The spine of any successful football team is built around its defenders. These players, who operate in a region where experience and tactical know-how is of paramount importance, put their bodies on the line when they take to the pitch. The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) has also seen its fair share of defenders who can drive fear into the hearts of the opposing forwards.
Central defenders often flaunt a colossal framework and FC Goa’s Gregory Arnolin is no exception. He is one such defender who uses his frame to pure perfection and easily drives Goa’s cart out of harm’s way. The Frenchman is known for his superb aerial prowess which has often proved to be a boon for the Zico-coached side, as he has already scored twice from set-pieces. Arnolin has also developed a crucial and important defensive pairing with Youness Bengelloun that has been instrumental in their run-up to the semi-final.
Chennaiyin FC’s Bernard Mendy is a player capable of magic. The French international announced his arrival in the ISL with a stunning bicycle kick goal against Kerala Blasters FC. A robust player with the ability to convert defence into attack, Mendy is known for his bombarding runs forward. The former Paris-Saint Germain player can also ply his trade in three positions – as a centre back, right midfielder and right wing back. Mendy has often been the centrifugal point of attack on Chennaiyin’s right flank, and has haunted ISL defences, whilst providing superb cover to his own team’s formation.
Defenders are often constricted by the chains of region of operation. A centreback rarely plays on the wings, and vice-versa, but Kerala Blasters FC’sSandesh Jhingan is an exception. A traditional centre back, Jhingan has been impressive in outings as a left back and right back. His imposing figure, fused with his ability to play the ball from the back, makes him a dream defender for any ISL side. The 22-year-old has also developed a penchant for disposing off opposing forwards with crunching tackles.
Former Liverpool manJosemi has played a pivotal role in Atletico de Kolkata’s ISL campaign. Often, the last man in the line of defence, Josemi has showcased his experience along with tactical know-how to pure perfection. Plying his trade as a central defender in the heart of defence alongside Arnab Mondal, Josemi has gauged his opponent’s movements to pure perfection before disposing them off the ball with ease. His astute figure has often acted as Kolkata’s saving grace and has driven them out of crunch situations.
Kerala Blasters FC’sCedric Hengbart is perhaps as experienced as central defenders come, having played professional football for over 10 years while plying his trade with clubs such as Caen and Auxerre. Hengbart has often used his experience to his benefit. The French international’s abundance of tactical knowledge has been his key attribute as the 34-year-old is always found at the right place on the pitch. His vision to sense danger and steer clear of it is another trait which has been utilized to its fullest by player-manager David James.