The Monday Night Football brains trust Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher recently christened Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta as the Premier League’s best defender.
Former Manchester United stopper Neville was particularly effusive in his praise of the Spanish full-back, saying:
“Azpilicueta, when I watch him, he’s as near to perfect as possible when it comes to defending; he’s immaculate.”
That’s one glowing reference, but is it possible the expert opinion expresser has overlooked someone?
Of course it’s possible and it’s exactly what he’s done, because he should’ve named one of the Manchester City lot.
Is it Vincent Kompany? Eliaquim Mangala? Pablo Zabaleta? Nope. It’s Gael Clichy.
Like Azpilicueta, the Frenchman can operate equally effectively in either full-back berth, while his pace and athleticism outshines that of the former Marseille man.
And this isn’t the only field in which Clichy is superior, with the former Arsenal flier producing the better statistics in every key defensive field, as the above infographic demonstrates.
Not only does the Citizen make more tackles per match on average, he’s more skilled when it comes to robbing foes of possession too, as indicated by the fewer fouls he commits per outing.
Azpilicueta cuts out fewer passes than Clichy too, as well as making fewer clearances per match.
Neville’s commendation is borne out of the fact that the Spaniard is rarely caught out of position, nor does he get beat very often, yet, statistically, he isn’t as proficient as his Man City counterpart.
Similarly, Clichy’s attacking inclinations and increased ability in the final third – the very factors that make him the better modern-day full-back – can be held accountable for the fact that he’s caught out of position on occasion.