The Premier League is evidently evolving in terms of attacking play, which has made defenders more important than ever and as we almost reach the halfway point of the season, let’s take a look at three defenders who have impressed in the English top flight so far.
Following a rough start to the campaign, West Ham have greatly improved under Manuel Pellegrini, especially in terms of their defensive solidity.
The Chilean mastermind did struggle in finding the right defensive combination in the early parts of the campaign but in Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena, he seems to have found the ideal combination that has helped West Ham soar into the mid-table places.
Balbuena, in particular, has been extremely crucial, thanks to his excellent positional awareness and some diligent defending. As a matter of fact, only four players have made more interceptions than the Paraguayan international, who has averaged over three tackles and an astounding 7.6 clearances per game this season.
Simply put, West Ham finally seem to have found an answer to their defensive woes in the shape of Balbuena, who will play a key role in the second half of the campaign.
Crystal Palace fullback Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been one of the rising stars of the Premier League this season, having played a key role on the right-flank for Roy Hodgson’s men so far.
The 21-year-old has made 16 appearances in the league, averaging over four tackles, 2.7 interceptions and 3.1 clearances per game – indicating his dogged nature of defending that has served Palace pretty well thus far.
However, he is not only limited to defence as the player has also racked up almost three dribbles along with 0.4 key passes per game. Thus, Wan-Bissaka has also played a key role going forward, which has been essential to Palace’s gameplan under Hodgson.
And as we head into the January transfer window, the Crystal Palace defender could attract some interest, though the Eagles are likely to keep hold of their star asset regardless.
Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool have conceded only seven goals this season – less than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues thus far and much of it can be attributed to the presence of Virgil van Dijk.
The Dutchman, who became the most expensive defender in the world earlier this year, when he moved to Liverpool in January was under constant scrutiny mainly due to his price tag.
But, van Dijk seems to have silenced his critics this season, thanks to a series of towering performances that has seen Liverpool transform into one of Europe’s strongest defensive teams.
His imposing presence at the back has made the Liverpool backline more intimidating but what has truly benefitted the Reds is his exceptional ball-playing qualities.
Unlike most other Liverpool defenders in the past few years, van Dijk is not afraid to move forward with the ball and his excellent long-passing accuracy along with some sharp laser passes in between the lines has been a boon for Jurgen Klopp this season.
Stat courtesy: Whoscored