It’s no secret that the art of defending has probably progressed quicker than any other skill needed to play the beautiful game.
Back in the day it was almost always about making sure the ball was cleared, no matter what, with hitting row Z being a particular bonus point.
But now it’s all about passing, positioning, reading the game and helping the the midfielders and strikers press the opposition.
Betway Insider have spoken to a number of top ex-Premier League defenders, all of which have won numerous Premier League titles whilst playing for the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, and they’ve been recalling what it was like defending in their time as professionals compared to what they’re seeing in the modern game.
Gary Pallister, who won four Premier League titles with Manchester United between 1992 and 1997, points to how much the quality of the pitches have improved over time, explaining: “A lot of the issues were to do with the pitches.
“If you look at the pitches I played on in the early part of my career, they looked like rugby pitches. Nowadays they’re like bowling greens and you can take more risks if you trust the pitch.”
Nigel Winterburn, a Premier League title winner in 1997/1998 and two-time First Division winner between 1988 and 1991, points to the fact you no longer have to just be a good defender in order to make it in the modern game, you have to be more of an allrounder.
“When I played, you had to be an outstanding defender or you wouldn’t get into one of the top four teams,” he said.
“Now you don’t have to be as good defensively, but if you don’t have that quality on the ball then you probably wouldn’t get into a top team.”
And Lauren, another Premier League title winner with Arsenal, twice lifting the trophy, puts it perfectly, suggesting that as the game evolves, so does the players and the positions involved.
He said: “Not everything from today’s game is fantastic. But to be the best now, you have to combine the best of the most traditional skills and the best of the modern-day skills.
“Evolution is good.”