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Ranking Liverpool's best defenders across the 2021/22 Premier League season

We have a go at ranking Liverpool’s best defenders across the 2021/22 Premier League season. The Reds boast some stars.

Liverpool have some of the best defenders on the planet – that’s not really up for debate. But who is the best at the club? Well, it’s obviously Virgil van Dijk.

But we’re going to rank all of them from across the 2021/22 Premier League season using Statsbomb data on Fbref. And just to be clear – this is about defending, not necessarily where they play positionally. We’re not scoring Trent Alexander-Arnold as the best defender around because he racks up assists at a record-breaking rate.

And one other note – all stats are per 90 (unless stated).

Liverpool’s best defenders in the 2021/22 Premier League season

5. Ibrahima Konaté

What a sensational first campaign from the 23-year-old. Konaté arrived as the only major summer signing but immediately played to the highest level. He even earned a starting spot in the UEFA Champions League final – and played brilliantly.

And this is where he state that this little exercise is harsh on Konaté. He only played a total of 11.7 90s in the Premier League this season and his best displays came in the cups. At least he made the list, though – Joe Gomez only played 3.5 90s.

But Konaté played some fantastic football this season, even in relatively limited minutes. He won 42% of his duels against dribblers (4th best in the squad), made 2.55 interceptions (1st), 4.27 clearances (1st) and won 71% of his aeriel duels (2nd).

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They’re all fantastic numbers from a player who will become one of the world’s best.

4. Fabinho

Fabinho is certainly one of the world’s best holding midfielders. He might be the best. Only one Liverpool midfielder averaged more interceptions and more blocks than the Brazilian but in far fewer games.

Combine tackles and interceptions and Fainho is the fourth-best in the squad. He’s fourth for recovering loose balls, too – all solid numbers.

But you’ve got to take it all in the context of Fabinho being Liverpool’s last resort. The Reds’ game relies on either winning the ball before it gets anywhere near him or forcing opponents into passes over the top for defenders to sweep up. Fabinho is the safety net for when teams break the press and find a pass between the lines.

He does it all expertly and is the perfect defensive midfielder for the Reds.

3. James Milner

Yes, we didn’t expect this either. James Milner’s defensive numbers this season are extraordinary – but with one caveat. He played the equivalent of 9.5 90s in the Premier League this season. Normally, we wouldn’t include him because 10 90s is the natural cut-off point for data like this.

But Milner’s numbers are too good to ignore. He lead Liverpool in players tackled, players tackled when winning the ball, blocks, and combined tackles and interceptions.

The vice-captain was fourth in percentage of dribblers tackled, second in successful presses and fourth in clearances.

He’s 36 and out of contract this summer. Liverpool, please, get him back here next season.

2. Joel Matip

There are two clear standouts at Liverpool and they’re who you’d expect. Joel Matip is one of those, who is quite comfortably one of the world’s best defenders.

No one at Liverpool was more successful with his pressing than Matip this season (42%) and only one player won a higher percentage of duels with dribblers (58.6%). Those are sensational numbers. Only four players averaged more interceptions, only two averaged more clearances.

Only two players averaged more recoveries. Just four won more aeriel duels. It’s all incredible, really, but we’ll just focus on the pressing for a sec.

Photo by Jack Thomas – WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images

Matip’s percentage would be the highest in the entire Premier League if he did it more often. Fbref has him just shy of their criteria for ranking it (a minimum of six per teams’ game). That’s a fantastic rate for a centre-back and shows that Matip isn’t just a typical centre-back. He can step out and contribute to a press better than anyone – when he does so, Liverpool typically have the ball back within six seconds.

1. Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk is so good that he shows a flaw in defensive statistics. He would boast the best percentage in the Premier League for duels against dribblers but doesn’t meet the criteria. Essentially, he’s so dominant that players don’t bother trying anymore.

Opposition players attempted to dribble past Van Dijk 15 times last season across the entire campaign. The amount he forces away from him is immeasurable – and it boosts the numbers of his teammates.

But that’s just how good he is. Van Dijk also boasts by far the best record in aeriel duels, too, at 77%. He’s second for recoveries, second for clearances, and seventh-best for pressing percentage.

All in all, he’s the most dominant and best defender around.

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