Winning defensive duels is the bread and butter for Premier League backlines, with a dominant defence key to any side’s hopes of a successful season.
From towering in the air or snuffing out danger on the ground, we’ve decided to look at the five Premier League defenders with the best duel success rate in 2021/22.
James Tarkowski – 68.6% (353 duels)
James Tarkowski contested a mammoth 353 duels during the 2021/22 campaign, with the Burnley defender ranking second among all Premier League players for aerial duels on.
Tarkowski often found himself under pressure during Burnley’s relegation campaign, also leading the division for clearances as the Clarets centre-back sought to keep the club above the drop zone.
His exit will be a major blow to Burnley as the club look to rebuild and bounce back at the first attempt, with the two-cap England international a free agent this summer.
Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle are among the clubs reportedly willing to offer the 29-year-old a lucrative deal to remain in the Premier League on a free transfer.
Adam Webster – 70.1% (137 duels)
Brighton enjoyed a best-ever season in the Premier League to finish ninth, with Graham Potter’s side improving their defensive record to make notable strides this season.
Adam Webster endured a frustrating campaign with injuries but impressed when fit, ranking joint-third in the Premier League for duel success percentage.
The centre-back won 70.1% of his 137 contested duels and will hope to have an injury-free campaign next term as the Seagulls look to continue their development under Potter.
Grant Hanley – 70.1% (241 duels)
Grant Hanley found himself at the centre of the division’s worst defence this season, as Norwich’s yo-yo existence continued with an immediate return to the Championship.
Unsurprisingly for a centre-back in a struggling side, the Scotland international found himself involved in a high number of defensive duels and acquitted himself well one-vs-one, winning 70.1% of his 241 duels this season.
After four straight seasons of swapping divisions, Hanley and Norwich will be hoping to bounce back once again next season and return to the Premier League.
Raphael Varane – 70.8% (130 duels)
Raphael Varane arrived as part of Manchester United’s marquee recruitment drive last season, with the signing of the four-time Champions League winner viewed as a real statement of intent.
It’s been a disappointing debut campaign in English football for the defender however, who has struggled for form and fitness during a poor campaign for the Red Devils.
Varane will hope to significantly improve on this season’s performances under new boss Erik ten Hag next season, though there were signs of his class with the Frenchman ranking second among all Premier League defenders for duel success percentage.
The signing of a specialist defensive midfield should go some way to improving the fortunes of the World Cup winner at Old Trafford.
Virgil van Dijk – 73.5% (200 duels)
Virgil van Dijk leads the Premier League rankings for percentage of duels won among defenders, winning a 73.5% of the 200 duels he contested in 2021/22.
The return of the Netherlands captain from a long-term injury has been a huge influence on Liverpool’s season, one which saw the Reds secure a domestic cup double and narrowly miss out on Premier League and Champions League success.
After a lengthy spell on the sidelines the 30-year-old has returned as arguably the best centre-back in the Premier League and among the finest in world football.