Some would have you believe that tackling is something of a lost art in football, with the leniency towards full-blooded challenges seemingly a thing of the past. While it’s always been a vital part of winning possession, the timing of tackles is more important than ever, so we wanted to look into the masters in the modern game.
Rather than simply looking at the players to make the most tackles this season, to do so we’ve devised an algorithm and restricted our search to centre-backs. The calculation is simple, taking into account the number of tackles per foul and then dividing this figure by the number of times each player has been dribbled past. The results have brought about a top 10 varying in terms of experience and familiarity.
10. Jeremy Morel (Lyon) – Tackle timing score = 0.89
Ligue 1 veteran Morel has played much of his career as a left-back but has been deployed in a back three more often than not this season and adapted to the role well. The 32-year old has made the most tackles on the leaderboard here (31) and committed just 5 fouls. He, however, has been dribbled past more than any other defender in this top 10 to rank bottom of the list.
9. Mathieu Peybernes (Bastia) – Tackle timing score = 0.96
Elsewhere in Ligue 1, 26-year old centre-back Peybernes has been a key factor in Bastia’s impressive defensive record this season. The Corsican outfit may be hovering above the drop zone at present but only a handful of sides have conceded fewer goals (12), with the Frenchman’s solid performances heralding a total of 24 tackles, whilst committing only 5 fouls and being beaten by an opponent 5 times.
8. David Garcia (Las Palmas) – Tackle timing score = 1.60
A neutral’s favourite in La Liga for their free-flowing approach, Las Palmas do need a balance and captain David Garcia is key to ensuring the side aren’t caught out too often at the back. The 34-year old prefers not to dive into tackles but when he does he usually wins the ball, doing so 16 times this season having committed just 2 fouls and been dribbled past 5 times.
7. Jorge Mere (Sporting Gijon) – Tackle timing score = 1.83
At the other end of the spectrum in terms of experience in La Liga, teenage centre-back Jorge Mere is making a name for himself in difficult circumstances, certainly kept busy for Sporting Gijon. The Spain under-21 international has excellent figures here considering he does tend to go to ground quite often, with his timing in the slide tackle superb. With 22 tackles this season, he has committed just two fouls. The fact that only Aymeric Laporte has completed more last man tackles since the start of last season in La Liga means the teenager’s interventions have been key.
6. Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen) – Tackle timing score = 2.00
Another youngster that has already established himself as a force to be reckoned with, this time in the Bundesliga, is Jonathan Tah. The giant 20-year is already a full German international and first team regular for Bayer Leverkusen. His sheer size means he’s difficult to beat, dribbled past just 3 times this season, while 24 tackles have come at a rate of 6 per foul.
5. Francesco Acerbi (Sassuolo) – Tackle timing score = 2.25
Such have been his consistently solid performances at Sassuolo for some time now, former Milan centre-back Acerbi has been tipped with a move to one of Italy’s big names once more. It’s not hard to see why, with the Italy international showing great composure at the back to play a pivotal role for Di Francesco’s young side. The 28-year old doesn’t dive into tackles, producing a modest 18 this season, but has committed just four fouls and only been beaten by an opponent twice.
4. Daley Blind (Manchester United) – Tackle timing score = 2.38
Speaking of calm heads at the back, few exude quite as much as Daley Blind, unperturbed whether playing at left-back or in the centre, as he has more often than not thus far this season. The Dutchman is an invaluable asset to Mourinho given his versatility and looked to be forging a decent partnership with Eric Bailly at the start of the campaign. He, like Acerbi, has committed 4 fouls and been dribbled past two times but ranks slightly higher have made one more tackle (19).
3. Loic Perrin (Saint-Etienne) – Tackle timing score = 3.80
Comfortably one of the most consistent and commanding centre-backs in Ligue 1 for a number of years now, Saint-Etienne captain Perrin is often under-appreciated. Despite warranting a place on the radar of top clubs on the lookout for a new centre-back, at 31 Perrin may have missed his chance. That will be to the relief of his club, given that the Frenchman has produced 19 tackles this season for just 1 foul, making his the best tackle per foul rate on this leaderboard.
2. Damien Da Silva (Caen) – Tackle timing score = 4.50
Despite playing for France at youth level it took until 2014 for Da Silva to get his shot at top-flight football. Since N’Golo Kante’s departure, it’s fair to say the Caen defence hasn’t had the protection of old in the last two seasons, so the 28-year old has had to step up. He’s done just that, even playing in midfield on occasion this season, producing an impressive 27 tackles for just 2 fouls, whilst being dribbled past just three times.
1. Alessio Romagnoli (Milan) – Tackle timing score = 6.00
At just 21-years old, the fact that Romagnoli is at the top of our ‘tackle timing’ leaderboard helps to justify his billing as one of the finest young centre-backs on the continent. Already tipped to join a long line of iconic Milan defenders, the youngster not only plays like one but looks the part, growing his hair out a la Nesta and Maldini. He certainly buys into the latter’s mantra that tackling should be a last resort for defenders, standing opponents up and forcing them to make a decision where possible. A tally of 18 tackles is modest as a result, but he’s committed just 1 foul and been dribbled past on only three occasions.