Having been named in The Athletics’ Women’s Team of the Year following an impressive performance this season, Manchester City and England defender Gemma Bonner is finally receiving the recognition she deserves.
When considering the attributes of a centre back, Gemma Bonner is a player that pretty much delivers the whole package. Defensively solid, spatially aware, and sharp with a tackle, she is, in essence, a dictionary definition of a defender. Yet, Bonner flies under the radar. She is perhaps not the first name that springs to mind when mulling over top defenders, but she absolutely should be.
Not one to make a song and dance, Bonner’s collected approach, and her regard to simply get the job done, is desirable to say the least. She is not particularly antagonistic, nor is she rash. In fact, she rather reservedly displays her skillset, and it is only when one stops to fully observe Bonner, that it becomes abundantly clear just how important she is.
With an acute awareness of all that is around her, Bonner is clever with her positioning. Having what seems to be a sixth sense when navigating the pitch, Bonner’s intuition seemingly sees her conscious of both her teammates and her opposition’s whereabouts at all times. Examples of this are scattered throughout Bonner’s game; a passing accuracy that is second to none, possession that is seldom lost; but her diligence is perhaps best highlighted through set pieces.
Corners are Bonner’s forte. In both attacking and defending, Bonner positions herself with an expertise that rarely falters. At both ends of the pitch, Bonner’s aerial abilities see her as a threat in the area. In front of her own goal, Bonner has used her head to clear the line more than once, and up the other end, she is no stranger to nodding one past the keeper. In the air and on the ground, she tends to find herself in the right place at the right time, and it is this that sets her apart from others. Bonner has scored the second highest number of goals by a defender, all the while boasting one of the best defensive records in the league.
Making up one half of City’s defensive duo, Bonner has made it her business to work in tandem with her skipper. Knowing the in’s and out’s of each other’s game have seen the pair have a huge hand in City’s current pole position. Bonner’s commitment to building partnerships is perhaps her most endearing quality. Quickly learning the strengths of her teammates, and being able to utilise these, has meant she has swiftly solidified herself as one of City’s key players.
Prior to joining City, Bonner enjoyed a string of successes with her former clubs, including leading Liverpool to two consecutive league titles. Whilst she may no longer wear the armband, her quiet leadership can certainly sway the head, and her winning mentality shows no sign of ebbing just yet.
Bearing all of this in mind, it is somewhat interesting to note that Bonner has only a handful of senior caps for the National side. It was perhaps even more surprising, given her recent performance, not to see Bonner’s name appear on the squad list for February’s SheBelieves Cup. Of course, club football and international football are arguably two different ball games, but having a player of Bonner’s assiduousness, and the option of an already established partnership at the back, surely would not have hurt the Lionesses campaign.
So, perhaps overlooked, undervalued even, for England; at City Bonner is a player of the utmost standing, and deserves to be seen as such. Do not be fooled, her controlled will and temperate nature should not be underestimated.
Quite simply put, Gemma Bonner is up there with the best of them.