Premier League's 10 Best Defenders
The English Premier League has always been positioned as a balanced contest, typically less defensive than Serie A, less attacking than La Liga.
As the character of the league has evolved, we've been seeing more attacking sides, more goals and more strikingly high scorelines.
But the relative regularity of 5-2 and 4-3 goal fests doesn't necessarily mean there is a lack of defensive quality in the EPL.
The league still boasts a wealth of back-line talent. Here are 10 of the best.
Part of the EPL's recent attacking verve has been due to more offensive duties being asked of defenders.
Everton's Baines is an excellent example of that, without sacrificing defensive soundness.
Both from dead balls and combining down the left with Steven Pienaar, Baines is regularly involved in Everton goals, but seldom shirks his duty at the back.
Two own goals this season may raise alarm, but his solidity in passing, blocking, tackles and interceptions remains consistent, ranking highest in the Premier League according to Who Scored.
Manchester United have certainly seen better back lines than the current season's, but Rafael has emerged as a surprise contender for plaudits.
Despite following an inauspicious showing for Brazil at the Olympics, the right-back's United performances have consistently been his best since he arrived in 2008.
Pundits feared for Swansea's spectacular defensive record when loanee Steven Caulker returned to Tottenham for the 2012/13 season.
But captain Ashley Williams has formed a formidable partnership with Chico and remains one of the league's top centre-backs.
Meanwhile at White Hart Lane, Steven Caulker has continued in impressive vein, winning—and scoring in—his senior England debut against Sweden.
At 20, Caulker may still be considered more for his potential than accomplishments.
But with the Premier League's second-best record for clearances in just seven appearances for Spurs this season, he is clearly demonstrating a valuable defensive proficiency for a side struggling to keep clean sheets.
If there were a ratio measuring professionalism and proficiency on the pitch against likeability off it, Ashley Cole's would be through the roof.
Without doubt one of the best left-backs of his generation, Cole has shown remarkable consistency throughout his career.
One of the inherent dangers of defending, much like goalkeeping, is that costly and spectacular errors command so much more attention than all the myriad little things that make up a good performance.
Thomas Vermaelen isn't known for the kind of mistake that gifted Robin van Persie the opening goal in Arsenal's 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford, and for good reason—such clangers are few and far between for the Belgian.
A slightly misleading aura of vulnerability has surrounded Manchester City as they pursue their title defence this season.
In fact, the team captained by Vincent Kompany still has the best defensive record in the league, conceding the fewest goals so far (10). That's one better than the notoriously stingy Stoke City.
And while Kompany occasionally appears more fallible than at his imperious best last season, Roberto Mancini's tinkering with the back line has ensured that if anything, he is even more influential as the only consistent starter.
Completing the unprecedented trio of top-class Belgian defenders in the EPL is Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen.
While Spurs have struggled defensively, Vertonghen's individual performances have been outstanding.
The team enjoying the best surprise success in the first half of the season has been West Bromwich Albion.
A fluid attacking prowess has combined with one of the league's best defensive records to lift the Baggies to fourth in the table, and both those elements owe much to Gareth McAuley.
He rivals his teammate Ashley Cole in the personal repulsiveness stakes, and there's no doubting his best days are behind him, but John Terry still commands a spot among the best of the league's defenders.
One of Terry's remarkable attributes has always been an ability to deliver on the pitch no matter how chaotic his life off it.
For longevity, consistency and tenacity—and yes, the inevitable lion-heart qualities—Terry remains one of the Premier League's best defenders.