Antonio Rudiger has been a significant figure for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea, and Rio Ferdinand made headlines this week by naming him the finest defender in the Premier League at the moment.
Rudiger has regained his place in the starting lineup following a period on the bench under former manager Frank Lampard, guiding Chelsea to achieve the best defensive record in Europe’s major leagues since Tuchel took over in January. These are the five best centre-backs in the Premier League right now, according to Ferdinand’s comments.
Rudiger may have been hailed by Ferdinand as the finest defender in the division, but he currently ranks fifth in our list of the best centre-backs in the Premier League. In recent months, the Germany international has been a colossal presence for Chelsea, dominating one-on-one battles and forming part of a backline that has transformed Thomas Tuchel’s side into championship challengers.
Since Tuchel’s arrival, Chelsea has maintained more clean sheets (15) than they have conceded goals (14) in the Premier League, owing to a combination of individual excellence and collective resistance.
Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen (who leads the league in interceptions), and Cesar Azpilicueta have all been outstanding as part of the Blues’ back three, but Rudiger’s aggressive defense deserves special mention.
After falling out of favor last season due to the remarkable form of Ruben Dias and John Stones, Aymeric Laporte was said to be intent on leaving Manchester City this summer. Given the financial concerns surrounding Spain’s top, Laporte has remained at the Etihad and has started the new season in great form in Stones’ absence.
Following City’s 5-0 thrashing of Norwich in August, Guardiola called Laporte “the finest left-sided center-back for build-up play in the world,” with the 27-year-old who has been a key figure at both ends of the pitch for the Premier League champions so far this season.
Laporte has a 96.7 percent pass completion rate in the Premier League so far this season, but he is sixth in the league for passes into the final third, a figure that highlights his ability to go forward through opposition lines. It’s no surprise that City’s failure to break down Southampton last weekend coincided with his absence, as he averaged 8.89 progressive passes per 90 minutes.
The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United dominated the headlines this summer, but Raphael Varane’s arrival could be even more essential to the Red Devils’ chances of winning a trophy.
During his illustrious career, the France international has won it all, including four Champions League titles with Real Madrid and the World Cup with his country. Varane has made three league appearances since joining United from Real Madrid, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side winning all three of his games.
This season, Varane has averaged two tackles and 2.7 ground duels won per 90 minutes, both of which are more than the other centre-backs in our top five. Despite some unimpressive performances from Harry Maguire opposite him, the 28-year-old has given a comforting presence in the backline, with his reputation as one of the finest in the world warranted based on his early impact in English football.
The acquisition of Ruben Dias, last season’s FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season, was largely considered as the spark for Manchester City’s recovery of the title in 2020/21.
The Portugal international has been a key component of Pep Guardiola’s defense this season, leading the Premier League in completed passes and ranking third in touches. Dias has the offensive qualities that Guardiola looks for in his defenders, as well as the defensive qualities that an exceptional centre-back should have.
He has returned from a lacklustre Euro 2020 campaign to reclaim his place as the champion’s key defender, with just Jack Grealish ahead of him in terms of advancing carries this season, with his 57 putting him on a par with Wolves’ Adama Traore.
Virgil van Dijk
The significance of Virgil van Dijk at Anfield has been well-documented since his arrival three-and-a-half years ago, and his absence was a key talking point behind Liverpool’s dismal title defense last season.
Following his return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him out for practically the entire previous season, Van Dijk has reintegrated into the Liverpool side as the Reds have started the season unblemished.
The Netherlands international has won more aerial duels and cleared more balls than any other defender on this list, while his 0.7 interceptions per 90 minutes are on par with Dias and Rudiger and higher than Laporte and Varane. Van Dijk has resurfaced in good form, albeit there is a sense that his best is yet to come as he acclimates to Premier League play. Although Joel Matip has had a terrific start beside him since returning from injury, Van Dijk’s presence at center-back has had a transforming effect on Jurgen Klopp’s side.