Both Raphael Varane, playing for Manchester United under Eric Ten Hag, and Dayot Upamecano, playing for Bayern München under Julian Nagelsmann, are center back who are used to actively contribute to their teams build-up phase being able to provide emergency supports to their teammates, filter passes to midfielders and strikers, and drive the ball when they are in advantage. These behavior is also replicated when playing for the French national team during this World Cup.
However, there is another aspect of the offensive phase that they are mastering: rest defense. So what does this concept mean? Rest defense is the action – usually applied to center backs and holding midfielders – of marking your direct opponent while your team is attacking. But of course, are they marking their direct opponent during the offensive phase? Well, no. It is the balance of being available for the build-up and applying magnificent rest defense that makes their performance so high. During this analysis we will explain in which moments they are applying this concept and why it is so important for their team.
In these first actions, we can see how Varane and Upamecano are very close to their direct opponent and anticipate the action when they are a potential receiver or are actually receiving the ball. This concentration shown by the French players while their team is attacking is a key asset for center backs to help teams defend high in an effective way.
Rest defense, as performed in the actions we can see below, is key to avoid dangerous offensive transitions by the opponent. This action, even though it has a defensive connotation, it is important to understand that it is performed during the offensive phase. So, it is while your team is attacking that center backs – and also holding midfielders – must be active in this duty, as if done once your team has lost the ball, it might be too late and could allow deep players or link players receive the ball in advantage and build a dangerous offensive transition.