Best Defensive Partnerships in Premier League History
Join us as we take a look at some of the best defenders of the Premier League to see who are the best defensive partnerships in Premier League history
Much has been said about some of the best offensive partnerships in Premier League’s history since its inception in 1992. The league’s rise in popularity has been in large parts because of those amazing attackers but the truth of the matter is that without solid defensive partnerships, no team has ever been able to win any major silverware in England, a fact that has been proven time and time again.
Now there have been amazing defenders, like Virgil van Dijk, or defensive midfielders, like N’Golo Kante, who’ve practically single-handedly bettered their team’s defensive efforts and helped deliver them titles, but generally for a team to have continued success, they need to have two defenders whose abilities complement each other and suit the style of their respective team. Now let’s get to the players that we think make the
best defensive partnerships in Premier League history
All-Time Best Defensive Partnerships of the Premier League
depending on the style and the tactics of a team, full-back partnership can be as important or even more so than center-back partnerships. Because of that, there are a few full-back partnerships in ou all-time best defensive partnerships of the Premier League list. Let’s see who they are:
Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia (Liverpool)
We start our list of best defensive duos ever in Premier League with two players who didn’t win the league while playing together but nonetheless defined an era for Liverpool and to a lesser extent the Premier League. Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyppia never where considered amongst the world’s best defenders but they made up for it with their absolute commitment and tirelessness on the pitch as they fought every battle and put their bodies on the line for Liverpool.
Jamie Carragher who played for Liverpool his whole professional career, is the Liverpool’s second-longest ever serving player with 737 matches in Reds colors. He started his professional career in the 1996-97 season but it wasn’t until the following season that he started getting regular game time. Although he is known for being a center-back, at the start of his career he was very much used as a full-back and even was voted Liverpool’s Player of the Season in the 1998-99 season.
For Sami Hyypia, the story was a bit different, as he had to prove himself against all the odds. A life-long supporter of Liverpool, Hyypia proved himself first in his homeland Finland and then abroad inWillem II
, a Dutch side, before being transferred to Liverpool in 1999. Initially thought of only a back-up, Hyypia proved everyone wrong and soon became a staple of Liverpool sides under both Houlier and Benitez.
Although the two were regulars at Liverpool and had won several cup trophies, it wasn’t before 2004 and their new manager Rafa Benitez, that the duo were paired together. The partnership immediately paid dividends as Liverpool were able to reach the Champions League final that year and win the title. they were also able to win an FA Cup as well as a UEFA Super Cup pairing together. One of the best defensive partnerships in Premier League history, these two players gave their heart and soul to the club they loved and brought Liverpool what trophy they could and becoming legends in the process.
Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Some may feel that these two should not be on our list of best defensive duos ever in Premier League, but the truth of the matter is that without Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham would’ve probably never experienced their recent Golden Age, however trophy-less it might’ve been.
the only duo on our list to not feature any English players but rather two Belgian players and childhood friends, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. The two actually made their first ever solid defensive partnerships back inAjax
where they had both been part of the academy set-up. After their performances generated interest from abroad, Vertonghen joined Tottenham in 2012 and Alderweireld Atletico a year later. But after a season on loan atSouthampton
, Alderweireld eventually joined his former teammate at Tottenham in 2015.
The duo once again formed a solid partnership that helped Tottenham break into Premier League top 4 regularly as well as challenging for the cup trophies, although they never won any silverware together. Both players have been named in PFA Team of the Year at least once and have been considered as one of the best defensive partnerships in Premier League history. Perhaps the biggest achievement of their time together at Tottenham was reaching the Champions League final, which they eventually lost to Liverpool.
Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Liverpool’s current Dynamic Duo of full-backs, Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, are the next duo to appear in our list of best defensive partnerships of the Premier League era. These two may be the least defensive players on our list but they what sets them apart from many full-back partnerships throughout Premier League’s history is the sheer amount of attacking talent and creativity that these two players possess. After all you won’t find many teams with two full-backs as their main playmakers!
Andy Robertson, who is now Scotland’s captain, started his football at Queen’s Park but his introduction to English football was when he moved toHull City
in 2014. Following a relegation and a subsequent promotion to the Premier League, Robertson impressed Jurgen Klopp enough to sign him for the Reds in 2017. His first season coincided with Trent Alexander-Arnold’s break-out season whereLiverpool
reached the Champion’s League final but the pair really started syncing up in the 2018-19 season.
With 35 assists from Robertson and 38 from Alexander-Arnold during their fullback partnership at Liverpool, the club has been able to win the Premier League and Champions League as well as the Club World Cup. the duo usually appears amongst the Premier League top assisters and have been both named in the PFA Team of the Year twice consecutively from 2018 to 2020. Robertson and Alexander-Arnold are already considered to be one of the best defensive partnerships in Premier League history and considering how young they are, they might go on to be one of the absolute bests.
Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott (Manchester City)
Although much of Manchester City’s success can be attributed to Kompany’s almost one-man defense, the Belgian had always massive help from his defensive partners and perhaps his best partner in defense was Joleon Lescott. One of the
best defensive duos ever in Premier League
, the pair both arrived at the club after Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of the club and together they helped Manchester City claim their first ever Premier League title in 2011.
After going through the ranks ofWolverhampton’
s youth academy, Lescott became a regular started for the Division One club back in the early 2000s. he subsequently moved to Everton 2006 where over the course of 3 seasons he became one of the best center-backs in English football and even earned some caps for England, which attracted interest from the now-wealthyManchester City
Vincent Kompany was however already there as he had arrived at City a year prior to Lescott in 2008, having established himself as one of Europe’s most promising young defensive talents at Hamburg. He would go on to become an absolute legend at Manchester City, winning 10 major trophies with Manchester City, including 4 Premier League titles. But perhaps the most important trophy of them all was Manchester City’s first Premier League title, which was delivered by stellar defensive performances from the duo of Lescott and Kompany.
With Lescott’s hard-hitting no-nonsense defending and Kompany’s ball-playing and tactical defending, the pair were extremely well balanced and helped City not only to their first league title in 44 years but also an FA Cup a year prior. Lescott won another league title in 2013-14 but by that time he had lost his place in the first team. Despite their short time together, Lescott and Kompany made one of the best defensive partnerships in Premier League history, certainly one that City fans won’t ever forget.
Tony Adams, Martin Keown (Arsenal)
For our next best defensive partnerships of the Premier League era, we have the all-English, all-Arsenal pairing of Tony Adams and Martin Keown. The pair played together from the days of “boring boring Arsenal” under George Graham but the main reason they are on our list was their resurgence under Arsene Wenger in the late 90s.
Mr. Arsenal, Tony Adams needs no introduction as his statue outside the Emirates stadium paints a pretty clear picture of his place at Arsenal. A childhood supporter of the club, he played his entire career at the club and captained them from when he was 21 till he was 36, leading Arsenal to a league title in 3 different decades. Martin Keown on the other hand started his career much like Tony Adams but had to prove himself inEverton
before rejoining Arsenal in 1992.
Adams and Keown who had developed a nice partnership before the Arsene Wenger era truly blossomed under his management and went on to help Arsenal achieve 2 Doubles of winning the league and FA Cup in 1997-98 and 2001-02 seasons. The duo of Tony Adams and Martin Keown despite being from the early years of Premier League deserve a place amongst the
best defensive partnerships in Premier League history
and are certainly the best partnership Arsenal ever had, at least in terms of longevity and consistency in winning titles.
Gary Neville, Denis Irwin (Manchester United)
Denis Irwin is perhaps one of the most underrated players in Premier League history and only in recent years has he been appropriately appreciated. And when Sir Alex Ferguson paired up Irwin’s experience and talent with an up and coming academy player by the name of Gary Neville, the pair went on to become possibly the best full-back partnership ever in the EPL and one of the
all-time best defensive partnerships of the Premier League
Having established himself as a Second Division veteran atLeeds United
and Oldham Athletic, Denis Irwin joined Manchester United in 1990 for a fee of £625,000, which Sir Alex Ferguson claims to be his greatest signing “pound for pound”. Manchester United was just getting ready to dominate English football and with the help of players like Irwin, Steve Bruce and later editions like Eric Cantona, they were able to do so.
But Sir Alex’ team was far from complete and he needed a lot more youth and energy in the team to balance out the experience. Enter Manchester United’s legendary Class of 92 that saw many of the club’s talented youngsters like Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Gary Neville get featured regularly in the first team. Gary Neville in particular was one of the first to get integrated to the first team as the young hard-working right-back had the perfect attitude for a manager like Alex Ferguson and he teamed up perfectly with Denis Irwin.
With Neville’s bombastic energy and Denis Irwin’s mix of talent, technique and experience,Manchester United
was able to win 7 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, a League Cup and a Champions League title that came at the end of a historic Treble. Although Gary Neville went on to win many more trophies with United, his partnership with Irwin, who left United in 2002, is still remembered as one of the best defensive partnerships in Premier League history.
Sol Campbell, Habib Kolo Toure (Arsenal)
What happens when you get an Ivorian defensive midfielder, who had to trial in order to get a contract atArsenal
, and a former Tottenham captain together and put them in the heart of defense?! well you get an unbeaten run of 49-matches, which seems impossible even thinking about it. When it comes to stamina, power and no-nonsense defending there are no player on our all-time best defensive partnerships of the Premier League that could come even close to the duo of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure.
In an effort to replace Arsenal’s legendary defenders like Tony Adams and Martin Keown, who were either getting old or had retired, Arsene Wenger signed Tottenham’s skipper Sol Campbell. While Campbell was partnered with Keown a year or two, Habib Kolo-Toure was signed as a defensive midfielder but Wenger soon saw his potential in being a ball-carrying defender alongside the hard-tackling and more physical Sol Campbell and he started pairing them up together.
The two paired up for the first time in the 2003-04 season at the center of Arsenal’s defense and together they helped Arsenal achieve the monumental task of not losing a single match in the entirety of the season, a run which they extended to 49 games the following season. they also helped Arsenal win 2 FA Cups and reach a Champions League final, before which they achieved 10 clean sheets in the competition and set a record.
Although their partnership was short-lived, Sol Campbell and Habib Kolo-Toure were able to achieve something that most defenders can only dream of, to go an entire season unbeaten, and for that as well as their incredible talents as defenders they deserve a place high on our list of best defensive partnerships in Premier League history.
John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
There could’ve been a number of Chelsea defensive partnerships on our list of
best defensive partnerships of the Premier League era
involving John Terry as the Englishman was so good that he elevated his partner to world-class levels. Here we have gone with the center-back partnership of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho since the pair were the foundation on which Chelsea’s new dynasty was based upon.
To most football fans, John Terry needs no introduction. He is possibly one of the best ever defenders of all-time and perhaps Chelsea’s greatest player ever. His incredible tackling and man-marking ability coupled with his tactical understanding of the game as well as his supreme passing ability with both feet made him the perfect leader to leadChelsea
to a new era.
Now when a defender like that gets paired with another world-class defender who just helped Porto win the Champions League and the two of them are led by one of the most defensive minded managers in the history of football, you can be sure that the resulting team would’ve no cracks in its defense. in their first season together, Chelsea only conceded 15 goals in the Premier League, more than half the goals of 2nd placed Arsenal, and that achievement was in large parts to the chemistry that these two defenders had.
The duo of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho went on to bring Chelsea 2 more league titles as well as an FA Cup and 2 League Cups, before Carvalho joined Real Madrid in 2010. Terry and Carvalho’s partnership is certainly considered amongst the best defensive partnerships in Premier League history and they set the standards for Chelsea defenders for many years to come.
Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)
Perhaps the most iconic duo in the Premier League era is the Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand duo. Partly because of the longevity and the success that they had at Manchester United but mostly because of the sheer amount of talent, brilliance and commitment that both these players possessed which is why they almost always come on top when there is a discussion about the all-time best defensive partnerships of the Premier League.
Ferdinand, who joined United in 2002 from Leeds, had partnered with several defenders like Jaap Staam and Mikel Silvestre before Nemanja Vidic arrived at Old Trafford in the January of 2006. Sir Alex immediately paired them up and the following season saw them lead Manchester United to their first league trophy in 4 years. With Ferdinand’s technique, ball-playing ability and smart defending and Nemanja Vidic absolute fearlessness, United’s defense became impregnable and it led to a new era of success for the club, both domestically and on the European front as well.
The duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, helped Manchester United win 5 Premier League titles, 3 League Cups, 1 FIFA Club World Cup and a Champions League title. before their departure form United in 2014, they both were named in the Team of the Season 4 times during the time they played together, with Vidic twice being named the Player of the Season as well. There are simply no greater partnership than the one Ferdinand and Vidic had which is why they are the
best defensive partnerships in Premier League history
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