You've heard me say it many times before but it's true: I like the zero in the defence.
That's always been the case and it's why I chose to be a centre back, because it's my best position in football. I think I started playing there properly when I was 12 or 13 years old. Nearly 20 years later, I think it was the right decision.
When I was growing up, I studied the Italian style of defending. I'd watch defenders like Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro. Roberto Ayala was also very good. Then as I got older, I'd look at players like Carles Puyol. Players who won a lot and had a lot of quality, too.
You've also got very good defenders now. What Virgil van Dijk did last year was something very difficult for every defender to do. Last year for him was perfect, especially for all the people close to him who helped him a lot.
He was very good and it was a good year for him. With the way football is going in front, especially when everybody thinks about offensive players and how they can score more, I think the defenders need to start getting more credit.
Football has changed a lot in the past 10 or 12 years. When I started football, I was in Italy. I was in Greece first, but afterwards I made the step to Italy. It was not so necessary to play out from the back and because of this, you also didn’t concede a lot of chances or a lot of goals.
Now, every team, or most, has to start from the back and exchange a lot of passes to arrive in the opposite area and to score. The more passes and more things you do, you also have more risk inside. For this, it’s more beautiful football, but also the teams concede more goals because the players are not robots. Everybody makes mistakes.
That's why being a defender these days is very difficult. I think it is one of the most difficult positions. Maybe you don’t have to run like a midfielder, but every mistake that you do is a very hard mistake for the team, so you pay very expensively.
But I still love being a defender. And for me, the part I enjoy most is when you can defend well like a team, to control the game, to fight for every ball and every duel.
Every day is the one you have to show to everybody that you have a strong mentality and also your qualities in the game and mentality, especially to win. We have had some difficult moments this season and we know we need to improve, but we have the quality to do it. We just need the confidence.
The thing that carries me on is to win the game, go home with the three points and to do the good work and make a positive difference. You have to change and adapt with football, and this is why you train every day.
Competing against different types of player helps, too. When you know that one player is fast, you have to give him a little bit more space to have the time to react. When a player is more static and is a player who plays with the body, you have to be more aggressive and near to him.
This comes from experience and how you work every game. Every player is different so I think the football player never stops learning. Also, players who won the Champions League one, two or three times or have won everything with the national team, they keep learning and this is coming every day from training and games.
To be one of the best defenders, you need to have everything to be complete. It’s about focusing on the game very well, pace, power, technique also, to control the game from behind.
It's also important to be a winner and to be a winner, your mentality has to be at a high level every day. In every game, every training session, every duel, you have to win it.
If that means we keep the zero in the defence, then I've done my job.
Copyright 2021 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.