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La Liga central defenders at Euro 2024: The solidity at the back

There are several La Liga centre-backs who have landed in Germany with their national teams to try to win the European Championship. Nacho Fernández (Spain), Antonio Rüdiger (Germany), Axel Witsel (Belgium), Robin Le Normand (Spain) and Dani Vivian (Spain) are some of those who stand out in the already known lists.

Each of them play in teams with different models of play. Le Normand's play at Real Sociedad has nothing to do with Axel Witsel's performance in Atlético de Madrid's defensive line, sometimes moving forward as a defensive midfielder. In fact, the numbers that they have in different behaviours on the pitch have to do with the roles they have to assume in each of the models of play implemented by their teams. It is not the same to be a central midfielder at Athletic Club as it is at Real Madrid, just as Nacho Fernández is not exposed defensively in the same way as Dani Vivian. The demands are different.

Robin Le Normand, in terms of his tactical behaviour, is perfectly suited to Luis de la Fuente's game and, in fact, is one of the best centre-backs at defending the movements behind the back of opposing attackers. He detects them in advance, looks before he acts, manages the timing well and neutralises them in most situations. He is closely followed by some centre-backs not called up by their national teams and others such as Antonio Rüdiger and Dani Vivian.

It is not surprising to see that Dani Vivian is one of the top ball-winners, as Athletic Club is a team that accumulates more turnovers due to their more direct and vertical way of playing. However, in terms of time without the ball, he boasts a better anticipation and recovery ability than Axel Witsel, in a similar context, albeit with some nuances. Robin Le Normand has a lot of merit, as he steals close to 6 balls per ninety minutes, very similar numbers to those of Athletic Club's Spanish centre-back in a context of longer sequences with the ball.

However, Dani Vivian must be singled out, once again, for his team's imperious management of defensive balance in the face of his team's losses. It is not easy to organise the defensive balance around 40 times per ninety minutes when his team loses possession. However, Nacho Fernandez, Antonio Rüdiger or Robin Le Normand, playing in less wasteful contexts, balance their team close to that number. This factor speaks volumes about the performance that Real Madrid and Real Sociedad's centre-backs are treasuring.

Continuing along these lines and appealing to the defensive strength of the centre-backs, Nacho Fernández and Antonio Rüdiger emerge as the players who best mark their opponents inside the box from crosses, set pieces or positional play in the final third. They are close to 15 positive marks per ninety minutes, well ahead of Witsel, Le Normand and Vivian. Without a doubt, they have a superlative defensive intensity and a superlative defensive instinct.

To close, Nacho Fernández, Antonio Rüdiger, Axel Witsel, Robin Le Normand and Dani Vivian, along with other defenders such as Pau Cubarsí and Eric García, are central defenders who have been able to give a brilliant tactical response throughout the season and have been able to transmit defensive security and good management of every moment of the match. Being a good centre-back is not just about winning aerial duels, intercepting balls in your own half or blocking shots, but also about managing defensive imbalances, balancing the team after a loss, dealing with attackers in the box and keeping an eye on movements behind the back line.


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