The art of defending doesn’t always get its moment in the sun, but the Premier League has witnessed the evolution of defensive duties from its inception. Not only are defensive tactics wonderful to watch (like Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone and Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho) but they often go unnoticed too. Most of the time, when a team wins the Premier League, then fans and pundits alike will praise the attack.
However, defensive players deserve just as much praise. As the age-old saying goes: “You can’t lose if you don’t concede, ” which is 100 per cent true. We’ve seen some great centre-back pairings in football around the world, but here are the best five that have graced the Premier League.
5. Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia
The unconquerable duo of Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia has been Liverpool’s best centre-back pairing for a very long time and one which led the Reds to Champions League glory in 2005 against Milan in Turkey.
Hyypia was the imposing figure who used his strength and exceptional reading of the game and Carragher was one of the most accurate tacklers in the game, with intelligence that undercut opposition pressure from any angle.
4. Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure
With Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure marshalling the back four at Arsenal, the Gunners conceded the least amount of goals during the 2003/04 season, when Arsene Wenger’s side went the entire campaign unbeaten.
The duo were compact and organised all through the season, playing their parts in crucial wins over Southampton and Blackburn and while not getting the same acknowledgement as top scorer and team-mate Thierry Henry, were every bit as important to the ‘ Invincibles ‘.
3. John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho
John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho had such a great understanding of each other when leading the defence during Jose Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea, so much so that Carvalho referred to his partnership with the Blues captain as ‘like two halves of the same whole ’.
During the 2004/05 season, the dynamic duo played a crucial role in a Blues side that did not concede in over 1000 minutes of football, equivalent to over 11 games.
Such an unprecedented record was the icing on the cake of Chelsea’s first Premier League title win and the pair went on to cement their reputation as one of the best defensive pairs around.
2. Tony Adams and Martin Keown
Probably the most rigid and rugged central defensive partnerships of all time, Arsenal legends Tony Adams and Martin Keown led the Gunners to their first Premier League title under Arsene Wenger in 1997/98.
Both were imposing centre-backs and after dislodging Steve Bould in the centre, Keown, who had phenomenal man-marking skills, was able to build his partnership with Adams, a brilliant all-round defender and leader, to scourging effect.
Making over 800 appearances for Arsenal between them, Adams and Keown are regarded as arguably the finest defensive partnership the club has ever had.
1. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić
It would be hard to find a defensive pair as dominant as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić throughout the history of the Premier League. They complimented each other incredibly, with Vidić being an old-fashioned, uncompromising and tough-tackling defender with undeniable strength, while Ferdinand had the speed, agility and presence that was the opposite of Vidić but worked very well.
With this defensive duo, Manchester United coasted to three consecutive Premier League titles between 2007 and 2009 , as well as the club’s Champions League triumph over Chelsea in 2008. A devastating duo.
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