Full-back is fast becoming one of the most important, dynamic positions in modern football.
In fact the role is important that it’s not enough to have just one good full-back, you need two to form a partnership. Two to ensure that you can attack from both flanks, that you remain unpredictable and dangerous.
Whilst this may seem to be a decidedly modern trend, with the exception of Chelsea in 2012, every Champions League winner in the last 10 years has had truly spectacular players at full-back. This has been a decade in the making and is now the new normal.
So looking at the Premier League and all its incredible full-back pairings, we decided to group them all into a tier list. These pairings will be taken as they currently are, or will be soon enough. Disagree with any of our picks? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy
2019/20 combined appearances: 48
2019/20 crosses attempted: 140
It’s hard to include City’s best full-back pair as it’s not really clear what it is given the amount of rotation Pep Guardiola enacts. However when fit it’s clear he’d like to use Walker and Mendy, the problem with this duo is that Walker is not spectacularly creative and whilst Mendy very much is, he’s also rarely if ever fit and that has to drag City down this list. If Wolves hadn’t been hit by injury to Jonny, their starting duo of Semedo and and the Spaniard would have bumped City from this list entirely!
William Hill’s 2020/21 Premier League top-four odds:
- Liverpool: 1/14
- Man City: 1/12
- Chelsea: 1/2
- Spurs: 13/8
- Arsenal: 7/4
- Man Utd: 2/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of writing (11:00, 15/10/2020). BeGambleAware.
Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas
2019/20 combined appearances: 82
2019/20 crosses attempted: 227
Leeds have hit the Premier League with a sublime full-back pairing that play such a key role in the way that they operate. Marcelo Bielsa demands a lot from his full-backs in terms of build-up and final delivery, and these two deliver in spades. As a duo they’ve made a whopping 35 tackles already this season, more than anyone else, as they take full part in Leeds’ ferocious pressing game. If they do as well this season as they did last, expect to see them rise a tier in the future.
Timothy Castagne and James Justin
2019/20 combined appearances: 40
2019/20 crosses attempted: 97
Possibly the best partnership in our C tier is Leicester’s burgeoning one between recent import Castagne and young prospect Justin. Despite both being right-backs, they can both actually play at left-back too and that’s going to come in handy when Ricardo Pereira fully recovers from injury and Leicester should find themselves able to deploy a number of different dynamic duos at full-back as they make yet another assault on the Premier League’s top four.
George Baldock and Enda Stevens
2019/20 combined appearances: 76
2019/20 crosses attempted: 251
Coming up into the Premier League can be daunting for some sides but Baldock and Stevens took it in their stride and were absolutely sensational as Sheffield United shocked the Premier League. Their positional play and high crossing output are key to Chris Wilder and Alan Knill’s system working and so far they’ve not let the two tactical masterminds down.
Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon
2019/20 combined appearances: 67
2019/20 crosses attempted: 182
We haven’t seen this duo yet but it has the explosive potential to reach A tier. Doherty is built like Maicon and has that same power to his game, whilst Reguilon has pace to burn, an explosive attacking mentality and a love of crosses. We’ve seen hints of how sharp Spurs can be on the break already this season with Aurier and Reguilon, and once they get Doherty up to speed you can expect great things from Spurs’ boys in the years to come as they add thrust and drive from out wide.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles
Alex Telles has been directly involved in more league goals than any other current Premier League full-back since the start of last season.
⚽️ 13 goals
🅰️ 10 assists
But will he still be taking penalties at Man Utd? 😅 pic.twitter.com/xEWfCgiaH4
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) October 16, 2020
2019/20 combined appearances: 66
2019/20 crosses attempted: 361
This partnership is obviously untested as Alex Telles was a deadline day signing by the Red Devils. The Brazilian isn’t the best in defence but is a beast in attack. His crossing is ceaseless (258 attempted in 2019/20, the most in Portugal) and devastating from open play and set-pieces. Having Telles overlapping Marcus Rashford and sending balls into the box whilst Aaron Wan-Bissaka locks down an entire flank defensively should make Man Utd a much more dangerous prospect (albeit an asymmetrical one) than they currently are.
Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney
2019/20 combined appearances: 30
2019/20 crosses attempted: 71
Bellerin and Tierney may not seem like much of a partnership but it was wrecked by injury last year, and when fit was promising. This season again we’re hoping for fitness as both men can deliver so much on the field. Bellerin is coming on leaps and bounds under Arteta, finally fulfilling all of those years of hype, and Tierney is going from strength to strength too. Moreover, unlike the other top partnerships in B tier we’ve actually see this one play together so they fit in right at the top.
Cesar Azpilicueta and Ben Chilwell
2019/20 combined appearances: 67
2019/20 crosses attempted: 224
Chelsea’s left-back has been a problem position for a couple of years, but one they finally addressed with the signing of Ben Chilwell this summer. They had to wait for him to debut but when he did, it was spectacular as he bagged a goal and assist. Azpilicueta is a more defensive counterbalance but also has the leadership and organisational talent that Chelsea are desperately lacking whenever he isn’t on. The Blues can also put Reece James into the XI instead of either full-back and thanks to Azpilicueta’s ability to play both flanks, can now put out three extremely high-quality full-back duos
Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne
2019/20 combined appearances: 62
2019/20 crosses attempted: 313
Coleman has been around so long that his nickname on debut was “Seamus Ramos” because he played right-back like Sergio Ramos did (yes, Ramos used to be a right-back). He’s still a consistent and creative player, but he’s overshadowed in this partnership by the magnificent Digne. Signed as a Barcelona “reject” he’s settled into the Premier League just fine and is now one of its most creative and productive players. He created 72 Premier League chances in 2019/20, only 7 players created more. In an ordinary world, Coleman and Digne would be the best full-back duo in the division, but we don’t live in an ordinary world.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson
Most chances created by Premier League full-backs since the start of last season:
🔴 Trent Alexander-Arnold
🔵 Lucas Digne
🔴 Andy Robertson
Merseyside reigns supreme. pic.twitter.com/LghZIsE6Yo
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) October 16, 2020
2019/20 combined appearances: 74
2019/20 crosses attempted: 592
Make way for the kings! There’s no doubt who the Premier League’s finest full-backs are. In fact, these two might be the best full-back pairing on planet earth right now. Hell, they’re probably the best in the Galaxy you can bet there’s no one who could outdo them circling Proxima Alpha Centauri right now.
Since the start of 2018/19, only Mohamed Salah (32), Ryan Fraser (33) and Kevin De Bruyne (45) have created more big chances than Liverpool’s two full-backs (Robertson with 30 and Alexander-Arnold with 31) in the Premier League. That alone is a wild stat but even more impressive is that in that same time frame only one player has made more assists than Robertson’s 24, and that’s Alexander-Arnold with 26.
That’s right, the two most creative players in the Premier League over the last two seasons are Liverpool’s full-back duo. How could they be anything but S tier? They are so far out on their own in terms of quality and game impact that it beggars belief. None can compare, much less be better than they are. Two Kings, True Kings.
Defenders with the shortest PFA Player of the Year odds (via William Hill):
Virgil van Dijk: 28/1
Trent Alexander-Arnold: 33/1
Andrew Robertson: 100/1
Harry Maguire: 100/1
Matt Doherty: 100/1
Thiago Silva: 100/1