Varane, Van Dijk, Maguire: Ranking 2021/22 Premier League centre-backs from worst to best


The 2021/22 Premier League season is officially locked and loaded.

Now that we’re three games into the campaign and the summer transfer window has come to a close, we can really start assessing how the next eight months will pan out in closer detail.

Besides, we now know each and every player that will comprise the 20 squads across the division with the potential exception of outgoings to nations where the transfer windows close much later.

2021/22 Premier League

However, give or take the odd exit that might still transpire in the coming weeks, we are now able to scrutinise and assess the 2021/22 cohort of players up until the January window at the very least.

Here at GIVEMESPORT, we have already ranked the majority of the Premier League’s goalkeepers this season and now we are turning our attention to the centre-backs.

Using a pre-existing template on Tiermaker, we have ranked the central defenders in England’s top-flight into various sections ranging from ‘Championship at best’ to ‘world-class’.

Saul Niguez rejected Man United (Football Terrace)

Naturally, there are certain defenders who play in other positions across the defence or midfield, too, but we’ve done our best to include every player that features predominantly in the centre-back role.

Our decisions have been based on the opinion of your humble writer – though we’d be fascinated to hear your own take, too – with everything from stats, the eye test and guttural instincts called upon.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that every single one of these centre-halves is deserving of praise and that even the lower categories are framed within the context of playing at a Premier League standard.


Ranking Premier League centre-backs

Oh, and the labels of the tiers – we will explain them each time – are more important than the order, which will become apparent with the ‘Doesn’t fill you with confidence’ and ‘Bound to succeed’ rungs.

But enough disclaimers and housekeeping because we know the reason you’re all here. So, without further ado, be sure to check out how we think the Premier League centre-backs rank down below:

Championship at best

Winston Reid 

This feels harsh, it does, but Reid’s presence in the Tiermaker really stood out compared to his contemporaries and you have to wonder whether their Premier League days are behind them.

Reid hasn’t played a top-flight game for West Ham United in the best part of three years, spending time on loan at Sporting Kansas City and Brentford, despite being a top-class defender in his prime.


Doesn’t fill you with confidence

Pablo Mari, Phil Jones and Davinson Sanchez

Now, it’s important to clarify that we’re not saying that these three players are the worst centre-backs in the Premier League other than Tomkins and Reid but, rather, that they deserved their own tier.

We say that because there is a certain breed of central defender that – despite you being well aware that they have plenty of quality and talent – simply make you nervous whenever they play.

You know what we mean, right? And in my opinion, no three centre-halves in the Premier League right now typify that better than Mari, Jones and Sanchez, who always seemingly flirt with disaster.

That being said, they are stronger overall than the defenders in our next tier…


Solid back-up

Willy Boly, Rob Holding, Shane Duffy, Max Kilman, Ciaran Clark, Mohammed Salisu, Joe Rodon, James Tomkins and Joel Veltman

These are centre-halves that most certainly deserve to be plying their trade in the Premier League, but more so as a back-up option regardless of whether they actually play that role currently or not.

This is undoubtedly a little harsh on players like Kilman and Rodon who are still finding their feet, but it’s too early to raise them up to the higher tiers when you consider the quality on display right now.

Veltman has underwhelmed for great swathes of his Brighton spell, Holding shows his quality far too infrequently at Arsenal and Duffy still has some convincing to do after a forgettable loan with Celtic.


Does the job

Nathaniel Phillips, Jamaal Lascelles, Dan Burn, Yerry Mina, Issa Diop, Adam Webster, Mason Holgate, Romain Saiss, Craig Dawson, Pascal Struijk, Jack Stephens, Federico Fernández, Jan Bernarek, Robin Koch, Marc Guehi, Ben Mee, Liam Cooper and Axel Tuanzebe

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the most populated tier is the one titled: ‘Does the job,’ because most Premier League centre-backs give a solid account of themselves without setting the world alight.

The likes of Lascelles, Diop, Saiss, Koch and Mee to name just a few are all deserving mainstays at their club and continue to show that they can mix it up against some of the division’s top strikers.

Meanwhile, Mina’s wobblier moments for Everton have seen him tumble down to the middle tiers and we want to see more from Tuanzebe with a regular run of game-time before we buy a ticket on the hype train.

As for Phillips, you’ve got to credit the lad for grabbing his opportunity at Liverpool with both hands, but we’re not convinced that he could compete as a Champions League-level defender in the long term quite yet.


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Angelo Ogbonna, Ben Godfrey, Gabriel, Tyrone Mings, Conor Coady, Diego Llorente, Ezri Konsa, Fabian Schar, Ben White, Lewis Dunk, Jannik Vestergaard, Joachim Andersen, Michael Keane and James Tarkowski

In many ways, this was one of the hardest sections to gauge because we’re effectively talking about a no man’s land of players who are knocking on the door of the Premier League’s best defenders.

Up-and-coming centre-halves like Godfrey, White and Konsa are well on their way to challenging for the highest tiers, while Keane and Tarkowski are secure as some of the division’s safest pairs of hands.

Mings and Coady have proven themselves on the outskirts of Gareth Southgate’s England squad and we fully expect Vestergaard and Andersen to kick on this season with stronger teammates around them.


Bound to succeed

Ibrahima Konate and Cristian Romero

The moral of the story is that Konate and Romero didn’t really fit into a tier that felt right because they aren’t Premier League proven for obvious reasons, but certainly have more quality than the defenders in ‘good’.

As such, we’re separating them from the pack and dying on the hill that they are going to prove themselves with Liverpool and Tottenham this season. For many, though, the jury remains out.


Premier League proven

Nathan Ake, Wesley Fofana, Joe Gomez, Andreas Christensen, Eric Bailly, Jonny Evans, Kurt Zouma, Victor Lindelof and Caglar Soyuncu

As the title would suggest, these are centre-halves who have proven themselves amongst the upper echelons of the Premier League without necessarily standing out as one of the best in the division.

Bailly and Lindelof have been nowhere near as poor as some United fans would have you believe, while Fofana, Evans and Soyuncu have all been pivotal to Leicester City’s success under Brendan Rodgers.

Meanwhile, the trio of Gomez, Ake and Christensen are underrated assets for their Champions League clubs, but don’t stand out enough as players who could single-handedly galvanise or inspire a back-line.

As for Zouma, the Premier League staple looks to be a real coup for West Ham because he was arguably Chelsea‘s best player last season when Frank Lampard was in the dugout.


European level

John Stones, Joel Matip, Antonio Rudiger, Aymeric Laporte, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva

You could airdrop these guys into any Champions League match and they would hold their own, no questions asked, but we’re just a little hesitant to put them into our exclusive club of ‘world-class’.

Azpilicueta and Silva certainly aren’t getting any younger but they are still comfortable mixing it with the world’s best forwards and Matip always proves a thoroughly underrated enforcer for Liverpool.

Laporte has only really been hampered by decreased game-time at the Etihad, allowing for Stones’ thrilling rise up the ranks, while Rudiger rightfully rounds off the tier having discovered himself under Thomas Ruchel.



Harry Maguire, Virgil van Dijk, Raphael Varane and Ruben Dias

One likes to hope that Van Dijk’s presence speaks for itself because if you asked me to pick who I thought was the best centre-back in the Premier League, then he would be the clear winner.

However, the Liverpool star isn’t the only world-class centre-back in the league with Dias enjoying a staggering 2020/21 campaign and Varane arriving in England with a gargantuan trophy cabinet.

And while, yes, the presence of Maguire will probably ruffle people’s feathers, make no mistake that he has been amongst the world’s best defenders over the last 12 months and proved exactly that at Euro 2020.


So many tough decisions

So, there you have it, we’ve inevitably hacked off every Premier League fan and their dog because there are so, so many centre-backs that it’s impossible to please everybody.

Like we said, though, anybody who players at the heart of defence for a club in England’s top-flight is deserving of praise and this list really goes to show how much quality there is in the division.

That being said, we know that many of you will be keen to give your own thoughts on the Premier League’s centre-backs this season, so be sure to let us know across our various social channels.



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