Johnson tops dynamic defenders list

Defenders who aren't shy to have a shot on goal can be valuable assets - WhoScored's Martin Laurence runs down the top five across Europe.

Last Updated: 27/03/13 at 15:30 Post Comment

Johnson: Tops WhoScored list

Johnson: Tops WhoScored list

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This week, WhoScored.com takes a look at the most adventurous defenders in terms of overall shot tallies in Europe's top five leagues this season.

There's a mixture here of players who pose indirect threats from set-pieces and those who are long-range specialists. The Premier League is particularly well represented, with only one player making the leaderboard from outside of England's top-flight.

1. Glen Johnson (Liverpool) - 45 shots (1.61 per game)

The fact that only Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard have had more shots for Liverpool than Johnson this season is more down to the full-back's confidence to let fly than it is of his team-mates' reluctance to do so.

The fact that Johnson offers the lowest set-piece threat, be it directly or indirectly of the players here, is also indicative of the 28-year-old's tendency to attempt the spectacular.

The Reds have had more shots than any other team in England's top-flight (568), with Johnson accounting for 7.9% of said strikes.

The England international will in turn be disappointed with a solitary goal thus far, and indeed of all players to score in the Premier League this season, he has the worst conversion rate (2.2%).

2. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) - 35 shots (1.52 per game)

The man who recently became Europe's youngest international centurion marked the occasion with a goal against Finland on Friday night, and the sight of Ramos attacking a set-piece has certainly not been a rare one this season.

In fact, Real's alternating strikers Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain have each had just six more shots than the centre-back, despite making just one and four league appearances fewer respectively.

Unlike Glen Johnson, however, Ramos has been finding the net with impressive regularity of late, scoring all of his four league goals in his last 12 La Liga appearances.

His chance conversion rate of 11.4% is well in advance of the Liverpool defender, though it's fair to say that the majority of the Spain international's efforts have come from far closer range.

3. Maynor Figueroa (Wigan) - 34 shots (1.21 per game)

While Wigan's three-man defence has chopped and changed this season, due to injuries more often than not, Figueroa has missed just one game through suspension.

Not only is he one of the Latics' more dependable defenders, he also offers the biggest threat going forward too, despite only opening his league account against Reading last month.

Nevertheless, it's only the four Wigan players to start up front the most this season (Arouna Kone, Franco Di Santo, Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez) who have had more shots than the Honduran (34).

A threat from set-pieces (particularly with his hand, if you ask Newcastle fans), Figueroa has a rocket of a left-foot in his locker, scoring a memorable goal from inside his own half against Stoke back in 2009.

4. Craig Gardner (Sunderland) - 33 shots *in games started in defence (1.43 per game)

If you asked Gardner what his best position is, there's no doubt the 26 year old would still say central midfield. However, Martin O'Neill doesn't seem to have the same opinion, deploying his former Aston Villa youngster at right-back in 23 of his 29 appearances this season, with 33 of Gardner's 51 shots coming from that position.

The Sunderland man has netted six goals, which is an impressive return and enough to see him rank as the Black Cats' second top scorer, with four of those strikes coming from a full-back berth.

Though set-piece duties have undoubtedly helped his cause, the majority of Gardner's efforts have been thunderous long-range drives, and if you were to include his efforts from the six other league appearances he has made this season, only top scorer Steven Fletcher has had more shots per game for the club (1.8).

5. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham) - 30 shots (1.15 per game)

Spurs' summer signing has taken to the English top-flight like a duck to water this season, instantly establishing himself as a mainstay in defence at both left and centre-back.

It's not just his uncompromising defensive play that has impressed, however, with Vertonghen offering a significant target in the opposition box from set-pieces in particular.

The Belgian has had more shots this season (30) than the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Aaron Lennon, despite playing fewer games than the latter in the Premier League. He has three goals to his name in turn, with a 10% conversion rate, and that's one more than the Togo international who has made 18 appearances as a centre forward in the league for Spurs.

It's clear where he poses the biggest threat, with only West Ham midfielder Kevin Nolan having had more attempts indirectly from set-pieces than the former Ajax defender.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

Follow Martin Laurence on Twitter at @martinlaurence7.

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