In this high octane and high intensity competition who are the best Premier League defenders of 2020?
The English Premier League is a high-speed, high-intensity competition that boasts of some of the world's best strikers. In fact, English teams invest heavily on buying top-class attackers. As a result, even the smallest defensive mistakes gets punished by these attackers and the defenders are usually criticized for it. This creates a kind of hostile environment that makes it hard for any defender to perform in. Therefore, when a defender does succeed in this league, like the current best Premier League defenders, they are usually deemed world-class players because the standards of the league are set so high.
Now it has to be mentioned that in modern football, it’s required of every player to help in both attack and defense and that includes defenders as well. Center backs are usually very important in the build-up of an attack and the full-backs and wingbacks are one of the most important attacking units and are often called the modern playmakers. So it’s interesting to see how these best Premier League defenders of 2020 contribute to the attack as well as defense. Now let’s find out who made our list?!
Bear in mind that even though he is undoubtedly the best center-back in the league we have decided to exclude Virgil van Dijk from the list of current best Premier League defenders as the Dutchman is set to miss the entirety of 2020-21 season, but let’s see who is on the list:
Wolverhampton Wanderers current captain is actually not from Wolverhampton but rather from the Merseyside county. Coady is a product of Liverpool youth academy but he never found his footing there as he only made 1 Premier League appearance as a substitute for Liverpool. He was then sent on loan to Sheffield United, who were then playing in League One, and became a regular starter, he even showed a knack for scoring as he scored 6 goals in his times there.
Seeing that he would never be given a chance to play for Liverpool’s first team, Coady decided to leave Liverpool to join Huddersfield where he spent a successful season before he joined another Championship club, Wolverhampton, the following season. After spending 2 seasons with Wolves, in the 2017-18 season, the new manager Nuno Espirito Santo decided to change to a three-man defense which seemed to bring the best out of Coady.
You Might Also Like: Most Clean Sheets in Premier League History
In Santo’s three-man defense, Coady plays the central role and organizes the defensive work of his center-back partners or even the wing-backs. In fact, his leadership qualities are one of his strengths as he was made captain of the club when he was only 24. Coady has a great tackling ability which he uses to either stop opposition’s progress with the ball or to block incoming shots with. It’s usually very hard to win a ground duel with him as he comes out on top in most one-on-one situations.
Coady helped Wolves keep an amazing 13 clean sheets last season and this season they already have 3 clean sheets. As a result of his great displays and as one of the best Premier League defenders of 2020, he was called up to England’s national team and even managed to score a goal on his debut. Coady, who is 27, certainly hopes to keep on improving and represent England in the Euros. As of now he seems to be on the right track as one of the current best defenders in EPL.
The Gunners have been struggling at the back and were in search of a strong center back since the days of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure and although there have been the likes of Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertasacker who has shown momentary brilliance, none were without their shortcomings. But all of this has been seemingly resolved with their recent acquiring of the 22-year old Brazilian center back, Gabriel Magalhaes.
Gabriel seems to tick every box that is required of a ball-playing center back as well as having the more traditional skills that good center backs usually have. He is extremely effective in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet. He is also left-footed which is very sought-after in today’s game. He has showed both in his time at Lille and his short spell at Arsenal that he is a great shot blocker as he frequently reads attackers shots and jumps in front of them to stop them. He seems to be rarely beaten in one-on-one situations as he has a strong physique and also reads the game pretty well which usually means attackers won’t get the ball past him.
All of these attributes have made Gabriel one of current best defenders in EPL and Arsenal fans hope to see him improve and see another partner who is as strong as Gabriel alongside him soon. because of his excellent performances, even though he has been in England for only a short time, we have placed him amongst the best Premier League defenders of 2020 and we’ll have to see if he could sustain his form and improve it on the long run or will he succumb to injuries like many Arsenal defenders over the years.
You Might Also Like: Best Arsenal Midfielders of All Time
Tyrone Mings has had somewhat of a difficult journey to reach at the top level, but the towering center back made the best out of his chances when he got to play in the Premier League with Aston Villa. Mings inclusion in our list of best Premier League defenders of 2020 may seem strange as his team were fighting the relegation battle last season but when you take a closer look at his numbers and the way he plays, it soon becomes apparent why he is one of the current best Premier League defenders.
After a development period with Southampton at the youth level and the Ipswich Town on the senior level, it seemed that Mings was going to have his big break when he signed for the Premier League club Bournemouth but he never found his way to the first team properly and was loaned out to Aston Villa in January of 2019. He helped Villa secure promotion the Premier League and made his deal permanent.
Mings is not a prominent tackler of the ball but he is one of the best blockers in the league. In fact, he had the most number of blocks (50) and clearances (188) last season. These stats show that he is not afraid to put his body on the line which is quite important for a team that is battling relegation. He and Aston Villa have only improved upon their situation from last season and have already won 4 of their 5 games this season, in which Mings has helped Villa keep 3 clean sheets.
Mings got rewarded for his performances last year and was called up to England’s national team and made his debut in a 6-0 win over Bulgaria. As a left-footed center-back he could have a real good chance of cementing his place in England’s squad for the next Euros and it seems he is on the right track as he is one of the best Premier League defenders of 2020 and if he improves his performances, Gareth Southgate would have no choice but to include him in that final squad for the Euros.
The former Spurs defender, who joined Manchester City in 2017 as a part of Pep Guardiola’s rebuilding of the Manchester City squad, is now considered as one of the leaders in the Manchester City dressing room and one of the best Premier League defenders of 2020 in general. The 30-year-old has won everything there is in England and is still one of the best players in the world in his position. He has added experience to his skills which makes him an even more potent defender.
Walker is mainly a right back or a right wingback but under Guardiola, because of his ball playing capabilities, he has also played as a right sided center back in a three-man defense. He is extremely fast and really good in one-on-one situation. That could be either in defense, where he rarely lets players pass him, or in attack, where he can dribble past players with his incredible speed.
You Might Also Like: Best Premier League Comebacks Ever
Walker has won 2 Premier League titles, 3 League Cup and 1 FA Cup trophy with Manchester City and is reaching 300 Premier League games, in which he has assisted 29 times and helped with keeping 100 clean sheets. Although Manchester City is having a tough time at the moment, the return of their injured players could very well propel them to win their 3rd Premier League under Guardiola and as a veteran of the league as well as one of the Premier League's best defenders of 2020, Walker could very well be instrumental in them doing so.
The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti at Everton is proving to be a good news for a lot of players who were thought to be past their best and Lucas Digne is one of those players. Since the January and under their new manager, Digne has become one of the best EPL defenders of 2020 as the French defender has seemingly reinvented himself. This reinvention has been taken to a whole new level in the 2020-21 season as Everton is having one of their best seasons in a long time.
Digne who started his career in France at Lille, has played for several big clubs throughout his career. he joined PSG after Lille and then was loaned out to AS Roma and his excellent performances there earned him a move to Barcelona. All seemed to be going well for him but he failed to challenge Jordi Alba for the left back role in Barcelona and was deemed surplus to the requirement at Camp Nou.
Nonetheless, he and fellow Barcelona outcasts, Andre Gomes and Yeri Mina, found their way to Everton, who were in the process of rebuilding under their new owner Farhad Moshiri. Digne has slowly built up his confidence after his not so successful time at Barcelona and although Everton has not been particularly well in the past two years, he seems to enjoy a partnership with Richarlison on the left hand side of the pitch. A partnership that has blossomed this season as he is currently one of the best Premier League defenders of 2020.
Lucas Digne is a good crosser and long ball passer of the ball and this fits perfectly with Ancelotti’s plans for the Toffees as they have Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the attack who is extremely good in the air. Add to that the inclusion of a world-class player like James Rodriguez who often finds Digne making runs behind oppositions defenses and passes inch-perfect balls to him, which Digne crosses into the box to create chances. This plan of attack has worked well as Digne has already 2 assists to his name this season and as one of the best Premier League defenders right now, he only wishes to add to that number.
You Might Also Like: Players with Most Yellow Cards in the Premier League History
We’re all aware of Manchester City’s obsession to build a better defense by splashing huge amount of cash in every transfer market window. Some of those transfers have panned out the way City wanted them, some have not. In Laporte’s case it’s definitely the former, as the French defender has shown capable of great things in the games he has played for City. The loss of form that City has been experiencing lately could be a proof of that as many attribute this to Laporte’s injury.
Laporte who is another modern center-back is keen on playing short passes and helping in the attack’s build-up, which suits the Manchester City’s style of playing football perfectly. Laporte, who is of Basque descent, has previously shown his abilities in Athletic Bilbao and since he has joined City he has become one of the current best defenders in EPL and even managed to win a domestic Treble in his first season at the club.
Although he was injured in the latter months of 2019 and has missed out on most of the Manchester City’s games since then, he has recently been deemed fit to play and has started his first Premier League game since his injury against Leeds United. As the central player in Manchester City’s three-man defense, Laporte helps organize the defensive shape of the team and his absence has really put a dent in Manchester City’s title hopes.
Laporte is not particularly good in the air but he makes up for that on the ground as his good positioning usually allows him to intercept the balls or win one-one-one duels with attackers. His abilities certainly rank him high amongst the list of best Premier League defenders of 2020 and Pep Guardiola could only hope to bring the best out of him again in the upcoming season and challenge for the Premier League again.
One of the two Scotsmen on our list of best EPL defenders of 2020 is the former Celtic captain and the current Arsenal left back, Kieran Tierney. Although Tierney lost more than half of last season because of various injuries, few doubted he would have an impact at Arsenal when he was fully integrated to the team and he has proved that after the Project Restart as Gunners won both the FA Cup and Community Shield in a short period of time and Tierney in particular was instrumental in their successful FA Cup run.
Tierney, who has won everything there was in Scotland with Celtic multiple times, came to Arsenal in what was a record transfer for a Scottish international and Scottish league in the amount of 25 million pounds, in hopes of making the Gunners back line more solid. Although the move didn’t pan out the way Arsenal or Tierney wanted right away, under the management of Mikel Arteta things have improved drastically for Tierney. To the point that he is now considered by many to be one of the current best defenders in EPL.
You Might Also Like: Arsenal Top Scorers of All time
Tierney can play as both a left sided center back in a 3-man defense or as a left wingback or left back. He is competent with the ball at his feet and rarely loses it as he has the ability to take on and dribble past defenders. Although his ability in the air is limited he makes up for it by being quick and extremely good in one-on-one situations. His strong positional discipline has been the most useful ability for Arteta to use as Tierney knows exactly when to push forward and when to stay in position, especially when he plays as a left-sided center-back.
In attack Tierney has formed successful partnerships with players like Aubameyang or Bukayo Saka which in turn has made Arsenal’s left side a far more potent force in attack, with many of their goals coming from the left side. Tierney will be hoping to improve even further in the new 4-man defense that Arteta seems to be favoring but with the intensity and the right attitude that the Scotsman has showed from day 1, it will soon be a reality.
There is no doubt that Liverpool has one of the best fullback duos in world football right now. The duo basically act as the playmakers of Liverpool, which is a role that is commonly attributed to a modern fullback, and the left-back in that duo is none other than Scotland’s captain, Andy Robertson. The Scotsman is one of the pillars of Jurgen Klopp’s team as the German manager likes to utilize his two full-backs as his main playmakers and they both are among the best Premier League defenders of 2020.
Robertson, who is a native of Glasgow, and started his career in Scotland soon found his way to the Premier League in 2014 and joined Hull City, though they got relegated that season but managed to come back up immediately the season after. His performances there impressed Liverpool and he agreed to join them in 2017. At first he was to be Alberto Moreno’s understudy but the Spaniard’s injury created a chance for Robertson and he took it to become their first-choice left-back.
You Might Also Like: Most Successful Premier League Clubs
Robertson has a very attacking mind-set and is very comfortable with having the ball. In attack he operates basically as a midfielder and he plays like one too. But he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the defense as he is very competent in one-on-one situations. He also likes to play mind games on attackers and doesn’t get rattled easily himself. His quick feet allow him to bomb forward especially in counter attacks and cross great balls into the box. He is probably one of the best crossers in world football right now.
Andy Robertson’s potency in attack has been proven by the consistent number of assists that he has made over the past 3 years at Liverpool. Robertson made 12 assists in the Premier League in the 2018-19 season and 11 assists in 2019-20 season where he helped Liverpool become champions of England after a 30 year wait. This season he has already bagged 2 assists and as one of the best EPL defenders of 2020 he will be hoping to get even more to help Liverpool retain and defend the title.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is the other part of the Liverpool’s fullback duo that we talked about before and like Robertson he broke out into Liverpool’s first team back in 2017-18. Robertson who is 22 has already been nominated for a Ballon d’Or award and that tells you all about his quality as a player and why he is one of Premier League's best defenders of 2020.
Although Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have similar roles in Liverpool’s attacking plans, they differ in their style of playing as Alexander-Arnold was more of a midfielder when he was playing at the youth levels, therefore he seems much more comfortable in the attack than defense. That’s a fact that some teams have exploited, especially in Liverpool’s horrible 7-2 loss to Aston Villa where Arnold’s flank was bombarded with attacks.
But in attack there is hardly any better right back in the world than Trent Alexander-Arnold, as the Englishman, like his Scottish counterpart, is capable of producing a high number of assists, higher than Robertson in fact, and that has helped Liverpool immensely in both Liverpool winning the Champions League trophy in 2018-19 season and also winning the Premier League win in 2019-20 season. With Trent’s assist to Origi against Barcelona being one of the most memorable scenes of the Champions League in recent years.
Trent Alexander Arnold has recorded 25 assists over the last two seasons, an impressive number even for a midfielder let alone a defender. He is also somewhat of a free kick expert and has managed to occasionally score goals from there. it will be interesting to see if he can improve on his defensive skills now that teams seem to exploit it. but one thing is for certain and that is the fact that both England and Liverpool are relying on him to help them achieve success in the next few years.