“No one wants to grow up to be a Gary Neville”, Jamie Carragher once quipped, adding that right-backs were either failed center-backs or failed wingers.
Fortunately for football, this has long been disproven, and now the Premier League boasts some of the best right-sided defenders in World football, so much so that England boss Gareth Southgate has made it his mission to include as many of them as he can in every Three Lions squad.
But who are the best five set to line out for their clubs this season? 101 take a look.
5. Kieran Trippier
It was quite the coup when Newcastle United managed to persuade Kieran Trippier to swap Atletico Madrid for Tyneside in January, and despite injury he demonstrated why, even at 31 years old, he deserves to be considered among the top options in his position.
An England regular, and more than capable at set-pieces as well as offering a strong all-round game, should he be able to stay injury-free the defender could be a key part of whatever Newcastle United and Eddie Howe achieve this season.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 13, 2022
4. Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty struggled at Tottenham under Nuno Espirito Santo, but truly began to find his feet in Antonio Conte’s setup which allowed him far more attacking freedom.
Still suspect defensively, two goals and four assists under the Italian showcased his talent, and with Emerson Royal likely to leave, it will fall to the Irishman to be Conte’s senior wing-back on the right hand side.
They’ve turned it around!
Matt Doherty dives in at the back post to head Harry Kane’s cross into the back of the net and put Tottenham 2-1 up! pic.twitter.com/SFV93JH6K5
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 3, 2022
It remains to be seen how he recovers from a serious knee injury suffered against Aston Villa, but should he return to anything like his purple patch under the Italian last campaign, he will certainly be one to watch.
3. Kyle Walker
Now a decorated veteran defender who still cuts it with the best of them, Manchester City’s Kyle Walker could find his gametime reduced somewhat this season should Manchester City secure a left-back, which would allow Joao Cancelo to return to right-back once more.
However, he remains one of the top full-backs in world football, as he demonstrated both in the Premier League last campaign and with a defensive masterclass against the dangerous Vinicius Jr in the Champions League semi finals, a tie that pivoted when he was forced off with injury.
Walker is not the flashiest in terms of grabbing goals and assists, but is rarely caught out and still has an impressive turn of foot on the rare occasion that he is. He is used as a right centre-back by Gareth Southgate, but seems to prefer his more orthodox right-back role at club level.
2. Reece James
Injury robbed Reece James of really hitting his stride last season, but the young Englishman offered plenty of glimpses into just how scary a talent he can be if he can stay fit in Thomas Tuchel’s system.
Operating as a right wing-back (and occasionally a right centre-back), James returned 5 goals and 9 assists in 26 Premier League games and was Chelsea’s main source of creativity alongside fellow academy graduate Mason Mount.
Chelsea are set to open talks with Reece James about a new contract amid interest from Real Madrid and Manchester City, according to reports 📝
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) July 8, 2022
Pacey and strong with some fantastic technical attributes, it is hard not to see him having a massive role in the England squad in the future, as well as proving vital for Chelsea.
Only 22-years-old, there is plenty of room for James to keep improving, and should he do so he could well be challenging the top full-backs in World football in the not too distant future.
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold
It is still somewhat unbelievable that one of the best creators in world football is a right-back, but that is exactly what Trent Alexander-Arnold offers Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp.
A brilliant passer and crosser who can also hold his own from set-pieces, Alexander-Arnold is one of the few players in Klopp’s starting XI that there is not a replacement for, with no one else in the squad possessing his skillset.
Champion in my city 😎 pic.twitter.com/ocTJRAKQq5
— Trent Alexander-Arnold (@TrentAA) May 29, 2022
He remains vulnerable when actually asked to defend, and is guilty of switching off at times, but his 2 goals and 12 assists show in black and white just how dangerous he can be going the other way.