Premier League defenders: Who’s in our Top Five? And how to choose just five?

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As the 2015-16 Premier League season gets ready to spread its wings this weekend, Pro Soccer Talk is getting you ready with a week full of projections, lists, news and views.

Picking a group of five defenders is way more difficult than selecting the best goalkeepers in the league, and given the vitriol from Monday’s Top Five ‘keepers, I’m preparing for a total bombardment of my home office after I tag just five back line heroes from the entire Premier League.

Plus, how do you choose? For example, there are some commanding defensive presences who aren’t going to contribute much to the attack, while others can thrill you with crosses from the outside and dipping free kicks but are a bit less impressive when it comes to tackling.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews | Top 5 goalkeepers | Midfielders | Forwards ]

Consider this statistic, which will blow minds: According to advanced statistics site Squawka, the most complete defender in terms of attacking, possession and defending last season was:

Not John Terry.

Not Martin Skrtel.

Not Jose Fonte.

It was Chris Smalling.

 

And how about this? Smalling was the only player to place double-digit scores in each category, as well as the only player to sit inside the Top Five in two categories (attack and possession).

Considering all that, can we possibly keep him outside our Top Five? Of course we can. Will we? Read on.

5. Ashley Williams, Swansea City — Like Lukasz Fabianski behind him, Williams played incredibly well on an often times under-the-radar Swans unit last season. He’s not going to thrill you on offense, but he’ll organize a unit and make life hard on any striker. In Garry Monk’s formation, that’s a big responsibility and Williams met it head on.

4. Martin Skrtel, Liverpool — One of my favorite animated graphics is of the 30-year-old Slovakian eating nails for breakfast. His 7-goal season two years ago was an aberration, but he can chip in while organizing a back line.

3. John Terry, Chelsea — Terry isn’t as sound a defender or tackler as Skrtel, but he’s a better facilitator for possession and has a superior nose for the ball.

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2. Phil Jagielka, Everton — He can hit a ball on the screws from time to time, but what the England veteran does best is provide a healthy dose of steel to the Toffees back line. “Jags” had 49 blocked shots and 390 interceptions to place among the league’s top defenders.

1. Jose Fonte, Southampton — Consider that Saints’ Portuguese back was commandeered a team with crazy turnover last season, as well as a brand new coach and system. The veteran only came out and steadied the entire unit while ranking amongst the Premier League leaders in touches (9th), tackles (29th) and interceptions (1st). In the last category, his 414 steals is 15 more than second-place Nemanja Matic (399) and 24 more than the nearest defender (Jagielka).

Honorable mention: Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Kieran Tripper and Danny Rose (Tottenham), Daryl Janmaat (Newcastle United), Smalling and Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City), Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman(Everton).

Alright… let us have it.

La Liga roundup: Atletico Madrid win first opener in four years

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Spain’s top flight is two days into a new season, and here’s a roundup of all of Sunday’s action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Getafe

It wasn’t done in aesthetically pleasing fashion, but Atletico Madrid won their first opening season game in four years.

In fact, the first half was rough with both Atletico and Getafe loosing players to straight red cards. Getafe’s Jorge Molina saw red for a studs-up challenge in the 38th minute, while Renan Lodi was asked to leave the field in his debut for Los Colchoneros. 

Summer signing Alvaro Morata proved to be the difference for Atletico, however. Assisted by former Tottenham fullback Kieran Trippier, the team’s academy product scored early on in the 23rd minute – the goal made Atletico one of eight clubs to start the season with three points.

$140 million signing Joao Felix also made his La Liga debut, and impressed the home crowd with a dazzling run in the second half that ended drawing a penalty for Atletico. Morata missed.

Not the smoothest of games for Diego Simeone’s side, but like Real Madrid, they already have an edge on Barcelona.

Espanyol 0-2 Sevilla 

Julen Lopetegui can finally breathe (and coach) in peace.

Following a series of unfortunate events with the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Lopetegui and Sevilla started their new era in a winning way.

Sergio Reguilon got things started for the visiting side with a tap in inside the six-yard box. And in the final minutes, no stranger to stepping up for Sevilla, Nolito slotted one past Diego Lopez.

With only two shots on frame to speak for them, Espanyol was one, two steps behind Los Hispalenses, who look for another top-six finish in Spain’s top-flight league.

Sevilla’s young quest for that continues as they travel to Granada. Meanwhile, Espanyol have no time to waist with a Europa League play-off bout against Ukrainian side Zorya lined up midweek.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Real Valladolid

Alaves 1-0 Levante

Report: Edinson Cavani set to join Inter Miami next summer

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Edinson Cavani is reportedly set to make a big splash in Florida.

According to Uruguayan journalist Alvaro Izquierdo, Cavani, 32, is set to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami next summer. The club will make their MLS debut next season.

The specifics of the supposed move are not know, but per the report from Izquierdo, Cavani will join Miami on a free transfer after his contract with PSG expires in June. Since joining in 2013, El Matador has been irreplaceable for the French giants, scoring over 160 goals and becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. This season, Cavani is off to a perfect start -scoring in the first two games of the Ligue 1 season.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The striker is one of the first superstars linked to Miami, but the general vibe given off by owners Jorge Mas and Beckham is that the club will look to spend big – similar to Atlanta United, LAFC and LA Galaxy.

Miami has signed three players so far ahead of their 2020 MLS debut – Christian Makoun, Julian Carranza, and Matias Pellegrini all currently makeup the squad.

‘But hey this is MLS’: Wayne Rooney slams MLS’ travel arrangements

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Wayne Rooney is not a fan of MLS’ travel arrangements.

D.C. United lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in Canada, and had to fly back to the nation’s capital before prepping for a midweek showdown with visiting New York Red Bulls. To the 33-year-old Englishmen the trip should’ve taken six hours, not half a day.

MLS is notoriously known for the lack of charter flights it offers its teams, a mere four per season is the reported amount each team is allocated. Traveling on commercial flights has caused routine delays for a slew of team’s this season, with certain teams arriving only hours before the first whistle in some cases.

Players, however, will reportedly push for better travel in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Not only for Rooney, but for the majority of professional athletes around the world, flying charter is customary.

Upon his arrival to D.C. in 2018, Rooney turned down first-class flights offered by the Black-and-Red, among other fine accommodations. “If you are going to be part of the team, you have to be part of the team,” Rooney said on his decision to reject first-class flights and private hotel rooms. “All in and do the same things. I don’t want special treatment — I wanted to be treated the same as the players. I’m part of this team.”

Rooney, despite being on his way out of D.C. to join Derby County in January, is certainly a part of the team.

He is also now a part of the complex fight for better travel in MLS.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.