Terry, Kompany, Koscielny? Who is the Premier League's best centre-back?
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 28/03/15 7:52am
As John Terry is awarded a new contract at Chelsea, we ask - who is the best central defender in the Premier League?
“The new contract is not to say ‘thank you very much’, it is because John continues to perform,” said Jose Mourinho, after Chelsea handed his captain a one-year extension this week. The stats back up the Portuguese’s assessment.
Terry has made 40 appearances for the Blues in all competitions this season and is the Premier League leaders’ top defender in tackle success (86.84 per cent), duel success (73.14), headed clearances (96) and blocks (23).
“As a player, I hold him in the highest regard and his consistency has been remarkable. There would not be a team in the top flight who Terry would not improve,” wrote Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher in a recent Mail column.
Following the departure of defenders Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers last summer there were huge question marks over how Southampton would cope in the Premier League this season. However, Ronald Koeman’s side have silenced any doubters and their defence – the tightest in the division – has helped them to sixth place.
At the heart of that mean backline is captain Jose Fonte, who has missed just one game in all competitions this season. “We saw Lovren as the main man at the back last season, but Fonte has taken that mantle,” Carragher told Sky Sports, after the Portuguese’s man of the match display in a 1-0 win at Manchester United.
The centre-back has marshalled Saints to more clean sheets (14) than any other team in the top flight this term. He hasn’t made a single error leading to a shot and tops the standings for interceptions made by a defender, after cutting out opponents’ passes on 86 occasions.
An Achilles injury picked up in October, followed by a calf problem in December, meant Laurent Koscielny was sidelined for 13 matches earlier this season. However, since his return to the Arsenal starting XI, his importance has been apparent.
Arsenal have conceded just 14 goals in his last 16 appearances for the club – a run which includes seven clean sheets. With Koscielny starting in their side, the Gunners have won 68 per cent of their games in the Premier League this season. Without Koscielny that figure drops to 45 per cent.
“His individual quality is huge, he is a top-class defender,” says Arsene Wenger. “On top of that he has a lot of experience.”
Manchester City’s captain Vincent Kompany has enjoyed plenty of plaudits over the past three seasons – but is the Belgian’s brilliance on the wane?
Although the Opta data shows Kompany has made just one error leading to a shot, the centre-back has made notable mistakes this term.
He gave away a penalty in the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, which Manuel Pellegrini called “unnecessary”, was branded “Mr Rash” by Gary Neville after losing possession in the build-up to Liverpool’s opener at Anfield and was exposed by Barcelona for their two away goals in the Champions League.
Despite their own scoring exploits last season, the 50 goals Liverpool conceded – far more than their top-five rivals – was a key element in their failure to win the Premier League title. While boss Brendan Rodgers hasn’t completely solved that problem this term – the Reds still trail the rest of the top six in goals against – there has been a significant improvement.
At the heart of the Liverpool defence, having played all but one of their Premier League games this season, is Martin Skrtel. And the stats surrounding his campaign so far, are hugely impressive.
The Slovakian has the best tackle success rate in the Premier League (90.32 per cent), has made more headed clearances than any defender in a team aiming for a top-four finish (150) and only Leicester’s Wes Morgan and Burnley’s Jason Shackell have made more blocks (33).
Skrtel also has the second-best passing accuracy in the division, with only John Stones topping his 90.42 percentage mark and, after a man of the match performance against Southampton, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp described him as “vital” to Liverpool’s recent good form.
Best of the rest
Phil Jones is yet to make a costly mistake this season, according to Opta, with no errors leading to shots or goals attributed to the Manchester United man, while his tackle success (80.56) is among the leading totals in the Premier League. His England team-mate Gary Cahill has also impressed alongside John Terry, making 91 headed clearances and 21 blocks this season.
Everton have struggled this season and Phil Jagielka hasn’t always been at his best but his 90th minute stunner to earn his side a point against rivals Liverpool will live long in the memories of fans. Meanwhile, Winston Reid, delighted West Ham supporters by signing a new contract, while Mark Hughes called for an end to Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross’ England exile and Fonte’s centre-back partner Toby Alderweireld has impressed on loan at Southampton from Atletico Madrid.
Who do you think is the best centre-back in the Premier League?