Like famous double acts such as Ant & Dec or Morecambe & Wise, the Premier League has had their fair share of famed partnerships over the years. Below, Football FanCast sorts the wheat from the chaff to bring you the top five centre-back pairings in Premier League history.
Uncompromising central defenders Tony Adams and Martin Keown helped Frenchman Arsene Wenger to his first Premier League and FA Cup Double during the 1997/98 season. Dubbed ‘Mr Arsenal’, after spending the whole of his 22 year career at Highbury, Adams remains the only player in the history of English football to captain a title-winning side in three different decades.
Keown has featured more times, bar Kolo Toure, than any other player at centre-back under Wenger and was renowned for his outstanding man-marking abilities. After 18 appearances in the Double winning season, Keown replaced club stalwart Steve Bould in the Arsenal starting XI the following season. The defensive lynchpins made over 800 appearances for The Gunners between them and are widely regarded as one of the finest centre back pairings in the club’s history.
Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure helped Arsenal to become the first ever side in Premier League history to go through a whole season unbeaten in their 2003/04 campaign. The duo started all but three of the club’s 38 league games that season, conceding just 26 goals in the process.
Campbell made just under 150 appearances for The Gunners, while Toure managed 225 after signing for the club in 2002. The pair’s defensive expertise underpinned coach Wenger’s attacking tendencies and was a key factor in Arsenal’s record breaking season.
Ricardo Carvalho romantically described his partnership with John Terry at the heart of Chelsea’s defence as ‘like two halves of the same whole’. Mourinho’s preferred defensive partnership was a key feature behind the club winning its first league title in 50 years, setting a new English record of playing 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal in 2004/05 along the way.
The Blues defended this title the following year as captain Terry and Portugal international Carvalho enhanced their reputation in the centre as two of the league’s meanest defenders. Carvalho lost his place to Brazilian defender Alex under Guus Hiddink during the 2008/09 season and a persistent knee injury restricted the 32-year-old to just 22 league starts last term. Carvalho vacated to Real Madrid this summer, ending his partnership with Terry at Stamford Bridge.
The partnership between the most expensive defender in British football Rio Ferdinand and £7m Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic was the platform for Manchester United’s three consecutive league titles between 2007 & 2009 and the club’s 2007/8 Champions League triumph over Chelsea.
2008/09 Premier League Player of the Season Vidic and England captain Ferdinand are widely considered as the best defensive duo in the Premier League at present. Vidic remains an uncompromising, old-fashioned defender while Ferdinand has the speed, agility and physique to perfectly complement the Serb. Should the pair remain injury-free this season, they could go on to become the greatest Premier League partnership of all-time.
Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce combined between 1989 and 1996 under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United to form arguably the greatest defensive partnership the Premier League has ever seen. The pair helped United land their first title in 26 years in 1992/93, both playing 50 games apiece in all competitions.
Between them they won three league titles, three FA Cups and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, averaging 44 matches a season during their seven seasons together. Together they were the perfect combination, Bruce a traditional old-fashioned central defender, while Pallister was his pacy, technically astute partner. After more than 250 games together, one of the league’s most respected double-acts was ended when Bruce moved to Birmingham in a free transfer in 1996.
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