tirsdag den 30. november 2010

Rio Ferdinand

Manchester United

Defender - England

Original 200 writeup (shared with Ricardo Carvalho):

The long awaited final shared ranking sees perhaps the two most gifted central defenders come together. At their best they're probably still the best at their position, but especially for Ferdinand bad health this season has meant that he just hasn't been able to contribute like the final remaining defenders ahead of him.

Carvalho has played more, yet not nearly as much as for an example his partner in the Chelsea defense. I also think Carvalho when playing, unlike Ferdinand mostly, is showing a little bit of decline from his previous lofty standards.

Their respective gifts are of course very different. Ferdinand can dominate like few others with his great physique and if at close range man-marking the opponent, can be close to untouchable. Both on the ground and in the air. A testament of this is his seemingly non existent need to foul. He hasn't played many times this season, he has only featured in 13 Premier League games, but quite unbelievably in those he has only committed 2(!) fouls and in the previous two seasons only 13 in 24 and 35 games respectively. I tried looking at different good centrebacks and no one really came close to that tally. Committing the least fouls isn't the be all of being a great central defender and other factors are involved, just like with all stats in football, but it does say something at least, and if no one at the moment is even close it does strengthen Ferdinand's case as the best defender in the world when healthy.

Interestingly the closest I could find at least (didn't look that hard it has to be said) were Daniel Agger and Kolo Toure who also have had seasons with very few fouls. Toure with 17, 23 and 15 in at least 40 games the last three seasons. There is also Pique who in La Liga this season only committed very few fouls (15 in 29) but still averaged more than one per game last season and in the Champions League as well the last couple of years.

Ferdinand is of course also known for his sound technique and right from an early age taking that very much needed aspect for the modern defender to new standards for British centrebacks.

For Carvalho who's athletic ability definitely shouldn't be underestimated just cause he isn't big and strong like Ferdinand, more than anything it's perhaps the best defensive instincts in the game that makes him so good. At his best he has close to flawless positioning, whether it's pushing up perfectly timing a defensive intervention or if it's staying back sticking, stylewise if anything, like great Italian catenaccio stoppers of the past to the attacker like he is human glue. More than any current defender he just glues his whole body almost to the attacking players doing anything needed to prevent opposition chances.

My only fear for Carvalho and why he is down here with Ferdinand despite playing more games is that sometimes he will overestimate agility and pace that perhaps isn't quite what it used to be and sometimes gamble a little bit too much. It's still rare though but it happens.

It should also be noted that Carvalho also has very good technique with a good range of passing and good control when he is occasionally going forward.

The 300 update:

It continues to be all about health for Ferdinand. There are simply no other question marks. He only started 12 games in the premiership last season but is at 10 so far this season and to the great benefit of his club right now in the middle of a good healthy spell where he is playing excellent.

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