EPL Power Rankings: John Terry and the Top 20 One-on-One Defenders

William Gish@wgishAnalyst IApril 7, 2011

EPL Power Rankings: John Terry and the Top 20 One-on-One Defenders

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01:  Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's third goal with team mates Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Tr
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Though not as prized as leadership, organization or technical ability, one-on-one defending is an essential weapon in every top EPL defender’s Arsenal.

    While some of the names on this list are all-around defensive anchors widely praised for their abilities, there are other players here who might not find their way onto a list of the best defenders in a much broader sense.

    As always, we invite you to read, become disgusted, infuriated, repulsed and nauseous, and let us know via the comments portion of the page just how much you disagree.

    Thank you in advance.

20. Matthew Upson

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool (front) tangles with Matthew Upson of West Ham during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool at the Boleyn Ground on February 27, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    West Ham United captain Matthew Upson is the best one-on-one defender this side of relegation (we’re looking from the unfortunate side of relegation here, just FYI, so we’re all on the same page.)

    Upson provides a calm, assured, levelheaded presence on the pitch. He brings that composure to one-on-one defending situations, along with an strong physical presence and wealth of experience.

    photo: The power of Upson rendering the potency of Luis Sauzez obsolete.

19. Micah Richards

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Micah Richards of Manchester City beats Goran Popov of Dynamo Kiev to the ball during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg match between Manchester City and Dynamo Kiev at City of Manchester Stadium on March 17, 20
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Manchester City’s Micah Richards is a young man full of promise. Richards proves equally adept in a number of defensive positions, though this sometimes leads him to have slightly misplaced positional sensibility.

    That aside, the young Briton has all the pace, power and precision required of great one-on-one defenders. Though he lacks the experience of teammates Kolo Toure and Vincent Kompany, he shows an impressive, innate understanding of one-on-one defensive situations.

    Richards might not always be where he’s supposed to be, but he knows how to put himself between the ball and the goal to prevent the opposition from advancing.  

    photo: Richards, transitioning from the lotus position to upward kicking defender.

18. Ryan Shawcross

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    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MARCH 13:  Referee Mike Jones is confronted by Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City and goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen of Stoke City after allowing the opening West Ham United goal during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 6th Round match between
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Oh, Ryan Shawcross. Last weekend, one of our picks for worst defender in the league. Now, one of our top one-on-one defenders.

    Simply put, Shawcross gets the job done. He might not always get it done in the most sportsman like manner (his challenges have been called “career threatening” for other players), but if you want a man on your team to get physical, attack the ball, and dominate the opposition, Shawcross is that man.

    photo: Shawcross takes defending to the next level by slapping the ref.

17. Liam Ridgewell

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    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  Liam Ridgewell of Birmingham tells a streaker to leave the pitch during the Barclays Premier League match between Birmingham City and Aston Villa at St.Andrews on January 16, 2011 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Richa
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Birmingham’s Liam Ridgewell lacks certain characteristics displayed by other players on this list. He is not a calm, cool and collected leader. He does not pull the backline together.

    Really, he’s more of an angry, hotheaded punk. But his personality works to great effect when it comes to one-on-one defending.

    Along with the tireless work of goal keeper Ben Foster, Ridgewell’s aggressive, violent, largely effective one-on-one defending has helped keep Birmingham, a team with one of the lowest goal totals in the EPL, mostly free of the relegation zone.

    photo: Ridgewell tackled this guy so hard his kit disintegrated.

16. Brede Hangeland

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05:  Jason Roberts of Blackburn tussles with Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Blackburn Rovers at Craven Cottage on March 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Norwegian central defender Brede Hangeland’s height works wonders for him in one-on-one defending situations.

    He stands 1.94 meters, or approximately six feet five inches, and combines his size with agility, pace and surprisingly firm control of his distended limbs.

    Known equally for his commanding physical presence and willingness to get tough in one-on-one defending situations as his impressive technical ability, Fulham’s Hangeland is equally as likely to squash the opposition is he is to simply outplay them.

    photo: Hangeland crushes everything in his path, including teammates.

15. David Luiz

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01:  David Luiz of Chelsea offers his hand to Wayne Rooney of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on March 1, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive
    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    David Luiz has received both accolades and criticism since arriving at Stamford Bridge during the January transfer window.

    While it’s ultimately too early to tell how good (or not good) Luiz will be in the EPL, he has shown amazing ability in one-on-one defending situations. The Brazilian is strong, wily and quick on his feet.

    In one of his first performances with Chelsea, Luiz manhandled Manchester United, and particularly Wayne Rooney, into a demoralizing defeat. Not too shabby.

    photo: Face your fear, Wayne. Do not turn away from inevitability.

14. Phil Jagielka

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Salomon Kalou of Chelsea is foiled by Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on December 4, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Let’s see what Everton defender Phil Jagielka has going for him.

    He has great positional sensibility, making him great at one-on-one defending. He always knows exactly where he needs to be at any point throughout the game, meaning he is always right between the defender and the goal.

    Thankfully for the Everton faithful, Jagielka also boasts the physical power and willingness to injure himself for the cause required to prevent the opposition from finding the back of the net.

    ESPN Soccer Net lists one of Jagielka’s weaknesses as his tendency to commit rash tackles. In one-on-one defending situations, however, this might not be such a bad thing. Tackle away, Phil, tackle away.

    photo: Jagielka is such a progressive defender that he confounds his own keeper.

13. Kolo Toure

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    MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 10:   Kolo Toure of Manchester City tries to grab the ball from Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the City of Manchester St
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Unfortunately for Manchester City, Kolo Toure tested positive for a banned substance and currently faces steep charges from the joy killers at the World Anti-Doping Agency.

    Whether he returns quickly to football or not remains to be seen, though there is no doubt about his ability as a one-on-one defender.

    Toure served as City’s captain during the 2009-10 season, and his defensive organization and ability to deftly relieve the opposition of the ball in one-on-one situations immensely impacted the side’s success.

    The team has struggled with a number of problems in the 2010-11 season, though previous to his suspension, Toure contributed consistently solid performances and the fierce one-on-one defending he is known for.

    photo: Toure is equally adept at defending in basketball, as he showed when City played a hoops friendly against United.

12. Robert Huth

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    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Robert Huth of Stoke celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Birmingham City at the Britannia Stadium on November 9, 2010 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo
    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Stoke City defender Robert Huth is a beast.

    Among the colossal center back’s many sobriquets are The Unstoppable Force and The Berlin Wall. The giant German excels in one-on-one defensive situations, using his bulk to jostle the attacking opposition away from the ball.

    His wideness goes great lengths to assisting Huth in one-on-one situations – he’s a very difficult man to go around. The Stoke City man has a keen instinct for placing himself in the most difficult spot for the opposition to get around. 

    photo: The Berlin Wall unexpectedly breaking into an impromptu disco dance.

11. Branislav Ivanovic

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Goalkeeper Petr Cech of Chelsea claims the high ball as Javier Hernandez of Manchester United climbs up the back of Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Chelsea a
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Chelsea’s recent league win over Manchester United is case in point as to why the Blue’s stone-faced Serbian is one of the top one-on-one defenders in the EPL.

    First, he tripped up Nani without being booked. He then looked on indifferently as the Portuguese hothead complained over the play.

    Throughout the rest of the match, Ivanovic bumped into Nani time and again. Nani, flustered, did not play like his usual self.

    Through this display Ivanovic proved his ability to use not only his intimidating size, but also his ability to get under the skin and into the head of the opposition, in one-on-one defensive positions. His mind game makes him one of the best defenders in the EPL.

    photo: Ivanovic engages in a friendly game of leapfrog with Chicharito and Petr Cech.

10. Vincent Kompany

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 13:  Vincent Kompany of Manchester City tackles Noel Hunt of Reading during the FA Cup sponsored by E.On Sixth Round match between Manchester City and Reading at the City of Manchester Stadium on March 13, 2011 in Manchester, E
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany has a bizarrely shaped head and excellent skills as a defensive leader and one-on-one player.

    Kompany plays with his heart and soul game in and game out. His contributions are immeasurable, and his willingness to go after the attacking team and chase the ball down to clear it from the area make him an invaluable asset to city.

    photo: Kompany, crushing skulls.

9. Bacary Sagna

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  Bacary Sagna of Arsenal falls over Wayne Rooney of Manchester United during the FA Cup sponsored by E.On Sixth Round match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on March 12, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (P
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna is a mercurial player. Though he is on paper a defender, he has a great propensity to make madcap dashes down the field and send crosses in to strikers and attacking midfielders.

    While this alone might not qualify him as one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders, it in may ways impacts his approach as a defender.

    Sagna is so completely obsessed with the idea of driving the ball and the movement of the game forward, away from Arsenal’s backline, that he plays fervent, even crazed one-on-one defense so that he can do so.

    It’s weird, but it works, so what the hell.

    photo: Sagna uses his full body in one-on-one defense, buttocks included.

8. Ashley Cole

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Ashley Cole of Chelsea controls the ball as Victor Anichebe of Everton looks on during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 4th round replay match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on February 19, 2011 in London, Engla
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear it again, and mostly because it’s true: Ashley Cole is one of the best, if not the best, left backs in the world.

    What Cole lacks in size he makes up for with speed, precision, decision making and technical ability.

    The Chelsea man’s intelligence allows him to make the best of his skills in one-on-one defending situations without allowing the opposition to exploit his weaknesses.

    He also shoots people, which may not be ethically, but proves terribly effective.

    photo: Sprightly Cole leaps away with the ball.

7. Patrice Evra

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  The injured Patrice Evra of Manchester United kneels on the pitch during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 6, 2011 in London, England.  (P
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    There’s not much to say about Patrice Evra that hasn’t already been said.

    He’s an excellent defender. He plays a fantastic one-on-one game, reads the opposition well, links perfectly with his teammates, is French, plays for Manchester United and enjoys a freshly baked croissant with breakfast.

    photo: A prostrate Evra prays for fine pastries.

6. Rio Ferdinand

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06:  Rio Ferdinand (T) of Manchester United celebrates after teammate Wayne Rooney #10 of Manchester United scores the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Chelsea and Manchester Unite
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Rio Ferdinand is a crucial cog in Fergie’s machine.

    All drug problems and awful haircuts aside, Ferdinand provides an assured presence in central defense. His ability to read situations and put himself between the striker and the goal provides an immeasurable contribution to United’s propensity to win time and again.

    Luckily for United, Ferdinand provides exemplary one-on-one defending skills. His lankiness is occasionally  problematic against short, compact and quick attackers, though he is generally tight as drum at the back.

    photo: Don't really wanna know what's going on here...

5. Laurent Koscielny

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    WIGAN, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Charles N'Zogbia (R) of Wigan Athletic is brought down by Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal to concede a penalty during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal at DW Stadium on December 29, 2010 in Wi
    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Arsenal’s Gallic lunatic is something of a throwback, a hardman holding down the defensive live.

    Laurent Koscielny brings a very different skill set to his job as a defender than do his peers on this list. Rather than standard defensive football tactics, the Frenchman combines the tropes of international football with the gladiatorial acumen of mixed martial artists.

    photo: Laurent Koscielny confound the opposition...by not defending.

4. Jamie Carragher

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 17:  Jamie Carragher of Liverpool reacts during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 second leg match between Liverpool and SC Braga at Anfield on March 17, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher might not be on this list if we were measuring his overall attributes as a defender and player.

    Luckily for Carragher and the Liverpool faithful, we aren’t. As a one-on-one defender, Carragher is one of the best in the EPL on account of how overwhelmingly zealous he is.

    Rarely does a defender throw himself at the ball with such a blatant disregard for the self. Carragher will chase down anyball, anywhere, anytime, with not a care in the world as to who or what might be standing between him and the ball.

    In one-on-one situations he is aggressive, frenzied, and frankly somewhat frightening, though does lack pace.

    photo: Carragher begs the opposition to touch the ball, so that he might destroy them.

3. England's Brave John Terry

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    BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 07:  John Terry of Chelsea salutes the fans at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Blackpool and Chelsea at Bloomfield Road on March 7, 2011 in Blackpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Though Blues captain John Terry is more known for his philandering than his play, it’s difficult to deny the brave Briton's ability as a one-on-one defender.

    The tall, broad, fierce central defender plays an intimidating game. In some ways, Terry is something of a sanitized Vinny Jones. All the aggression and presence is there, minus the leg breaking and crotch grabbing exploits.

    photo: EBJT conducts a children's choir in his spare time.

2. William Gallas

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16:  William Gallas of Spurs and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United compete for a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on January 16, 2011 in London, En
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Tottenham defender William Gallas brings the pain.

    What he lacks in pleasantries he more than makes up for with his freighting competitive streak, aggression, strength and dominant will power, which seemingly propels him to want to dismantle all that dare oppose him.

    Though he is aging and petulant, Gallas still packs a brutal punch and is one of the top one-on-one defenders in the Premier League.

    Add to that his excellent ability to read situations as they unfold and the inspiration he gives his fellow defenders with his undying commitment, and you have one hell of a defensive player.

    photo: Gallas and and Rooney floating through a milky ether.

1. Nemanja Vidic

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United points to the spot where he believed he challenged Carlton Cole of West Ham United after a second penalty was awarded to West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between West H
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    United’s defensive anchor is the EPL’s top one-on-one defender of the moment.

    Nemanja Vidic provides strong, aggressive defending that helped united maintain a phenomenal unbeaten run for the first half of its 2010-11 campaign. He also has the world "man" in the middle of his first name.

    Vidic displays pace, intelligence, leadership and an ability to perfectly assess and execute exactly the type of defense his side needs in any given situation.

    As a one-on-one defender, the Serbian international is in a class of his own. You’re not likely to find many defenders not only able but also willing to throw Didier Drogba to the ground. On his best day, Vidic can outplay any striker in the league in an isolated battle.   

    photo caption: Vidic spots an earthworm on the pitch, points it out to Carlton Cole, who is clearly not interested in earthworms.

The Notably Absent Honor Roll

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    1. Leighton Baines: Phenomenal player, but not a pure defender.

    2. Michael Dawson: Smart, adept and organized, but more of a defensive leader than one-on-one rock.

    3. Gael Clichy: Came very close to making the cut, didn’t quite in favor of Upson, who was added in an effort to avoid bias from the West Ham United Featured Columnist.

    4. Jackie Chan: A sublime master of the art of one-on-one self defense, Chan’s skills have slipped slightly has he’s approached 60, hence his exclusion from this list.

    5. Fernando Torres: Torres’ ability to prevent himself from scoring again and again in one-on-one situations makes him an impressive defensive presence for Chelsea’s opposition, though he is not a pure defender.