Football is our beautiful game, and whilst the goals are the masterpieces, defending is the real art.
Whether they’re well-executed tackles of magnificence, or whole-hearted challenges full of blood and thunder, a tackle is a great sight. They’re the purest aspect of the defender’s job role – ‘win the ball back’. I decided to take a look at every defender in League Two, and compare them all to see who the best tackler has been so far this campaign (2020/21).
Two stats are key – ‘tackles’ and ‘tackle win ratio’. While a player might have a 100% tackle win ratio, they might have only performed three tackles, therefore not actually being that impressive. On the other hand, they might’ve performed 62 tackles, but have only gained a 30% success rate, meaning they’ve failed over 120 times in that same period.
To combat this I did two things: one, only counted players who’ve performed over 21 tackles this season. Two, I created a score system, where each player gained a certain number of points based on how their stats compared to the rest. For example, Stevenage’s Scott Cuthbert gained one point for his 21 tackles, and then 19 points for his 71% win ratio (71% is pretty dahm decent by the way). Meaning he got a fairly average 20 points. Make sense? Probably not, but the algorithm does work and did find a winner that was ultimately very high in both categories.
Here’s your top 10 tackling defenders in League Two:
10. Charlie Raglan (Cheltenham Town)
27 year old Charlie Raglan has been fairly excellent for Cheltenham Town over the recent years. His 2019 loan spell was successful, and ended with him being signed permanently that summer. The mighty centre-back has scored four goals for the Robins, and scored 35 points in my patented tackle-score algorithm.
With Cheltenham harbouring desires of another promotion push this season, they’ll be desperate for him to keep the form he has been showing on the whole this season. He’s performed 32 tackles, and owns a win ratio of 75% – both good scores.
9. Carl Piergianni (Oldham Athletic)
Racking up a solid 36 points is Oldham’s 28 year old defender. The player made a name for himself in the English Football League with Salford City, but in 2020 he made the move across Greater Manchester to Oldham. He’s faired well for the Latics, after his loan spell there in 2019.
The long-golden-locked defender has racked up a strong 34 tackles this season as Oldham struggle in mid-table. A leader at the back, he’s played 15 times this season and has a cracking three goals to show for it. His 76% tackle win ratio is very solid also.
8. Kyle Knoyle (Cambridge United)
League leaders (at the point of writing) Cambridge United may or may not feature more than once on this list, but Kyle Knoyle is their first name.
The 24 year old right back as been at Cambridge for a couple of seasons after joining in 2019 from Swindon Town. The Londoner came through at West Ham United but failed to make any sort of imprint on the first team there. Two years at Swindon served him well, and he’s now a regular feature for the table-topping U’s.
He’s amassed 36 points to make this list too, with a moderate 30 tackles, but a top-notch 83% win ratio.
7. Nathan Smith (Port Vale)
Nathan Smith is adored at Vale Park. The 24 year old centre half came through the youth setup in Burslem and has been almost ever-present since his debut. He gained 37 points from my algorithm to earn himself a 7th place.
7th place is exactly what Vale fans want; as their season continues to de-rail, any hopes of stability need to come with a return to form of their best defender. He’s usually a calm and collected figure at the back, who’s won 30 tackles this season, with an incredible… 87% win ratio (that is 2nd in the league of defender’s tackle win rates).
6. Elvis Bwomono (Southend United)
The attacking full-back racked up 38 points from the algorithm. The league’s bottom side, in theory, would have poor tacklers but that’s not the case with Elvis. The young Ugandan has played his entire career at Southend so far, and at 22 years old, will have suitors from other clubs should the Seasiders take the unwanted plunge into non-league.
The player has an unexpectedly high tackle count, with 35 performed this season. He’s got a good win ratio too. 77% is pretty good, and shows how well he can handle himself in the wing-back position.
5. Liam Shephard (Newport County)
The former Swansea City right-back hasn’t looked back since he left the big-city Welsh side. Seasons at Peterborough and Forest Green Rovers helped the players development, and now another south Wales club are reaping the rewards. His 2020 move to Newport signalled his return to his homeland, and he’s helped The Exiles keep themselves alive in the promotion race.
He, too, gained 38 points from the infamous algorithm. Recording a MASSIVE 44 tackles, and a wicked 73% tackle win rate.
4. Greg Taylor (Cambridge United)
The second U to feature on the list, Greg Taylor scored 39 points from the algorithm making him one of the best centre backs in League Two.
The 31 year old defender, who’s middle name is Vaughan (strange for you there), has been a key reason for Cambridge’s success so far this season. At 6’1 he’s not the most dominant, but he uses his body well to be combative in all the right ways. With, a significantly high, 44 tackles there’s no wonder he’s so high up on the list. He’s recorded a great 75% win rate too, which isn’t the best, but is still ridiculously respectful.
3. Ryan Delaney (Bolton Wanderers)
The 24 year old may have featured five times for the Republic of Ireland U21’s, but he’s struggled to really settled down in the domestic game and make his home. Whilst making 48 league appearances for Rochdale across a two year spell is good stuff, his loan to AFC Wimbledon the season after showed there was something wrong.
He signed for Bolton Wanderers this summer, and has began life fairly well. Despite the Wanderers struggling in mid-table, Delaney has been a decent positive. He’s even scored two goals this season. He scored 40 points from my algorithm too, as he’s performed 44 tackles this season, with a 75% win rate in total. Good stuff from the Irishman.
2. Mason O’Malley (Scunthorpe United)
At just 19 years old, Mason O’Malley could be a huge prospect. The Leeds born defender has played for three different youth setups – Hunslet, Huddersfield Town and lastly Scunthorpe United. It was the Iron that gave him his first chance of pro football, as he’s burst onto the scene this season.
With 13 appearances so far this season, O’Malley has racked up a massive 43 points from the algorithm. He’s performed a reasonably solid 37 tackles, but also has an incredible 89% win ratio to show for. Thats actually top of the tackle win ratio, of all defenders in League Two (to have performed over 21 tackles). Impressive stuff for the youngster who’s clearly loving being in the first team this season.
1. Luther James-Wildin (Stevenage FC)
Top of the list is Luther James-Wildin. The 23 year old right back as featured for Stevenage for three years after signing him for an undisclosed fee from Nuneaton Town in 2018. It meant he was reunited with, then, manager Dino Maamria – who has subsequently left the club.
Luckily for Stevenage fans LJW hasn’t left yet, and the right back has been a standout player at times this season. He’s also an international footballer. He’s played twice so far for Antigua and Barbuda – cool.
The club’s no.2 racked up 44 points from my algorithm to hand him top spot. Those points came from two high stats, even though they’re not the absolute best. He’s performed 45 tackles so far this season, which is great stuff. That is second only to Salford City’s Ibou Touray (who tallies top with 46). He’s also managed a 78% tackle win rate, which is incredibly positive also. This all makes him, according to my algorithm, the best tackling defender in League Two.
If you’re wondering who came bottom then I have half an answer for you. Remember, I only did this for players who racked up over 21 tackles so far this season. That means, despite being bottom of this list, it doesn’t mean that they’re awful at tackling. Anyway, joint bottom with 11 points were Newport County’s Brandon Cooper (23 tackles and 57% win ratio) and Oldham Athletic’s Jordan Bennett (25 tackles, 56% win rate).
So, where you surprised at Luther James-Wildin and Mason O’Malley being the best two tackling defenders in the league? Think that maybe someone should’ve been top, or even just on the list? Let us know!