Ange was on sparkling form the other day defending his defenders.
This is something that we don’t do enough as fans, and the media will never do it.
“Our defensive work since the World Cup break has been outstanding. It gives us the foundation to play our football,” the Boss said.
“If we are working really hard defensively, collectively, and are really organised and disciplined, it suffocates the opposition. It doesn’t give them time to breathe and allows us to wear teams down, break them down one way or another.
“That’s through everyone being committed to it … It’s not easy to defend in our team. We are constantly pushing the line, but we want to be aggressive. It means a lot of one-on-one defending, one player defending without cover. You need to embrace that as a defender and be willing to put yourself on the line.”
Everything he says there is true, and so much of it is overlooked.
This is why you get people like Keevins continually harping on about Starfelt, but that guy is being asked to do an extraordinarily difficult thing, and Ange has pointed out how hard that is.
Since we came back from the World Cup break we’ve played 10 games across three competitions and we’ve conceded just four goals, and two of them were at Ibrox. Since Ibrox, we’ve had five clean sheets in a row. The boss is correct. That’s the foundation trophy winning, title winning, sides are built on. That’s how we’ve become so successful.
Being a defender has always been harder than playing in the midfield or in the forward line; only goalkeepers are under such constant pressure to perform in every match. But defenders are critical to a team’s success rate which is why there’s an argument for saying that Cameron Carter Vickers is the best signing we’ve made under the manager.
But the rest of them, and especially Starfelt, deserve more praise than they get. The kid Johnston made his debut at Ibrox and has been stellar ever since. Bernabei got some underserved stick, but he’s been part of a good run and Greg Taylor is the unsung hero of the whole campaign, although he’s definitely getting the deserved respect now from the fans.
Ange is right. These guys are playing under unique pressures, and he’s asking them to do things that defenders aren’t usually asked to do. We defend so far up the pitch that the slightest mistake can leave you completely at sea … and it’s so rare for these guys to make those errors. Every game seems them grow that bit in stature.
That’s why it’s so good to see them getting some love from the manager.