The 2020-21 edition of the Premier League has had its fair share of surprises as it has come after a very short off-season owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manchester City and Liverpool, the two most dominant teams in the last few seasons of the EPL, have appeared off the pace, as Leicester City have emerged as the surprise league leaders. Both teams, as well as Manchester United, have already suffered big defeats and have conceded too many goals for their liking.
Top five center-backs in the 2020-21 EPL
Generally speaking, defenses have not ruled the roost in the EPL this season. However, the performances of a few center-backs have caught the eyes of fans and experts alike.
On that note, let us have a look at the five best center-backs in the 2020-21 edition of the EPL.
#5 Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Toby Alderweireld has been a mainstay of the Tottenham Hotspur defense since arriving at the club in the summer of 2015.
For five seasons, he formed a formidable central defensive partnership with his compatriot Jan Vertonghen at the EPL club. With the departure of Vertonghen in the summer, Alderweireld has stepped up to the plate with aplomb.
In the five appearances Alderweireld has made in the EPL this season, Tottenham have lost only once and kept two clean sheets.
The 31-year-old had a somewhat indifferent campaign last season, scoring two own goals as Spurs missed out on Champions League football. However, Alderweireld has made amends with an improved and confident showing this season barring the home loss to Everton and the 3-3 draw with West Ham.
#4 Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
The arrival of 36-year-old Thiago Silva at Chelsea in the summer raised quite a few eyebrows.
It may be early days, but the veteran Brazilian's performances at the heart of the Chelsea defense have already made his move to the EPL seem like a masterstroke.
Silva had a rough initiation to life in the EPL, as his mistake helped West Ham score one of their three goals on the night in a high-scoring 3-3 draw.
In the aftermath of that game, Lampard talked highly about Silva and expressed hope that the Brazilian would get better with more EPL games under his belt.
"Thiago Silva is going to be fantastic for us. He has been incredible in his career and absolutely, I will not look at him (for his mistake), Other than that, I thought he was pretty faultless in the game. That’s his first Premier League game done and in the bank. We will get a lot more from him as well especially as he gets fitter and as the whole squad get fitter," said Lampard.
Silva has managed to vindicate his manager's trust in him. The Brazilian's reassuring presence has contributed to Chelsea's new-found defensive resilience, with the club only conceding once in four EPL games in which Silva played. He has also notched up his first goal in the competition during this period.
#3 Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
Joe Gomez has had an injury-riddled career at Liverpool since his arrival at the reigning EPL champions in the summer of 2015.
Nevertheless, Gomez has struck up a formidable central defensive partnership with Virgil Van Dijk at Liverpool, helping the club to Champions League and EPL titles in successive seasons.
In seven appearances in the EPL this season, Gomez has been one of the rare standouts in the Liverpool rearguard that has already let in 16 goals in eight games this season.
After Van Dijk suffered a seemingly season-ending injury in the Merseyside Derby, Gomez has been the leader of the Liverpool defense, helping the side win two of their next three games in the EPL.
However, the 23-year-old suffered an injury while on international duty with England. That comes as a huge blow to Liverpool as Gomez is expected to miss large swathes of the season.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp seemed to blame the unusual intensity of the season as the reason for Gomez's injury when he said:
“With Joey, it was absolutely because of the intensity of the season. That’s something we have to worry about. That’s not an excuse. That’s just an explanation.”
#2 Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton)
In seven EPL games played by the 28-year-old this season, Southampton have kept an impressive four clean sheets; Vestergaard has also scored twice during this period. The Dane scored the equaliser in an entertaining 3-3 draw at Chelsea and also scored the opener in Southampton's thrilling 4-3 win at Aston Villa.
Thanks to Vestergaard's exploits at both ends of the pitch, Southampton find themselves a creditable fourth on the 2020-21 EPL table.
Vestergaard modestly deflected talks about his good form and instead focussed on the confidence of the entire team that has made Southampton a formidable outfit in the EPL this season recently.
“I’m confident at the moment but I think the whole team are. We’re in a very good place, and I genuinely believe that everybody thinks it is a tough game – to play against us. We thrive within that. We know we can be nasty and we have developed our game on the ball as well. I really do think that we’re a very good Premier League team and in the past few games we’ve shown that.”
#1 Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal)
Gabriel Magalhaes has impressed for Arsenal since his arrival from Lille this summer. The 22-year-old Brazilian made a confident goal-scoring debut in Arsenal's 3-0 win away at Fulham on the opening day of the 2020-21 EPL season.
Apart from his goal, Magalhaes impressed at the defensive end of the pitch, making a match-high 121 touches and 113 passes, doing so with an impressive 95% accuracy while also making key recoveries and clearances.
Despite Arsenal finding themselves in the bottom half of the EPL table after eight games, the Brazilian has been one of their shining lights this season.
Unsurprisingly, Mikel Arteta waxed lyrical about Magalhaes after the young center-back turned in another impressive display in a Europe League game.
“We saw qualities in him that is exactly what we wanted, but then you move him from France to here at an early age, without talking the language, to adapt to a new way of playing as well. He has done it really quickly and is showing a great mentality as well because we threw him in against Fulham after three or four training sessions, and you could see the performance he had there.”