When former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on live television, “no one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville,” he was only partly taking a dig at his ex-England colleague. Historically speaking, fullbacks have never really received the attention and adulation that the more glamorous positions further up the field get regularly. However, the game has changed dramatically over the years and fullbacks contribute much more to the game nowadays, making the position a much more attractive prospect.
Although a defender’s primary objective on the field is to keep clean sheets, the modern fullback’s remit goes above and beyond. It is becoming increasingly vital for fullbacks to be able to beat opponents on the wing and make the difference in the final third while also maintaining the energy and concentration to race back and block their opponents’ attacks.
As such, attacking fullbacks can be spotted in almost every Premier League squad these days, and those that can also hold up defensively have now become a true luxury.
For this article, however, we’re going to focus on the right side of defence and take a look at the 5 best right-backs in the Premier League this season. Not only have all the players on this list carried out their defensive duties with great aplomb, but have also carried an offensive threat that makes them an integral part of their teams’ success.
#5 George Baldock (Sheffield United)
Few would have paid much attention, if any, to Sheffield United’s promotion to the Premier League at the end of last season, but hardly anyone could have predicted the remarkable success they would go on to enjoy. Under the astute management of Chris Wilder, the Blades have been a revelation this season, having sealed a top-half finish while boasting one of the best defensive records in the league.
Although their unconventional tactics might see one of their three centre-backs marauding down the wing, Baldock, from the right wing-back position, has been one of the key cogs in Sheffield United’s wheel.
Showing incredible energy in running up and down the right flank and no small amount of skill on the ball, Baldock has played his part at both ends of the field in his side’s campaign. The 27-year-old hasn’t missed a single minute of Premier League action all season and has contributed 2 goals and 4 assists from his wing-back role while also playing a part in 13 clean sheets.
#4 Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)
In a footballing world dominated by attacking full-backs, Wan-Bissaka is a throwback to a time when defensive capability was the key attribute that a full-back was required to possess. The young Englishman’s defensive expertise, positional sense, calmness when faced with a tricky, direct winger, and almost astounding success rate while tackling proved exactly why he was purchased for £50m.
Wan-Bissaka’s arrival has reinforced the Red Devils’ otherwise leaky backline, with ‘The Spider,’ as he is affectionately known, leads the league in terms of successful tackles made with 124.
While there are few defenders better than him in a one-on-one situation in his own half, Wan-Bissaka’s contribution at the other end has been called into question on occasion. Even so, the former winger has clearly worked on the attacking side of his game over the course of the season and bombs forward with great gusto now, having bagged 4 assists from right-back while helping United keep 11 clean sheets. Still only 22, it’ll be interesting to see how he develops his attacking game in order to blossom into a more complete right-back.
Also check out: the Premier League Winners by season