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2022 K League 1 Review: Centre Back Top Threes

league 2022.12.09   I   조회수 367

The modern-day centre back is expected to be able to head, tackle, and block shots and try to stop the other team from scoring but also be part of a team's build-up play. Some of today's top centre backs can be seen threading balls through to the final third - K League's best are no exception. We take a look at the top three centre backs in different areas to see who comes out on top.

Defensive duels won

But first, let's take a look at the defensive side of a centre back's game. Defensive duels are their bread and butter and Kwak Yun-ho of Suwon FC was the best in that regard in 2022. He won 76% of all of his defensive duels to sit second overall, just ahead of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' experienced central defender Yun Young-sun who won 75% to sit third overall. What's perhaps most impressive about Kwak Yun-ho is that he was playing in the third tier with Gangneung City just under two years ago. Rounding off the top three is Suwon Samsung Bluewings' Ko Myeong-seok who became a mainstay alongside Dave Bulthuis at the heart of the Suwon defence.

1. Kwak Yun-ho, Suwon FC - 76% (2nd overall)
2. Yun Young-sun, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors  - 75% (3rd overall)
3. Ko Myeong-seok, Suwon Samsung Bluewings - 74.55% (5th overall)

Aerial duels won

Likewise, a centre back needs to be able to get up and head the ball away. Daegu FC's Jo Jin-woo was the best at that, both as a centre back and overall, winning 71.93% of his aerial duels. Kim Kee-hee of Ulsan Hyundai was second with 70.42% and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors' Park Jin-seob third with 69.64%. Park started his career as a midfielder but played for Daejeon as a centre back in a three in 2021 and slotted in their with great distinction for Jeonbuk last season - enough for him to earn a place in the Best XI

1. Jo Jin-woo, Daegu FC - 71.93% (1st overall)
2. Kim Kee-hee, Ulsan Hyundai - 70.42% (2nd overall)
3. Park Jin-seob, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors - 69.64% (3rd overall)

Aerial duels won in own penalty area

A team might get pinned back, unable to get out of their own half, or have to face a barrage of crosses into the box. If that's ever the case for Daegu FC, Pohang Steelers, and Suwon Samsung Bluewings , and they have to win aerial duels in their own 18-yard box, then they have the personnel to withstand it.

Daegu's Hong Jeong-un is the centre back who won the most last year at 84.21%, ahead of Han Chang-rae at 76%, and Ko Myeong-seok at 68.425.

1. Hong Jeong-un, Daegu FC - 84.21% (3rd overall)
2. Ha Chang-rae, Gimcheon Sangmu & Pohang Steelers - 76% (4th overall)
3. Ko Myeong-seok, Suwon Samsung Bluewings - 68.42% (6th overall)

[READ: 2022 K League 1 Review: Full Back Top Threes]


The modern centre back reads the game well too and can smell danger. Interceptions can also help turn defence into attack. Daegu FC's Jeong Tae-wook made the most interceptions as a centre back last season with 215, followed by Gangwon's ever-reliable Kim Young-bin at 207, and Incheon United's Australian international Harrison Delbridge with 198.

1. Jeong Tae-wook, Daegu FC - 215 (2nd overall)
2. Kim Young-bin, Gangwon FC - 207 (4th overall)
3. Harrison Delbridge, Incheon United - 198 (5th overall)


Ideally, you want your team to be able to regain possession and try to work the ball up the pitch and into an attacking situation. Sometimes, this just isn't possible and you have to punt the ball into Row Z or as far away as possible.

Gangwon's Kim Young-bin made the most clearances, both as a centre back and overall, with 264. Daegu's Jeong Tae-wook was just behind him with 261, while Harrison Delbridge is third as a centre back and fourth overall with 251.

1. Kim Young-bin, Gangwon FC - 264 (1st overall)
2. Jeong Tae-wook, Daegu FC - 261 (2nd overall)
3. Harrison Delbridge, Gangwon FC - 251 (4th overall)

Sliding tackles

Italian football legend Paolo Maldini once said that "If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake." That may be true but the top three sliding tacklers in K League probably won't mind too much if it helped with their cleansheet bonuses.

Incheon United's Kim Dong-min made the most as a central defender, although he did tend to play on the right-hand side of a three and so could be considered a kind of full back. He made 42 tackles, 10 more than Daegu's Lee Jin-yong who was 10th overall but second as a centre back, and Park Ji-soo with 25 who was 22nd overall.

1. Kim Dong-min, Incheon United - 42 (4th overall)
2. Lee Jin-yong, Daegu FC - 32 (10th overall)
3. Park Ji-soo, Gimcheon Sangmu - 25 (22nd overall)

Blocked shots

Sometimes, all you can do is put your body on the line and try to get in the way of a shot. It's too late to make the interception or even get a tackle in as the attacking player has already lined themselves up to shoot.

1. Park Jin-seob, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors - 30 (1st overall)
2. Harrison Delbridge, Incheon United - 28 (2nd overall)
3. Kang Min-soo, Incheon United - 25 (joint-3rd overall)
3. Park Ji-soo, Gimcheon Sangmu - 25 (joint-3rd overall)

Pass accuracy

Moving into the transition phase of play when a team has regained possession, centre backs will usually make the most passes in the team. These are often side to side or even back to their goalkeepers but they still need to be accurate. 

Kim Ju-sung of Gimcheon Sangmu and FC Seoul had the best as a centre back at 93.89% and third overall. Kim only played 12 times, though, seven for Gimcheon and five for Seoul. However, his FC Seoul teammate Lee Sang-min played more games - 25 in fact - and showed 93.28% passing accuracy, seventh overall. Min Sang-ki of Suwon played 24 times and ranked eighth overall with 93.18%.

1. Kim Ju-sung, Gimcheon Sangmu/FC Seoul - 93.8% (3rd overall)
2. Lee Sang-min, FC Seoul - 93.28% (7th overall)
3. Min Sang-ki, Suwon Samsung Bluewings - 93.18% (8th overall)

[READ: 2022 K League 1 Review: Goalkeeper Top Threes]

Passes to final third

Some centre backs even get involved in the final phase of an attack or even end up playing the ball through into the final third. Kim Young-gwon, who during the 2022 World Cup made his 100th cap for South Korea, made the most passes to the final third as a centre back with 444. FC Seoul's Osmar was the second, ninth overall, with 263, and then Park Ji-soo of Gimcheon Sangmu was third as a centre back with 248.

1. Kim Young-gwon, Ulsan Hyundai - 444 (2nd overall)
2. Osmar Ibáñez, FC Seoul - 263 (9th overall)
3. Park Ji-soo, Gimcheon Sangmu - 248 (14th overall)

Accuracy of passes to final third

The passes, of course, need to be accurate. Kim Ju-sung had the best accuracy but having played just 12 matches this was too be expected. But just behind his 86.54% was teammate Lee Sang-min with 83.24% and Yun Young-sun at 81.79%.

1. Kim Ju-sung, Gimcheon Sangmu - 86.54% (1st overall)
2. Lee Sang-min, FC Seoul - 83.24% (7th overall)
3. Yun Young-sun, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors - 81.97% (12th overall)