the centre-back can be from set-pieces. On the flip side however, Skrtel had his name on the score sheet four more times but this time as own goals, something to avoid in the coming season.
Worst moment of 2013/2014: Deflecting two shots into his own net in 3-1 defeat to Hull City.
Best moment of 2013/2014: Scoring twice in the 5-1 drubbing of Arsenal at Anfield.
John Terry – Chelsea
Terry has been on the fringes of the Chelsea team before Jose Mourinho returned to the hot seat. Terry and Mourinho have had a fruitful relationship over the years and the Portuguese had no qualms in bringing the veteran defender back into his first team squad. Mourinho was not left disappointed as Captain Terry and Cahill created a brick wall like partnership in the heart of the Chelsea defence. With many thinking that Terry was past his best, last season proved his quality at the highest level and is ready for at least another season where his team can challenge for the title.
The former England international started 34 games last season and kept 16 clean sheets, indicating how tight Chelsea were as a defensive unit. The London club only conceded 25 goals when Terry was on the pitch, at an average of 0.74 goals per game. The 33-year-old’s tackle success rate registered at 62.07% from his surprisingly low amount of only 29 tackles over the season. Terry was however involved in 65 ground duels and was successful 71% of the time as well as a 65% success rate from his 152 aerial challenges. Terry only made two defensive errors over the course of the season and also lost possession of the ball on two occasions, showing how strong he is with the ball at his feet. Chelsea’s main issue was their deficiencies in attack but if they can improve the goal scoring and maintain the strong defensive displays from last season, they will definitely be regarded as strong contenders with Terry at the forefront.
Worst moment of 2013/2014: Own goal against Crystal Palace which ended in a 1-0 defeat.
Best moment of 2013/2014: Scoring a 90th minute winner against Everton at Stamford Bridge.
Per Mertesacker – Arsenal
With Arsenal mainly basing their team around young talent and established players in their prime, it sometimes takes a wise head to keep the team balanced especially in defence. This is where the Per Mertesacker came in with some very intelligent displays, demonstrated his strong footballing knowledge on positioning and astute defending. We all know that the Germany international isn’t the fastest of players and in a one-on-one race, he would probably come off second best against most strikers. However, his concentration levels as well as clever defending have helped eradicate the lack of pace and his partnership with Laurent Koscielny helped create the foundation for many good performances last season.
The World Cup winner started 35 games for the Gunners, helping keep 16 clean sheets and conceded 39 goals, averaging to 1.11 goals per games. Mertesacker’s cool head under pressure has helped him read the game exceptionally well, making 65 interceptions over the course of the season and on average lost possession once every 24 minutes, less than the other three defenders mentioned. The 29-year-old was successful with 70.73% of his 41 tackles and won 68% of his 142 aerial challenges. Crucially, Mertesacker made only two defensive errors over the course of the season. This is only one of the reasons as to why Arsene Wenger trusts in his giant centre-back and Mertesacker had even demoted Captain Thomas Vermaelan to a place on the bench with his performances and now looks to be on his way to Barcelona for £15 million. Arsenal will again be challenging for a minimum Champions League place but the aim will be the Premier League title as it is every season and they will need the likes of Mertesacker to perform consistently in order to achieve their goals.
Worst moments of 2013/2014: Heavy away defeats against Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City
Best moment of 2013/2014: Record of 31 games unbeaten when playing alongside Koscielny. (as well as winning the World Cup of course)
All four players are set for another crucial season as they do battle for supremacy in the Premier League and hopefully see their team lift the coveted trophy in May. With only a week away, I for one cannot wait for the start of the new season.