Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City: Who has the best centre-back in the Premier League?

With the 2017/18 season now in full analysis mode, which centre halves stood out from the crowd?


Reuters/Matthew Childs

Clean sheets, defensive rocks and passionate leaders. 

It’s a tough job being a defender, just ask anyone who had to face Manchester City this season. 

But no matter how much the game develops and moves forward, the art of defending and leading from the back will never die. 

The ever-increasing cost of footballers isn’t just applicable to attackers, as the value of sought-after defensive quality is rising, too.

Which centre-backs have been a cut above this season?

  1. 5 Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)


    Reuters/Andrew Boyers

    While not perhaps as tested as his peers on this list, this season has been a much-needed consistent one for the Argentine.

    With first-choice partner Vincent Kompany still struggling with injuries from time-to-time, Pep Guardiola placed his faith in Otamendi to lead the line for the entire season. 

    Although Otamendi may not have had as much 'defending' to do as other centre-backs in the league this campaign, his performances can't go unnoted. 

    His Manchester City side limited opponents to an incredible 27 goals this term, which is ten less than when the club last won the title back in the 2013/14 campaign. 

    There will be, of course, other factors to consider in the change as Guardiola transformed the City defence at the end of last season. But Otamendi's contributions have gone a long way in making it happen. 

    Before the inevitable end-of-season player rotation began, Otamendi had missed only one game all season: being rested for the 5-0 home win over Swansea City was only the second time he hadn't featured. 

  2. 4 James Tarkowski (Burnley)


    Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

    James Tarkowski is one of the standout players from a Burnley side that many expected to be fighting relegation for much of the season.

    The season couldn't have gone much better for the Clarets, though, as they finished an incredible seventh in the table, qualifying for Europe. 

    An integral part of a consistent backline, Tarkowski has played a huge part in helping Burnley concede a mere 39 goals this campaign - 12 fewer than Arsenal, 19 less than Everton and only one more than Chelsea. 

    Going forward, Burnley struggled to get goals of their own and outscored only five other teams, perhaps making their defensive efforts more responsible for the much-elevated position. 

    Only playing a handful of games last term, Tarkowski has emerged as one of the 'breakout' talents of the season and was rewarded with his first England call-up in March. 

  3. 3 Jamaal Lascelles (Newcastle United)


    Reuters/Lee Smith

    It's easier for a defender to sit and look pretty in an effective side that aren't challenged much defensively. For others, life can be that little bit harder. 

    Jamaal Lascelles falls into the latter of those two categories being tasked with being the glue of a Newcastle United defence often under the cosh. 

    Having handled the responsibility and added pressure so well for the vast majority of the campaign, Lascelles is quickly endearing himself to the fans and becoming their new hero. 

    The Englishman brings a calming influence to his side and his presence has been highly valued by the Magpies this term. 

    Newcastle were without their captain for five matches midway through the season and conceded 15 goals in that period. 

    To put this into perspective, Rafael Benitez's side conceded 47 all season, meaning that 32% of their conceded goals this season came without Lascelles in the team. 

    Unfortunate to not have made the World Cup squad, Lascelles can take great pride in his performances this season and carry them into August for the new campaign. 

  4. 2 Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)


    REUTERS/David Klein

    Arguably one of the most consistent performers in the entire division, Azpilicueta has been a steady, bright light in a Chelsea defence that has had its share of exposures this term. 

    Antonio Conte's men have barely got close to the form they showed in the title-winning season last time out but Azpilicueta is always there to be relied upon. 

    Naturally a right-sided player, Azpilicueta is now more frequently deployed as the right-sided centre-half in a back three. 

    Having only failed to play 90 minutes once in 38 games, the Spaniard has often had to adjust to playing alongside changing personnel. 

    Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and even youngster Emerson have all found themselves in and out of the team this season as Conte found it hard to find any consistency. 

    Azpilicueta is the exception. 

    As well as being consistently reliable defensively, Azpilicueta can also chip in at the other end of the pitch and has supplied five assists or more in his last three seasons. 

  5. 1 Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)


    REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

    Beginning the season alongside regular partner Toby Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Tottenham started the season brightly. 

    After conceding seven goals in the opening ten games, Vertonghen and his teammates prepared to finish the rest of the season without one half of their trusted defensive partnership, as Alderweireld was forced off injured during the defeat at Old Trafford. 

    Having since been tasked with being the defensive line's most senior, responsible member, Vertonghen has had a very accomplished and steady season. 

    Tottenham conceded only 36 times throughout the campaign, numbers that are bettered only by the two Manchester clubs. In comparison, though, it is ten more than in the 2016/17 season. 

    Vertonghen, alongside youngster Davinson Sanchez, has filled the void left by Alderweireld and has looked accomplished as the leader of the defensive line. 

    With the future of his compatriot becoming increasingly uncertain, manager Mauricio Pochettino may well look to Vertonghen to lead the defensive side of the team for the foreseeable future. 

    Do you agree with our selections? Who was the best centre-half this season?

  1. Poll: Who was the best centre-back this season?

    1. Nicolas Otamendi
    2. James Tarkowski
    3. Jamaal Lascelles
    4. Cesar Azpilicueta
    5. Jan Vertonghen
    177 votes
    Share Your Result

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Jack Dudley

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Football writer and Championship enthusiast, currently based in the Middle East.

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