Next in our Squad Announcement series: I take a look at the depth in the heart of our defence. We play with 3 Central Defenders, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for youngsters to come in and impress, while not always impacting the team’s performance too much, which I think has been a key part of being able to bring through young talents like Joe Gomez and Matthijs De Ligt over the last few years.
#17. Mats Hummels
One of our blockbuster signings last season, Hummels arrived from Bayern for an outrageous £72m, but he has more than justified his transfer fee with a string of imperious performances. Hummels chipped in with 3 goals in 30 appearances last season, averaging just 2.01 tackles per game, but making up for that with an innate ability to be in the right place at the right time to intercept the ball, rather than diving in to dispossess opponents. Often playing in the heart of defence, Hummels presence in the air and on the ground cannot be overstated, and his pass competition rate of 77% is indicative of his ability to quickly recycle possession and get us back onto the front foot.
Last Season: P: 30 | G: 3 | A: 3 | Avg: 7.34
#6. Daniele Rugani
Rugani was one of the first players I brought to the club, joining from Juventus for £32m. That transfer fee now looks like a bargain for a player who is on the verge of becoming one of the world’s best. Rugani featured 26 times last season, and while he still has some developing to do, I think he acquitted himself well when called upon, often filling the same role as Hummels within the defence, breaking up opposition attacks through anticipation and positioning, rather than diving into the tackle.
Last Season: P: 26 | G: 0 | A: 1 | Avg: 7.14
#4. Aymeric Laporte
Another of my initial buys, Laporte has justified me triggering his £58m release clause over the past two seasons, through his willingness to drive us forward from defence, as well as his strength in the tackle and aptitude for being in the right place at the right time. Laporte’s pass success rate last season was a staggering 80%, and while he only averaged 2.16 tackles per game, it is clear that Laporte is an important part of our defensive unit, with quality which really shines when we’re put under pressure.
Last Season: P: 27 | G: 0 | A: 1 | Avg: 7.14
#12. Joe Gomez
One of the club’s success stories, Gomez has really grown over the last two seasons, and while i’d like to get rid of the “tries to play way out of trouble” PPM for one slightly more desirable, Gomez has been one of our most impressive players over the last two seasons. Last season, he featured 46 times, chipping in with 4 goals and 7 assists, and averaging a rating of 7.40, one of the highest in the squad. What amazes me the most about Gomez is that at just 22, there is still a massive amount of room for further development, especially looking at his attributes. He has ability in all the key areas of his game, but i think i’d like to continue to work on a few areas, particularly his passing game.
Last Season: P: 46 | G: 4 | A: 7 | Avg: 7.40
#31. Malang Sarr
Malang Sarr joined us in 2017, featuring 3 times that season, and 6 the following year, before spending the remainder of the season on loan with Lyon, where he put in a good shift, and developed nicely. He featured 22 times for Lyon, averaging 1.83 tackles per game, and averaging a rating of 6.78. I’ve kept Sarr at the club this year in a bid to further his development again, and at 20 he’s at the prime age to really kick on and impress.
Last Season (Lyon): P: 22 | G: 0 | A: 0 | Avg: 6.78
#13. Matthijs De Ligt
Former Ajax man De Ligt was named the Fans’ Player of the Year last year, and for good reason. A key part of our defence at just 19, De Ligt has lived up to his ‘Wonderkid’ Billing since his £7.5m move from Ajax in 2017. He stepped straight into the first team, playing 49 times in his first season, with an average rating of 7.08. I was sceptical that he’d improve on that, but he certainly delivered last season, establishing himself as a first-team regular with 40 appearances, averaging 2.77 tackles per game (more than any other defender) and averaging a staggering rating of 7.46 per game! De Ligt is certainly the future of this club’s defence, and i’ll be looking for another incredible season as he continues to develop.
Last Season: P: 40 | G: 2 | A: 1 | Avg: 7.46
I feel like the six players that make up the squad’s central defence are almost the perfect mix of youth and experience, and, except Hummels, they’ve all got at least 5 years left in them at the highest level, and I’m aiming to keep them together for as long as possible, unless someone spectacular comes along, or one of them rocks the boat!