Rio Ferdinand – ‘Virgil Van Dijk is better than John Terry’: Why defending talent is a bit annoying because it can sometimes fool both stats and eye test
Rio Ferdinand and John Terry were beefing on the TL at 00:00 on a random Thursday night. And people still tryna figure out why the ‘Golden Generation’ never won the World Cup or Euros.
There is a difference between “Best Defender” and “Most Exciting Defender”. It’s possible that your memories of a defender are built on exciting moments when they scored goals or made a sliding tackle. The best defenders create dynasties and look boring.
How exciting would the YouTube reels of the likes of Chiellini and Maldini be? The best Defenders make you believe that it was the opposition strikers that didn’t play well.
Watching that video makes me appreciate Van Dijk even more now. Didn’t know he’s that open to stuffs like that. What a great way to assess on ‘defending’? Top lad too, it shows he understands the game far better than many of these ‘pundits’. Kept smiling when Ferdinand was pulling him.
I like how he knows there’s a difference between “best in ability” and greatest in (“trophies”) end result. It’s a conversation that really should be had in team sports (and sports generally). How good are you really if it doesn’t translate to success in competition?
Notice how the first thing Van Dijk speaks about is body positioning and then channeling the attacker away from goal by the same. Not tackling, not dueling. The key is always to play the attacker’s mind.
In essence, he defends with aura. Those who know of his ability tend to avoid 1v1 situations. Think back to Sterling and Lautaro Martinez’s behavior when in isolation with VVD. Ironically, what he is mocked for is what makes him so good.
Defending talent is a bit annoying because it can sometimes fool both stats and eye test. It’s at its best when it’s preventive. It’s like having a police squad that stops most of the crimes even before they happen. You’ll think nothing is really happening.
That’s why I believe that the hardest test of defending is when you defend for an attacking team that dominates possession. You have to cover at least half the pitch.
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