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Premier League’s top tacklers

Sadly, tackling ability doesn’t seem to go hand-in-hand with success

The Premier League resumes in just over a week. I can’t wait, but I’m aware that not all visitors to this site are football fans. If the idea of the re-start doesn’t fill you with nervous anticipation, I’m amazed that you’ve got this far into this article.

Still with me? Good, then I’m “preaching” to the converted.

So, an interesting bit of research turned up in my inbox the other day outlining which players were the most prolific tacklers in the league last season. I’m indebted to livefootballtickets.com, an online football tickets company, for sending me the research findings.

Does that mean the listed players will repeat their heroics this coming season? Only time will tell. But let’s see if I can get a few barstool debates going here.

See the chart. It lists 20 players and seems to suggest that among London teams Crystal Palace is the best in terms of teaching their players how to tackle.

Okay, one of them has now been snapped up by Manchester United, but that does not detract from the achievement.

Palace have three players on the list – Aaron Wan Bissaka who has now moved onto northern pastures new, skipper Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur.

Maybe fans would prefer not to be reminded of what they have lost by the video but Wan Bissaka is the top-rated London player and the compilation is the best tackling video I could find.

Special mention should be made of Milivojevic (seen challenging Manchester City’s John Stone in the main picture) given he executed just more than three-quarters (76%) of his tackles successfully.

So, debating point No 1 … if you go to make a tackle but do not complete it successfully, should that count as a tackle? In my book, the answer is “no”. Consider a deliberately crazy example – player Jones attempts 100 tackles but only emerges with the ball 25 times. To me, that guy is not a good tackler. Full marks for trying, but no cigar three-quarters of the time.

Do you agree?

Let’s consider how the other London clubs fared in this mini “league”.

The names of Chelsea players appear twice – Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho; West Ham also have a couple on the list – Declan Rice and Felipe Anderson. The latter surprised me a bit as I considered him more of a flair player, but the ability to combine tackling and flair is certainly no bad thing.

No other London-based players appear in the list unless you count Watford as a London team. Here at London Inspire we class anywhere within the M25 as being in London so let’s mention Etienne Capoue.

No players from Spurs or Arsenal – two of last season’s top five – feature.

Which brings me to debating point No 2 … does having a top tackler in your team equate to success? I would suggest that, looking at this list, the answer, again, has to be “no”.

Only one of the 20 – Liverpool full-back Andrew Robertson – nabbed a Champions League winners’ medal. Apologies to Spurs fans for reminding you.

Nearly all the others played for middle-of-the-table teams who didn’t achieve a whole lot. Admittedly, that may not be the fairest of interpretations given that Manchester City snapped up all the domestic trophies. But how many City players can you spot on the list? None. I rest my case.

Praise also goes to Wolverhampton Wanderers who, with four players listed, totted up 352 tackles between them. Given it was their first season back in the top flight they are to be congratulated.

Let me leave you with debating point No 3 … is racking up a lot of tackles a good sign? It could indicate that your team doesn’t enjoy a lot of ball possession.

Football stats can be deceiving. For example, I would contend that if your keeper is credited with making lots of saves that could be more of an indication of a porous defence as opposed to a good goalie.

I would prefer that my favourite team’s keeper have nothing to do all game rather than complete a string of saves. That is an indication of a good team with a solid defence, a productive midfield and, probably, a prolific forward line.

I hope the above accurately describes your team in the coming campaign.

Enjoy the new season.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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