STATS: Is Chris Smalling the best centre-back in England?

Former Manchester United defender Gary Pallister has labelled Chris Smalling as the best centre-back in the Premier League after a fine start to the season, helping United to boast the best defensive record in the top flight after 12 games.

Smalling was regularly criticised following his move to Old Trafford from Fulham in 2010 as he struggled to impress in the few starts he was given.

But under Louis Van Gaal’s guidance, the 25-year-old has become one of the most solid defenders in English football and many feel that there is no one better in his position right now. But what do the stats say?

Table: Chris Smalling's 2015/16 statistics compared to some of the best centre-backs in England.

Table: Chris Smalling’s 2015/16 statistics compared to some of the best centre-backs in England.

When comparing Smalling’s statistics to some of the most highly rated defenders in the Premier League, it’s clear he is not the best on English shores.

Vincent Kompany and Laurent Koscielny are viewed by many as two of the finest defenders in Europe, let alone the Premier League and Koscielny, in particular, outshines Smalling in terms of aerial dominance as well as interceptions and blocks.

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John Stones is also held in high esteem by English football fans across the country. He has made more tackles and blocks per game than Smalling so far but is outperformed by his England partner aerially with the United man also making more interceptions and clearances per game.

Then we come to Chancel Mbemba, who is the surprise addition in the comparison above. The Newcastle man doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of the best centre-back in the Premier League but maybe he should be further forward in the thinking process, especially if looking at his statistical performances.

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He outshines Kompany, Stones, Koscielny and Smalling in terms of tackles won per game and has also made more blocks and clearances than any of the other four. In fact, Mbemba has won more tackles in the Premier League than any other central defender after 12 games.

It’s worth noting Mbemba has more defensive work to do than someone like Smalling but perhaps claims that the Manchester United man is the best in his position need to be reconsidered, at least for now.

Do you think Chris Smalling is the best centre-back in the Premier League? Who is better?

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Manchester United looking to tie up three deals before end of season

Manchester United will look to give three stars new contracts following on from Chris Smalling‘s extension that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2019.

Smalling has become a first-team regular under Louis Van Gaal this season and has now made 147 appearances over the past five seasons with the Red Devils.

He follows Michael Carrick in signing a new deal with United and the club are now looking to sign David De Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young down to new contracts before the summer, according to the Telegraph.

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Spanish goalkeeper De Gea has been one of the Premier League‘s best players this season, but has been continually linked with a move to Real Madrid, and United will be desperate to get him to commit his future to the club in the coming months.

He has just over one year remaining on his current deal so if the Red Devils are unable to convince him to stay, they will likely cash in this summer to avoid him leaving on a free a year later.

Phil Jones and Ashley Young have both been key members of the team under Van Gaal and look set to be rewarded for their efforts with extensions on their contracts which are set to end next summer as well.

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As well as retaining current players, United are linked with several top talents across Europe, and they are believed to be leading the chase for Dutch winger Memphis Depay.

Van Gaal will look to bolster his defence this summer with Mats Hummels and Nathaniel Clyne both strongly linked with moves to Old Trafford in the next few months.

Should Manchester United offer new contracts to Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea? Where do they need to strengthen this summer?

Manchester United centre-back happy at the club amidst Arsenal rumours 

Chris Smalling has just over a year to run on his current Manchester United contract and has been linked with moves away from the club, with Arsenal reportedly interested.

But the England international insists he is happy at United and wants his contract extended, he said speaking at England’s press conference on Sunday.

“I have always enjoyed playing for United, especially at the minute. If I can contribute, as now, then I am happy to stay as long as they want me.”

Smalling’s return to the side has coincided with a four-game winning streak and he has featured 18 times in the Premier League this season.

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“The manager is showing his faith in me and, if I am playing, I’m happy.

“We have got another eight games, so we will look to finish as strong as we can.”

The 25-year-old defender isn’t fazed by the lack of talk regarding a new contract just yet and is happy to be patient for a new deal. He calmed talk when asked if he knew of ongoing negotiations.

“Not that I am aware of, I don’t really take care of that.

“We will finish as strong as we can and, if I can contribute, then I will be very happy.”

Is Chris Smalling’s long-term future with Manchester United? Should Arsenal make a move this summer?

Arsenal legend questions Hodgson’s England squad, criticises Spurs duo

Former Arsenal attacker Paul Merson has criticised Roy Hodgson’s England squad selection and feels that two of the Spurs players called up should not be there, along with a few others.

Merson feels that Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker do not deserve to be in the current England team and has questioned Hodgson’s supposed forward-thinking approach.

“I’m surprised by the squad. We’re not planning for the future,” Merson said in his column for the Daily Star.

“If Roy knew there was a six-year plan and he was the man to implement it, things would be different.

“The squad puzzles me. Roy went to see Manchester United against Tottenham the other week.

“He watched Andros Townsend have a stinker and get taken off after half an hour, and he watched Kyle Walker get absolutely rinsed.

“But he’s picked them both in his squad! If he’d already made up his mind, why bother going to the game?

“Townsend is only there because he played well for England 18 months ago. I thought it was supposed to be on form?”

Merson also questioned the decisions to bring in Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

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But he did have some praise for another Spurs star, Harry Kane. It’s impossible to criticise the young Tottenham striker, and although Merson is pleased to see him in the squad, he does not feel he is good enough to start at the European Championships next year.

“At least he picked Harry Kane. He deserves it. He’s been doing it every week. You can have your head turned when you get picked for England but he went and scored a hat-trick!

“He can play in the hole like Wayne Rooney or he can play in front of him. When he plays as a No 10 he still gets in the box all the time. But I’d play him in front of Rooney and let him run into the corners and open the game up.

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“Daniel Sturridge is still the man for me going into the Euros. I think he gives you a bit more pace. But Kane is the next best option off the bench.”

Kane scored from the bench on his debut in Friday night’s 4-0 win against Lithuania at Wembley and will be hoping to get his first start in Tuesday night’s friendly with Italy.

Do you agree with Paul Merson’s comments? Is the current England squad the best it could be?