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Ashley Williams: The Last of the Classic British Defenders

by on May 26, 2013

There are quite a few things that are necessary to qualify as a defender in English football, and the first necessity on that list screams, top grades in the class of hard knocks. While the top division of English football has seen the influx of a number of foreign defenders over the last decade or so, the typical English defender shall never fade away. Products of a home-make will always be preferred over foreign imports, for two simple reasons:

  • They have been raised to play the style of football that English fans demand.
  • The FA insists on a certain home grown player quota.

For the better part of the last decade, three names have dominated the list of defenders who have formed a part of the English back line.

John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell. While others like Ledley King do deserve an honorable mention here, we shall stick to the first three for the sake of not straying away from the topic.

These three players each epitomize the characteristics that define a classic English defender, apart from being a natural leader, a dogged winner and all that.

Rio Ferdinand is known for shutting out attacks high up in the midfield and also for joining up occasionally in Man United ‘s offensive surges. John Terry has a reputation for being a fine defender in the air, just as much on the ground. And Sol Campbell, the former Arsenal centre back was known for mastering the art of tackling ahead of the former two.

Is there anyone close to that in England today? The likes of Gary Cahill may play pretenders to the throne but there is hardly anyone close to the might of the three mentioned above. And even though Terry and Ferdinand may still have a few years left in them, the fact is they are fast approaching the wrong side of thirty.


From League One to delivering Swansea’s first major silverware.

Ashley Williams seems to be the flavor of the season as decided upon by transfer pundits. In this article, I run the rule over the Welsh national team captain, who is almost certain to leave the Liberty Stadium for a much higher placed side. That being said, Arsenal are rumored to be the front runners to sign the Welshman, while Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is eager to bring his former charge to Merseyside, to join his Liverpool revolution.

Williams has been at Swansea since 2008, playing under four managers of top repute. Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and now Michael Laudrup. William’s style can be called as an intercontinental blend of many managers and that is what makes this former League One player one of the most coveted items in this year’s transfer window.

Tactical Analysis

Williams is a typical ball player. He is fast, physical and though he may be technically inept, he has the ability to get the job done.

At Swansea, the fanciful Chico Flores is a typical Spanish centre-back moving forward while also making interceptions and contributing to the midfield. Chico and Williams have formed a typical stopper-sweeper combination at the back of Swansea’s defense. While Chico will move front, the Welshman will drop down to nullify charges that Chico and the rest fail to reign in.

As a proof of merit of his defensive abilities, Williams has put in 11 clearances per game this season. Also he averaged 1.2 tackles per game over the current season. Williams also avergaes 15 defensive actions per game, making only 5 defensive errors in 37 appearances.

He also raises his game further with a 72% tackling success rate though he may be only moderately successful in his aerial endeavors with a 57% success rate.

For a team like Swansea which has a high tempo, fluid passing style of play much of their game is based on possession. And what attack does not begin at the heart of your defense? In Chico and Williams, Laudrup has one of the most solid defenses in England, but also one of the most fluid passers which helps him to stamp his La Masia-esque style at the Liberty Stadium.

Williams is a fluid passer of the ball and has a 86% pass success rate. While some may call it a result of the short passes that dot the tiki-taka like style of Swansea, stats would suggest otherwise. His average passing length has been 23 meters. Not too short for a defender?

That being said, Williams is not so keenly involved in the play-making side of things, creating only 5 chances throughout the season.

While he may not have been red carded in the league, he did pick up 7 yellow cards. One of his major shortcomings would be committing fouls too often, and a bit recklessly too.

That all being discussed and digested, one must look at Ashley Williams’ age. 28. He is fast approaching the ripe age of 30, is in prime form and has progressed from League One to being one of the top defenders in the Premier League. A very steep growth curve there.

Also being a natural leader at Swansea and for Wales makes him a top pick for any of the clubs in England, considering the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and even Man United have a certain chaos to quell at the back of their formations.

Amateur verdict

Good enough for the potential suitors.

[Stats sourced via: and]


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