Football has dramatically changed over the years, and fullbacks contribute much more to the game nowadays, bombing down the flanks, blocking opponent’s counter-attacks, and finding clinical crosses for the attackers. Attacking-fullbacks are a luxury to have in a side, especially the ones who can hold up defensively.
Historically speaking the fullbacks rarely received the kind of attention given to the more glamorous positions on the pitch, but that has begun to change. Back in football’s golden days, Brazilians Roberto Carlos and Cafu pioneered the new paradigm for fullbacks. In the EPL, Christian Ziege and John Arne Riise were no slouches either. Fast-forward to the present, and we witness just how influential their interpretation of the role of a fullback has become.
Here is a review of the best full back defenders of the portion of the 2019-20 Premier League season we have seen so far:
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
It’s crazy to think that Liverpool purchased Andrew Robertson for a paltry fee of eight million dollars (£7.0), which in today’s market is a massive bargain. Over the following two years, the Scottish international has played two Champions League finals, winning one of them, and is now poised to hoist a league trophy.
His performance this season has been vital for Liverpool, but he has also been a lucrative asset for his fantasy owners. His aggressive movement going forward combined with solid defensive instincts has led to plenty of points throughout the season. Robertson has seven assists with one goal so far, keeping 11 clean sheets. In fact, from game-week 19 till 23, the Scot captain acquired 37 FPL points in what was his biggest purple patch of the season, bringing his total to 137 points so far.
Interestingly, the 26-year-old’s total number of 47 tackles is a figure that puts him 15th among defenders this season, and his 83% pass accuracy equates to 1579 successful passes — the fifth-highest in the division.
Ricardo Pereira (Leicester)
Ricardo Pereira (£6.3m) has been clinical for his side, which is why Leicester fans can rely on the Portuguese to help them secure a top four finish this season. Last season’s Player of the Season for the Foxes, the 26-year-old has carried his impressive form into the 2019-20 season. The right-back has kept ten clean sheets, scoring three goals along the way and amassing a total of 123 FPL points.
But his wheelhouse is tackling. The Foxes defender leads the chart for number of successful tackles — the only player to post a triple-digit tally with a total of 119 (Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka is in second with 99 so far).
Many were doubtful when Leicester chose to lay out €22m for a little-known defender in the summer of 2018, but since his arrival from Porto, his presence has been vital. His performance this term has been nothing short of stellar so far.
Matt Doherty (Wolves)
Matt Doherty (£6.3m) has a very interesting story. Signed for just £81,000 from Ireland’s Bohemians, ten years later he has become a key player for Nuno Espirito Santo. He has made 39 appearances so far, with four goals and five assists. Those stats, combined with seven clean sheets this term, have led to a total of 117 points in the Fantasy Premier League. In 291 career appearances for Wolves, he has bagged 28 goals and 39 assists, which shows the improvement the player has been showing. His career arc has now led him to the top of the charts.
The right wing-back discharges his defensive duties admirably enough, but it’s his attacking threat that makes him dangerous. His ability to overlap opponents, make key passes, make threatening runs into the gap, and to compete in the air help to make him the complete modern fullback package. His importance to his team is demonstrated by the fact that Wolves lost both of the league matches he missed this season.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)
Due to his brilliant tackling ability and amazing defensive attributes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£5.3m) has earned the ‘Spider-Man’ nickname at Manchester United. The 22-year-old right back has enjoyed a fantastic start to his Old Trafford career and is already in contention to be Red Devil’s player of the season. He may not have been a popular character in the world of fantasy, with his 7 clean sheets and two assists earning only 85 points so far, but he has been almost impossible to beat in one-on-one situations (highlighted by his battle against City’s Raheem Sterling this season).
The English international is better known for his duties at the back than moving forward, as he continues to own the best tackling rate in Europe, with 84.6% of his duels won, according to Opta. However, the role in the modern day for full backs is also to act as a second winger, so we will need to see the youngster further develop his attacking game in order to blossom into a more complete full-back.
Given his relatively low level of experience at the highest level, it’s still impressive for him to be among the world’s best right-backs list, with just Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich above him for now. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have found United’s full-back for the next decade, and given his rapid improvement, it’s scary how dangerous a full-back he could become in the near future.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
There is not much left to say about the young English defender, except that he is on course to epitomize the position of full-back. The 21-year-old has had an amazing season and has quickly established himself as arguably the best right-back in the Premier League, possibly the world. Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.8m) has recorded 14 assists, scored twice, and has 11 clean sheets for the Reds this season. Only Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne provided more assists than the most valuable defender in the world, and this should literally say everything you need to know about the ‘defender’.
The English international also has the highest number of FPL points as a defender, with 166 this season. During game-week 19, he registered a goal, three assists and a clean sheet against Leicester for a stunning tally of 24 points in just one match.
He even ranks on top of the list for the most number of crosses in the top five leagues of Europe which is another crazy stat. Because Liverpool’s playing style focuses on a constant high press, the Reds typically enjoy the bulk of the possession. That means TAA doesn’t really need to defend a whole lot, instead being free to play as a second winger with attacking abilities that are just pure world-class at such a young age.
His performance over the past two years has been key to Liverpool’s dominance in England (and of course, Europe as well). It’s just scary to realize that despite the spectacular performances he’s displayed week in and week out, the youngster hasn’t even reached his peak yet. For my money, he is easily the league’s best.
Which of these men do you think should win the best full back award? Anybody else you think deserves an honorable mention? How are you doing during this difficult time without league games? Please share in the comments, and also join us on Saturday for another edition of the Virtual Pub Live Chat (21:00 UK time, 13:00 Pacific, 16:00 Eastern)!
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