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

Who Are The Best Summer Freebies?

3 comments

With players on the continent now able to discuss summer free transfers to English clubs, WhoScored find five potential gems available for a song at the end of the season...

F365's Complete List Of January Transfers

Post comment

All the Premier League ins and outs in one place...

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

O

ne of the conclusions from this list is that Man City should never buy a striker in January - good luck Wilfried Bony....

Savinator
F365's Top Ten Worst January Panic Buys

I

was there, it was embarrassing - the team looked totally unbalanced from the off, the defence was woeful and when Mikel came off injured it got even worse with nobody in front of them. Up front on several occasions we had opportunities and nobody would shoot - it was a complete farse! On the back of Salah's performance I'm glad there is talk of getting shot...

Fly1ngh1gh
Cup defeat shames Mourinho

G

reat to see Tommy Rosicky getting some love. A wonderful player. Such a pity we lost so long to injury. I was so excited when we signed him, this resurgence only makes the absences seem more of a lost opportunity.

cheshire-gooner
16 Conclusions: FA Cup Fourth Round Weekend

Latest Photos

Footer 365

Capital One Cup: FA charges Chelsea striker Diego Costa over 'stamp' on Liverpool's Emre Can

The FA have charged Chelsea striker Diego Costa with violent conduct over his clash with Liverpool's Emre Can on Tuesday.

Transfer news: Arsenal complete the signing of Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista

Arsenal have completed the signing of Villarreal defender Gabriel on a long-term deal, for an undisclosed fee.

Gabriel Paulista has joined Arsenal from Villarreal, with striker Joel Campbell

Gabriel Paulista has joined Arsenal from Villarreal, with striker Joel Campbell going to the Spanish club on loan.

Mail Box

Erm... Balotelli To QPR..?

It's an afternoon Mailbox that offers the reaction to the reaction, with a defence for Diego Costa offered, and Balotelli mooted to move to QPR. Plus a silly idea about the Mails...

'Diego Costa Is A Thug.' Sore Losers..?

There is plenty of fallout from Diego Costa's stamps of authority on Tuesday's League Cup semi-final. Plus Blatter, Rodgers' substitutions and stretching the transfer truth...

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company