In an era of football when attack takes precedent over defence and many centre backs and full backs are praised for their ball-playing skills or ability to go forward, it seems like the art of defending is almost being forgotten. More goals are being conceded and defenders are being pointed out for being unable to do the basics such as marking and positioning.
However, back some years ago, there were Premier League teams that got it right. Here are the three best defensive teams from the Premier League era.
- 2007-08 Manchester United – 22 goals
One of the most successful teams in Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, this team combined the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney up front with a very sturdy defence. Two years after he joined the club for a fee of £7 million from Spartak Moscow, Nemanja Vidic was proving to be a terrific partner for Rio Ferdinand.
The two bounced off each other perfectly. Ferdinand was a very elegant ball-playing defender whereas Vidic was more ruthless and straightforward with his method of playing, but they combined excellently to great effect. Gary Neville and Patrice Evra were as solid as ever at full back while Owen Hargreaves managed one season to show what a capable and talented defensive midfielder he was.
A run of six consecutive clean sheets at the tart of the season was a sign of things to come as Manchester United went on to clinch the league by two points from Chelsea.
- 1998-99 Arsenal – 17 goals
Often regarded as the benchmark for what a good defence should be like, the Arsenal back four of the late 90’s was certainly one that was ageing; Tony Adams was the youngest, aged 32, but it was by no means ineffective.
The defence was comfortably the best in the division that season, and they only conceded more than one goal in a game on one occasion, a 3-2 away defeat to European qualifying rivals Aston Villa. Despite the age, players could not figure a way to get past the warrior like defence.
With a young and powerful Patrick Vieira in front of them, it is no surprise they only conceded an average of less than half a goal a game in 1998-99.
- 2004-05 Chelsea – 15 goals
Everyone knew how good the “Special One” was when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in May 2005; after all, you don’t win the Champions League with an unfancied team in Porto if you are not a good coach. However, no one would have expected him to be as ruthlessly brilliant as he was in 2004-05, even with Roman Abramovich’s millions.
Mourinho built his team on the most solid defence in Premier League history. Club captain John Terry was beginning to look like one of the world’s best defenders at just 24 years old while the Portuguese manager spent nearly £20 million to bring compatriot Ricardo Carvalho to London, a very shrewd buy for the club.
While perhaps the best signing of the lot Petr Cech kept ten consecutive clean sheets between December and March and 25 in the Premier League, still a record number.