Long gone are the days when defenders simply defended, the modern members of the backline are required to contribute at both ends of the pitch.
Defenders have become amongst the most creative assets to any Premier League side with the popularity of inside forwards seeing full-backs often become auxiliary wingers when in possession.
We’ve decided to look at the defenders to have had the biggest influence in the opposition half this season, here are the five defenders to provide the most assists in the Premier League this season:
Ben Chilwell – 4 assists
Chelsea looked to solve their long-standing issues at left-back with the signing of Ben Chilwell last summer, securing the services of the England international from Leicester in a deal worth £50 million.
For punters using all promotional codes for Paddy Power, Chilwell began brilliantly with a goal and an assist on his debut against Crystal Palace, before notching another assist in the following game with his delivery adding another weapon to Chelsea’s attack in the early weeks of the season.
The 24-year-old has since provided another two assists with his four for the season ranking him fifth amongst all Premier League defenders this term, though he has struggled for minutes since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel as manager.
Tuchel’s decision to use a back three and wing-back system has seen Chilwell ousted by Marcos Alonso and the full-back faces a fight to secure his place for club and country in the coming months.
Andy Robertson – 5 assists
Andy Robertson and full-back partner Trent Alexander-Arnold have set the benchmark for productivity amongst defenders in recent seasons, the Liverpool pairing having provided double figures for assists in each of the past two campaigns.
The front-footed style of the duo has helped Liverpool to huge success, and even in a disappointing title defence, Robertson has largely remained a figure of consistency at left-back.
The Scotland captain leads the division for touches and ranks second amongst all players for crosses, his delivery having led to five assists this season with only two defenders having managed more.
Luke Shaw – 5 assists
Also on five assists to date is Manchester United full-back Luke Shaw, who has enjoyed an extraordinary renaissance this season to become a key figure in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
Shaw endured a difficult time under former manager Jose Mourinho and has been written off on several occasions during his Red Devils’ career, but this season has bounced back to show signs of realising the potential first seen when arriving at Old Trafford as the world’s most expensive teenager in 2014.
The 25-year-old leads all defenders for chances created this season and has created more opportunities than any other Premier League player since the turn of the new year, his energy and drive – coupled with a dangerous delivery from wide – seeing him star as one of the division’s best.
Shaw looks to be enjoying his football once more and on current form should be a certain starter for England at this summer’s European Championships – assuming he is recalled by Gareth Southgate.
Lucas Digne – 6 assists
Lucas Digne has forged a reputation as one of the Premier League’s best full-backs since swapping the Barcelona bench for Everton almost three years ago, the Frenchman an excellent talent when overlapping and possessing superb delivery from both open play and set-pieces.
Digne has provided six assists in just 19 league appearances for the Toffees this season, his 0.32 assists per 90 the highest of any defender and ninth amongst all Premier League players.
That return means the 27-year-old ranks second amongst defenders for assists this season, whilst he is also just one short of equalling his career-best tally of seven assists set during the 2019/20 campaign.
Everton will hope Digne can continue his high level of creativity ahead of the run-in as they push towards the top four and a place in Europe next season.
Aaron Cresswell – 7 assists
Leading the way amongst Premier League defenders is Aaron Cresswell, who is enjoying arguably the best period of his career in a West Ham side who have moved into contention for a top-four finish.
David Moyes deserves huge credit for the work he has conducted at the London Stadium, getting the best from a collection of players who have emerged as the Premier League’s surprise package this season.
The 31-year-old has featured at left-back and on the left of a back three formation, where his technical qualities have shone through with Cresswell’s set-pieces a vital component of the Hammers’ play.
No side in the division has scored more goals from set-piece situations in 2020/21, Cresswell registering seven assists with the likes of Tomas Soucek and Craig Dawson grateful for the pinpoint service provided.