In a Premier League era so often defined by goalscoring, the influence imposed by a number of key full-backs on both ends of the pitch has unquestionably become a hallmark in the top flight of English football.
They may not score 30 goals a season, or dazzle in the center of the park as true masters of creation in ways that often seemingly defy the laws of nature, but any side in England that is worth their salt that has ambitions of finishing the European places or beyond undoubtedly will feature a top quality player in that position.
With that brief preamble out of the way, 101 Great Goals presents our picks for the top five left-backs coming into the 2023-24 Premier League season.
5. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold is a true footballing enigma. Few, if any, are better in the middle and offensive third of the pitch, and TAA’s record of assists speaks to just how influential he is on Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool, which was on display for the world to bear witness during the club’s Champions League win as well as topping the Premier League to give City’s hegemonic dominance in England a brief moment of pause. But for all his sublime creativity and goalscoring threat he provides as an underlapping full-back that may even transition into midfield, such have bee the questions surrounding his weakness in defense that it’s hard to put him higher than fifth. For now.
4. Ben White
If you’re an Arsenal fan, Ben White should be considered a leading candidate to start for England on the right side of the defense under Gareth Southgate. But for now, Gunners the world over will have to be happy with the former Brighton man being an unsung hero at the Emirates. Despite the arrival of Dutch starlet Jurriën Timber this summer, White seems primed to still feature prominently for Arsenal and did just that in the club’s Community Shield win last weekend. With a fantastic on-pitch relationship with Bukayo Saka at the core of his defensive ability and understated final-third contributions, White is justifiably on this list.
3. Kyle Walker
Despite his age, England international and Manchester City veteran defender Kyle Walker is still one of the best in the business, which lends weight given Bayern Munich’s interest in him this summer before he opted to remain at the Etihad. Though City is stocked to the brim with defensive options, Walker is still an undeniable key piece of the puzzle under Pep Guardiola, with his defensive actions backed by blistering pace making him one of the toughest defenders to get the better of anywhere in Europe. Though he is not the same threat in the final third and is not always available, few are better than him on any given day.
2. Kieran Trippier
Newcastle’s rapid rise back into European contention in the last two seasons has been phenomenal, both for the club and the Premier League. Club owners PIF has guided the Magpies masterfully in the transfer market since their takeover, bringing in the likes of Sven Botman, Sandro Tonali, Alexander Isak, and Bruno Guimarães to help the club compete both domestically, and now once again, on the continent. But perhaps one of their best bits of business was for England international Kieran Trippier, who has since been viewed as one of the top right-backs in England. Defensively superb and a creative threat in the opposition third, Trippier is a key cog in the wheel and looks to remain as such.
1. Reece James
Controversial? Certainly. But the evidence does suggest that James is, pound for pound, at least in the discussion as being the best right-back in the country, with the caveat coming by way of his fitness and availability. With Chelsea having no European commitments this season, and a manager in Mauricio Pochettino who has an established track record of getting the best out of players, James could be set for a mammoth campaign. At his best, James borders on a player that is almost impossible to counter, owing to his near-perfect blend of power, pace, and technical ability, as well as a knack for a worldie. With an FBRef profile that backs our assertions, look for him to explode in 2023-24.