Around The Block - Aaron RamsdaleOct 2
Premier League defenders with the most clean sheets of all time
From Rio Ferdinand to Martin Keown, find out which defenders are topping the charts when it comes to stopping opposition strikers.
While strikers and goalkeepers can shine with pieces of individual brilliance, the most successful defences work well as a unit.
But there’s still room for the odd moment of magic at the back – a goal line clearance, a last-ditch tackle and winning those aerial duels.
These players have all excelled at keeping attackers at bay and are the defenders with the most clean sheets in Premier League history.
30. Gary Cahill (103 clean sheets)
Clubs: Aston Villa, Bolton, Chelsea & Crystal Palace
Gary Cahill’s Premier League debut was a 5-0 drubbing for Aston Villa at home to Arsenal. Thankfully for Cahill, it wasn’t a bad omen and he proved himself to be a top defender for Bolton Wanderers, where he played from 2007-2012, having moved from Villa. His performances helped him into the England squad and to secure a move to Chelsea.
With the likes of Petr Cech, John Terry and Ashley Cole alongside him for the Blues, Gary Cahill was part of a formidable defensive line and knew when to put his body on the line in order to keep a clean sheet.
Cahill won two Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy with Chelsea before moving to Crystal Palace in 2019.
29. Gary Pallister (104 clean sheets)
Clubs: Man Utd & Middlesbrough
Gary Pallister formed one of Manchester United’s greatest ever partnerships playing alongside Steve Bruce in the heart of their defence.
‘Dolly and Daisy’, as they were affectionately known, made it seriously hard for attackers to find a way through, with the duo outstanding in the air and tough to get past on the ground. 6ft 4in Pallister was also great with the ball at his feet and popped up with the occasional important goal too.
He won Premier League titles in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997 before ending his career at the club where it all started, Middlesbrough.
28. Antonio Valencia (105 clean sheets)
Clubs: Wigan & Man Utd
When Antonio Valencia arrived at Wigan Athletic in 2006, it was as a pacy and tricky winger. The idea being that he would terrorise opposition defences and supply assists to the strikers. He did just that, and the Ecuadorian earned a move to Manchester United in 2009.
He played as a winger at United too, winning the Premier League title in 2011 and the following season picked up the fans’ player of the season award.
He started to play at right-back too, filling in for injured defenders, but soon made the position his own. Still, the club gave him the iconic number 7 shirt worn previously by the likes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona.
He eventually reverted back to his favoured number 25 shirt, but continued to impress as both a full-back and wing-back, winning another Premier League in 2013 and a Europa League trophy in 2017 as captain.
27. Martin Keown (107 clean sheets)
Clubs: Everton & Arsenal
Martin Keown got his first taste of Premier League action while playing for Everton, but moved to Arsenal in February 1993 where he made his name as part of The Gunners’ formidable backline.
With Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn already winning league titles under George Graham, Keown had to show his versatility and slotted in across the backline when called upon.
When Arsene Wenger arrived at the club in 1996, Keown made 28 appearances as a centre midfielder before winning the double the following season back at the heart of the defence.
Keown had a no-nonsense style of play. He was hard and physical. And he was well-versed in the dark arts too.
In Arsenal’s 2003-04 Invincibles season, Keown played a starring role in ‘The Battle of Old Trafford’ where he celebrated wildly after a missed Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty.
27. Richard Dunne (107 clean sheets)
Clubs: Everton, Man City, Aston Villa & QPR
Everton manager Joe Royle handed Dunne his debut at the age of 17. Then when Royle became manager at Manchester City, he signed the Irish international to play in the heart of his defence. It was here that Dunne made his biggest impact, winning City’s Player of the Year four years in row between 2005 and 2008.
He was made club captain in 2006, but his no-nonsense approach to defending meant that by 2009 he'd picked up a record eight red cards in the Premier League.
With Manchester City’s new-found wealth, new defenders arrived at the club and Dunne moved to Aston Villa in 2009 where he played until 2013.
27. Phil Jagielka (107 clean sheets)
Clubs: Sheffield Utd & Everton
When Sheffield United got relegated from the Premier League in the 2006/07 season, it was clear that Phil Jagielka was too good to be playing in the second tier of English football. He’d spent eight seasons at United, building his reputation in the Championship and First Division before clinching promotion with the Blades in 2006.
Everton signed him up and he quickly became a mainstay in the heart of the Toffees’ defence, spending 12 seasons at the club and making 322 Premier League appearances. He was made captain in 2013 and helped steer Everton to a fifth-place finish, amassing a record points total for the club (72).
He re-signed for Sheffield United in 2019 and made a further 16 Premier League appearances.
24. Kolo Toure (108 clean sheets)
Clubs: Arsenal, Man City & Liverpool
Not many defenders get an iconic song that is instantly recognised by rival fans across the country. But Kolo Toure earned his stripes playing for some of the country’s top teams during their glory years.
Arsene Wenger signed Toure for Arsenal in 2002, but he didn’t make his debut until the following season when he established himself in the team. In 2004, he was a big part of the Invincibles team that went undefeated on their way to securing the league title.
In 2006, the Ivorian international scored the last-ever European goal at Highbury in their Champions League semi-final tie against Villarreal helping the club reach the final.
In 2009, Toure joined Manchester City, where he was quickly made captain. The following year, he was joined by his brother Yaya, who signed from Barcelona and the infamous song was born.
He won the Premier League title again in 2012, when City won it for the first time in their history. He then spent three seasons at Liverpool, where he became a fan and player favourite.
“Kolo, Kolo, Kolo, Kolo, Kolo, Kolo, Kolo, Toure!”
23. Ugo Ehiogu (110 clean sheets)
Clubs: Aston Villa & Middlesbrough
Ugo Ehiogu was coaching the under 23 side at Tottenham’s training ground when he had a heart attack and died in 2017. He was passing on his immense footballing knowledge gained from a career as one of the best centre backs in the Premier League.
Ehiogu made his name at Aston Villa, establishing himself in the team during the first and second seasons of the newly formed league. By the mid-nineties he was an integral part of the Villans' defence alongside Paul McGrath and Gareth Southgate.
Ehiogu played 227 times for Villa in the Premier League before moving to Middlesbrough in 2000, where he teamed up with Southgate again in the heart of their defence.
22. Leighton Baines (113 clean sheets)
Leighton Baines was part of the Wigan team that gained promotion to the Premier League in 2006. He’s admitted that at that point in his career he questioned whether he was good enough to make the step up. He needn’t have worried.
In 2007 he signed for Everton, initially filling in at centre-back before making the left-back position his own the following season. During the 2010-11 season, he played every minute of Everton’s league campaign and built a reputation as a specialist set-piece taker and assister.
The following season, Baines made the PFA Team of the Year – the first Toffee to do so since Neville Southall in 1990. He was included again the following season and in 2017 he became the first defender to reach 50 Premier League assists.
22. Cesar Azpilicueta (113 clean sheets)
Cesar Azpilicueta has enjoyed a successful career at Chelsea since joining from French club Marseille in 2012. Initially employed as a right-back by manager Rafa Benitez, the versatile defender was moved to left-back by Jose Mourinho, before playing in a back three under Antonio Conte.
During his time at Chelsea, Azpilicueta has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, League Cup, and Champions League trophy. He’s only the fourth Chelsea player to have made over 300 Premier League appearances, after John Terry, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech and is now club captain.
20. Lee Dixon (114 clean sheets)
Lee Dixon’s Arsenal career was well under way by the time the Premier League was formed in 1992.
As part of George Graham’s famed defence, which also included Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams and Steve Bould, the full-back won a dramatic league title in 1989, before repeating the feat in 1991.
In 1996, Arsene Wenger arrived at the club. The manager’s new methods gave Dixon and his fellow defenders a new lease of life, which helped the Englishman secure two more league titles before bringing his career to a close in triumphant style in 2002.
19. Tony Adams (115 clean sheets)
Another member of that famous backline was Tony Adams, who spent his entire club career at Arsenal after joining as a schoolboy. By 21 he was club captain, and he’d won two league titles before the Premier League started in 1992.
Wenger’s arrival in 1996, which brought in much more emphasis on diet and fitness, helped extend the careers of players like Adams. Nicknamed ‘Mr Arsenal’ he went on to win two Premier League titles.
The first, in 1998, was crowned at Arsenal’s last home game of the season – against Everton. In one of Adams’ most iconic moments in an Arsenal shirt, the skipper latched onto a last-minute through ball from Steve Bould before crashing it into the net. Arms aloft, Adams turned away in celebration as the Arsenal faithful went crazy – the moment is now immortalised as a statue outside the Emirates Stadium.
19. John O’Shea (115 clean sheets)
Clubs: Man Utd & Sunderland
Having played a handful of games for Manchester United during the previous three seasons, John O’Shea played over 50 times for the Red Devils during the 2002-03 season. His versatility meant he slotted in across the backline and in centre-midfield as Manchester United clinched the Premier League title.
The following season O’Shea settled in at centre-back while Rio Ferdinand was suspended, but he went on to fill in at right-back throughout his United career when the team needed cover. Ever willing to chip in, he even played in goal and upfront for United.
Failing to nail down a position made it difficult for O’Shea to really cement his role in the side, but he did score some important goals in the league and in Europe.
He was an reliable player during United’s three Premier League title wins between 2007 and 2009, and after leaving United he played for seven seasons at Sunderland.
19. Gael Clichy (115 clean sheets)
Clubs: Arsenal & Man City
At just 18 years and 10 months, Gael Clichy became the youngest winner of the Premier League during his first season at Arsenal.
He played in 12 of those matches, but was mainly considered an understudy to Ashley Cole at left-back.
Clichy continued to learn his trade during his second season at Arsenal, before an injury to Cole in 2005 gave him the chance to step up in the first-team on a regular basis. Following the Englishman's move to Chelsea the following season Clichy made the left-back position his own.
He played 187 times for Arsenal in total before moving to Manchester City in 2011. During his first season as a Citizen he won the Premier League title and added another to the collection in 2014.
16. Glen Johnson (117 clean sheets)
Clubs: West Ham, Chelsea, Portsmouth, Liverpool & Stoke
A product of West Ham’s youth system, Glen Johnson had been with the Hammers from the age of nine. He made his debut in 2003, making a total of 15 appearances before leaving the club after they were relegated that season.
Chelsea were keen to keep Johnson in the Premier League and he became Roman Abramovich’s first signing.
He picked up a Premier League winners’ medal in 2004, but rarely appeared after that, spending a season on loan at Portsmouth and joining them permanently in 2007.
At Pompey, Johnson performed well at right-back, making the PFA Team of the Year for 2008-09 and winning the FA Cup the previous year.
In 2009, Johnson joined Liverpool, where he spent six seasons and made 160 Premier League appearances. He narrowly missed out on the Premier League title under Brendan Rodgers in 2013/14.
15. Nigel Winterburn (119 clean sheets)
Clubs: Arsenal & West Ham
Despite being recognised as one of Arsenal’s finest left-backs, it was at right-back where Nigel Winterburn initially made his name. He switched to left-back in 1988, when Kenny Sansom left the club.
As part of George Graham’s successful backline Winterburn won two league titles and when Arsene Wenger arrived at the club in 1996 he guided the club to another title in the 1997-98 season.
Winterburn remained part of the Frenchman’s plans until 2000, when Brazilian left-back Sylvinho became first choice. Winterburn signed for West Ham, where he spent three seasons before retiring.
15. Kyle Walker (119 clean sheets)
Clubs: Tottenham, Aston Villa & Man City
Tottenham swooped for Kyle Walker in 2009 with the Lillywhites impressed with his performances for boyhood club Sheffield United.
After initially being loaned back to Sheffield United, Walker had spells at Aston Villa and QPR before making the right-back position his own at White Hart Lane.
In 2012, he was named PFA Young Player of the Year and made the PFA Team of the Year twice and by 2017 Manchester City came calling for an incredible £50m.
It was money well spent, with Walker playing his part in four Premier League title successes during the five seasons he’s been at the club.
13. Aaron Hughes (121 clean sheets)
Clubs: Newcastle, Aston Villa & Fulham
Having made his way through the ranks at Newcastle, Aaron Hughes was handed his first-team debut during the club’s 1997 Champions League tie against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Despite the 1-0 defeat, Hughes became a mainstay in the Magpies defence, making over 200 league appearances over nine seasons.
In 2005 he joined Aston Villa for £1m, but only spent two seasons at the club before joining Fulham, where he made nearly 200 appearances over seven seasons.
13. Sylvain Distin (121 clean sheets)
Clubs: Newcastle, Man City, Portsmouth, Everton & Bournemouth
Sylvain Distin began his Premier League journey with a loan spell at Newcastle during the 2001/02 season. His 28 league appearances impressed Manchester City enough to make a permanent offer for the PSG defender the following season.
In his first campaign at City he was crowned the club’s Player of the Year and made captain for the next season.
By 2007, Distin sought a new challenge. He joined Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth and won the FA Cup during his first season, before being made club captain.
In 2009, Everton signed the Frenchman to replace Joleon Lescott, who’d joined Man City, and he became an integral part of the Toffees’ defence alongside Phil Jagielka, winning the club’s Player of the Year award in 2012/13.
With youngster John Stones emerging at Everton, Distin left the club in 2015 and went on to make a dozen Premier League appearances for Bournemouth.
11. William Gallas (122 clean sheets)
Clubs: Chelsea, Arsenal & Tottenham
William Gallas is the only player to have appeared for London rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
It was at Chelsea where he made his name, signing from Marseille in 2001 and developing a rock solid defensive partnership with both his fellow Frenchman Marcel Desailly and John Terry.
Gallas was signed by Claudio Ranieri, but it was under the stewardship of his successor, Jose Mourinho, that the defender won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006. Gallas also filled in at left-back, but it was his partnership in the centre next to Terry that was most effective.
In 2006, Gallas signed for Arsenal, with Ashley Cole going the other way. He was made Gunners’ captain the following season, but the armband was handed to Cesc Fabregas in 2008 after Gallas criticised some of Arsenal’s younger players in an interview.
He left the club to join Harry Redknapp’s Spurs on a free transfer in 2010. He put in solid performances in the Premier League and Champions League alongside Ledley King and Michael Dawson.
10. Denis Irwin (123 clean sheets)
Clubs: Man Utd & Wolves
Comfortable at both left-back and right-back, it was as a left-sided player where Denis Irwin excelled, cementing his role in Manchester United’s glorious teams of the 90s.
The Irishman won an incredible seven Premier League titles between 1992 and 2001. He’s United’s second most decorated player (behind Ryan Giggs) with 13 medals to his name.
After hanging up his boots at Old Trafford, Irwin went to play for Wolves, where he made a further 32 Premier League appearances after helping the club achieve promotion from the First Division.
9. Sami Hyypia (125 clean sheets)
Sami Hyypia’s 318 Premier League appearance all came for one club, Liverpool.
He joined the Reds from Dutch outfit Willem II in 1999 for £2.6m – a deal which is regarded by many as one of the best pieces of business the club ever secured.
In ten years at Anfield, Hyypia won ten trophies including the treble of FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup in 2000/01, and the Champions League in 2005.
He also captained the club early in his Liverpool career before Steven Gerrard took on the role.
He formed strong defensive partnerships with Stephane Henchoz and Jamie Carragher, playing over 300 times for the club in the Premier League.
8. Gareth Southgate (136 clean sheets)
Clubs: Crystal Palace, Aston Villa & Middlesbrough
Despite being best remembered as a technically-gifted centre-back with a great reading of the game, Gareth Southgate started off at Crystal Palace as a right-back before moving into centre midfield.
He spent five seasons at The Eagles, including two in the Premier League, making over 150 appearances before moving to Aston Villa in 1995.
At Villa, Southgate developed into one of the Premier League’s best centre-backs, forming formidable partnerships with Paul McGrath and Ugo Ehiogu.
He played 191 Premier League games for Aston Villa before heading to Middlesbrough in 2001, where he reunited with his ex-Villa team-mate Ehiogu.
He was made Boro captain the following season and guided them to a League Cup trophy in 2004 – the club’s first-ever major trophy in their 128-year existence.
7. Ashley Cole (147 clean sheets)
Clubs: Arsenal & Chelsea
During his time at Arsenal and Chelsea, Ashley Cole established himself as one of the best left-backs in Premier League history.
His journey began at Arsenal, the club he supported as a boy. After a short loan to Crystal Palace in 1999/00, he broke into Wenger’s Arsenal team, initially replacing the injured Sylvinho.
From there on, Cole’s attack-minded style of play made him an essential part of the Gunners’ Premier League successes in 2001-02 and 2003-04, the latter when Arsenal’s Invincibles went the whole season unbeaten.
After a public falling out with Arsenal over contract negotiations, Cole finally signed for Chelsea in 2006. Jose Mourinho helped Cole improve his positional play and in 2009-10, under Carlo Ancelotti, Cole won another Premier League title.
6. Gary Neville (148 clean sheets)
Clubs: Man Utd
Gary Neville spent his entire playing career at Manchester United. As a member of the Class of ’92, he was present from the formation of the Premier League, but didn’t get any game time until the following season – a last-minute appearance off the bench against Chelsea.
It was 1994-95 that Neville started to appear regularly, coming in for the injured Paul Parker.
With David Beckham also occupying the right-hand side, Neville formed an effective partnership, fulfilling his defensive duties and chipping in with assists. In late 2005, Neville was made club captain.
In total, Neville won eight Premier League titles. His last outing came in the 2010-11 season having made 400 Premier League appearances for The Red Devils.
5. Phil Neville (149 clean sheets)
Clubs: Man Utd & Everton
In a case of brotherly one-upmanship, Gary’s younger brother Phil managed one more clean sheet during his career. On the flip side, Phil “only” managed six Premier League titles.
Phil Neville made his Premier League debut for the Red Devils during the 1994-95 season, but found it difficult to break through at left-back due to the excellent form of Denis Irwin.
In fact, Phil often played at right-back while Gary played at centre-back. He even played at right-back in the 1996 FA Cup Final, while his older brother watched on from the bench.
Phil still managed to play around 30 Premier League games a season until his final campaign when Argentine left-back Gabriel Heinze joined the club.
He moved to Everton in 2005 and made his debut against United, and his brother. He was made captain in 2007 and played 242 times for the club across eight seasons.
4. Sol Campbell (153 clean sheets)
Clubs: Tottenham, Arsenal, Portsmouth & Newcastle
Sol Campbell had already made 255 Premier League appearances for Tottenham Hotspur when he crossed the North London divide and joined Spurs’ bitter rivals Arsenal.
What made it even worse was that the Spurs’ captain left the club on a free transfer. At that point, Campbell was considered one of the best defenders in the league, but despite offering to make him the highest paid player in the club’s history, Tottenham couldn’t keep him.
He played 135 Premier League games for The Gunners, in that time winning two Premier League titles, including as an Invincible when Arsenal clinched the trophy at White Hart Lane.
He joined Portsmouth in 2006 and was made club captain by manager Harry Redknapp – leading the club to FA Cup glory in 2008. A return to Arsenal and a short stint at Newcastle followed before he retired in 2012.
3. Rio Ferdinand (189 clean sheets)
Clubs: West Ham, Leeds, Man Utd & QPR
Having made his way through the ranks at West Ham, Rio Ferdinand made his Hammers debut on the last day of the season in 1996. He won West Ham’s Player of the Season for 1997/98 at just 19 years old.
He joined Leeds for a massive £18m fee in 2000, performing well in the Premier League and Champions League, and taking on the captain’s armband. But financial difficulties meant Leeds had to cash in. After just two seasons at Elland Road, Ferdinand joined Manchester United for £30m.
The centre back spent 12 seasons at Old Trafford, winning six Premier League titles in the process. His pace, calmness and ability to carry the ball out of defence made him one of the best centre-backs in Premier League history. He formed an impressive partnership with Nemanja Vidic, with Vidic being more aggressive and Ferdinand playing a more technical role.
2. Jamie Carragher (195 clean sheets)
Jamie Carragher spent his entire career at Liverpool, spanning 17 seasons in which he played his part in 195 clean sheets.
He broke into the first-team in 1997, playing in various positions including right-back, left-back, centre-defence and centre midfield. However, after scoring a couple of own goals against Manchester United, Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier kept him in the full-back positions.
Rafa Benitez had other ideas and reinstated Carragher as a centre-back, where he remained for the rest of his career. It was a position where he could show his leadership skills and his commitment to keeping clean sheets.
1. John Terry (214 clean sheets)
John Terry made his Premier League debut for Chelsea in December 1998, shortly after his 18th birthday. Gianluca Vialli was the club’s manager at the time.
It was in the 2000-01 season that Terry started to play regularly for the club, building a strong defensive partnership with French international Marcel Desailly. Under Claudio Ranieri he was made vice-captain, and put the armband on when Desailly was injured.
When Desailly left and new manager Jose Mourinho arrived at the club in 2004, Terry was made captain and Chelsea went on to win back-to-back Premier League titles. Terry also won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year that year before more Premier League titles followed under Carlo Ancelotti (2009-10), Mourinho again (2014-15), and Antonio Conte (2016-17).
Terry’s tenacious and physical defending, alongside his strong desire and understanding with other great defenders and goalkeepers in the Chelsea ranks, ensured that The Blues won lots of silverware and that individually he's the only defender in Premier League history to boast over 200 clean sheets.