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The Five Standout Premier League Defenders This Season

Premier League

When you’re scrolling the latest “XY and Z” of standout Premier League players, those at the back are often left behind. Despite the playing host to some of the finest defenders in the world, the top tacklers in the world’s great league aren’t always given the credit they deserve.

Indeed, if you look at any of the football betting markets at bookmakers like , you’ll notice that it’s the strikers that receive all the attention. Whether it’s first scorer markets, players that could bag a hattrick or those involved in a wincast (score + result), it’s the forwards that dominate the odds tables.

Well, in this piece, we’re going to flip the script and pay homage to five of the Premier League’s best defenders. Taking some of the standout performers this season, we’ve compiled a back five that any self-respecting football fan would be proud to have in their team. So, without any further ado, here’s our top five Premier League defenders from the 2017/2018 season.

Shkodran Mustafi: Arsenal

OK, so the current Arsenal side aren’t exactly the defensive powerhouse the club became known as during the George Graham era. Indeed, a few one nils to the Arsenal would have been more than welcome this season as the Gunners are currently languishing in sixth after 27 games. However, for all the weaknesses in the side, Shkodran Mustafi has been a shining light at the back. Still only 25, the German has quickly adapted to his right-central role at Arsenal. What’s perhaps the most intriguing thing about Mustafi is that he admits he’s still learning.

After transferring from Valencia in 2016, the German has notched up  and 2.3 interceptions per game. That kind of form has given him a WhoScored rating of 7.43, which is already good enough to make him the best ranked defender in the country. However, even with the stats on his side, Mustafi has said he’s trying to improve by learning from those around him and “working on being there when it really matters.”

Kurt Zouma: Chelsea/Stoke City

Like Arsenal, Stoke haven’t exactly impressed with their defending this season. However, when you look at Kurt Zouma, it’s obvious he’s a touch of quality in the side. Indeed, as the January transfer window approached, manager Mark Hughes was forced to  that he wasn’t going to end his loan spell and return to Chelsea before the end of the season. For most, Zouma has been the player-of-the-season at Stoke and the stats reflect that.

At 6 foot 2 and 15 stone, Zouma cuts an imposing figure and his play has shades of French legends like Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly. Reading through stories of Zouma’s times at Chelsea and Stoke, the one attribute that seems to work in his favour is an ability to make friends. Despite being just 23-years-old, Zouma has an affable nature that’s allowed him to gel with senior players. This, in turn, has allowed him to play with a synergy on the field and, moreover, learn from his peers.

Alfie Mawson: Swansea

The praise might have come from his manager, but there is certainly some truth to the assumption that Alfie Mawson is one of the . Commenting on Mawson’s chances of receiving an England World Cup call-up, Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal said the following:

“He is one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, I’m absolutely sure, but I will not say if he deserves to go.”

Do the stats back up this claim? Well, in , Mawson has a 77% tackle success ratio. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you consider that he’s only received two yellows and no red cards during that time. As well as being strong but fair, the young centre-back has blocked seven shots and made 338 crucial clearances. Add to this six goals for good measure and it’s possible to say that Mawson is a versatile player that’s not only a solid, but one that’s confident enough to bring the ball down and look for a pass.

César Azpilicueta: Chelsea

Defenders know when a defender is good, which is why it’s worth listening to Rio Ferdinand on this one. The former player turned pundit and aspiring boxer has come out with some high praise for César Azpilicueta . At 5 foot 8, he’s far from a unit when it comes to defenders, but what the Spaniard lacks in size, he makes up for with aggression. Always ready to fling in a crunching tackle, Azpilicueta’s has been a rock for Chelsea this season.

Indeed, it’s his ability to show some aggression as well as lead from the back that caught Ferdinand’s attention. With an  and 0.6 fouls per game in the Premier League, Azpilicueta seems to have found the right balance between strength and a killer instinct. Essentially, Azpilicueta is an old-school English defender born in a Spaniard’s body, which means you’ve got the right blend of bulldog thinking and European skill all rolled up into a single player.

Nicolas Otamendi: Manchester City

Being part of the best team in the Premier League naturally affords you certain advantages. Firstly, you have the benefit of being surrounded by some of the leading players in the game. Secondly, when confidence is high, everyone seems to up their game and Nicolas Otamendi is no exception. This season, the Argentine has been involved  thanks to a 74% tackle ratio, 44 interceptions and 89 clearances.

Another factor that’s working in the defender’s favour is his age. Unlike our other picks, Otamendi is now 30. In defensive terms, that’s a good age because he’s got the experience to read the game and his body is still fit enough to meet the demands of the game. That’s a deadly combination whichever way you look at it and one of the reasons he’s up there with the Premier League’s finest.

Although there are plenty of players we could have included in this round-up, we’re confident the five pros we’ve mentioned are among the league’s leading defenders. Indeed, even if you don’t agree with us 100%, we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t say no to having any of the five sign for your club during the summer transfer window.