With Wolves and Middlesbrough both competing at the top of the table, it stands to reason that they’ve built strong sides, confident going forward but solid at the back.
As shown in the recent FLW duel between Nedum Onouha and Liam Moore, Championship sides must have a rock at the back, a defender capable of playing the ball out as well as tackling and clearing. As you get higher up the table, that doesn’t change and our promotion chasing sides have their own defensive stalwarts to rely on.
At Middlesbrough we have Ben Gibson, 25-years old and having represented England from U17 right through to U21. He’s been at Boro since the age of 12 and this season has excelled as they climbed the table. With 37 matches under his belt, he does have more game time than his Wolves counterpart.
Willy Boly is a French centre back with U17, U19 and U20 honours. He’s 27-years old and is on loan at Molineux from Portuguese giants Porto. He’s played 30 times for Nuno’s side, having missed seven weeks of the early season with a hamstring strain.
So, how do these two defensive behemoths compare? FLW pits them against each other in our latest duel.
Firstly, goal threat and this is where Boly edges into a narrow lead. He’s bagged three goals from 30 matches, so one in 10 which is a decent return for a centre back. Gibson doesn’t offer quite the same threat, he’s got one in his 37 matches. Defenders aren’t traditionally on the pitch to score goals, but when you’re over six foot as both these players are, you expect to nod one home every now and again. Gibson got his as Boro slipped 2-1 at Forest, Boly has bagged against Norwich, Bolton and Leeds.
Gibson has provided more goals though, he’s got two assists compared to Boly’s one. Remember, the Frenchman has played less games. The fact they are able to chip in at the other end in some way is testament to them both though.
It’s all well and good getting forward, but if you can’t defend you’re no use to anyone and both Gibson and Boly are fine examples of defenders. Boly makes 2.3 tackles per match which is significantly higher than Gibson’s 0.7. I find it surprising a defender makes less than 1 per game, but it hasn’t been to his team’s detriment. 2.3 is a far better average and perhaps reflective of the Wolves defender’s no-nonsense approach.
Gibson makes slightly more clearances per game, 6.1 compared to Boly’s 5.5, but in truth those numbers are very similar. The number one rule of defending; if in doubt kick it away and both seem comfortable following those basic guidelines.
They can both make a pass too, something that is increasingly important in a centre half. With 58.7 passes per game, Boly does snatch it again, although 45.7 isn’t a particularly low amount on Gibson’s behalf.
Finally, successful pass rates and both players are accurate. Gibson succeeds 79.8% of the time whereas Boly has 82.1%.
Both players are quality defenders, both can be relied upon when the chips are down and both are huge assets to their club. If I had to pick one, I’d say Willy Boly has the extra bit of quality, but that is perhaps why his side are top and Middlesbrough are in the play off zone.