Van Dijk, Maguire, Gomez: Ranking every centre-back at the Premier League's 'top six' clubs

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The Premier League is world-renowned for its physical style of football.

That might sound like a sporting cliché these days, but you only have to listen to world-class players who have swapped a continental league for England's top flight to see that it isn't merely a myth.

Chelsea's Thiago Silva is probably the most recent example, arriving from Paris Saint-Germain with a glittering reputation, only to struggle during his debut in the West Bromwich Albion draw.

Premier League centre-backs

The Brazilian great even went as far as saying: “After my last two games, I’ve had a terrible headache because there are non-stop aerial duels and a very high pace of play.”

So, make no mistake, thriving as a centre-back, in particular, in the Premier League is no easy task and Silva is far from the first player with proven quality to have found it difficult adjusting.

But if there's a positive side to this brutal style of play, it means that the centre-backs that do survive at the biggest clubs tend to establish themselves as some of the finest in the sport.

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'Top six' centre-back options

And as the Premier League rubs its eyes and wakes up from the international break, we decided to look deeper into this aspect of the competition that keeps us entertained week after week.

Now, as much as we could rank every single centre-back in the division, we'd be here all day, so we've decided to hone in on the traditional 'top six' who, it must be said, aren't literally the top six.

So, without further ado, here is how we rank the 34 centre-backs on the books at Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United for the 2020/21 season:

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Premier League centre-backs ranked

35. Joe Rodon

34. Sepp van den Berg

33. Pablo Marí

32. Philippe Sandler

31. Marcos Rojo

30. Japhet Tanganga

29. Rhys Williams

28. Nathaniel Phillips

27. Phil Jones

35-27 summary

The general theme of the bottom part of the list is younger players who, by no fault of their own, haven't been given enough game-time at this stage of their career for us to rate them properly.

Nevertheless, there can be no denying that the standard of centre-backs in the Premier League is impressive when promising talents like Tanganga, Williams and Phillips feature so lowly here.

But there are also more sheepish inclusions for Rojo and Jones who, by way of still collecting dust at Old Trafford, really underline the bizarre organisation of United's transfer dealings this summer.

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26. William Saliba

25. Fikayo Tomori

24. Shkodran Mustafi

23. Eric Bailly

22. Calum Chambers

21. Axel Tuanzebe

20. Sokratis Papastathopoulos

19. Andreas Christensen

18. Rob Holding

26-18 summary

We're getting into more exciting territory here with the likes of Holding, Christensen and Sokratis proving themselves to be solid options at the back without ever really showing the consistency necessary.

In terms of quality and quality alone, Bailly would place much higher if it wasn't for injuries curtailing his United career and erratic mistakes putting a dampener on his game-time when he is fit to play.

Mustafi isn't as poor as some fans make him out to be, though he's hardly world-class either, while Tomori didn't take his chance at Chelsea last season as much as Mason Mount or Tammy Abraham.

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17. John Stones

16. Victor Lindelöf

15. Davinson Sánchez

14. David Luiz

13. Eric Dier

12. Antonio Rüdiger

11. Kurt Zouma

17-11 summary

Right, here we are, the southern-most tracts of the highest-quality centre-backs in the Premier League with Lindelöf and Sanchez proving notable, although by no means perfect, step-ups.

Luiz is one of the more interesting inclusions because there's no denying he can look Sunday League at times, but when he's in form, expect to see nothing less than world-class resilience.

Credit to Zouma for thrusting himself into a much higher position than I would have expected at the start of the season, too, thriving alongside Silva and even helping himself to three league goals.

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Top ten

10. Nathan Aké

Welcome to the top ten, one and all. I might have my doubts about City shelling out so much on Aké this summer, but it's hard to deny that he's one of the Premier League's most exciting centre-halfs.

9. Gabriel

There's still time for the wheels to come off, don't get us wrong, but Gabriel has really hit the ground running in London and his masterclass at Old Trafford proves he's essentially built for Mike Arteta.

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8. Joel Matip

It's a shame that injuries have prevented Matip from establishing in the Liverpool XI at key moments, but he's hardly ever put a foot wrong when Jurgen Klopp has given him the nod.

7. Toby Alderweireld

The simple fact of the matter is you can only go so far wrong with Alderweireld in the back four, consistently proving himself as one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League.

6. Harry Maguire

Say what you like about his price tag, say what you like about his poor start to the season, but Maguire is one of the world's best centre-backs on his day and the Premier League's finest in the air.

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5. Joe Gomez

For our money, England's best centre-back, Gomez has been the perfect foil for Van Dijk over the last few seasons and Gareth Southgate will be praying that he's fit in time for Euro 2020.

4. Thiago Silva

Give or take his disastrous debut at the Hawthorns, Silva has started to transfer his stellar PSG displays to the capital and has helped marshall Chelsea to three clean sheets in four games.

3. Rúben Dias

Ok, so we might be getting ahead of themselves, but if Dias' time with Benfica, performances with Portugal and strong start at the Etihad is anything to go by, he'll soon be a Premier League star.

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2. Aymeric Laporte

The foundations would have crumbled very quickly in City's silverware rush over the last few years if wasn't for rock-soild displays from Laporte that papered over the defensive woes around him.

1. Virgil van Dijk

For my money, still the best defender in the world after inspiring Liverpool to Champions League and Premier League titles so brilliantly he bagged the PFA Award and had Lionel Messi sweating.

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GIVEMESPORT's Kobe Tong says

Things escalated real quickly, didn't they?

With so many centre-backs at so many clubs with such varying experience and differing game-time, it's impossible to agree on an exact order, but I think it's pretty hard to dispute the top two.

Laporte played a massive role in City's two Premier League titles under Pep Guardiola, while Van Dijk has established himself as arguably the world's best defender and competed for the Ballon d'Or.

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It remains to be seen whether Dias can really throw a spanner in the works and Silva, too, has potential to dominate the Premier League, even if his spell in west London proves to be fleeting.

However, amongst all the chopping and changing of the Premier League at the best of times, never mind with all the chaos of 2020, you can expect some of these stars to flop and rocket very soon.

Besides, with all the injuries going on at Liverpool right now, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Williams and Phillips fly up the rankings as game-time falls unexpectedly on their laps.

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