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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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?
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.
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.
Dortmund need to consider their centre-back options in the current market, and start planning for the future. We take a look at the very best defenders that could make for realistic and easy signings for the Black & Yellows to make this summer. Let's get into it.
The 2021 January Transfer Window is officially one week in! And with that, we’re continuing to take a look at clubs with a bit of a blackhole in their team, that desperately needs to be covered before the end of next summer. We’re going to match that blackhole up with one player who could potentially fill that void if a move were to be made in January, by assessing and analyzing a player that is a perfect match for the team’s style of play. Today, it’s all about Borussia Dortmund's Manuel Akanji, and why he’d be a perfect fit for Chelsea.
The end of year is almost here, and that means it's time for our annual Top 100 Footballers list. This year, you, the readers of our website, will get to have your say. Just simply see the list of nominees below, and rearrange the list to suit your preference of first to last in each position. When we rank the Top 100 Footballers of the Year, we take into consideration a player's form throughout 2021, their club and national team success, difficulty of league, and their reputation + performances in the year prior. You can rank based on any criteria you desire! Below is our poll ranking the best centre backs in 2021.
Nearly every single professional team these days strives to play out from the back. Gone are the days when a goalkeeper would launch the ball up the field to a fast/tall striker to chase on to or nod down. Build-up play has become more and more important in the professional game and youth teams are beginning to take notice too. From a youth development perspective, playing out of the back is far more beneficial for all players than just one player kicking it up the field as far as they can in hopes that a fast, physical player will get on the end of in.