Throughout the Premier League years we’ve seen a whole host of watertight defences make their mark on both the English game and opposition forwards, and we’ve decided to celebrate some of the finest to have lined up in the traditional back four. Two centre-back’s with complimentary attributes sandwiched between two ever dependable full-backs, a quartet of under-appreciated heroes doing their utmost to preserve the hallowed clean sheet.
Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed that whilst attacks win games, it is defences that win titles and there are few who would argue with the knowledge of the 13-time title winner.This feature is a salute to the stingiest and sturdiest defences the division has seen, here are five of the best back fours in Premier League history:
Arsenal’s famous back four
Arsenal famous back four was the bedrock on which their success under George Graham was built, helping them to win their first title in 18 seasons when they snatched the trophy from Liverpool’s grasp in a dramatic final-day win at Anfield in 1989. It wasn’t that glamorous but very quickly, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould and the colossus Tony Adams developed this phenomenal, telepathic understanding. That was the bedrock of what Arsenal went on to achieve under George Graham.”
Lauren, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Ashley Cole:
On that day, the ponytailed David Seaman was protected by a central defensive trident of Martin Keown, Tony Adams and Steve Bould. Outside of them were Lee Dixon at right-back and Nigel Winterburn at left-back. Between them, this quintet made a combined 2404 appearances for Arsenal and won 210 England caps.
However, all were either approaching or were beyond their peak by the time Wenger joined the club. By 2004 all five of these players had left Arsenal, and their long-term replacements generally were not up to the task. Jens Lehmann, Lauren, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure and Ashley Cole formed a strong back line, but in more recent years the quality of the team’s defence has been an issue, with the likes of , Hector Bellerin, Gabriel, Cedric Soares and David Luiz lacking the presence and power of their predecessors, leading to some embarrassing drubbings.
The Special One’s Chelsea
Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, William Gallas:
During his first incarnation as Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho changed the face of English football. His team was built on a solid defensive base that cost more than many of the teams they were competing with for the Premier League title. They romped home to a first league win in 50 years in 2005, finishing 12 points ahead of second-placed Arsenal.
Most of the other clubs on this list had experienced success in the recent past, but the Blues' team of the ‘mid-noughties' paved the way for a new chapter of success at Stamford Bridge. John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho get most of the plaudits, but Ashley Cole was rated as ‘one of the best left-backs in the world’ for nearly a decade, and defensively astute full-back Paulo Ferreira completed the quartet.
Late Noughties Manchester United
Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra:
whether in attack or defence, are hard to come by in football. It’s either one of the two failing to adapt to conditions around them – through either a lack of talent or a lack of adaptability – or a failed experiment by the man at the helm.
But some work out perfectly and shape the long-term future and success of a side. One such duo, The four duo, Gary Neville,Patrice Evra.Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand, came to be in England with Manchester United and were the backbone of their success for eight years.
Present day Liverpool
Trent-Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson:
The final defence in our feature is the current Liverpool back four, with much of the club’s recent success built on the side’s ability to produce clean sheets. The signing of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton – alongside that of goalkeeper Alisson from Roma – has had a transformative effect on Jurgen Klopp’s side in recent seasons, the Reds boasting the division’s best defensive record in each of the past two campaigns. Van Dijk was named as the PFA Player of the Year during his first full season on Merseyside, becoming just the third defender to win the accolade in the Premier League era in addition to helping the Reds to Champions League success.
The Dutch defender is ably supported by the athletic Joe Gomez at the heart of the defence, whilst Joel Matip has shown he is more than a dependable deputy whenever called upon. Either side of that duo are the best full-back pairing in world football at present, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson becoming essential figures in the Liverpool side from a previously unfashionable position.The duo bomb forward with regularity and have set all forms of assist records for defenders over the past two seasons, in addition to forming part of a backline that has regularly stifled England and Europe’s leading attacks of late.
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