End of Season Grades: The Defense

Alright everyone.  I know we’re all still jubilant about being Europa champs.  And we damn well should be.  It’s been a hell of a season.  We still need to go back and revisit everyone’s predictions some point soon…  But for now, all of a sudden rumors are flying left and right and I wanted to take stock of how our boys on the pitch did over the course of the season with an eye towards projecting areas for potential improvement.

So let’s start with the defense and goalkeepers (we’ll do midfielders and forwards separately).  Overall, I’ll give our defense a B+.  We allowed 52 goals through the course of La Liga, which puts us exactly in the middle (11th).  Not spectacular.  But our defense contributed to the offense a lot as well.  I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but at some point I think we had the most goals from defenders in the league.  So B+ seems reasonable.

Looking player by player, I’ll try and keep my reasons brief, but please add your own grades, evaluations,  agreements, and disagreements in the comments.

Varas: Did solidly whenever asked to play.  Didn’t even complain when was removed from his starting position in the later Europa rounds.  Always felt solid with him whenever Beto was unavailable. A professional.  Grade: B

Beto:  San Beto had a hell of a season.  Europa league shootout.  In my view, the clear Europa league final MVP.  We don’t win that trophy without him.  Grade: A

Navarro: Very impressive bounceback season from a guy I had previously written off.  Solid defending (much less errors this season than in one’s past).  I still don’t want him as the first 11 left back, but was happy to have him in the rotation.  Grade B+

Moreno: This may be a bit harsh, but after his seasons started brightly, he really faded.  Maybe the hype got to his head a bit?  Or maybe there was simply too much hype.  Or maybe I’m simply biased by the debacle of a Europa final he played.  My grade for him is not necessarily relative to actual performance, but instead relative to our hopes and expectations.  Grade: B-

Fazio:  King Fazio as far as I’m concerned.  Rumors of his departure terrify me.  Aside from Rakitic, our most indispensible player.  He anchors our back line with physical presence and poise.  But he is also the focal point of almost every set piece we run.  Grade: A

Pareja:  Started a bit weakly and the injury didn’t help.  But he grew into his role and saved many of his best performances for the  end of the season.  Paired well in the back with Fazio.  Grade: B+

Coke/Diogo: Argh.  Our right backs…  Both had flashes of excellence and flashes of mind bogglinging idiocy that cost us matches and points in the standings.  They are both eager to get forward and could both improve on their crosses and finishing (on their rare opportunities).  In the end, Coke slightly edged Diogo, but neither truly inspired confidence for me.  I’d probably give them both Bs.  Maybe I’d generously give Coke a B+ as he finished the season well.

Cicinho:  Sorry buddy…  Loved seeing you celebrate with the team and hope you get healthy again some day.  Grade: Incomplete.

And now, where do we go from here?  I’d be OK with letting our aggravating right backs have another go at it.  They’re both still fairly young.  It all comes down to what happens with Fazio and Moreno.  If Moreno goes, I hope we go find a world class LB.  I wouldn’t want Navarro as our number one choice.  If Fazio leaves…  We’re screwed.  Seriously, I don’t think he’s very replaceable.  Though, as I’ve said elsewhere, with Cardiff relegated I do think we should seriously consider making a run at Cala…