Chris Smalling is turning into the Premier League’s best defender

by Sam Peoples

Jamie Vardy might have scored against Manchester United at the weekend but that was because Chris Smalling was in Leicester City’s box for a corner.

Other than that chance, which he took very well, Vardy ran into a brick wall every time he attacked – Smalling.

His stats from the Leicester game encapsulate what an accomplished performance it was. He had two tackles, three aerial duels, three interceptions, nine clearances and completed 51 passes.

The thing that impressed me more than anything from Smalling at the weekend was his pace whenever the ball was kicked over the top towards Vardy. He matched him and stopped him every single time, it really was an awesome display.

That’s what makes the draw with Leicester City so frustrating because Vardy’s goal on the counter-attack was avoidable with better defending, but it’s still a point away to one of the Premier League’s in-form teams, so it could be worse.

It now feels like we’re highlighting almost every one of Smalling’s performances but that’s just how well he is doing because every week he takes it up another notch and grows more as a player. He looks like our defensive leader – we really saw that when he marshalled the players on corners and told them all exactly where to stand – and he’s a major reason why our defence has been so strong.

Jamie Vardy might be the romantic story right now but eight years ago Smalling was playing for Maidstone United. Now, there aren’t many better defenders than him in the Premier League and that’s extremely impressive.

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