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The art of defending, by Ashley Williams

Veteran not an advocate of playing it out from the back

Everton v Manchester United - Premier League
Ashley Williams with a pass to Row Z
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In an interview with The Daily Mail, Everton defender Ashley Williams has advocated the old-school style of defending that has defined the player throughout his career. He has been very vocal against the modern trend of playing the ball out of defence, insisting that in his role as a center back, his job remains first and foremost to defend.

“There is going to come a point soon when it goes back to how it was. We've concentrated so much on attacking, I'm guessing a lot of people didn't concentrate on the art of defending.

“Personally, I feel I'm a defender. That's what I get paid to do. I get paid to stop the ball going in the net. I'm 32. Fans are never going to be surprised by what I do. You try to add to your game but you get paid to stop the ball going in the net. That is what you are there to do, by any means possible.

“The way the game has gone, people want to see ball-playing defenders and I can understand why. But I don't think you should be a ball-playing defender and not be able to defend. You might as well play in a different position. I love a tackle! A good tackle is part of the game.”

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League
Ashley Williams celebrates his winner against Arsenal
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Over the last couple of seasons under Roberto Martinez, the Blues defence was a porous mess with the manager insisting the team pass their way out of the back, often resulting in trouble and goals conceded. However, Williams’ no-nonsense style has won him fans when he played for Swansea City, and he’s quickly become a crowd favourite at Everton.

“I've noticed it. The expectation is always there. You are expected to win every game and always play well. This is a big club. A big club. The fans are very passionate. It is like Everton is their life. It's so intense. But I think that is good.

“Swansea was a bit more relaxed. But that's why I wanted to move here. I wanted to challenge myself. We are going in the right direction. And if you are doing that, you are going to get expectation. I had to prove to myself I could make it work.”

Everton v Swansea City - Premier League
Ashley Williams with former Swans teammate Gylfi Sigurdsson
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Having turned out for Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman, he offered his views on both players-turned-managers.

“It's the way they see the game. The gaffer here reminds me a lot of Michael. They are different personalities. Michael was completely different to what I had known before. There were no rules. He made you take responsibility as a player. He made you figure it out for yourself rather than saying, 'You do this, this and this'.

“They are different men but some of the training sessions can be really similar. They both carry the same air. Koeman doesn't join in training. Laudrup? Every single day. Oh my God he was good!

“He could definitely still have played for Swansea then! He didn't have the legs but he is one of the best players I have ever trained with, if that makes sense. Unbelievable! He used to nutmeg everyone, every day. His vision, his touch. It was like nothing I've ever seen.

'Working with Koeman though is something I enjoy — how professional he is, how demanding he is day-to-day. There is no day when you can go out and coast. He demands 100 per cent concentration and work rate. It's been reinvigorating.”

William’s solid presence at the back has been a welcome change for the Toffees after watching John Stones stumble his way around over the last couple of years. With club captain Phil Jagielka unable to put in an error-free performance as the Welshman’s defensive partner, it’s very likely the Blues will be looking to find a young central defender that can learn from the veteran for the next couple of years.