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

The new campaign is well underway and already a number of defenders have been making their mark in the Premier League, with Mirror Football ranking the top 10

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  • 08:00, 12 Oct 2021
  • Updated09:20, 12 Oct 2021
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Just seven games in and already the latest Premier League season is shaping into another cracker.

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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.

Here Mirror Football ranks the top 10 defenders in the division from the opening two months of Premier League action.

Trevoh Chalobah celebrates his second goal of the season as Chelsea beat Southampton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge

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.

7. Matty Cash, Aston Villa

Matty Cash has impressed for Aston Villa this season
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Image:
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Ask Man Utd if Matty Cash deserves his place on this list.

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)

Liverpool fans breathed an audible sigh of relief having Dutchman Virgil van Dijk back in the starting XI this season.

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.

Sergi Canos celebrates after scoring Brentford's first Premier Leauge goal at the Brentford Community Stadium
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Image:
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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.

A welcome sight for Reds fans.

1. Joao Cancelo, Manchester City

Joao Cancelo has been superb for City this season and has stood out among his fellow defenders
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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.

Pep Guardiola has already got him flourishing in a hybrid defence/midfield role, where he has proved his ability in the final third.

FBref backs him up as one of the best passers from the back, while dataviz says he has the most interceptions this season so far, consistently ranking him among the top players from a defensive perspective.

Manchester City have conceded the joint fewest amount of goals this season and looked dangerous in transition – Cancelo’s performances are a huge part of that.

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