On this page, we're going to take a look at defenders and the words we use to describe what they do.
What's the difference between a defender and a defence?
A defender is an individual player and the defence is a collection of players a team uses to defend. For example, John Terry is a defender who plays in Chelsea's defence. A defender's job is to defend as they are part of a team's defensive unit. A team might have a defensive style or an attacking style but a team always needs good defenders and good defences. We're now going to look at some examples of what defences do together and what defenders do on their own.
Arsenal's Hector Bellerin was the highest scoring defender in Fantasy Football last season.
What does the defence do?
Marking a player is when you stay close to an opponent to stop them from getting the ball. All defenders mark opponents, but managers decide how their defence will mark before the match. There are two main types of marking; zonal marking and man-to-man marking or man marking. Man-to-man marking is when defenders mark a specific opposition player. This can happen at corners and free-kicks but may happen in other areas of the pitch. If an opponent has a very creative player the manager might tell a player to man-mark him. He will then follow the creative player around the pitch to stop him from getting the ball. Zonal marking is when defenders mark a specific area of the pitch. When a player enters a defender's area it is the defender's responsibility to mark that player.
Different teams play with different defensive styles and use different tactics. A team might play out from the back, which is when the goalkeeper throws the ball to a defender that is close to him. The team then play short passes as they move the ball further forward in order to keep possession. This style is in contrast to a more direct approach when the goalkeeper kicks the ball long. Another tactic might be to play offside or play the offside trap. This involves the whole defence working together as a unit and moving forward together when a pass is played to catch the attacker offside. Teams that play the offside trap are also more likely to play a high line. Playing a high line means the defenders are closer to the halfway line and have more chance of catching strikers offside. The opposite of this, is a defence sitting back or sitting deep. When a team plays very defensively, the whole team might be sitting back and it's very difficult for an attacking team to break them down. Jose Mourinho famously described this tactic as, 'parking the bus'.
John Terry has made over 700 appearances in Chelsea's defence.
What do defenders do?
Intercepting the ball
Intercepting the ball or making an interception means taking possession of the ball when nobody has control of the ball. You can make interceptions in different ways; you could head the ball away from danger at a corner, or if a dangerous cross comes into the box you could make an important clearance. A clearance is kicking or clearing the ball out of a dangerous area, sometimes a commentator might say a defender has kicked the ball into row z if he kicks the ball directly into the crowd. Another type of clearance is a block. A block is when an attacking player takes a shot and a defender stops the ball with any part of the body!
Normally, a player's positional sense, which is the intelligence of knowing where you are on the pitch, will stop a defender from becoming isolated, but sometimes defenders need to tackle. A tackle is taking the ball away from an attacking player. There are three main types of tackle; the poke tackle, the block tackle and the slide tackle. The poke tackle is when you run next to the attacking player and put your foot out to get the ball. The ball will often go out for a corner or a throw-in but you have stopped the attacker in a dangerous position. A block tackle happens when a defender and an attacker are facing each other. Both players stay on their feet and challenge for the ball, it's probably the most common tackle in a football match. The slide tackle is the most dangerous tackle and should only be used as a final option because there is a high probability of not timing it correctly and conceding a free-kick and getting a yellow or red card. A defender slides along the pitch reaching the ball with one leg. It's important to get up immediately in case you didn't win the ball.
Vincent Kompany is Manchester City's captain and one of the best defenders in the Premier League.
Think about vocabulary
We've looked at some of the most important things that defences and defenders do in a football match. Do you understand the words in bold? Look at the sentences around each word to help you understand. It can also help to use your knowledge of football. Think about what a defender does on the pitch. Does this also help your understanding?
Have a look at the activity below and check your understanding of defenders and the words that are used to describe what they do.