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Who is the best Premier League right-back? | Stats Comparison

Best Right Back

When you’re sitting in the pub with your mates, picking your favourites of the Premier League, the one position that has to be the hardest to choose a winner for is the right-back. It is not in any way as easy as left-back, with Ashley Cole usually taking that spot, and Leighton Baines coming through in recent years to put up a good challenge, as well as Evra and Clichy cropping up. Every other position has an abundance of talent to choose from, but right-back is always the iffy one, no player has been consistently at the top of their game like Cole or constantly improving like Baines, especially now that Gary Neville has retired.

So let’s look at the Premier League, here’s all the players who have won the right-back position in the PFA Team of the Year:

[box_light]2012–13 Pablo Zabaleta (Man City)
2011–12 Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
2010–11 Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)
2009–10 Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)
2008–09 Glen Johnson (Portsmouth)
2007–08 Bacary Sagna (Arsenal)
2006–07 Gary Neville (Man Utd)
2005–06 Pascal Chimbonda (Wigan)
2004–05 Gary Neville (Man Utd)
2003–04 Lauren (Arsenal)
2002–03 Stephen Carr (Tottenham)
2001–02 Steve Finnan (Fulham)
2000–01 Stephen Carr (Tottenham)
1999–00 Gary Kelly (Leeds)
1998–99 Gary Neville (Man Utd)
1997–98 Gary Neville (Man Utd)
1996–97 Gary Neville (Man Utd)
1995–96 Gary Neville (Man Utd)
1994–95 Rob Jones (Liverpool)
1993–94 Gary Kelly (Leeds)
1992–93 David Bardsley (QPR)[/box_light]

Although Gary Neville has dominated, and is arguably the greatest right-back the Premier League has seen, he never shone in terms of ability, however there are not many players who have reached his level of consistency.

Here’s the current Premier League first choice right-backs, the ones I’ll be comparing:

[box_light]Arsenal Bacary Sagna
Aston Villa Matthew Lowton
Chelsea César Azpilicueta
Everton Séamus Coleman
Fulham Sascha Reither
Liverpool Glen Johnson
Manchester City Pablo Zabaleta
Manchester United Rafael da Silva
Newcastle United Danny Simpson
Norwich Russell Martin
QPR José Bosingwa
Reading Chris Gunter
Southampton Nathaniel Clyne
Stoke Ryan Shotton (also plays as right-mid)
Sunderland Craigh Gardner
Swansea Àngel Rangel
Tottenham Kyle Walker
West Brom Billy Jones
West Ham Guy Demel
Wigan Emmerson Boyce (plays as right-wing-back)[/box_light]

Defensive Stats

[NB: Article written before the final game of the season]

Premier League Right Backs
Stats as of 11/05/2013

Now to begin pulling these stats apart…

The arrows system is a conditional formatting option in Excel which I usually use to show who the best players are, here it’s very hard to tell due to the amount of players we’re comparing; so for this table, there ends up being a few green arrows as opposed to a couple.

So here’s the players with the highest amounts of green arrows (in a desperate attempt to bring sense to the madness):
Bacary Sagna: 4
Rafael: 3

And the players with the highest amount of red arrows:
Danny Simpson: 2
Nathaniel Clyne: 2

Bacary Sagna begins the comparison ahead, with 4 categories rating excellent compared to his peers, closely followed by Rafael. The young English duo of Danny Simpson and Nathaniel Clyne are at the foot of the comparison, with 2 categories in the poor rating each. Quite consistent with league position at the minute, the higher placed teams have the better right-back. Sagna would definitely be expected to be up there with the best, due to his Premier League experience, so for that reason it is a bit of a surprise to see Rafael doing so well, when there are players like Zabaleta not doing so well in the table.

Error Stats

Stats as of 19/05/2013
Stats as of 19/05/2013

Ok, so using the same theory as the previous stats, Chris Gunter of Reading appears top with 2 green arrows! With Gardner and Walker bringing up the rear with 2 red arrows.

Kyle Walker’s stats are pretty poor here, he has made more mistakes leading to a shot or goal, and he’s lost the ball more often. Danny Simpson is doing really well in terms of ball retention, and Chris Gunter has committed the least fouls. It’s surprising how poor the top 4’s right-backs have done, but nevertheless Chris Gunter comes out on top.

Offensive Stats

Stats as of 19/05/2013
Stats as of 19/05/2013

There are lot of stats to look at here but there are some interesting pieces to highlight. The better teams have a better pass success %, the same for the final 3rd success %, the same cannot be said for the cross accuracy however. West Ham and Wigan top the cross accuracy stats, followed by Azpilicueta (and breathe) of Chelsea, who is part of the “new breed” of attacking right-backs.

Kyle Walker drags himself back with a really good amount of chances created, followed by Glen Johnson of Liverpool, both representing England. The assists are more-or-less as expected, the better teams have a higher amount of assists. Dribble accuracy is an interesting stat, with Lowton of Aston Villa topping that column with quite an impressive lead, surprisingly Azpilicueta brings up the rear with a very poor showing on the same level as Shotton of Stoke.

So here’s how the arrows talk:

Most greens:
Kyle Walker: 3

Most reds:
Ryan Shotton: 5


So there we have it, a quick description of the stats of the Premier League right-backs, there isn’t really anyone who stands out due to the amount of players analysed; but if I was forced to look at the stats alone, I’d say Bacary Sagna of Arsenal stands out overall.

From watching the Premier League this season you could say that Rafael, Zabaleta, Lowton and Azpilicueta have  have been the most impressive and their stats above show that they’ve done well at everything rather than excelling in one field or the other so there could be a strong case for any of them and they would also be an excellent choice, but I’ll let you make your mind up.

Remember to just leave a comment with whom you think was the best right-back this season.

[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]

Supporter of Chelsea, and good football. Assistant youth coach at Lincoln City FC, youth coach for North Lindum Hawks FC u6-12 development, u7, u10a and u10c. Studying Education and Sport Studies at Bishop Grosseteste University.
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