With the trend in world football at the moment being very much to get the ball down and play, lets take a look at some of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the Premier League this season.
It should be noted that the countdown is based more on each defenders ability to play the ball with his feet than his overall quality, although this too is considered to a certain extent.
10 | Gary Caldwell
The big Scot has been involved yet again in Roberto Martinez’s dance with relegation this season, as Wigan continue to flirt with the bottom three. However, Caldwell has been in accordance with the rest of his team in attempting at all costs to play good, flowing football.
Many of his teammates were also close to getting on the list, had it not been for the sheer number of goals let in by Wigan this term.
9 | James Tomkins
West Ham’s defence has been solid and the style of play of their manager Big Sam would not usually be juxtaposed to the idea of ball-playing centre-backs.
Despite this, Tomkins has broken the mould and impressed many this season with his ability to provide good service for his midfielders.
8 | Steven Taylor
The versatile Newcastle defender was at the centre of much hype last term as his side kept clean-sheet after clean sheet but this year things have taken a turn for the worst.
The Magpies have leaked goals left, right and centre but Taylor has been a standout. His performances and ability to play the ball have even rendered him a potential England defender.
7 | Gary Cahill
The England and Chelsea centre-back is known for his pace, goals and ball-playing ability, but this year he has really matured as a footballer.
At the age of 27 he is now entering the prime of his career and both club and country will surely look to utilise him as much as possible from now on.
6 | Thomas Vermaelen
Without doubt one of the Premier League’s stand-out centre-backs in recent years, Vermaelen has been a strong leader for Arsenal since the departure of van Persie to rivals Manchester United.
A fast, versatile player, Vermaelen has been deployed at the left side of defence by Arsene Wenger on many occasions, and he surely would have been higher in this list if he was a slightly better ball-player.
5 | Ashley Williams
The Welshman has become a true hero at the Liberty Stadium, fitting in perfectly to Michael Laudrup’s style of play. He has proved himself to not only be a strongman in defence but also a player who can get the ball on the deck, feed it well to the holding midfielders and start attacks from the back.
He has proved invaluable to Swansea and it will be key for the Swans that they hold onto him for years to come should bigger clubs come calling.
4 | Daniel Agger
The big Dane has become a vital component of Liverpool’s back four since he moved to England from boyhood club Brondby. Not only has he proved to be a fine replacement for Sami Hyypia, he has shown he can offer different qualities to the stalwart Jamie Carragher.
Blessed with a ferocious shot, the left foot of Agger has started many attacks for Liverpool and if he was slightly more consistent defensively without doubt he would have made it into the top three on the countdown.
3 | Phil Jones
The Englishman is still to establish himself as Manchester United’s first choice centre-half, but has still played many games for the Red Devils as well as the English national side.
Known for his pace and ability to play the ball, he has also been deployed at right back and even in central midfield. Still only 21, Jones is sure to become a key component for both club and country in the years to come.
2 | David Luiz
Just missing out on top spot is Chelsea centre-half David Luiz. The Brazilian looked well out of place in the Premier League when he first moved to Chelsea with a clear lack of knowledge of defensive positioning.
However, under Di Matteo and now Benitez, Luiz has begun to blossom, even being thrown in at the holding midfield role. It looks likely that, with the inevitable departure of Frank Lampard, this could end up being his final position, and it is for this reason that he is not top of the list of Premier League ball-playing centre-backs.
1 | Jan Vertonghen
Not only a solid centre back for club and country, Jan Vertonghen is quickly becoming one of Tottenham’s most all round players. He works perfectly in conjunction with Michael Dawson’s no-nonsense style of defending and has even managed to get himself on the score-sheet a lot in recent times.
With nearly 200 games for clubs and 44 for Belgium, Jan Vertonghen is already experienced enough to be solid at the back while being able to play the ball on the ground and venture forward. Also, at only 25 years of age he still has his best years ahead of him, and Andre Villas-Boas should do all it takes to keep hold of him.
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