Who Are the Top 5 Defenders In the Premier League?
Defenders are often the unsung heroes in the game of soccer. They do all the dirty work, but they typically don't get noticed unless they make mistakes.
Let's give those guys on the back line some praise, as we rank the top five defenders in the English Premier League heading into the 2016-17 season.
5) Laurent Koscielny
Laurent Koscielny has been a consistent performer in the EPL for a few years now.
Koscielny received a 7.48 WhoScored rating in league games last year, which was the 11th-best rating in the entire Premier League, regardless of position. He posted similarly good ratings in 2014-15 (7.40) and 2013-14 (7.34). The guy has had three incredible seasons in a row and at only 30 years old, there is no reason to expect him to experience any sort of decline in production this season.
One of the qualities that makes Koscielny such a fantastic defender is his ability to anticipate passes and make interceptions. Koscielny had a total of 127 interceptions last season, which was more interceptions than any other defender in the league.
The Frenchman is also a very strong player in the air, winning a total of 104 aerial battles last season (8th best in the league amongst defenders), and he is good at keeping possession of ball (pass success rate of 87.1% last season). Koscielny is a well-rounded player, which is why he belongs on this list.
4) Wes Morgan
Wes Morgan was named in the PFA Premier League team of the year last season, and it was a well-earned honor.
Morgan ranked in the top 10 amongst defenders in the Premier League in several categories last season, including blocked shots (3rd with 41), clearances (10th with 216), and interceptions (10th with 95). He also finished 11th amongst defenders in aerial battles won with 93.
Morgan had a very strong statistical season last year, but perhaps more importantly, he and Wes Huth anchored a Leicester City defense that allowed only 36 goals for the entire year en route to their shocking title.
3) Toby Alderweireld
Toby Alderweireld deserves a lot of credit for the success of Tottenham's defense last season. The other three starting defenders (Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, and Kyle Walker, as well as goalkeeper Hugo Lloris) were all with Tottenham in the 2014-15 season, when the Spurs allowed 53 goals.
When Alderweireld was added to the lineup last season, Tottenham gave up a whopping 18 fewer goals than they had the previous year. They became one of, if not the best, defensive team in the league, as they tied Manchester United for the least goals conceded. Of course, he is not the only reason for the drastic change in goals allowed, but Alderweireld was certainly a major part of Tottenham's defensive turnaround.
In terms of individual statistics, Alderweireld finished 9th in the league last season amongst defenders in blocked shots with 33, and he finished 3rd amongst defenders in clearances with 285. Like Morgan, Alderweireld was named to the PFA Premier League team of the year due to his outstanding season, and he will play a key role again this year as Tottenham looks to build upon last season's promising campaign.
2) Virgil van Dijk
Virgil van Dijk had a phenomenal year for Southampton last season, and he deserves to be recognized as a top defender in the EPL.
Van Dijk received a 7.56 WhoScored rating last season, which was the 7th best in the EPL among all players and the best rating among defenders. That's not the least bit surprising once we take a look at his individual statistics.
For starters, van Dijk absolutely dominated on aerial challenges last season. He won an amazing 163 aerial duels, which was 40 more than any other defender in the league. It is almost unfathomable how good van Dijk is on balls in the air.
In addition to his aerial skills, van Dijk finished 4th amongst defenders in clearances with 260, and he finished tied for 7th with 96 interceptions.
Van Dijk fared incredibly well in most defensive statistical categories last season, and at the young age of 25, he figures to have another fantastic season this year.
1) Hector Bellerin
As an outside back, Hector Bellerin offers a different kind of skill set than anyone else on this list.
Bellerin is a very talented player who is able to not only defend, but also go further up the field to help create goalscoring opportunities.
He was tied for the league lead amongst defenders in assists last season with 5, and he also led all defenders in successful dribbles with 63. These passing and dribbling abilities make Bellerin a major threat offensively and one of the world's most coveted fullbacks.
Defensively, Bellerin is also a very strong player. He was 6th amongst defenders last season in passes blocked with 31, and he finished the year with 85 clearances and 67 interceptions, which are good numbers for an outside back. Bellerin's fine season was rewarded as he was named to the PFA team of the year.
The crazy thing about Bellerin is that he is still only 21, and he has the potential to get even better. He is a true two-way player who is sound defensively but also a serious threat offensively, and that is why he is the best defender in the EPL.