Here's a look at six Championship defenders that are sure to excel again this season
The focus of this article is on Championship's defensive players. Just to clarify, the players featured in this list are all those that excelled last season. Therefore, I’m predicting that they will do well again next season. In terms of those selections, it’s a combination of opinion and stats that have been used to make the decisions.
There is also no big club bias here and that should be clear when we get to the list. I know that defenders aren’t sexy because they do a lot of the work that other players would rather not do. However, there is no doubt they have a very important role to play for consistent team performance.
So, now we have all of that out of the way – let’s see who has made the cut…
1. Pontus Jansson (Leeds United)
Leeds United were one of those teams that performed better in the Championship last season than would have been expected. Of course, that was due to them finding several gems that adapted to the Championship very well. One of those deals was the season-long loan signing of Swedish defender Pontus Jansson.
It was certainly a canny bit of business, by the club, and some may argue that they got lucky because the player wasn’t getting regular game time with Torino in Italy. The player’s consistency last season saw him ranked as the fourth best player in the Championship overall with an average rating of 7.57. Most of his defensive stats don’t stand out as particularly special – but it’s his ability to clear the ball that makes him an exceptional player.
The player’s 10.1 clearances per game can only be beaten by three other players in the league. At 26, and with nearly 200 career appearances to his name; it would take a brave punter to bet against Jansson being another unbeatable defender in the coming season. You can also add into the mix 13 caps for Sweden and the top-quality experience he had in Swedish football prior to joining Torino.
2. Marc Roberts (Birmingham City)
Barnsley adapted to the Championship better than expected in the first half of last season. Although that was good for the club, it led to a few of their key players coming to the attention of other clubs in the Championship. One of those players was Barnsley captain Marc Roberts and he has now chosen to continue his football career with Birmingham City.
Roberts has some great experience, in the game, after starting his career in the Conference with Halifax Town. Since then, he has gone on to make over 80 career appearances with Barnsley at League One and Championship level. The player’s performances in the league last season were particularly impressive.
An average rating of 7.54 ranked him sixth in the league overall. In terms of his defensive qualities, there are two metrics that he really dominates on. The first of these is his ability in the air as he wins 7.3 aerials per game (the best record in the Championship). In addition, Roberts is also a brilliantly clearer of the ball with 12.4 clearances per game (the second-best record in the league). Therefore, it’s quite clear that the player has a great deal of quality to play at this level.
3. Sean Morrison (Cardiff City)
Cardiff City are not a team that you would expect to see in the top six next season, but the Championship enjoys springing surprises so you can never say for sure. There are certainly some decent players in the Cardiff team that could do well next season. As we continue our list on the unbeatable defenders, it’s time for Sean Morrison to make his appearance.
The first two options, on this list, are a bit unknown as they only have one season in the Championship behind them. I’m a lot more confident in talking about Sean Morrison’s ability though due to the fact that he has performed at this level for a number of seasons. The player now has over 250 career appearances under his belt following his permanent spells with Swindon, Reading, and Cardiff.
In terms of those stats from last season, Morrison was ranked as the 10th best player overall in the Championship with an average rating of 7.43. Although, we are talking about his defensive qualities here; he also contributed four goals and five assists to his team’s cause. Aerial duels is the metric that is most favourable for Morrison, and he wins 5.9 of these per game (the seventh-best record in the league).
4. Danny Batth (Wolves)
Wolves are a club that are set to struggle next season, despite their significant investment. I think some of the players that they have signed aren’t suited to Championship football and that has played a large part in their downfall. Sometimes teams get confused about what is required in the league and try and buy their way out of it.
Aston Villa found out to their cost last season that strategy doesn’t typically work, but Wolves certainly do have some players that a successful team can be built around. One of those is towering central defender Danny Batth. The 26-year-old Englishman has played at a high level for a number of years now – after coming through the youth system at the club.
The stats from last season ranked Batth as the 11th best player in the Championship with an average rating of 7.42; he is also another defender that has contributed on the goals front with four strikes for the season. There is no doubt that he is a great all-round defender but it is clearances where he really dominates. In fact, the stat of 12.5 per game is bettered by no other player in the league.
5. Adam Webster (Ipswich Town)
Ipswich Town are one of those clubs that always seem to be in the Championship without ever getting relegated or promoted. It seems that in recent years the club has been getting closer to being dragged into a relegation battle than anything else. It wasn’t so long ago that it looked like the club would receive investment to get into the Premier League. Nowadays, it seems that the focus is simply on holding onto their best players.
One of the players that they will be keen to keep is defender Adam Webster, who is the latest to make our list. The player is only 22 years old – but has already got some great experience behind him. Webster came through the youth system at Portsmouth and now has over 100 career appearances under his belt.
Of course, the Ipswich player is fairly new to the Championship but you’d expect him to only improve from here. Webster was ranked 14th in the league for his performances last season with an average rating of 7.35. It seems that the player is a great all-round defender without dominating on any one particular metric; it will certainly be interesting to see how his career develops from here.
6. Tom Clarke (Preston)
Preston are a team that adapted better than expected to the Championship last season under the guidance of Simon Grayson. However, he has now left to takes charge of Sunderland and Alex Neil has taken the reigns. In a previous article, I have suggested that Preston could well be a surprise package in the league next season.
Therefore, they certainly have some players worth keeping an eye on for next season. To complete our list of unbeatable defenders, we now welcome Tom Clarke to the party. This particular defender is no youngster and is now 29 years old. Therefore, it’s really the experience he has that is the focus here.
Clarke started his career at League One level with Huddersfield and has since gone on to show what a good player he is at Preston, and has now made over 300 career appearances. Clarke was ranked as the seventh-best player overall in the Championship last season with an average rating of 7.47; he also contributed four goals to his team’s cause. The defender is another one of those that offers a great all-round defensive performance without dominating one metric specifically. Check the Championship betting odds here.
This completes the content section of this article and I hope that it proved to be an enjoyable read. It will certainly be interesting to see if these defenders prove to be as unbeatable as they were last season.
If you enjoy content like this, then keep an eye on my profile page for more of the same. Coming up I will be looking at the best managers in the league and also the best stadiums. Looking forward to a more lively debate on this and future articles.