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Premier League: Top 10 defenders of the 2021-22 season so far



Just seven games in and already the latest Premier League season is shaping into another cracker.

The title challengers are emerging and pulling ahead atop the league, with those possibly facing relegation already keeping a wary eye over their shoulder.

Much of the attention has been lauded on those at the top end of the field, with Messrs Salah and Ronaldo in particular taking the plaudits.

But what about the defenders keeping them out at the other end?

In the season’s second international break, we can now take a moment to take stock of some of the best performers so far.

We rank the top 10 defenders in the division from the opening two months of Premier League action.

10 Trevor Chalobah, Chelsea
After netting a superb goal on his Premier League debut, Trevor Chalobah has quite literally been faultless this season whenever he has stepped onto the pitch.

As well as two goals, the youngster has been so good that Chelsea ‘s failure to land expensive target Jules Kounde from Sevilla has largely been forgotten about.

Chalobah impressed Thomas Tuchel enough during pre-season to force his way into first-team plans and somehow returned from Chelsea’s forever-loanee grey zone where so many promising talents get lost.

And despite being surrounded by star-studded names at Stamford Bridge, the 22-year-old has not looked an inch out of place, and only looks likely to get better.

9. Liam Cooper, Leeds United
Leeds United’s captain is perhaps an unexpected inclusion given their poor start to the season, but Cooper’s stats speak for themselves.

He is the league’s top tackler in defence according to Dataviz, with 3.21 tackles per 1000 opposition touches and has the second most interceptions on the same yardstick.

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The 30-year-old Scotsman has been a stalwart in Bielsa’s side over recent seasons and is helping the club to weather their current struggles.

In the modern day, defenders need to do more than just snuff out attacks though, and Cooper has the rest as well.

He has started more sequences and periods of possession in open play than any other defender in the league.

Without him, Leeds might well have found themselves a bit worse off.

8.Harry Maguire, Manchester United
It doesn’t seem that long ago that critics were still questioning Manchester United ‘s decision to shell out £80million on Maguire.

But after a difficult summer last year, followed by an impressive season for club and country, United’s skipper has quickly gone about proving the doubters wrong.

Maguire has started this campaign in a similar vein, though is now sidelined with injury as United head into their toughest run so far in the league.

They will be all the worse for it without their leader, even despite the arrival of World Cup winner Raphael Varane.

Maguire has been pivotal in helping to build up play from the back, which has often seen him advance into midfield positions to provide a greater creative influence going forward.

Indomitable in the air, and one of the best passers and progressive carriers among his fellow defenders, United will be hoping he’s back in action sooner rather than later.

  1. Matty Cash, Aston Villa

Aston Villa’s brilliant 1-0 victory over the Red Devils was punctuated by how Cash ran United’s left flank ragged, giving them a torrid time.

And this is what the 24-year-old has done all throughout the opening matches this season, having played all but four minutes of his team’s action so far.

Dataviz have him as one of the best defenders in the league for tackles, interceptions and recoveries this season.

However, defenders today are far more than just defending, and Cash is a prime example – just like his thumping goal vs Everton showed.

Going forward he has been vital for Villa, with some of the best numbers for starting sequences of play and periods of possession.

That combined with galloping runs that cause huge trouble for his opposition has seen Cash go from strength-to-strength in Dean Smith’s new 3-5-2 system.

6. Mohammed Salisu, Southampton
Southampton are one of four teams still searching for the first win, and even manager Ralph Hasenhüttl is starting to get superstitious.

Reports have suggested the Saints’ boss has even been changing outfits until his team bag all three points in the hope it will bring extra luck. And they could do with some.

But not all is doom and gloom down on the south coast, as centre-back Salisu has put in some impressive stints to keep them from slipping into the relegation zone.

Given the struggles of his team, Salisu has been constantly under the cosh in the Saints’ back line, but is one of the best at breaking up attacks and recovering the ball for his team – a contribution which has been invaluable as pressure continues to mount at St. Mary’s.

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5. César Azpilicueta, Chelsea

A legend around west London, Azpilicueta’s importance to Chelsea seems to grow bigger with each passing season.

The Blues’ captain recently ticked off his 300th Premier League appearance, during which time he has become a crucial component of a reinvigorated side under Tuchel at the Bridge.

Whether filling it at centre-back or racing up and down the wing, the Spaniard’s versatility is a useful commodity, particularly with Chelsea challenging for the title this year.

And it’s clear from his form that the Spaniard is already dreaming of lifting another trophy come May.

4. Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool
Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (L) vies with Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (R) during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool
The Reds have been transformed, reminiscent of the title-winning ‘mentality monsters’ and not the group who lost five games back-to-back at Anfield last year.

Van Dijk’s return and role in this shift cannot be understated.

The 30-year-old is arguably the best centre-back in the world, so his presence in this list should come as no surprise.

But to make such a big impact so soon after his serious injury is the perfect showcase of his ability and professionalism.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were riddled with defensive issues last year, but so far this season – under van Dijk’s watch – they look back where they need to be.

3.Sergi Canos, Brentford
Brentford do not look like a club who have just been promoted.

Sitting seventh, with only one loss and six goals conceded, the Bees’ defensive record has been nothing short of brilliant this season.

In Canos, they have one of the league’s best pressers, and in a team who play energetic, in-your-face football he has impressed.

Yes you could argue Canos is naturally an attacking winger, but he has been deployed largely as a wing-back in Brentford’s opening games – and to good effect.

He does not shy away from the defensive side of the game, with FBref recording his stats for tackles and blocks as some of the best compared to Europe’s top five leagues.

Canos has also used his pace and ability going forward to provide a real outlet for his side, with his goals, expected goals and expected assists being in Europe’s top tier, too.

You can imagine Liverpool may well be regretting letting him go all those years ago.

2. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool
It’s getting to the point now where we’re almost running out of superlatives for Trent Alexander-Arnold.

After a disappointing summer where he missed out on the drama of England’s Euro 2020 campaign, the Liverpool full-back has bounced back this season looking re-energised – which is bad new for their rivals.

He and teammate Andy Robertson have sewn terror into opposing teams down the flanks over recent seasons, but Alexander-Arnold appears to have taken things up a notch.

His attacking prowess has already seen him nab two assists in his first five Premier League games – having missed Liverpool’s last two due to injury.

But on top of that, Alexander-Arnold has shown improvements in the defensive side of his game – which has never been heralded as his strong point.

Dataviz has him as the best defender for recoveries of the ball, and up there for tackles and interceptions too.

1.Joao Cancelo, Manchester City

With the wealth of attacking talent Manchester City have at their disposal, the last thing opponents need is a full-back getting in on the act.

Yet step forward Joao Cancelo, who has been simply sublime for City during the opening stages of the season.

The Portuguese international started last season in a similar vein before his campaign somewhat fizzled out.

But if he can keep up his startling form so far, Cancelo will be a real asset for his manager.

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Every Premier League player expected to be at AFCON and games they will miss



Premier League players expected to be at 2022 AFCON and games they will miss

The Africa Cup of Nations is set to hamper Premier League clubs up and down the country in and around the New Year.

The continental tournament is always held midway through the season and sees established stars head away for a number of weeks.

Around 40 players will depart after the games on Boxing Day with some not returning until the second week of February.

Premier League clubs have contested the laws around players jetting off to represent their nations during the pandemic, but any hopes of keeping their players for the entirety of the Festive period looks slim.

FIFA rules state “players must be released and start travel to their representative team no later than Monday morning the week preceding the week when the relevant final competition starts.”

The African Cup of Nations officially begins on January 9 and concludes on February 6.

Cameroon kick off the tournament against Burkina Faso which means December 27 – 13 days previous – is the date players will be leaving their clubs.

A heavily stocked schedule means team’s with players whose countries go deep into the tournament may miss up to eight games across the Premier League and FA Cup.

There is an apparent grey area, based on certain nations beginning their tournament after the official January 9 start dates.

In those circumstances there is hope that agreements can be met which could see players stay for an extra day or two, which in some cases may be crucial.

Jurgen Klopp will be without the duo for festive games at Leicester and Chelsea – played across the space of five days.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester will also lose key players for the duration of the tournament.

The Blues will see Edouard Mendy leave in what is a major blow whilst the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Thomas Partey, Wilfred Ndidi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will all jet off.

Mikel Arteta will therefore have to endure a game with Manchester City and a north London derby minus some of his leading lights.

The Foxes meanwhile could be without Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho for both their games with Liverpool, such is the proximity of the two fixtures.

Here are Premier league players that will feature in the competition:


Thomas Partey (Ghana)

Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)

Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)

Aston Villa

Mahmoud Trezeguet (Egypt)

Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso)

Marvelous Nakamba (Zimbabwe)


Julian Jeanvier (Guinea)

Frank Onyeka (Nigeria)

Tariqe Fosu-Henry (Ghana)


Yves Bissouma (Mali)


Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast)


Edouard Mendy (Senegal)

Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)

Crystal Palace

Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal)

Jeffrey Schlupp (Ghana)

Jordan Ayew (Ghana)

Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)


Jean-Philippe Gbamin (Ivory Coast)

Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)

Leicester City

Daniel Amartey (Ghana)

Nampalys Mendy (Senegal)

Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)

Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria)


Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Naby Keita (Guinea)

Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Manchester City

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Manchester United

Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)

Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast)


Moussa Djenepo (Mali)

Mohammed Salisu (Ghana)

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Jose Mourinho uses Man Utd excuse after Roma suffer European embarrassment



Thursday night was a low point in the managerial career of Jose Mourinho as his Roma crashed to a humiliating 6-1 defeat against Bodo/Glimt.

Mourinho’s side were strong favourites going into the Europa Conference League encounter but were humbled by the Scandinavian hosts, who blew them away in the second half.

It was the first match of Mourinho’s entire managerial career – which has spanned over 1,000 matches – that he had overseen his side concede six goals or more in one match.

That it came against a team who had significantly fewer resources than his own and were huge outsiders for the match, made it all the more painful.

Striker Erik Botheim and midfielder Patrick Berg had given Bodoe/Glimt a two-goal advantage in the first half, but Carles Perez pulled one back for Roma – who were then expected to launch a fighting comeback.

Instead, the Italian side collapsed in the second half as Botheim added two more goals to complete his hat-trick while goals from Amahl Pellegrino and Ola Solbakken piled the misery on the visiting team.

The Portuguese boss was predictably in an awful mood after the defeat and did not hold back on his criticism of the players that he selected for Roma.

Mourinho explained on Sky Italy: “The initial XI of today of Bodo Glimt had better quality than us. Now you can stop asking why we play always the same players.

“I did it with good intentions, to give an opportunity to those who work hard and to rotate the squad on a synthetic pitch in cold weather. I decided to rest many players.

“If I could always play with the same XI, then I would. It’s risky, because we have a huge gap in quality between the two groups of players.

“I knew the limits of this squad, it is not new to me, but I still expected a better response.

“As I said, it’s my choice to play them, so my responsibility.”

This is the same excuse that the Portuguese boss used during his tenure at Old Trafford, when he claimed that a poor loss for United away against Brighton actually vindicated his approach.

The trip to the South Coast saw United without their regular striker Romelu Lukaku, who was injured for the game having been a virtual ever-present for the side in attack over the course of that season.

Lukaku has played the entire 90 minutes in 30 Premier League games that season to indicate how not only was he preferred in attack over others, but that he was never rested in matches.

Instead, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were given rare starts under Mourinho but the side went down to a 1-0 defeat, leaving the manager to aim a thinly-veiled dig at the two forwards.

He suggested that neither of those players deserved to be in the strongest side at United and their performances were the reason why he did not trust them above the Belgian striker.

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EPL: Chelsea facing striker crisis with Lukaku, Werner injured



Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel is facing a striker crisis after Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner both went off injured against Malmo on Wednesday night.

The Blues went on to win 4-0 in the Champions League clash, thanks to goals from Jorginho (2), Andreas Christensen and Kai Havertz.

However, their emphatic victory was marred by the knocks picked up by their key frontmen.

Lukaku was forced off with a suspected ankle injury in the 20th minute, as he went down under a challenge inside the box.

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