We are 12 games into the 2019/20 Premier League season and things are starting to hot up at both ends of the table.
Liverpool currently lead the way, sitting nine points above defending champions Manchester City, while Leicester City and Chelsea are also above the champions.
The Foxes have been in scintillating form under Brendan Rodgers this term and will now have aspirations of not only finishing the campaign as the “best of the rest” but possibly even smashing through the top four ceiling.
That form will of course be attributed to the formidable attacking unit Rodgers has assembled, but defensively, they have been just as resounding, conceding the fewest goals in the league (8) – not bad having lost Harry Maguire in the summer.
In that department, the Foxes are also joined by Liverpool and Sheffield United, two clubs enjoying exceptional seasons as well. It is no wonder then that defensive solidity has been closely followed by early success for these three clubs.
But which defenders have so far shone brightest for, not only the above trio, but across the league? We’ve compiled a list consisting of the best defenders in the Premier League for 2019/20 and the statistics to back it up.
And don’t forget to vote for whoever you think has been the best defender in the Premier League this season at the bottom of the article.
Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City)
Pereira has picked up from where he left off last season and has started this campaign like a house on fire. The Portuguese full-back has so far played every single minute for Leicester, providing his side’s right flank with plenty of energy, panache and aggression.
His maiden campaign at the King Power yielded a Player of the Season award and Players’ Player of the Season accolade as he registered the second-most tackles for defenders (118) and most duels (544) in the league. And that form has spilled over to 2019/20, with the buccaneering right-back playing a key role in Leicester’s ascent up the table, combining his resolute defensive showings with an eye to surge forward, having already netted two goals.
Key stat: Ricardo Pereira has made the second-most tackles of any defender in the Premier League this season (53).
Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester City)
There were huge question marks over who could possibly fill the gaping void left by Maguire in the summer after he joined Manchester United for a world-record fee for defenders. Centre-backs from across the continent were mooted with a move to the East Midlands, but Rodgers decided against recruiting and instead entrusted his defensive berth with Soyuncu.
The 23-year-old failed to impress last season, but he has, quite simply, flourished this term. With competent ball-playing skills, intelligence and positional awareness, Soyuncu possesses all the key attributes to thrive in a defensive system obsessed with playing out from the back. He has succeeded Maguire seamlessly and has so far been a major part of Leicester’s early-season fairytale.
Key stat: Caglar Soyuncu has made the second-most successful passes of any defender outside the ‘Big Six’ in the Premier League this season and the third-most overall (596).
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Integral to Liverpool’s ruthless start to the campaign has been Alexander-Arnold, the right-back-cum-playmaker who offers Jurgen Klopp one of the most threatening outlets in English football. The 21-year-old recently found his name in the Guinness World Records for the most Premier League assists by a defender in a single season for his exploits last term (12), while he already has three to his name this time around.
The attack-minded defender embodies Klopp’s Rock ‘n’ Roll football and will be paramount if Liverpool are to end a 29-year wait for top-flight silverware.
Key stat: No defender has created more chances in the Premier League this season than Trent Alexander-Arnold (42).
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
This one can come as no shock. The Ballon d’Or hopeful has remained a consistent cog in Klopp’s well-oiled backline, playing every single second in Liverpool’s unbeaten start, as well as forming a formidable blockade when the Reds were without Alisson.
He has been the chief policeman in a watertight defence and continues to ooze class, mixing his physically imposing frame with a fervent desire to show for the ball and instigate attacking moves. The Dutchman remains in stellar form.
Key stat: Virgil van Dijk has made the most successful passes of any defender in the Premier League this season (780) and has won the most aerial duels (66).
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
Robertson, like Alexander-Arnold, has started the season much in the same way he left off at the Wanda Metropolitano: suffocating wingers and causing problems for opposition full-backs. He has already notched four assists and continues to be a nuisance on the left flank.
The Robertson-Alexander-Arnold full-back partnership has been firing on all cylinders this term and will surely go down as one of the greatest in Premier League history.
Key stat: Andrew Robertson has made the second-most recoveries (83), the third-most successful passes (719) and the join-third most touches in the opposition box (27) among defenders in the Premier League this season.
Enda Stevens (Sheffield United)
Sheffield United have kept the second-most clean sheets this season and that has largely been down to the organisation, discipline and structure of Chris Wilder’s overlapping centre-back system, with Stevens an essential part of that operation.
Playing at left-wing-back as part of a five-man defence, the 29-year-old has license to venture forward and aid in the Blades’ attacking spells, but forms part of a near-impenetrable backline when under the cosh. His drive and determination has seen him claim two assists already, while he has also made the third-most recoveries of any defender this term (82).
Key stat: Enda Stevens has been involved in the fifth-most duels of any defender in the Premier League this season (130).
Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa)
Aston Villa have endured a mixed return to the top-flight but they have showed more than enough quality to suggest they will avoid the drop this season, and crucial to that quest will be Mings, the towering centre-back who has caught the eye of Gareth Southgate.
Such has been Mings’ early form that the 6 ft 5 in defender received his first England cap earlier this month. Should he continue on this current trajectory, then he may very well be in for a call-up to the Three Lions squad for Euro 2020.
Key stat: Tyrone Mings has registered more blocks (24), made the second-most headed clearances (39) and fourth-most recoveries (81) of any defender in the Premier League this season.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)
This season may not have started in the most positive of fashions for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but one beacon of hope and continuity for the Norwegian – and United fans – has been Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The precocious full-back has so far demonstrated to United fans exactly why their club couriered £45m to Selhurst Park in the summer for his services, adding an elite-level defensive expertise to an otherwise leaky backline.
The 21-year-old wouldn’t be out of place in a 1960s Italian defence as he possesses all the key attributes of a defensive doyen. Timing is a rare trait in the modern game, but Wan-Bissaka has mastered that particular art and looks set to have a long-lasting United career.
Key stat: Aaron Wan-Bissaka made more tackles than any defender last season (129) and has so far made the most in the Premier League this term (54).
Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea)
Tomori pitched up at Pride Park last season to join Frank Lampard at Derby County, and he quickly established himself as one of the star players in the Rams’ journey to the Championship play-offs, clinching the club’s Player of the Year award along the way.
With defensive injury problems hampering Lampard’s early tenure in the Stamford Bridge dugout, he turned to his chief centre-back from last season, and the pair haven’t looked back since. The 21-year-old has made a fluid transition to top-flight football and has transmitted his Derby County form over to west London, forming a key part of Chelsea’s defence and earning an England call-up in the process.
Key stat: Fikayo Tomori averages the third-best tackles per 90 minutes ratio (2.56) of any Premier League centre-back this season.
Fabian Schar (Newcastle United)
It hasn’t been easy for Newcastle this season, but one player who has shone in otherwise difficult circumstances is Schar. The Magpies centre-back has been in imposing form at the back for the Tyneside club, wearing his heart on the Newcastle sleeve and putting his body on the line.
His best performance came in the 1-0 win against Spurs earlier this season while his defensive exploits also saw Steve Bruce’s side snatch a 1-0 win over Man Utd this month. If Newcastle are to have any hope of avoiding the drop, then Schar will be vital.
Key stat: Schar has made the sixth-most interceptions (22) of any defender in the Premier League this season.
Honourable mentions: Ben Chilwell, Jonny Evans, Willy Boly, Jack O’Connell, Chris Basham and Erik Pieters.