If a team has two world-class full-backs in a team, you will likely be hard at it for 90 minutes.
Some famous duos have disbanded in the past five years. Think of Barcelona's Dani Alves and Jordi Alba or Philipp Lahm and David Alaba at FC Bayern Munich.
But who followed in their footsteps? Who are the best full-back pairings in Europe's top leagues at the moment? Below is a loosely ranked top 10 list of our current state of affairs. If you think we missed someone, we'd love to hear them. Let us know in the comments below or say hello on Twitter.
10. Jesus Navas and Sergio Reguilon (Seville)
The aggressively attacking pair of Paris Saint-Germain, Thomas Meunier and Juan Bernat initially held this place due to their attack contributions (because you don't have to defend much in a team with an average of 65% possession). But we called on them to be poked out because Jesus Navas and Sergio Reguilon appear to be more influential in third place in the league in relation to the impact on their respective teams.
No one has played more minutes for Sevilla in the league this season than Navas (2,249 out of 2,430 possible) this season. Neither Bernat nor Meunier, who are said to be allowed to leave freely in the next transfer window, have exceeded the 1,500-minute mark this season. Navas and Reguilon have each scored four goals and account for around a third of Sevilla's assistance in the league. Only Ever Banega (6) has more than any pair.
Navas was once an exciting winger, although he was ultimately disappointed in Manchester City. His team offers speed, know-how in one-on-one situations on site and delivery to the penalty area. He has an average of 1.85 successful open game crosses per 90 minutes at La Liga this season. No defender with a 1,000-minute play in the division this season has been more productive in that sense. He has also created more chances than any other La Liga defender overall (44), although the fact that he hasn't missed a lot of football all season helps him here.
Regarding Real Madrid loaner Reguilon, only one regular defender (over 1,000 minutes) in the league with a higher average per 90 minutes for touches in the opposing penalty area (Alex Moreno of Real Betis). The same applies to opportunities that arise in open play (we will tell you later who will).
9. Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini (Gladbach)
There is a real title race going on in Germany and you shouldn't rule out Borussia Mönchengladbach.
People like Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea may steal the headlines, but Gladbach's couple of Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini play a big role in their success.
The midfielder's defense efforts allow you to move freely Florian Neuhaus, Lainer, who finished sixth this season in the German top league for successful open play flanks (19), has so far made four assists in the Bundesliga and the Europa League this season, including Bensebaini when five appeared goals in the Bundesliga.
8. Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens (Atalanta)
Was there a more entertaining side in Europe than Atalanta this season? Despite their status as relative Minnows, they are The Bergamo team has scored more goals (70) this season than any other Serie A team and has made waves both domestically and in Europe.
Full-backs Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens played more than their role. Gosens, wearing the # 8 jersey and looking like one, has scored a remarkable seven goals and five assists in Serie A this season.
Although Hateboer has provided more defensive stability this season, that doesn't mean you should write it offensive. The Dutchman still managed to score two goals and one template in the Champions League when Atalanta went from one look down to the knockout phase within three games. In 2018/19 he also scored the second most goals (5) of all other defenders in Serie A.
7. Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid)
Do you remember our teaser in the Reguilon section? The mysterious La Liga defender with the highest average per 90 minutes for open game opportunities is Carvajal (1.64). Also, no league defender has more assists this season than his five in total.
On the left, with Marcelo on the wrong side of his climax, there might have been fears among Madrid fans who would replace the Brazilian. Enter Ferland Mendy.
OK, so he hasn't fully pinned his starting spot and instead turns with Marcelo (hence the relatively low rank). However, the 24-year-old Frenchman played a big role in Real, both offensively and defensively. Mendy has created 14 chances from the open game in La Liga so far this season, dribbled only three times and an average of 2.47 successful dribbles per 90 minutes. This is a higher rate than any other defender who has played more than 500 minutes in the league this season.
With Achraf Hakimi and Reguilon returning from loan spells next season, these two could be at risk. This season, however, they are certainly fighting hard for their places.
6. Nelson Semedo and Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Under Ernesto Valverde, Nelson Semedo fought for regular time in Barcelona and was often late when the Catalan club was looking for games. This left many fans frustrated, with the Portgual international clearly the better defense option against Sergi Roberto.
"Nelson Semedo is a talented player, but one who has repeatedly seen Ernesto Valverde lose his confidence has kept dropping him and has never really given him a long side effect, ”said Squawka's Muhammad Butt earlier this year, adding,“ Semedo is es A far more dynamic player than you can imagine, especially in attack zones. "
Since Quique replaced Setver Valverde, Semedo has had his right-back position firmly under control and has become increasingly confident over time.
On the other hand, world football has probably not had a more stable left-back than Jordi Alba in the past ten years. The Spaniard collected titles and awards at will.
Sure, he only managed one assist this season, but he remains the league's outstanding full-back. On average, he scores more successful passes that end in the last third every 90 minutes than any defender in the league (22.22). In fact, Lionel Messi, Toni Kroos and Eden Hazard are the only players who have been more productive this season so far (over 500 minutes). With its eight assists last season, this convinced us to keep the Barca couple in Madrid above their colleagues.
5. Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell (Leicester City)
Mainly because Riyad Mahrez had just left for Manchester City and James Maddison had arrived from Norwich, Ricardo Pereira's £ 22m arrival from Porto in May 2018 was a bit more scrutinized. But what a right-back he has become for the foxes.
Pereira's main trait is his relentless energy, which provides Leicester with a constant threat of attack – he's fifth in the Premier League for successful dribbling (128) since his arrival – and defensive reliability if they are hit during the break.
"I have a brilliant player. He's so low on maintenance. He trains the intensity with which he plays the game." said Brendan Rodgers March.
"He always wants to get better, he wants to learn, his defense has gotten better, and then he's going to be such a threat in the future, whether that's his crossing or he's trying to keep up."
On the other hand, it was a pleasure to see Ben Chilwell's development from a naive youngster to a left-back of international quality.
Ben Chilwell v Montenegro:
• Most opportunities created (4)
• Most devices (4)
• Most common takeover (3)
• Most templates (3)
A dominant ad. 😍 pic.twitter.com/hC6KT6aveY
– Squawka Football (@Squawka), November 14, 2019
The 23-year-old has two goals and three assists in the Premier League this season.
Leicester was one of the wonderful surprise packages of the 2019/20 Premier League season and looks good for the next season in the Champions League. The role of their full-backs for this success should not be overlooked.
4. Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro (Juventus)
Juan Cuadrado hasn't been a full-back for so long, so it's incredible to see how skillfully he's looked in this position since replacing Joao Cancelo who left for Manchester City last summer.
"Cuadrado defends and attacks in the right way, he never got us out of whack," said Maurizio Sarri in October.
Alex Sandro has of course dealt with the left-back for years.
Juventus, like several teams on this list, dominates the ball in pretty much every game they play in their home league. Therefore, they are not tested defensively as often as other full-backs. However, Cuadrado has shown an excellent readability of the game for a former winger and has achieved an average of 6.17 recoveries per 90 minutes this season. Sandro was equally impressive on the defensive and has made 38 Serie A interceptions so far this season – more than any other Juve player and 11 ahead of his next rival.
However, things are moving forward where Maurizio Sarri needs Cuadrado and Sandro to thrive, with the Italian's system relying on full-backs to provide breadth.
Sarri needn't worry here either. The teams of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, Cuadrado (31) and Sandro (30) have achieved the third and fourth highest number of chances from the open game among Juve players in Serie A this season and have so far achieved a total of five assists.
3. Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies (Bavaria)
Given Alphonso Davies' youth and relatively young advancement, it seems a bit premature to place him and Benjamin Pavard high on this list. However, this only shows how brilliant they have been since Hansi Flick's arrival in November.
In contrast to some other pairings on this list, Benjamin Pavard and Davies and a Ying-Yang duo, the latter aggressively pushing forward to support the attack, while the latter is in a threesome to keep Bayern solid and safe from countering to keep. Attacks.
Since Flick's arrival, no Bayern player has dribbled more in the Bundesliga than Davies (49), while the Canadian has won the ball 141 times during this time, more than any other Bayern player. His excellent performance against Chelsea in the Champions League has now attracted even more admiring glances.
Pavard has meanwhile developed well thanks to Flick's demands to hide as soon as Davies moves forward – the Frenchman himself recently admitted that he sees himself more as a central defender than a full-back anyway.
"I'm happy when I'm on the pitch – whether as a right-back or a central defender." Still, I prefer to play in central defense, ”he said.
“In general, I see myself as a defensive player who can be used flexibly. I think it is very important and helpful for a coach that I can play in all four defensive positions. "
Despite all its defensive qualities, Pavard has still scored three goals and five assists in the Bundesliga and Champions League this season and can hold its own in the last third.
After months of sluggish football under Niko Kovac, Bayern have changed under Flick, which is supported by the excellent balance between his two full-backs.
2. Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro (Dortmund)
The move from Lucien Favre to a back-five worked wonders for Borussia Dortmund and firmly anchored her in the Bundesliga title hunt. Much of this is thanks to the release of Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro. Hakimi was sensational while on loan at Real Madrid, but was able to assert himself on the right side after his first line-up as left-back and Lukasz Piszczek as third center-back. Guerreiro, in turn, has taken its place on the left.
Dortmund are often in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with two of Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt and Giovanni Reyna acting behind striker Erling Haaland. The BVB defenders play excellently through the lines and into these playmakers, who are stuck in half the fields and give Favre's team total dominance in the middle. Of course, this creates an enormous amount of space for Hakimi and Guerreiro to enter, and with their relentless pace and professionalism, they benefit greatly.
Hakimi (30) and Guerreiro (23) are fourth and fifth in Dortmund respectively for the chances created in the Bundesliga this season, only behind Sancho (53), Hazard (44) and Brandt (33), while together they are 12 Have achieved templates so far. Even more impressive is that the couple scored a total of 14 goals in the 2019/20 Bundesliga and Champions League.
Dortmund are a very possessive team – only Bayern (63.2%) have a larger average share in the Bundesliga than their 58.4% this season – but when it comes to it, both Hakimi and Guerreiro are defensively healthy. Only Mats Hummels (181) has more possession this season than Hakimi (156) and Guerreiro (135) in the Bundesliga.
As Hakimi's Real Madrid lending magic is nearing its end, the days of this pairing seem sadly numbered. So enjoy it as long as it lasts.
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
It might feel like a cliché to put Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at the top of this list, but there's a reason for that. You are so damn good.
Last season, the pair scored a total of 23 assists in the Premier League and added another five in the Champions League when Liverpool won the tournament for the sixth time. They hardly gave in again in 2019/20, as only Kevin De Bruyne (16) provided more assists than Alexander-Arnold (12) in the Premier League. Robertson also did well at seven.
Her offensive heroics are central to Jürgen Klopp's performance. They push up the field to increase the width as strikers Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah connect with Roberto Firmino. As a result, Liverpool's 4-3-3 formation is more like a 2-1-4-3 formation that floods the opposing half.
But dismissing these two as purely attacking forces and ignoring their defense efforts would be unfair. Sure, Robertson is known for being the more defensive sound of the two, but both full-backs are heavily involved in Klopp's counter-pressure and quickly win the ball up before launching quick attacks on disoriented opponents.
In addition, both have shown that the game was read by experts – something that Alexander-Arnold has particularly improved – and that covers the entire line of defense when their teammates get out of position. Alexander-Arnold has recovered more this season (182) than any other Liverpool player in the Premier League, while Robertson ranked second among field players with 174 players.
Would you like further proof that the Liverpool pairing is currently the best? Ex-Reds defender Luis Enrique said this in an interview with LFCTV recently.
"As I say with Andy Robertson, I also say with Trent: he has been the best right-back in the world for two years and he is only 21 years old," he said.
Honorable mentions: Thomas Meunier and Juan Bernat (PSG), Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Angelino and Nordi Mukiele (RB Leipzig), George Baldock and Enda Stevens (Sheff Utd), Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James (Chelsea).