The art or skill of defending properly in football has always been invaluable, whether in the past or modern era. In fact, the popular saying in soccer that “attack wins you games but defense wins you titles” illustrates the level of importance attached to defending. Many young aspiring footballers often wonder how to become better football defenders
Well, in this article, you will learn some tips on how to be a better defender, which will help stand one out and hone your defensive skills.
Size & Strength
It has become sort of a prerequisite to be able to play in defense. More often than not, it’s important to be of considerable size and have an appreciable level of strength.
The best defenders were usually big guys who could intimidate and easily mark out the opposition. Their size enabled them conveniently bully the opposing team’s attackers, blocking any clear path to goal.
A defender’s incredible strength also allows him to wrestle and overpower any of the opposing team’s players, so they won’t be able to get into scoring positions.
To become a very good defender, you have to train yourself to be very strong when jumping in the air to contest for headers.
This is important when defending set-pieces like free-kicks or corner-kicks. Sometimes it can come in handy for your team when attacking the opposition box during a set piece.
It is important to train yourself how to head the ball properly and also how to get your timing right when attempting to head a ball. Strength in the air is also important to have so that you will win most of your aerial duels.
You don’t need to be extremely tall to be dominant aerially as a defender. A good example is Lisandro Martinez, who stands at 5ft 8 inches, but is very good on the air.
Positioning & Intelligence
In today’s game, you will find many decent defenders, but what stands out the elite from the rest is their superior football intelligence and great sense of positioning.
A lot of the time, just knowing where to be is enough to snuff out danger instead of having to go in for a last-minute tackle. The ability to also read the game and organize your defense is a must-have if you desire to be rated highly as a defender.
Virgil Van Dijk is a good example of a player who posseses this quality. In a 2019 interview with Marca, when Lionel Messi was asked why Van Dijk was a tough defender, the Argentine said: “He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge the attacker.
Bravery & Determination
Most defenders will tell you that defending your goal is one of the most tasking and physically demanding assignments any player can have.
It requires mental fortitude and a focused mindset that can help you stop the opposition from scoring. Sometimes you will need to put your whole body on the line whether to stop an attacker or goal-bound shot. Courage to also face and get the better of a talented player.
Chelsea Legend, John Terry displayed bravery when defending, often putting his body on the line to block shots.
A decent level of speed is greatly required of a defender, especially in the modern era where you are facing speedsters almost every week.
A distinct lack of pace will spell doom for any defender nowadays when he’s likely to face opposition forwards who are skillful and very fast.
Barcelona defender, Ronald Araujo is one of the fastest defenders in football, which makes him hard to beat.
While it is not necessary for every soccer player, having leadership qualities can take you stand out as a defender.
Some of the best defenders in football, like Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Philip Lahm, Thiago Silva, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Marquinhos all have excellent leadership qualities.