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The Premier League's 10 Best Right-Backs of All Time

Updated: Feb 2


The Premier League's 10 Best Right-Backs of All Time
The Premier League's 10 Best Right-Backs of All Time

The Premier League's Right-Back Royalty: A Definitive List of the Top 10


The Premier League, since its inception in 1992, has been a breeding ground for exceptional talent. While the spotlight often falls on goal-scorers and midfield maestros, the unsung heroes patrolling the flanks are equally crucial.

Right-backs, with their ability to balance defence and attack, have long been the unsung heroes of English football. In this feature, we navigate through the historical records of the Premier League to uncover the top 10 right-back legends the league has ever seen. These players have left an enduring impact with their skill, work rate, and commitment to their clubs.



1. Gary Neville (Manchester United)

Gary Neville, the epitome of loyalty and consistency, spent his entire illustrious career at Manchester United from 1992 to 2011. Becoming a symbol of the club's dominance, Neville's remarkable contributions include 400 appearances, boasting an impressive 37% clean sheet rate with 148 clean sheets. Beyond his defensive prowess, Neville showcased versatility with 5 goals and 35 assists. With numerous Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League triumph, his influence on the right flank was immeasurable, leaving an enduring legacy at Manchester United.


2. Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City)

Kyle Walker's incredible pace and defensive abilities have made him one of the standout right-backs in the Premier League. He has played crucial roles in both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City's successes. Currently, Walker has amassed a total of 363 appearances, achieving 124 clean sheets, showcasing a remarkable 34% clean sheet rate. Beyond his defensive contributions, Walker has demonstrated his attacking prowess with 8 goals and 32 assists.

3. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Ranked 3rd on our list, Trent Alexander-Arnold embodies the modern-day evolution of right-backs. As we continue to explore the historical records of the Premier League to uncover the top 10 right-back legends, the question naturally arises – who is the best right-back in English history? This inquiry gains immediate relevance when examining talents like Alexander-Arnold, whose exceptional vision, pinpoint crosses, and instrumental role (often as an inverted full-back) in Liverpool's recent successes redefines the traditional expectations of the position


4. Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City)

Pablo Zabaleta was the epitome of a workhorse right-back. Known for his defensive prowess and work ethic, he played an instrumental role in Manchester City's transformation into a Premier League powerhouse. Zabaleta's defensive solidity contributed to 86 clean sheets, boasting an impressive 28% clean sheet rate. Beyond his defensive duties, he showcased his attacking abilities with 9 goals and 21 assists, making him a versatile and valuable asset on the field.



5. Lauren (Arsenal)

Lauren Etame Mayer, widely recognized as Lauren, played a pivotal role in the Arsenal squad that achieved an unbeaten run in the Premier League during the 2003-04 season. Renowned for his defensive prowess and versatility, Lauren operated as a right-back, amassing a total of 184 appearances for Arsenal (2000-2007) and later Portsmouth (2007-2008). His defensive contributions were evident in 63 clean sheets, securing an impressive 34% clean sheet rate, while he also displayed attacking flair with 6 goals and 8 assists throughout his impactful career.


6. Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea)

Branislav Ivanović was a versatile defender who often operated as a right-back for Chelsea. His strength, defensive skills, and a knack for scoring crucial goals made him a fan favourite.

7. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Cesar Azpilicueta, affectionately known as "Dave" by Chelsea fans, is a versatile defender who has made a significant impact as a right-back for the club. His defensive reliability, work rate, and ability to contribute in both defence and attack have made him an essential figure in Chelsea's recent successes.


8. Denis Irwin (Manchester United)

Denis Irwin, primarily recognized as a left-back, showcased remarkable versatility throughout his career. With 328 appearances for Manchester United until 2002 and a brief stint with Wolves from 2003 to 2004, Irwin left an enduring impact. His defensive prowess is evident in a notable 38% clean sheet rate, accumulating 123 clean sheets. Irwin's ability to contribute in attack is reflected in his impressive goal-scoring record of 18 goals and 25 assists. His technical proficiency and adaptability were key factors in Manchester United's triumphs.



9. Lee Dixon (Arsenal)

Lee Dixon, a stalwart right-back during Arsenal's successful era under Arsène Wenger, left an indelible mark with 305 appearances. Renowned for his defensive acumen, Dixon achieved a remarkable 37% clean sheet rate, totalling 114 clean sheets. Beyond his defensive prowess, he showcased attacking flair with 9 goals and 19 assists. Dixon's reliability and versatility were integral to Arsenal's achievements, cementing his legacy as a key contributor during his tenure with the club until 2002.


10. Steve Finnan (Fulham, Liverpool)

Steve Finnan may not be the most celebrated right-back in the Premier League, but his consistency and reliability make him worthy of recognition. During his time at Fulham and later at Liverpool, Finnan was a steady presence in defence.

Let's delve deeper into why some of these right-backs were exceptional and why they make the list.


The Pinnacle of Consistency: Gary Neville

Gary Neville's name is synonymous with Manchester United's unrivalled success during the Premier League era. Born and raised in the heart of Manchester, Neville's commitment to the club he loved was unwavering. He began his journey through the club's youth ranks, ultimately becoming a symbol of the Red Devils' dominance.



Neville's legacy is defined by consistency. In a league known for its competitiveness, his unwavering performances at right-back were the glue that held together Manchester United's backline. His positional awareness, defensive tenacity, and timely interceptions made him a formidable presence on the right flank. Whether it was shutting down world-class wingers or providing crucial crosses into the box, Neville's contributions were invaluable.

But Neville wasn't just a defensive force; he was a leader. His understanding of United's ethos and the nuances of Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial style made him a vocal presence on and off the pitch. He knew when to motivate his teammates and when to stand tall in the face of adversity. Under his leadership, Man United's defence was consistently one of the league's best.



Neville's trophy cabinet speaks for itself. Eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, and, most memorably, the UEFA Champions League in 1999—all bear witness to his indelible impact on the club. Beyond the silverware, it was his unwavering commitment to the club, week in and week out, that endeared him to fans worldwide.

Kyle Walker: The Modern Right-Back

Kyle Walker's transformation into a modern right-back mirrors the evolution of the position itself. His electric pace, defensive abilities, and a natural inclination to bomb forward have made him one of the standout right-backs in the Premier League era. Walker's journey began at Tottenham Hotspur, where he honed his skills and established himself as one of the league's best right-backs. His blistering pace allowed him to recover quickly in defensive situations and make marauding runs down the right flank. His defensive awareness improved over time, allowing him to neutralize opposing wingers.



His subsequent move to Manchester City took his game to another level. Under Pep Guardiola's guidance, Walker's understanding of positional play and tactical discipline improved. He continues to contribute offensively, becoming a crucial part of City's possession-based system. So far at Manchester City, Kyle Walker has played a pivotal role in securing major honours, including five Premier League titles (2017–18, 2018–19, 2020–21, 2021–22, 2022–23), two FA Cups (2018–19, 2022–23), four EFL Cups (2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21), two FA Community Shields (2018, 2019), the UEFA Champions League in 2022–23, and the UEFA Super Cup in 2023.


Trent Alexander-Arnold: The Modern Magician

In an era where the role of the full-back has evolved to include a significant creative burden, Trent Alexander-Arnold has emerged as a revelation. The Liverpool academy product burst onto the scene with a unique skill set that defies traditional positional constraints.

Alexander-Arnold's right-back play isn't just about defending; it's about orchestrating attacks. His remarkable vision and ability to deliver precise, pinpoint passes and crosses have made him a devastating weapon in Liverpool's offensive arsenal. The 2019-20 season saw him provide an astounding 13 assists in the Premier League, a record for a defender.


However, it's not just about statistics. The England international's understanding of space and time on the pitch is unparalleled. He possesses the ability to play as an inverted full-back as well as switch the tempo of a game with a single pass, making him an indispensable part of Liverpool's midfield transition. His corner and free-kick deliveries are the stuff of dreams for Liverpool's attackers.



Defensively, he continues to evolve. His reading of the game and positioning have improved, although there's still room for growth in this aspect. However, it's his confidence and maturity that has truly set him apart. He's unafraid to take risks and make those audacious passes that can unlock stubborn defences. Trent Alexander-Arnold has contributed significantly to Liverpool's recent success under manager Jurgen Klopp, earning major honours, including the Premier League (2019–20), FA Cup (2021–22), EFL Cup (2021–22), FA Community Shield (2022), UEFA Champions League (2022-23), UEFA Super Cup (2019), and FIFA Club World Cup (2019).

Pablo Zabaleta: The Heartbeat of Man City's Transformation

Pablo Zabaleta's journey in the Premier League took him from the blue half of Manchester to becoming an iconic figure in Manchester City's transformation into a footballing powerhouse. His tenure at the club coincided with the era of Sheikh Mansour's ownership, which saw a significant investment in the squad.


Zabaleta's role at City extended beyond his defensive duties. His work ethic, commitment, and leadership were instrumental in establishing the club's culture and identity. He became a symbol of the Blue Moon's rise to prominence in English and European football.



Defensively, Zabaleta was a tenacious right-back. He combined an ability to read the game with precise tackles and interceptions. His positioning often neutralized opposition wingers, making him a nightmare to play against. He was, in every sense, a modern full-back who could contribute to both defence and attack. However, it was his role as a leader that truly set him apart. At the Etihad, Zabaleta was a captain without the armband, rallying his teammates and the fans with his passion and determination. His dedication to the Cityzens cause was second to none.


Zabaleta's list of accomplishments includes Premier League titles, League Cups, and FA Cup triumphs. His legacy at Manchester City is forever etched in the club's history, and he remains a beloved figure among fans.

Cesar Azpilicueta: Mr. Versatile

Cesar Azpilicueta, affectionately known as "Dave" by Chelsea fans, is a versatile defender who made a significant impact as a right-back for the club. His defensive reliability, work rate, and ability to contribute in both defence and attack made him an essential figure at Chelsea before he left for Atletico Madrid in 2023.


Azpilicueta's versatility allows him to play in various defensive positions, but it's at right-back where he excelled in the Premier League. His positional discipline and ability to read the game made him an excellent one-on-one defender. He was rarely caught out of position, which made him a consistent presence in the Chelsea backline.



Offensively, Azpilicueta offers a reliable outlet on the right flank. His crosses and deliveries into the box are accurate, and he's often involved in build-up play. His consistency and leadership on the pitch have made him an influential figure, serving as captain on numerous occasions.


Azpilicueta played a central role in Chelsea's triumphs in the Premier League and Cup competitions during the later period of Roman Abramovich's ownership. His adaptability and unwavering commitment make him a modern example of a dependable right-back.

Steve Finnan: A Steady Hand at the Back

Steve Finnan may not be the most celebrated right-back in the Premier League, but his consistency and reliability make him worthy of recognition. During his time at Fulham and later at Liverpool, Finnan was a steady presence in defence.


Finnan's defensive abilities were his greatest asset. He was rarely caught out of position and was dependable in one-on-one situations. His positioning and timing in tackles made him a reliable figure at the back. His ability to read the game and make interceptions often went unnoticed but was crucial in his team's defensive efforts.



Offensively, Finnan contributed by providing width on the right flank. While not known for flashy plays, he was efficient in his delivery of crosses and passes. He was a team player who understood his role and executed it diligently.

Finnan's journey in the Premier League included successful spells at Fulham and Liverpool. At Liverpool, he was part of the squad that famously won the UEFA Champions League in 2005, underlining his contribution to the club's rich history.


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