You’ll all be familiar with the well-worn football axiom about building a team from the back, and the foundation of a strong defence is a necessity for any club hoping to construct a successful team in the Premier League.
Having a solid centre can be the difference between a top four finish and title glory or survival and relegation – and it’s no surprise to see the best defenders swapping clubs for the same price as attacking superstars in the modern era.
The Premier League has a number of stand-out performers at centre-back that possess that highly sought after mix of consistency and reliability – but which of the division’s central defenders are the best? Who stands out among their peers?
Below, we’ve ranked what we feel are the top 10 centre-backs in the Premier League. We haven’t simply put the biggest names in on reputation alone, so there might be a few entries on the list that you disagree with. If you’ve spotted what you think is a mistake or a glaring omission, make sure to share your thoughts with us on Twitter!
Check out our top 10 list below:
10. Chris Basham (Sheffield United)
Whilst long-serving Blade Chris “Bash” Basham would be the first to admit that Sheffield United’s outstanding defensive record this season is down to the combined efforts of Chris Wilder’s well-drilled defensive unit, the 31-year-old is enjoying a fantastic individual campaign in the Premier League.
Basham, who has been with Sheffield United since 2014, is one of the “overlapping” attack minded centre-backs in Wilder’s unique tactical set-up, though he still ranks highly for average tackles (2.2), interceptions (2.2) and clearances (4.5) per game this term.
9. Jan Bednarek (Southampton)
Another under the radar performer, Polish defender Jan Bednarek ranks joint 2nd in the Premier League this term for average clearances completed per 90 minutes (5.9) and joint 4th in the division for interceptions made (2.2).
Bednarek has work to do to improve his distribution, the 24-year-old has all the hallmarks of a potential superstar and could be the player to use Southampton as a springboard to bigger things.
8. Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
It’s difficult for a defender to stand out in a team that tends to concede more goals than most, but Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake does just that.
Armed with a first-class attitude and a defensive skill-set to match, the classy operator ranks sixth in the Premier League this season for average clearances (5.4) completed per game.
The 25-year-old has long been linked with a return to Chelsea, but with interest from the Blues side cooling, Cherries supporters might get to enjoy him for a little while longer.
7. Lewis Dunk (Brighton)
Aerially dominant, an underrated passer and a natural leader, Albion’s Lewis Dunk probably isn’t as appreciated as he should be. Brighton fans know all about the 28-year-old’s quality however, having witnessed his progression with the club since 2009.
The physically imposing defender is statistically the most accurate distributor at the Seagulls this season, hitting the mark with 87.1% of his attempted passes per game on average, showing that Dunk has the technique to match his brawn.
6. Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
Gomez at number six might rankle with more than a few Liverpool supporters, but while the 22-year-old has a higher ceiling than most, there are parts of his game that aren’t as rounded as some of the counterparts on his list.
Blessed with paced to burn and composure by the bucketload, Gomez looks set to be a permanent fixture for the Merseysiders for the next decade. The promising centre-half is still several years away from his peak, which is a frightening prospect for strikers up and down the Premier League.
5. James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Clarets’ star James Tarkowski is a seasoned Premier League performer who has consistently ranked near the top of the division’s statistical measurements for defenders during his time at Turf Moor.
The 27-year-old, who has been an ever present for Burnley this term, has averaged 5.1 clearances and 1.7 interceptions per game for Sean Dyche’s men in 2019/20 – figures that make him number one for each metric at the club.
Tarkowski made two appearances for England in 2018, but has rather unluckily been overlooked since.
4. Jonny Evans (Leicester City)
Cultured operator Jonny Evans has been quietly going about his business at Leicester City since he moved to the King Power Stadium in 2018.
While his central defensive partners at the Foxes (first Harry Maguire and then Çaglar Söyüncü) tend to get more press than the 32-year-old, those in the know realise that Evans has been making his accomplices look good.
Evans, who was schooled at Manchester United’s famed academy, oozes quality and poise, and the Northern Ireland international rarely puts a foot wrong.
3. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
Aymeric Laporte is one of the most complete centre-backs in the Premier League and it’s telling that Manchester City’s title defence collapsed in his absence this season.
The 25-year-old isn’t the most rapid mover in the division, though his reading of the game and other worldly anticipation means that his lack of speed isn’t a problem.
Laporte has been cursed with injuries in 2019/20, though the Citizens kept a clean sheet in four of the last five games he started, and the one goal they did ship away at Real Madrid, went in after the Frenchman went off with injury….
2. Harry Maguire (Manchester United)
Many observes balked when Man Utd chose to splash out a world record £80m fee to bring Harry Maguire to the club from Leicester City, though the 27-year-old has already become a firm fan favourite at Old Trafford.
The towering defender hasn’t missed a single minute of Premier League action for United this season, and Maguire has had a major solidifying effect on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s backline.
The newly appointed club captain’s level of performance has been consistently high, though Maguire tends to save some of his best work for United’s biggest games – the mark of a really top player.
1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
No surprises here then. Liverpool’s Dutch defensive maestro Virgil van Dijk is among the best central defenders to have ever graced the Premier League.
All the facets of the defensive part of the game seem to come incredibly easy to van Dijk, and the 28-year-old can look next to unbeatable in the vast majority of matches he plays.
Van Dijk is a monstrously important figure for the Reds, and in true talismanic style, the former Southampton star is also known to pop up with crucial goals at hugely important times. What a player.
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