The PL's Top Five Centre-Halves

There's one Englishman in the line-up (who's not in the England squad) but two Saints who have become very adept at catching players offside. Hats off to them...

Last Updated: 23/10/13 at 10:02 Post Comment

Latest Articles

Football Managers On TV: Roberto Martinez

11 comments

He's a 'Bright Young Manager', which is meant as a huge compliment, and he's also affable and approachable. It's actually quite difficult to dislike Roberto Martinez...

WhoScored's Five Early Season Statistical Shifts

6 comments

WhoScored.com look at five sides who, after the opening four matches of the season, seem to have made tactical alterations to their style over the summer...

All Articles

In terms of goals and action it has been an unremarkable start to the season for Southampton, but the unspectacular has been the basis for an opening two months that sees them milling around the Champions League qualification spots after eight matches. Robin van Persie's goal against Saints at the weekend, in the build-up to which Wayne Rooney might even have been flagged offside, was only the third they have conceded all season, giving Mauricio Pochettino's side the second-best defensive record in the top five European leagues this season behind Roma (1).

Key to that record and at the heart of that defence has been their only two ever-present outfielders, Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte, who rank first and third in WhoScored.com's statistically calculated ratings amongst Premier League centre-backs this season, with respective ratings of 7.67 and 7.48. Saints impeccable 'goals against' tally is the result of the players' nigh-on perfect implementation of Pochettino's pressing game, rallying in attacking areas to put opposing defenders under pressure, and if they get past that line, then the midfielders do the same.

The impact on the team is that the defence also have to play high up the pitch in order to ensure gaps are not left between the lines for opponents to exploit. In Lovren and Fonte, Southampton don't have the fastest of centre-backs and when Rooney - just about - broke the offside trap, they were eventually punished. The dup have stepped up as the last man to catch an attacker offside 15 times between them already this season; to put that into perspective, their 15 is more times than seven of the Premier League's 20 teams have managed overall, and that will have played a huge part in only two teams (Man City and Chelsea) having conceded fewer shots on target than Southampton (26).

To play with such a high line requires a fantastic deal of organisation and tactual nous on the centre-backs' parts, and they seem to now be well-drilled in exactly what their manager wants of them. Extrapolating from eight games is, of course, reductive, but if Pochettino's team were to continue to ship goals at this rate, they would concede only 14 goals over the whole season, though the bubble will surely be burst soon enough.

Preventing the Saints pair from occupying the top two Premier League centre-back spots is second-placed Curtis Davies with an average rating of 7.63, who has had an extremely impressive debut season so far for Hull since completing his summer move from Birmingham. He has been vital to the Tigers' form that has left them ninth in the table, behind champions Manchester United only on goal difference, but having conceded fewer goals. Davies has made the second-most clearances in the Premier League this season (84), whilst also winning the most aerial duels of all non-strikers.

What is more, as his years advance, his reading of the game and his opponents improves, having made a combined total of 37 tackles and interceptions, a tally no other central defender in the top flight can better. Any talk of a recall to the England squad is wholly premature (yes, he was in Fabio Capello's first squad), but as the best-rated English centre-half, if his performances remain at their current level, he could well give Roy Hodgson something to think about.

The fourth highest-rated centre-back in 2013/14 is West Ham's goal hero from the win at White Hart Lane, Winston Reid, who has established himself as Sam Allardyce's first choice at the back; he is the only defender to have started all eight league games so far. The New Zealand international is the only central defender that can match Davies' tackles and interceptions total for the season (37), and he has proved to be incredibly reliable, failing to commit a single error that has allowed an opponent a chance, despite playing every possible minute so far this season, over which he has maintained an average rating of 7.48.

Veteran Sylvain Distin is now in his 14th season in the Premier League but is showing little sign of letting up, even though he will be entering his 37th year at the beginning of December. The Frenchman has been integral to his side's three clean sheets with 8.9 clearances per game and 27 successes in the air against challenging attackers. He is a technically gifted defender who brings the ball out from the back to find a midfielder more often than he looks long, unlike defensive partner and current England starter Phil Jagielka. Distin's pass success rate of 85.9% means attacks can be built on the defender's prompts, and he is deserving of his ratings of 7.40 so far this season.

Alistair Tweedale - follow him on Twitter here

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

Football365 Facebook Fan Page

The Football365 fan page is a great place to meet like minded people, have football related discussions and make new friends.

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

H

ilarious, thanks for that. But if I may, I do suspect the reason of your partners' ire is not Tottenham, but most probably all the compusilve gambling :)

DannySmith
Backing Costa To Keep Banging 'Em In

T

wo police horses in a paddock. Horse 1: What's with the long face? Horse 2: I'm working St James Park this weekend.

hump3.
Pardew braced for protests

T

wo things. First, I can't stop reading your name as 'Dane Bowers'. Second, you used the words 'philosophy' and 'Redknapp' in the same sentence.

ajsr1982
Can United's Defence Handle Ulloa?

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Premier League: Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal stunned by 5-3 defeat at Leicester

Man Utd manager Louis van Gaal was left stunned by Leicester City's remarkable comeback at the King Power Stadium.

Man United 'nowhere near good enough' defensively, says Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher has accused Manchester United of "mismanagement" over transfers after their 5-3 loss to Leicester.

Premier League: We fear no-one, says Jamie Vardy after Leicester stun Manchester United

Jamie Vardy declared Leicester fearful of no-one after helping Nigel Pearson's side claim a thrilling 5-3 fightback win.

Mail Box

Liverpool Aren't Even Exciting This Season

Liverpool fans are seemingly resigned to slipping back into mediocrity, which in September isn't exactly ideal. Plus better Arsenal, Allardyce praise and an excited Saint...

Be Careful What You Wish For, Gooners

That's the message from a Man United fan in the mailbox. Plus, thoughts on Paul Lambert's new contract, the Alan Pardew dilemma at Newcastle and lots more...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property