Best Defenders in the Premier League 2024

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 16.10.2023.     Updated: 2.5.2024.

Even though it morphed through time due to the impact of ever-increasing international players in its league, football in England is still where getting stuck in is most appreciated. A good tackle will cause as much applause and gasps as will the dribbler’s lucidity. With the money supremacy on top of that, the best defenders in the Premier League are a special breed of players.

Looking at the impact they had on their teams, here are the best defenders, centre-backs and full-backs, for the period of 2024.

Leaving the top 10 from 2023 was Sven Botman, although the tall Dutchman is bound to return as highly as he did. Yet both his lack of playing time, as well as Newcastle’s drop in defensive outcomes cost him the spot in favour of the Tottenham Hotspur star. While Botman will compete with his compatriot Micky van de Ven in the future to make it into the Premier League’s top 10 defenders.

Also getting squeezed out was Joachim Andersen, not through any fault of his own, simply because Arsenal’s defence has been the club’s main strength under Mikel Arteta.

#10 Best Defender in the Premier League: Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), RB

Kieran Trippier

While Newcastle United did get the massive steroid injection of money, few expected that the club will ascend so quickly against the established forces of the big six. What proved pivotal was the first major signing as the returnee to the Premier League, Kieran Trippier, showed leadership and technical ability that gave a stable base to the whole squad. Since arriving to St. James' Park, the right-back notched 17 assists and scored four PL goals to push NUFC into the Champions League spot the first time around.

However, the sophomore season wasn’t up to that ridiculously high standard and Trippier even considered leaving St. James’ Park.

#9 Best Defender in the Premier League: Luke Shaw (Manchester United), LB

Luke Shaw

While Manchester United hasn't flourished in the past years, the rare point of stability - especially in the back - was Luke Shaw. The Englishman showed great resilience to turn his career around as he was in the column of shame for several seasons, getting harsh public treatment from previous managers. In the 2022/2023 campaign, the left-back played in 31 games, but was utilized as a centre-back as well. With the heavy approach to attacking from the wings, the position of a full-back is a key soft spot for United and rarely has Shaw been the issue there. While also adjusting to the new defence commander as David De Gea left the side.

Yet, in the 2023/2024 season, United is suffering a negative goal difference with six matchdays to go. Hence, Shaw dropped in ranking as the left-back is employed with both protecting his own goal and threatening the opposition with key passes.

#8 Best Defender in the Premier League: Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur)

Cristian Romero

Now in his third Premier League season, yet Cristian Romero feels like a common face in English football. That's saying only one thing - he fit right in. Even though he is now playing for his fifth manager in the total 92 games he played for THFC since the 2021 loan that turned into a €50,000,000 transfer in 2022. Ange Postecoglou has opened the scoring aspect of the Argentinian and he has scored four goals in the PL across the 2023/2024 season. Romero's energy and aggressiveness are some of the key aspects of what made Spurs fans hopeful in this transitional, post-Harry Kane season.

#7 Best Defender in the Premier League: William Saliba (Arsenal), CB

William Saliba

Now the youngest of the top 10 Premier League defenders, the 23-year-old William Saliba has made quite the turnaround in his Arsenal career. Arriving back in 2019 for €30,000,000, the French international was labelled a flop considering he was loaned out three times. Yet the last two seasons he has spent wearing a gun on his chest and played nearly 60 Premier League games. During this, he made six goal involvements (4G/2A) and participated in an astounding 26 games where the AFC kept a clean sheet! All while many of these games were blowout wins for the Gunners, meaning that Saliba and his colleagues on this list often had to face counter-attacks and little help from their teammates.

#6 Best Defender in the Premier League: Ruben Dias (Manchester City), CB

Ruben Dias

While his stock has fallen a bit upon the stardom season upon his arrival, Ruben Dias is certainly still the cream of the crop regarding Premier League defenders. This small fall shows just how big his arrival was for City, primarily, and also shining the light on the achievements of his partner that is ranked higher up. Over the course of the 2022/2023 season and the start of the following one, Dias has commanded the defence in a manner that secured 18 league clean sheets for Citizens. And commanded he did, as Ruben Dias is clearly one of the two main leaders of the Etihad group, even earning the captain’s armband on several games.

The most impressive thing is that at 26, Ruben is only to enter the prime career time for centre-backs.

#5 Best Defender in the Premier League: Ben White (Arsenal), RB

Ben White

Eyebrows were raised when Arsenal splurged €58,500,000 on Ben White in 2021 after he has just played a season of Premier League football. Yet the move seems fully justified now as White has emerged into one of the pillars upon which this AFC generation has been built. While now the attacking Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli are making the headlines, the early days of Mikel Arteta's stint were symbolized by tooth-and-nail defensive tactics. White has been at the centre of them all, never making the limelight, just doing his job properly.

Adjusting to it as well, considering he was brought in to primarily be a centre-back. Yet in his 31 Premier League games of the 2023/2024 season, White has six goal contributions (2G/4A), becoming quite the offensive threat as well. The Englishman's return in the 2022/2023 campaign was better by a single assist and he played in all of the 38 season games.

#4 Best Defender in the Premier League: John Stones (Manchester City), CB

John Stones

Even though he battled injuries across the seasons that span into 2023, John Stones was still unequivocally the most impressive defender in the Premier League. Mostly on the basis that he adjusted to the demands of the mad football scientist Pep Guardiola, and gone on to play as a defensive midfielder when his side was in possession. Reverting to a regular centre-back placement quickly in defence. It’s the tactical move that marked the treble-winning season in which City finally grasped the Champions League glory.

However, Stones has made missing out on games a habit again and only contributed to 15 Premier League matches by mid-April of 2024. As good as he is, overall - technically, tactically, and mentality-wise, his natural fitness has hampered him and he conceded the number one position he held sovereignly in 2023.

Manchester City squad had the most candidates for making the list of best defenders in the Premier League 2023, with Nathan Ake and Manuel Akanji both breaking through to significant roles. With the consolidation of Josko Gvardiol, City can monopolize the rankings in the future. Especially with the inconsistencies United, Chelsea, and Liverpool have been facing.

#3 Best Defender in the Premier League: Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal), CB

By Valencia CF -, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

A big point of pride for the Arsenal recruitment team, as most of these best defenders in the Premier League 2023 arrived at their clubs for sums far larger than the €26,000,000 Lille got from AFC in 2020. Gabriel has made quite the return on goals alone, with 14 scored in his 126 PL Arsenal games. While Arteta has rotated his centre-backs, Gabriel has always been a demanded fan-favourite, helping Gabriel play in all of the 38 games of the 2022/2023 title-challenging campaign.

Reaching 35 appearances in the season prior, and up to 30 mid-April of 2024. With Arsenal having the best defence of the three sides battling it out for the title.

#2 Best Defender in the Premier League: Kyle Walker (Manchester City), RB

Kyle Walker

Considering that he was on the exit door at the Etihad over the past few transfer windows, it might seem odd to include Kyle Walker in the list of best defenders in the Premier League for 2023, and so high on it too. Yet Walker’s unique capabilities were pivotal in City playing high up, with the ball at their feet, and outnumbering the defence, as the speedster can track back to catch any counter-attacking winger. Even though he is considered an attacking full-back, Walker didn’t have any direct statistical contributions in the league for the current and past seasons, yet his defensive reputation deservedly increased.

Walker can still make rudimentary mistakes that traditional number 9s can exploit, like failing to align with his fellow defenders in an offside trap, failing to read the game, and missing an occasional ball clearance. Yet his power still remains a weapon most attackers in the Premier League don’t have the antidote to.

#1 Best Defender in the Premier League: Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), CB

Virgil van Dijk

Making a major comeback, as Virgil van Dijk barely made the top 10 of Premier League defenders in 2023 after a few rocky seasons. Yet the achievements of the past and the resurgence in the 2023/2024 campaign title run for performances cannot be denied by mistakes that have occurred over the past seasons. Still, VVD is visibly not on the level of LFC’s title-winning season. However, Van Dijk has been the stalwart in the ever-changing Liverpool backline and that cannot be overlooked. Van Dijk profits from his competitors not having the best times with injuries, and the Dutchman reigns on despite a major injury setback in 2020.


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