All 20 Premier League clubs' defences ranked from worst to best

Nuno Espirito Santo

In our data-driven world it's easy for football supporters to eulogise over attacking, headline-making stars with eye-catching statistics. 

The Premier League is host to some of the most captivating forwards in world football, including Mo Salah, Sergio Aguero, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Harry Kane. 

In the midst of futile Twitter debates, Ronaldo v Messi comparisons and statistical exposes, it's easy to forget about the humble defenders who facilitate the attacking exploits of their celebrated teammates. 

But with the transfer window now closed until January, it's a perfect time to take a closer look at how the Premier League clubs will line up defensively this season, and also to assess how they compare with one another.

Here, GiveMeSport do exactly that, ranking the 20 clubs' defensive setups from worst to best...

20. Fulham

GK: Areola 

Back four: Aina, Hector, Ream, Bryan

With 11 goals conceded already this season, Fulham's defensive issues have been laid bare after just four games in the top flight. 

Joe Bryan and Tim Ream, two players who started 52 league games between them as Fulham were relegated from the Premier League in the 2018/19 season, remain key components in the Cottagers' defensive unit. 

Bryan

Small efforts have been made in the transfer market to strengthen the defence, but they haven't gone far enough.

It looks to be a long season ahead for the Cottagers.

19. West Bromwich Albion

GK: Johnstone

Back five: Furlong, Bartley, Ajayi, O'Shea, Gibbs

There isn't too much to separate the Baggies from Fulham, but Gibbs' extensive Premier League experience - not that it was evident when he petulantly earned a red card against Everton - and Johnstone's credentials as one of the most promising stoppers in the division, just about keep them off the foot of the table.

Slaven Bilic, whose sides' are typically leaky in defence, has a mammoth task on his hands this season.  

Bilic

18. Newcastle United 

GK: Dubravka

Back five: Manquillo, Lascelles, Schar, Fernandez, Lewis

Steve Bruce has to draw upon all his years of experience to ensure his side prove tricky to break down. 

The signing of Jamal Lewis was astute and he's certainly a player who can blossom at this level, but there isn't much else to shout about here. 

Once tipped to break into the England fold, Jamaal Lascelles' stock has dipped in recent years and Javier Manquillo does little to inspire confidence in the supporters.

17. Aston Villa

GK: Martinez

Back four: Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett

Only Norwich City, who finished rock bottom, conceded more goals than Villa last season, but the signings of Emiliano Martinez and Matty Cash have strengthened the team in a big way.

In Tyrone Mings Villa have an England international who is growing in stature.

Mings

His leadership and ability to marshal the back four will be key to the success of Dean Smith's side this season.

16. Southampton

GK: McCarthy

Back four: Walker-Peters, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Bertrand

Ralph Hasenhuttl is not blessed with a fantastic set of options in defence.

Jannik Vestergaard is suspect but his partner Jan Bednarek, 24, has established himself at the heart of the defence and is one to watch for the future. 

With questions persisting over Alex McCarthy's quality and Ryan Bertrand perennially lacking consistency, the Saints could do with a defensive revamp. 

15. Crystal Palace

GK: Guaita

Back four: Ward, Sakho, Cahill, Mitchell

It is only by virtue of Roy Hodgson's tactical nous and depth of experience that Palace are not regularly exposed.

Hodgson

The tireless work that goes on in Palace's midfield offers an integral barrier between the lines, but fundamentally they have one of the weakest defences in the division.

14. West Ham United

GK: Fabianski

Back five: Coufal, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku

Pantomime villains David Gold & Sullivan have pumped money into the Hammers for a number of years yet the defensive unit does not reflect the level of investment that's gone into the club.

Based on West Ham's thumping 3-0 win away at Leicester City last weekend, new boy Vladimir Coufal looks to have at least added genuine quality at right-wing-back.  

13. Leeds United

GK: Meslier

Back four: Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas

Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds side have been hailed for their exhilarating brand of high-intensity football.

Bielsa

The energy provided by Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas at right-back and left-back respectively facilitate the free-flowing nature of the club's style, while the signing of Robin Koch has added top flight experience at centre-back.

Illan Meslier may well be inexperienced at this level but the left-footed stopper's composure and distribution perfectly align with Leeds' style. Shades of Ederson, anyone?

12. Brighton & Hove Albion

GK: Ryan

Back five: Lamptey, White, Webster, Dunk, March

The signing of a top quality goalkeeper could take the Brighton defence into the top 10 on this list. 

Graham Potter has two of the most promising young English defenders at his disposal in the shape of Ben White and Tariq Lamptey, while Lewis Dunk is a proven, reliable enforcer in the Premier League. 

Results haven't gone their way so far this season, but the Seagulls have the defensive foundations of a side who should steer well clear of a relegation dog fight. 

Lamptey

11. Everton

GK: Pickford

Back four: Coleman, Mina, Keane, Digne

Everton have rightly earned gushing praise for their perfect opening to the Premier League season, but the majority of the plaudits so far have been fired in the direction of their attacking talents.

With the exception of Lucas Digne, there are big question marks over the defence, particularly Jordan Pickford. 

Yerry Mina and Michael Keane are both domineering defenders with international experience, yet there are weaknesses in their respective games which suggest they would struggle for starts at a top six club. 

10. Manchester United

GK: De Gea 

Back four: Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw

How do you solve a problem like Man United? Performing major surgery on the defence might be a wise place to start.

There are the makings of a solid defence here but in the absence of a world-class manager their flaws are regularly exposed with ominous ease.

Maguire

David de Gea's dramatic capitulation, which has seen him rescind his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in world football, has left Solskjaer with a real dilemma as Dean Henderson waits for his opportunity.

9. Burnley

GK: Pope

Back four: Bardsley, Mee, Tarkowski, Taylor

Man for man this defence is not the most talented in the division. 

Collectively, though, they are far better than the sum of their parts.

With Sean Dyche's wisdom ringing in their ears, they are a notoriously difficult side to break down, which they demonstrated by keeping 15 clean sheets in the 2019/20 season.

James Tarkowski is the star of the back four, and the Clarets will struggle to keep hold of him in future transfer windows if he continues to build upon the progress he has made since joining from Brentford in February 2016.

8. Sheffield United

GK: Ramsdale

Back five: Baldock, Basham, O'Connell, Egan, Stevens

Sheffield United have started the season poorly but their performances in the 2019/20 season merit 8th position here.

Wilder

Chris Wilder has cultivated a style of play which is built on the collective understanding of the sturdy, compact defence, and his success in translating his ideas into action was evident last season as the Blades conceded just 39 goals and kept 13 clean sheets.

Ethan Ampadu, a summer loan acquisition from Chelsea, could add an element of class to the back five when called upon, utilising his range of passing to start attacks from deep.

7. Arsenal

GK: Leno 

Back five: Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Saka

Any defence containing David Luiz was always going to struggle to break into the top five of this list. 

There is plenty of talent for Mikel Arteta to work with here, though, and the balance of this back five - with Bellerin and Saka offering speed and width in the wing-back positions - should provide a solid platform for the Gunners to push for a top four finish.

Saka

6. Spurs

GK: Lloris 

Back four: Doherty, Dier, Alderweireld, Reguilon

Jose Mourinho still needs to figure out his best back four but this line-up should be strong enough to ensure Spurs are closer to the Champions League places this season. 

Sergio Reguilon and Matt Doherty have added much needed quality at full-back, giving Ben Davies and Serge Aurier some healthy competition for a starting berth. 

Whether Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld can form a solid partnership, however, remains a pertinent issue for Mourinho in his quest for success in north London.

5. Chelsea

GK: Mendy

Back four: James, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Chilwell

Chelsea kept just nine clean sheets last season and it's likely they'll have to improve on that record to mount a title push that their summer spending suggests they're eyeing this season.

Chilwell

The signing of Edouard Mendy should mitigate the goalkeeping issues that have persisted since Thibaut Courtois left the club, while Ben Chilwell's debut showed exactly what he's all about on the front foot. 

With a promising blend of youth and experience, Frank Lampard has an intriguing defensive setup at his disposal.

4. Manchester City

GK: Ederson 

Back four: Walker, Dias, Laporte, Mendy

Manchester City should be 2nd on the list here but their ongoing left-back troubles dictate. 

Injuries have clearly taken their toll on Benjamin Mendy and it's rueful to acknowledge that he'll never be the same player who once galloped down the left wing with frightening purpose. 

Laporte

City's failure to sign a replacement in the summer transfer window could be the defining failure of their season.

3. Leicester

GK: Schmeichel

Back four: Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Castagne

When Ricardo Pereira returns from injury Leicester City will boast one of the best defences in the division. 

Aided by the understated yet consistently excellent Wilfred Ndidi in midfield, the Foxes, who also kept 13 clean sheets last season, have an excellent back four.

Pereira is one of the most complete right-backs in European football on his day, age appears to have had little effect on Jonny Evans and the vibrant Caglar Soyuncu, though perhaps a touch erratic, has a defensive repertoire capable of combating the best the division has to offer.

The addition of Timothy Castagne, too, already looks like a masterstroke from Leicester's decision makers.

2. Wolverhampton Wanderers

GK: Rui Patricio 

Back five: Semedo, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Jonny

Taking the silver medal is Wolves, another side who recorded 13 clean sheets last season.

Nuno

Wolves' back five features a collection of highly talented individuals, while Rui Patricio is a trustworthy presence between the sticks. 

The central defensive trio are solid, athletic and eclectic, with Conor Coady supplying the forward players with his extensive range of passing. 

The dynamism of Nelson Semedo and the all-action style of Jonny in the wing-back positions add plenty of prowess at both ends of the pitch, making Wolves a genuine contender for the top six.

1. Liverpool

GK: Alisson

Back four: Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson

Top spot, naturally, goes to Liverpool. 

van Dijk

Jurgen Klopp's side may not have started the season with the defensive astuteness that characterised their maiden Premier League title win last season, but there's no doubt they have the most complete back-five in the division.

Alisson is a commanding presence, exceptional shot-stopper, effective distributor and probably the best in the division. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are not yet at their electric best but both offer an unrivalled blend of cutting edge forward play and defensive solidity. 

At the epicentre of this colossal unit is, of course, Virgil van Dijk, and in Joe Gomez he has a partner with all the attributes to enjoy a glowing career at the top level. 

A 7-2 defeat at Villa Park may suggest otherwise, but Liverpool's defence is as good as it gets in English football. 

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