Football Features

The 10 fastest Premier League defenders of 2022/23

By Ben Green

Published: 11:56, 5 June 2023

The Premier League is abloom with some of the sport’s fastest players — both offensively and defensively.

In 2022/23 we bore witness to the blurry-eyed speed and hot-rod acceleration of the game’s very best. It was tiring just watching these athletic demigods in full motion who, at times, barely broke a sweat going up the gears.

Contrary to popular belief, the game’s greatest speedsters aren’t necessarily exclusive to just the offensive positions — Alphanso Davies would like a word with you if you think otherwise.

And in tribute to those rapid runners at the back, we’ve looked at the top 10 fastest defenders — by comparing the highest ‘top speeds’, as provided by Opta —
from the 2022/23 season. Some of the names may shock you…

10. Kalidou Koulibaly

Club: Chelsea

Appearances: 23

Top speed: 35.23km/h

It was a pretty mixed campaign in the end for Kalidou Koulibaly, who probably joined Chelsea at the wrong time as former club Napoli went on to win the Scudetto for the first time in 33 years – while The Blues finished a miserable 12th.

Still, he showcased flashes of quality, chiefly that wonder finish against Tottenham on matchday two, and a very impressive ‘top speed’ of 35.23km/h, a figure that places him in the top 10 fastest defenders this season, which is certainly no mean feat for a centre-back.

9. Antonee Robinson

Club: Fulham

Appearances: 35

Top speed: 35.34km/h

Now this feels a little more natural — a full-back. United States international Antonee Robinson impressed this season with his defensive and offensive work for Fulham, bombing down the touchline with vigour and, you guessed it, pace. He clocked a ‘top speed’ of 35.34km/h, which gave Marco Silva’s side a key dynamic on the left flank.

8. Lloyd Kelly

Club: Bournemouth

Appearances: 23

Top speed: 35.42km/h

Versatile, strong and, yep, fast! Lloyd Kelly was vitally important for Bournemouth’s survival aspirations this campaign as he moved across the backline performing multiple roles with merit. Nominally a centre-back, the 24-year-old was tasked with playing left-back at times, a notion that doesn’t seem too fanciful when you look at his ‘top speed’ of 35.42km/h.

7. Adam Smith

Club: Bournemouth

Appearances: 37

Top speed: 35.52km/h

With Kelly and Adam Smith in your backline, you’re probably not going to get a goal with balls over the top — their recovery pace is second to none. That may actually explain with Erling Haaland scored just one goal against Bournemouth, despite Man City firing eight past them this season. They simply had to find other means of penetration, rather than that signature ball in behind for an onrushing and hungry Haaland.

6. Kristoffer Ajer

Club: Brentford

Appearances: 9

Top speed: 35.53km/h

Norwegian Kristoffer Ajer got off to the worst possible start to this season as a hamstring injury prevented him from featuring in the first five Premier League games. By that point he struggled to dislodge Thomas Frank’s now-settled backline and he only ended up featuring nine times. However, one of those appearances brought a ‘top speed’ of 35.53km/h, which is the fastest of any centre-back across the entirely of 2022/23.

5. Nelson Semedo

Club: Wolves

Appearances: 36

Top speed: 35.55km/h

Wolves have quite the team of speedsters. Adama Traore naturally ranked in the top 10 of forwards this term with 35.56km/h, but he wasn’t the fastest Wolves player. That right is reserved to Matheus Nunes with a ‘top speed’ of 36.32km/h. Not too far behind and certainly no laggard is Nelson Semedo, which means the West Midlands club had a player in the top 10 for each of forwards, midfielders and defenders. They’d make a pretty good relay team.

4. Jack Stacey

Club: Bournemouth

Appearances: 10

Top speed: 35.64km/h

Another Bournemouth player, well former now. Jack Stacey recently completed a move to Norwich, which ends Gary O’Neil’s supersonic defensive trident, but in 2022/23 he was rapid. The versatile defender probably didn’t feature as much as he would have liked, but when he did, he played at a ferociously high-octane pace, with a recorded ‘top speed’ of 35.64km/h.

3. Diogo Dalot

Club: Man Utd

Appearances: 26

Top speed: 35.76km/h

Dalot has impressed with his attacking enterprise, combining powerful, lung-busting runs with a pretty good final product. And his electric legs certainly haven’t held him back in that regard. His ‘top speed’ was the third-highest of any defender in 2022/23 and outranked the likes of Harvey Barnes (35.44km/h), Adama Traore (35.56km/h), Alex Iwobi (35.72km/h) and Allan Saint-Maximin (35.73km/h).

2. Kieran Tierney

Club: Arsenal

Appearances: 27

Top speed: 35.99km/h

He found playing time hard to come by with Oleksandr Zinchenko ahead of him in the pecking order, but Tierney impressed whenever he got on the turf. A modern full-back in every respect, the Scotland international is hard in the tackle and tenacious going forward, a point reinforced by his scintillating ‘top speed’ of 35.99km/h, the second-best among defenders.

1. Kyle Walker

Club: Man City

Appearances: 28

Top speed: 37.31km/h

The undisputed fastest defender, and fastest player as it happens — but is anyone really surprised? The City full-back has one of the best recovery speeds in the game and is blessed with a preternatural pace that wouldn’t look out of place in an Olympic track event. Chuck his strength and endeavour into the mix and you have one of the most complete full-backs in the modern game.

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