Aymeric Laporte: 7 rules for the modern defender

Athletic Bilbao's ball-playing centre-back Aymeric Laporte tells you the 7 rules you must obey to be a centre-back in a passing system

Learn to love the ball
The centre-back’s role has changed
“My positon’s most important evolution has been in the sense of being more than a defender. A big part of my game is to bring the ball out from the back. Defenders do this more than ever before. It’s all about arriving at perfection. I spend as much time in training and matches working on starting attacks as I do stopping them.”

Play one-touch passes
Start the attack quickly
“There’s no better way to play. Our coach [Ernesto Valverde] always wants us to play on the front foot. I’m usually quite calm in possession, so this helps initiate quicker, more fluid attacks from the back. I also like playing long crossfield passes to change the position of an attack and give us another option. Variety is important.”

More after the break

Learn to intercept
Don’t rely on the tackle, predict the opposition’s attacks
“This is fundamental. It does, of course, depend on each attack, but if you can break up the play cleanly, then you can start an attack much quicker. A slide tackle is almost an admission that you’re out of position. It’s a means to an end, but it’s your last resort.”

Cherish a clean sheet
This is your job, as a defender
“I feel so proud when I’m part of a defence that hasn’t been breached. It proves you’ve done the right things in the game and means any victory tastes all the sweeter. If we win 2-1 I’m still happy, but after a clean sheet you can double that feeling.”

Take something away from every game
Measure your performance
“I notice myself improving all the time. Day-by-day, after every training session, I feel better and understand more about this position, despite being only 20. Being a defender is about concentration, especially at the top level. That’s what I’ve noticed most about this season in the Champions League. I’m loving every minute.”

Do your research
Know what to expect from your opponent
“Marcelo Bielsa gave me my debut I owe him an awful lot. Yes, he is as crazy as they say, but first and foremost he’s very intelligent and is a guy who knows an incredible amount about football. He used to give us homework! Videos before and after every game. We’d all have specific videos on our direct rival in the upcoming game, which we’d have to study forensically. Now, under Valverde, he looks after that more and explains to us what we should do. He’s also a great coach.”

Be ready for a fight
Being a defender is about the battle
“You need to be powerful to survive. Modern forwards are now as strong as old-style defenders used to be, so you have to be up for the fight. Concentrate, be strong and choose when to intercept: those are the three keys to modern defending.”

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