Canadian footballers operating in the MLS have been notoriously underrated over the years, but now with the nation putting themselves on the world stage, clubs across the globe should start to pay more attention to our greatest players. One of those who has announced himself on the grandest stage is CF Montreal's Kamal Miller. Miller's been arguably Canada's best defender across the two opening group stage matches at the 2022 World Cup, serving as a nice compliment to his defensive partner Steven Vitoria at the back. With a range of qualities on and off the ball, Miller could easily be playing for a club in Europe's top five leagues already. So with that, we aim to strengthen Miller's case for a move across the pond.
Category: Centre Backs
Manuel Akanji at Man City – Tactical Analysis
Even at the cut-price of £15 million, many unaware football fans were skeptical of Manchester City's move for Manuel Akanji. The thought was that he was an unreliable defender, who frequently made critical defensive errors leading to goals. This happened a few times in Akanji's early days at BVB, and painfully for us as fans, most crucially in the lead-up to Dortmund losing the title in Favre's first year. But what many failed to recognize despite my constant banging of the drum last year - Akanji had grown into one of the best defenders on the planet in his final two seasons at the club. Here is our analysis of Manuel Akanji's start to life at Manchester City.
Canadian Premier League Scouting Database – Centre-Backs
All eight of our centre-backs are fairly similar in their approach, each standing out both in and out of possession. They could each hold their own in a high-possession system, and would likely continue to excel if put under the pressure of greater defensive responsibilities. But they also each have their own unique attributes that may work better in some contexts over others.
Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson – Player Analysis
On Sunday July 31, 2022, Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson became the first non-Canadian player to make 100 appearances in the Canadian Premier League. As an integral member to the league's best side, Jönsson has arguably been the player of the season so far in the 2022 season, featuring in all but one match. What's more - he's played admirably in not one but two positions this season, splitting his playing time between the right-side of centre-back and defensive midfield. Here is an analysis of one of the CANPL's best players - 26-year-old Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson.
Explaining the Sweeper – Player Role Analysis
The term 'Sweeper' has existed within the game for decades. The traditional usage encourages the contrasting relationship between one centre-back who steps out (the 'Stopper'), and one that sweeps in behind. The modern game has evolved in such a way where centre-backs typically perform both roles simultaneously, and it's rare to find clear-cut examples of 'Sweeper-Stopper' partnerships. In fact, I'd go as far to suggest that they typically exist more in back-threes in the modern game, with one clear-cut 'Stopper' angling higher than an obvious 'Sweeper' cleaning up the messes in behind. This Player Role Analysis is all about the modern day 'Sweepers', as we break down the tasks, functions and over-arching role of a 'Sweeper' in 2022.
Explaining the Stopper – Player Role Analysis
Over the past few decades, centre-backs have only grown in importance to attacking phases and playing out from the back, becoming some of the preeminent quarterbacks for their clubs. But the 'Stopper' is still alive and well, providing an 'old-school', throwback approach to defending that relishes the physical side of the game. Every team must find the balance in their defensive unit, and sometimes that may mean deploying a rock-solid, proactive defender that can win possession higher up the pitch. It's not the prettiest of roles, but when played correctly, 'Stoppers' can be absolutely imperative to a team's success.
Explaining the Ball-Playing-Centre-Half – Player Role Analysis
As the name suggests, a 'Ball-Playing-Centre-Half' is a centre-back that excels in possession of the ball, from passing to long passing to carrying to dribbling. They can simultaneously exist as 'Sweepers' or 'Stoppers', providing another interesting asterisk to the role not found in many other positions. Unlike say a fullback or goalkeeper where we have created clearly defined separations and almost polarizations on a style scale, 'Ball-Playing-Centre-Halves' can also be 'Stoppers' or 'Sweepers'.
Undervalued Premier League Talents: James Tarkowski
Although he's not currently in the Premier League, James Tarkowski remains one of the best value-buys the league has to offer, and should be destined for a move back into the big time. Here is what makes Tarkowski so remarkable, why every Premier League club should be taking interest, and which clubs rank as the best suitors for the 29-year-old.
Why there’s an abnormal amount of centre-backs taking set-pieces in the NWSL
In quite fantastic fashion, there is an abnormal representation of centre-halves on set-piece duties. Normally associated with banging in the goals from free kicks and corners, several NWSL teams instead have one of their centre-backs as a key taker of set-pieces. This begs the question we should always be asking in analysis - and that is...why?
Finding Obite Evan Ndicka’s next club
For two seasons in a row now at Eintracht Frankfurt, Obite Evan Ndicka has been one of the best centre-backs in the Bundesliga. A massive factor behind Frankfurt's fifth place finish in 2020-21 under Adi Hütter, followed by a stunning UEFA Europa League final charge in 2021-22, Obite Evan Ndicka is starting to now receive deserved attention as one of the most promising defenders in world football. With an eye for a goal, fantastic timing of decisions at the back, phenomenal dueling ability, and pace to sweep in behind defensive mistakes, all top European clubs should be tracking Ndicka's progress at Frankfurt this season. But mysteriously, very few seem to be circling around the 22-year-old, and most clubs in need of a centre-back appear to have their eyes set on other targets. So with that, we attempt to find Obite Evan Ndicka's next club, if a move were to be made ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
What Nico Schlotterbeck will bring to Borussia Dortmund
Famous for their stunningly sound recruitment of young players, Borussia Dortmund have carried on the trend of snapping up some of the Bundesliga's best with their latest signing of SC Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck. The 22-year-old has been one of the best defenders in Germany this season, growing immensely from his 2020-21 campaign with Union Berlin, and massively developing his all-around game. Now one of the most accomplished defenders in a variety of categories, Dortmund were right to swoop in for a minimal €20 million fee. So with that, we analyze what Nico Schlotterbeck will bring to Borussia Dortmund ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
Assessing Manchester United’s future centre-back options
For the past few seasons, the attention on Manchester United's transfer business has surrounded their inability to sign a world class defensive midfielder. However, with United floundering under Ralf Rangnick's style of play, greater defensive concerns have been illuminated in the past few months.
The real problem with Harry Maguire’s defending
Let's face it. You're tired of hearing about Harry Maguire. So are we! So with that, we debunk the Harry Maguire myth, and pose an alternative perspective as to why he's having a "difficult season" for Manchester United.