Serie A always excels when it comes to defending and the most glaring takeaway from the list is that Torino had a great year on that front, as they managed to put to three names in the chart, besting Juventus, which had two.
Armando Izzo (75 points): he has been a solid for few years now, first at Genoa and recently the Granata, but he took it up a notch, becoming one of the finest specialists in his position as right centre-back in a three-man line, whose tasks are not merely defensive. He set the tone with his intensity, physicality and never-say-die attitude and showed a lot of leadership, even in a department that featured an established guy on an international level like Nicolas N’Koulou. He amassed 15 clean sheets and put the cherry on top by scoring four goals and providing an assist attacking on set pieces
Lorenzo De Silvestri (73 points): Walter Mazzarri always relies heavily on his wing backs on offense and he got to work with three good and well-assorted ones this year. De Silvestri was a constant force galloping up and down the right flank, putting his grit and dynamism to good use, and built an insane connection with Andrea Belotti, since his four assists all resulted in successful headers by the centre-forward. He did damage on his own twice for good measure. He looked like peak Christian Maggio in his Sampdoria and Napoli years with the same coach at the helm.
Giorgio Chiellini (69 points): Juventus veteran did not disappoint in his first year as captain of the team, if anything he had his finest season to date, up until the Spring, further asserting himself in the top echelon of European defenders. He was one the pitch for all the Bianconeri’s 15 clean sheets. Between the start of October and the end of December, he put together a streak of seven matches with at least five bonus points, massively contributing to shutting out opponents. He added one goal and one assist. Too bad his bothersome calves flared up at the most inopportune time, the Ajax two-legged clash, after a very clean year injury-wise.
Cristian Ansaldi (62 points): he was one of the surprises, as he started the season on the mend due to a knee injury, but still accrued one of the best hauls in just 25 appearances, which goes to show how effective he was. Like De Silvestri, he benefitted by Torino’s heavy emphasis on the flank game, but he interpreted the role in a very different manner, displaying fantastic playmaking skills and serving as a big reference point for all his teammates, to the point that he even played as midfielder when needed. He found the target three times, mostly with sweet strikes from distance, and tallied three helpers.
Kalidou Koulibaly (62 points): the usual suspect managed to make the list leading the Napoli back-line with his patented muscularity, which gives him a leg up in the duels with any striker. The Partenopei stymied the opponents 13 times and the Senegalese powerhouse got a little nudge with a brace against Chievo.
Alex Sandro (62 points): by all accounts, he had an underwhelming campaign and increasingly faded as the season progressed, but he took advantage of the Old Lady’s very stingy run at the beginning of the year, where he featured a lot because Leonardo Spinazzola was hurt. He bagged one goal and picked up three assists, which was enough to help him top the other competitors.
Just missing the cut: Inter’s Milan Skriniar (61), who was terrific and continued to grow, Leonardo Bonucci (61), who exploited his renewed partnership with Chiellini, and Danilo D’Ambrosio (60), who for some stretches was the Nerazzurri’s heart and soul. Special shout-out to Franck Kessie (73), who is listed as a defender but really is a full-fledged box-to-box midfielder, who had an up-and-down by very productive year number-wise thanks to penalties and some spotty superb outings.
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