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How to build a strong defensive unit

A rock-steady rearguard isn’t particular glamorous. It doesn’t get the juices flowing like a flash of free-flowing football. Put it this way, if you had to choose between watching highlights of Arsene Wenger’s attack-minded Arsenal or George Graham’s dour but effective Gunners, which one would you pick? Exactly.

But ever since the defence that Wenger inherited moved on, Arsenal have struggled to challenge for silverware thanks to a leaky back four – underlining the importance of a strong defensive unit.

It’s easy to sit here and say the bedrock of any successful team is a defiant defence, but what are the essential components? Talented individuals are not enough. A manager needs to get these individuals working in tandem.

Having seen many amateur defences fall apart like a wet paper bag, FFT caught up with former England, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender Gareth Southgate to find out what it takes to build a sturdy defence.

Gareth Southgate was talking at the World Football Academy: UK National Symposium. For more information visit

Also see:
Sylvain Distin: Dominate your opponent
Franco Baresi: How to defend like a master
Chris Smalling: How to be the complete defender
Nemanja Vidic: Tackle any threat
Rio: The thinking man's guide to defending
Ashley Cole: How to handle every opponent