EPL Power Rankings: Ranking the 20 Premier League Defences

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterFebruary 7, 2013

EPL Power Rankings: Ranking the 20 Premier League Defences

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    Who's got the sturdiest, meanest defence in the English Premier League?

    Bleacher Report uses statistics and data from EPL Index and WhoScored? to establish who's the leakiest, the firmest, the most dominant and the most brittle in England's top tier.

    Read on to find out where your club ranked and enjoy the slideshow!

20. Aston Villa

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    Coming in at last place is Aston Villa.

    Shipping eight goals at Stamford Bridge started a torrid chain reaction and allowed confidence to hit the floor, then Tottenham and Wigan Athletic combined for seven goals against shortly after.

    Paul Lambert's side have conceded a league-high 49 goals and hold a goal difference of minus-26.

    Every cloud has a silver lining, though, and the Villans remain one of the best defences in the air, winning 53 percent of their duels (only West Ham, Manchester United and Stoke City fare better).

19. Reading

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    Reading have been looking for solutions in defence all season long but have so far failed to find any.

    They consistently go two goals down and rely on super-sub Adam Le Fondre to bail them out of trouble, and before "Alfie" was performing late heroics on a weekly basis , they were just losing game after game.

    They've conceded the second most in the Premier League with 46 and struggle defending high balls. If they're to stay up, they have to continue outscoring their opponents.

18. Southampton

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    Southampton's only weak link is central defence.

    They've got wonderful attacking options and excellent full-backs, but the centre is very, very soft.

    Jos Hooiveld has been far from convincing, Jose Fonte slow to get going. Is Vegard Forren the answer? Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping so, because Saints have conceded 44 goals, struggle in the air and struggle to win 50/50 challenges.

17. Wigan Athletic

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    Wigan Athletic must be a frustrating club to support.

    They promise so much and play some of the best football in the league, yet fail to deliver the necessary results and constantly embroil themselves in a relegation battle.

    Injuries have crippled this side in defence and losing Ivan Ramis when he was really coming into form was desperately unlucky.

    Despite fielding three central defenders with regularity (sometimes four if Emmerson Boyce plays right-wing-back), they win just 44 percent of their aerial duels. That's tied second-lowest in the league.

16. Newcastle United

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    Expect Newcastle's defence to drastically improve from here on.

    The French influx has given the Magpies belief, and in Alan Pardew's system attack (or the lack of it) is the best form of defence. He's got fit peripherals to exert pressure on the opposition, giving his defensive line a much-needed rest during games.

    They've been creaking all season long, but Fabricio Coloccini and co. should have an easier three months ahead.

15. Norwich City

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    Norwich started the season in horrific fashion by conceding five goals to Fulham on the opening day.

    Chris Hughton was forced into action, purchased Sebastian Bassong and gradually knitted together an incredibly tight defensive line. For the record, the Canaries' 1-0 home victory over Manchester United was a master class in stopping a Javier Hernandez-style player.

    But this defence is far from consistent. Coming out of Christmas things got worse and now Norwich share the worst form in the Premier League with Aston Villa.

    They blow so hot and cold it's difficult to know where to rank them!

14. Sunderland

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    Sunderland are like any classic Martin O'Neill team—combative and committed, but brittle and easy to break.

    They either look stupendous in defence or horribly average, and this marks the second club in a row where MON has failed to address a problem at right-back.

    They've been hit by some pretty bad injuries too, but all in all 33 goals conceded is an acceptable record considering the midfield's lack of ability in retaining the ball. They're under constant pressure.

13. Fulham

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    The Fulham back line has largely stayed the same over the past few seasons, with Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird, Brede Hangeland and John Arne Riise consistent features.

    That regular feel has served them well, but the line does tend to fold when coming up against the bigger teams in the Premier League.

    Martin Jol won't be happy with the amount of goals conceded (42), but he will be pleased his side are combative on the ground—they win a league-high 80 percent of their duels.

12. West Ham

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    Sam Allardyce teams are always horrible to play against and this is no exception.

    The worry for the Irons will be their lack of form over the past two months and the uncharacteristic amount of sloppy goals they've conceded. They're competing expertly in the air and winning 54 percent of aerial contests, but on the ground they're losing out.

    Mohamed Diame is a massive fixture in this side; they're night and day with and without him.

11. Queens Park Rangers

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    Queens Park Rangers have gone from shipping goals for fun to a watertight, unbreakable defensive structure in two short months.

    In Mark Hughes' first eight games this season the team conceded 17 goals. In Harry Redknapp's last eight, the team have let just seven in.

    Clint Hill is inspired, Chris Samba a monster, Ryan Nelsen a rock and Julio Cesar in the form of his life. This is one of the most compact, organised teams in the Premier League, and the only reason they're not higher is because the entire season is taken into account.

10. Manchester United

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    Sir Alex Ferguson threw his defensive coaching manual out the window in August, it seems.

    Attack first, score bucket loads, address problems later is the new mantra at Old Trafford, and it's working.

    Huge concerns were laid out toward the start of the season when the Red Devils were having to score four goals to win games, but no effort has been made to lessen that burden on the strikers and they consistently live up to the bill.

    The final stand at Craven Cottage on Saturday was refreshing.

9. West Brom

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    West Brom, much the same as Norwich, are patchy and tough to predict.

    Results may not go their way, but the loss to Tottenham affirmed one fact we always knew—Jonas Olsson and co. are well-organised and well-structured.

    They're middle-of-the-pack when it comes to goals conceded, but rank joint second-highest when it comes to tackling success rate (78 percent).

8. Liverpool

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    The re-introduction of Jamier Carragher has added some much-needed organisation and solidity, but Liverpool still haven’t quite found the balance between dominating games in the final third and being hit too often on the break.

    Individual mistakes are the biggest killer—Liverpool have conceded 10 goals directly from their own mistakes this season, which is double that of Everton, Spurs and Manchester United.

7. Arsenal

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    Arsenal have conceded a surprisingly low amount of goals (29) considering how out of sorts they can look at times. Somehow, they've recorded eight clean sheets.

    The defensive line is far from perfect with Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen often not on the same page as their full-backs, but they do at least enjoy good success when it comes to ground duels thanks to opportunistic tacklers Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby.

    Jack Wilshere has returned the hustle and bustle to this midfield, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

6. Chelsea

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    Chelsea are beginning to look very flimsy at the back. They take early leads and struggle to hold onto them, or fail to break their opponents down and suffer on the counterattack.

    The late collapse against Reading was alarming, but what's worse is the frantic, unorganised nature in which they fell to Newcastle.

    Of course, we judge the champions of Europe very harshly, and their overall record is far better than most. Fans and neutrals alike expect the best.

5. Everton

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    Everton are a simple case of ifs and buts.

    If the starting XI is fit—meaning Phil Jagielka at centre-back and Seamus Coleman at right-back—they're difficult to break down. If they're not at full strength, however, they struggle.

    Sylvain Distin remains as solid as ever, ranking inside the top 10 for aerial duels and retaining his surprising pace even at age 35, but Johnny Heitinga is a problem.

    Still, keeping it tight isn't there biggest issue, it's breaking down stubborn defences that respect the attacking prowess on offer.

4. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Tottenham have one of the finest central defensive corps in the Premier League, but it's their efficient midfield that takes the sting out of the opposition.

    Andre Villas-Boas has a plethora of options at the back and, much in the same way Newcastle will look to become, Spurs' best form of defence is attack.

    White Hart Lane is a truly terrifying place to go nowadays.

3. Swansea City

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    Michael Laudrup's Swansea have a remarkable defensive record thanks to the continuation of the good work done by Brendan Rodgers.

    They sit high in these rankings after conceding just 28 goals so far and recording some excellent clean slates against Arsenal, Everton and Manchester United.

    Chico Flores—the very un-Spanish Spanish defender—and Ashley Williams have formed a wonderful partnership, and the question must be asked: would they be even better if Neil Taylor was fit?

2. Stoke City

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    Stoke have a formidable defence built on the foundations of Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth.

    Unsurprisingly, given their size and strength, they're dominant in the air. The Potters win 59 percent of their aerial duels—the best record in the league—making them a threat anytime they win a set piece.

    They've hit a blip, but the overall consistent class of the defence shines through.

1. Manchester City

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    Manchester City have the best defence in the English Premier League right now.

    With the confusion caused by mid-game switches to a 3-5-2 formation firmly in the past, the Citizens quietly coasted through January without conceding a single goal.

    Daniel Sturridge's strike on Sunday was the first to fly past Joe Hart for 360 minutes despite the injury troubles Vincent Kompany has faced.

    Matija Nastasic is a top EPL defender.