For the record, I rate both Yerry Mina and Michael Keane very highly, just not as our main centre back pairing for this season, why because they are too similar, not only in physique but more importantly playing style. My feelings on this matter have become slightly exacerbated when Frank Lampard hinted regarding keeping Kurt Zouma at Chelsea this season.
To give some clarity to my thoughts, I first started playing centre back around the age of 15, in them days there was only U16 football before playing in the Men’s league. I finally hanged my boots up at the ripe old age of 45, so you can imagine during that period I have had the privilege of playing alongside quite a few centre backs of all shapes and sizes.
My job essentially was to man mark the opposition’s main forward, I was tall (6ft 3in) and roughly 15.5 stone in weight, wasn’t what you would call the quickest but certainly wasn’t the slowest, could cover the ground and by using my footballing brain it gave me some much needed yards back against the quick/agile forwards.
I always preferred my centre back partner to be smaller and quicker than myself, I in effect would be the battering ram, practically standing on the forwards toes and be the first to commit by aerial route or by a good old fashioned tackle. (Which you can’t do now) This was always carried out with the knowledge that by doing so my partner would drop and sweep up if required, kind of insurance policy. It worked extremely well over the years, what I would call a proper partnership, similar to what I seen last season at times with Michael Keane and Kurt Zouma.
I have also played with centre backs that were the same type of defender as myself not only in style but appearance and it didn’t work, we just didn’t gel. We would end up in each others space and more often than not, we’d go for the same ball and confusion would proceed. Also positionally we would both anticipate and tend to both drop deep, if we were up against a speedy frontline and always fearing the ball over the top! This would cause havoc with the backline shape, with both fullbacks following suit rather than the back four pushing out as a unit thus keeping the threat of offside active.
This is my fear with Michael Keane and Yerry Mina as a centre back pairing, similar playing style and in appearance as both are big units and will struggle against pacey forwards that possess a low centre of gravity. I am not suggesting Yerry Mina is slow, he is certainly quicker than Keane but you can’t get away from the physics, guys our size will get turned very easily against quick/agile players. I very much doubt Macro Silva wants both his fullbacks dropping and marking the space behind both centre backs.
I have been there and I did adapt eventually, basically used my head and became my focussed on what I had to do but it became far easier with the right partner by my side and for me Keane and Zouma/Gbamin or Mina and Zouma/Gbamin would have been my preferred partnerships.
I love Mina’s aggression, it’s a real plus for me and alongside a quicker more mobile partner would be the makings of a solid back – line. Michael Keane not as aggressive, strong in the air like Mina, but ball distribution is far superior and a real outlet for the team, so with that we have two decent centre backs but not necessary a decent partnership.
So with no centre back signed during the transfer window, it’s looking likely that Mason Holgate and Jean – Philippe Gbamin will be back up in the event of any injuries to Keane and Mina. Sadly, I have doubts that Chelsea would allow us to strengthen further in this window and allow us to sign Kurt Zoma, given there is a real opportunity for us to challenge for a top 4 finish, so why would they help us in that matter and have the Club put their eggs in one basket in their pursuit of Zouma.
I guess we’ll find out soon if this has been an oversight on the Club’s part.
So signing off for now thanks for reading.