Ranking the Premier League's Best 5 Defences This Season
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As the year comes to a close and the winter transfer window looms, we find ourselves with the usual suspects for the Premier League's best defences, with a few notable inclusions and exclusions.
We're going to attempt to rank the best five defences in the EPL, and the simplest criteria to do so is to look at the goals allowed column.
Yes, there are a handful of teams that have tremendous defenders, but if they're not stopping goals from going into the back of their net, then their clubs don't belong on this list.
Among the notable snubs, and for good reason, are Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Last season, United had the second-best defence in the league, allowing only 33 goals all season. The Red Devils have already allowed 23 goals to this point.
United's mantra this season has been the best defence is a good offense, and to their credit, it's kept them at the top or near the top all season, having scored 40 goals thus far, 10 more than the next club.
The return of Nemanja Vidic should help them on defence, but expect him to take a couple of matches to find his form.
Last season, Spurs were the fifth best defence in the league, having only allowed 41 goals. They've already allowed 25 this season and are currently sitting outside of the coveted top four.
Enough about the league's mediocre units, let's talk about the best defences thus far.
Marouane Fellaini is arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in English football.
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There are a handful of teams that have allowed 20 or 21 goals thus far, but it's hard to argue that any are better than Everton.
Everton is playing good, consistent football on both sides of the pitch, and their current reward is to sit in fourth place on the table.
The other clubs with a similar defence record and similar points include Swansea, Liverpool, West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion. All four could find themselves in a heated race for a fourth place finish down the stretch, but for right now none are better than Everton.
Chief among their reasons for success is Marouane Fellaini. He has been in scintillating form all season, and was awarded EPL Player of the Month honors for November.
Unfortunately for Everton, Fellaini's tremendous play on the field could end up being their undoing next month. The towering Belgian is getting interest from larger clubs such as Chelsea and Zenit St. Petersburg, according to ESPN.
With figures like $40 million-plus being thrown around, the temptation might prove too much for Everton, and the draw of a larger club too compelling for Fellaini.
It remains to be seen if Everton can maintain their form going into next year, but right now they're one of the best clubs in English football.
Cesar Azpilicueta has really stepped into his right back role for Chelsea, and he's only getting better.
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Chelsea's third place on the table is perfectly in line with their efforts thus far.
They've allowed just 17 goals this season, and their defence has stepped up its game from a season ago, when they allowed 48.
The likes of David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole and the young Cesar Azpilicueta have all stepped up their games to make Petr Cech's job a little easier this season.
Chelsea have a strong bench for their midfield and defence, but it's too early to tell which direction interim manager Rafael Benitez will take them.
Currently, Chelsea are among the league's elite defensive units.
The Gunners will surely miss Bacary Sagna's tenacity if they let him go in January.
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Their attacking has been sporadic thus far, but Arsenal have played solid defence since the start of the season.
The Gunners have allowed a total of 16 goals through 16 matches thus far, and they're doing a fair bit better than the 49 they allowed last season.
Even with Wojciech Szczesny missing some action, Arsenal has managed a good defensive effort this season.
The loss of Robin van Persie has left them to answer some questions in the attacking game, but as long as their defence holds, the likes of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and the lot will eventually figure it out.
The Gunners' seventh-place attack, with just 26 goals thus far, finds them sitting at seventh place on the table, only a couple points shy of fourth-place Everton.
With one of their best defenders, Bacary Sagna, refusing to sign a new contract, big spenders PSG might be set to move in once the transfer window opens.
It'll be interesting to see how Arsenal handle their business come January and what impact it might have on the field.
2. Manchester City
With Micah Richards potentially returning early next year, City's defence will get an added boost.
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The Citizens are perhaps the most consistent side in the Premier League currently.
They're second in goals allowed, goals scored and on the table.
Manchester United's blistering attack saw Manchester City drop three points last weekend, otherwise the two would have been level on the table. Instead, United made a six-point swing and now sit ahead with 39 points.
City's defenders have been physical and consistent throughout the season, and keeper Joe Hart has kept his form from last season.
It's no surprise the club is playing quality ball on both ends of the pitch. Last season, City finished atop the table on a frantic final match day. They ended the season with the most goals scored and the fewest allowed.
Even after the October injury to Micah Richards, City has been stout on their back line. With Richards eyeing a February return, things look to be getting even better for the Citizens.
Look for City, with their deep pockets, to continue their form throughout the season, despite any potential transfer window shenanigans.
1. Stoke City
Stoke's Robert Huth has been imposing his will on the league's best all season long.
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Stoke City has been playing exceptionally well defensively, and it's been a team effort.
The Potters have only allowed 12 goals in 16 matches. If they keep on their current pace, they'll finish better than Manchester City did last year when they only allowed 29.
The likes of Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross and Asmir Begovic have put in Herculean efforts so far this season, but their offensive counterparts haven't been able to replicate the effort up front.
As a result, the league's best defensive team sits in ninth place on the table.
If the Potters can manage to hold onto their defenders and bring in some attacking prowess in January, they could seriously make a push for Champions League qualification this season.
Stoke in the top four sounds like heresy to some, but they're showing that they have what it takes on the pitch.
Currently, the Potters are only three points out of a top-four spot.